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Authored by Rudy

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the tallest building in the world made of bricks, Qutub Minar is a 73-meter high tower that consists of five storeys and a spiral staircase with 379 steps.

Built-in red sandstone, Qutub Minar is a real masterpiece of Mughal Islamic craftsmanship. The design is based on the Minaret of Jam located in Western Afghanistan, which marks where the ancient city of Firuzkuh once stood.

The complex in which it stands is regarded as one of the most famous arrays of historical monuments in Delhi, so if you’re traveling to India it’s highly likely that you’ll find yourself (at some stage) in front of this famous minaret.

But with so much cultural heritage tied to one monument, it would be a shame to visit and not appreciate the story  or history behind it.

We’ve got you covered.

Qutub Minar: Understanding the History and Architecture Before You Go

History of the Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar India

The term ‘Qutub Minar’ is derived from Arabic which means ‘pole’ or ‘axis’. The infrastructure of Qutub Minar was established in AD 1199 as one of the earliest sites built by the Delhi Sultans.

This building was a commemoration of a great victory; Muhammad Ghori (founder of Muslim rule in India) had triumphed over the Rajput dynasty at bringing bringing Islamic rule to India. He defeated Delhi’s last Hindu ruler.

His general Qutb-ud-Din Aibak became the first Islamic ruler of north India, and the construction of the first Islamic building (Qutub Minar) began. Though it was not to be completed within his lifetime.

The construction of Qutub Minar took 28 years to complete; the first storey was constructed under Qutb-ud-Din Aibak, though the remainder of the storeys were constructed by his successors.

Restoration works/additions were also made in 12th century, 14th century and 19th century due to natural disasters, so the different architectural styles from the time of Aibak to Tuglak are clearly visible in the Qutub Minar.

The minaret also has epitaphs in Arabic and Nagari ciphers in different places depicting the history of the monument.

Architecture of the Qutub Minar

Architecture of the Qutub Minar

It was ordered that this monument be constructed as a sign of victory and establishment of Muslim rule. So it was to be a grand work of Indo-Islamic architecture and design.

The exterior walls of Qutub Minar reveal its history of construction, with chiseled Parso-Arabic and Nagari character carvings. The inscriptions clearly describe the motive, way, the time taken and every minute detail about this monument.

From the intricate carvings, you’ll note an aura of Afghanistan pattern, blended with local artistic conventions having garlands and lotus borders. Fortunately, renovations of the minaret throughout time have maintained the original charm of the building.

Each of the five different storeys has a projected balcony that circles the Minar (backed by stone brackets). The first three storeys are made with red sandstone while the remaining were constructed using marble and sandstone. If you look closely the cylindrical shaft has inscriptions of the Quran.

Influence of the Mughal Empire

Qutub Complex

A Mosque lies at the foot of Qutub Minar which is a special site in itself; a beautiful blend of Indo-Islamic architecture that showcases how the Mughal Empire (1562) influenced Indian culture.

Mughal Rulers had a fascination with art and sculptures, so you will find a lot of detailed and decorative elements inside; each with their own story to tell.

One of the most outstanding elements is the pillar highlighting ancient India’s achievements in metallurgy. The most astonishing fact is that the pillar is made of iron and has stood tall for 1,600 years without rusting.

Image: Steven dosRemedios (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr

The Qutub Complex

Qutub Complex

The Qutub Minar is part of a larger complex, and the Qutub Complex is regarded as one of the most famous arrays of historical monuments in Delhi.

It was built on the ruins of Lal Kot which consisted of 27 Hindu and Jain temples and Qila-Rai-Pithorac. It has born everything from the wrath of nature to innumerable reconstructions, though its monuments still stand to this day.

Beyond Qutub Minar, its highlights include the Alai Darwaza (the first example of the true arch and dome), and Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which was the first mosque built in Delhi, and a surviving example of Ghurids architecture in the Indian sub-continent.

Practical Information for Visitors

➡ Open 7 days a week from 7 am – 5 pm in summer, and 8 am – 5 pm in winter

➡ Ticket rates for Indian citizens are Rs. 30. For foreign citizens is Rs. 500

Image: John Hoey (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

How to Reach Qutub Minar

By metro: This is the easiest and the shortest way to reach Qutub Minar. The nearest station is helpfully called Qutub Minar Metro Station. From the station you can catch a taxi, auto or e-rickshaws because buses are not frequent.

By bus: Few DTC buses (534A, 516, and 519) are available on this route. You can also avail the special HO-HO buses which run especially for tourists.

Driving from the airport: Take the airport road and head on to Rao Tula Ram Marg. Keep right and turn to drive towards the PALAM MARG until you reach Lado Sarai.

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Rudy is an avid traveler and writer who blogs about travel tips and guides to some of the best destinations in India at TravelIndiaTravel.in

He has traveled extensively across all the major states in India. He loves to walk around cities, spend time in museums, explore forests and try out new vegetarian cuisines wherever he travels.

    5 Comments

  1. Rudy how incredible. Learning as you travel back in centuries fascinates me deeply. Rocking post.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Ryan – I really enjoyed publishing this one, I learned a lot too!

    • Thanks Ryan! I love visiting these historical places and letting history come alive while exploring such sites.

  2. I do find it curious how so many of these structures are built upon the ruins and destruction of a competing religion…

    • Hi Roy,

      It’s part of a long history of invasions that India has witnessed. However, all of these monuments and ruins teach us a lot.

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