Qutab Minar, Delhi

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  • Quwwatul-Islam Masjid
    Quwwatul-Islam Masjid
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    Hindu idols at Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque
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    Qutb Minar

    by uglyscot Updated Aug 25, 2010

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    This large complex was my introduction to Mughal architecture, and Indian history. Fortunately we had an excellent guide who didn't fill us with dry facts, but brought the site alive. The site has several distinct parts, but I'll deal first with the one which gives the site its name.
    Qubt -ud-din Aibak built the stone tower in about 1193-99. The tower has five distinct storeys, each with a projecting balcony. The diameter at the base is 15 metres, and the top 2.5 metres. The tower is 72 metres high. It was probably a minaret.

    Entry is 250 rupees, cameras free but video camera 25 rupee

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    Qutb Minar Complex

    by MM212 Updated Jun 13, 2010
    Triumphal tower of Qutb Minar
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    This religious acropolis was commissioned by Qutb al-Din Aibak in 1193, soon after he conquered the Delhi area. He chose the existing Rajput citadel Lal Kot, which he renamed Qila Rai Pithora and made it his base and the capital of the Delhi Sultanate when it was established in 1206. This was the first of the eight iterations of the city of Delhi in the centuries to come and the Qutb Minar complex was its religious and political centre. Its most famous feature is the magnificent triumphal tower, known as Qutb Minar, which was the nominal minaret of the grand mosque of the city, Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid. Initially, materials from pre-existing Hindu and Jain temples were used in the construction, thus creating a sort of synthesis between two different styles, but later expansions were more Islamic in character, albeit enhanced by Hindu workmanship. The complex began to decline in importance in 1303 when the capital of the Delhi Sultanate was moved a short distance further north by the Aladdin Khilji, who built the second iteration of Delhi, known as Siri. Despite the move, Qutb Minar retained its religious importance for several following centuries. As the earliest example of Islamic architecture in Delhi, one which saw a stunning fusion of Hindu with Islamic architectural concepts and which laid the foundation for the blossoming of Islamic architecture later in India, the Qutb Minar complex has been inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. If visiting with plenty of time, there are numerous other noteworthy historic tombs and mosques in the vicinity of the complex and in the village of Mehrauli.

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    The Iron Pillar

    by MM212 Updated Jun 2, 2010
    Inscription on the pilla
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    Placed at the centre of the courtyard of Quwwat ul Islam Masjid (the mosque) at Qutb Minar, this intriguing Iron Pillar predates the mosque itself. It was created around 400 AD, during the prosperous reign of Chandragupta II of the pre-Islamic Gupta dynasty, and was originally a flagpole in a temple located elsewhere. It was brought to this location around 1052 AD by the Rajput Tomara dynasty. On the pillar is an inscription in Sanskrit, written using the Brahmi script, which refers to Chandragupta II and the Hindu Lord Vishnu.

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    Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid

    by MM212 Updated May 27, 2010
    High pointed arches & courtyard - Mar 09
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    The grand mosque of Qila Rai Pithora, the first iteration of the city of Delhi, was built in three stages. The first stage was by Qutb al-Din Aibak in 1193, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, who named the mosque Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, or the "Mosque of the Might of Islam", to signal the arrival and the triumph of Moslems in the subcontinent. In a very symbolic move, the site chosen and the materials used in the construction belonged to some 27 destroyed Jain and Hindu temples, supposedly by Qutb al-Din Aibak himself. Some of these materials, such as the typically Hindu and Jain columns and domes were re-used as they were, resulting in a fascinating mix of Islamic and Hindu styles. Although sculptures of deities were mostly effaced, a few faded ones have survived in the columns of the mosque. The structure consisted of a spacious courtyard, surrounded by covered colonnaded porticoes on three sides, while a high wall with pointed arches, bordered the direction of Mecca, adding a more Islamic touch to the mosque. This wall was later decorated with stunning floral and geometric motifs, along with Koranic scripts. The second stage occurred around 1235 AD under Iltutmish who doubled the size of the mosque. The third and final stage was the grandest expansion, which tripled the size yet again. This occurred around 1300 AD under Sultan Aladdin Khilji, who also added monumental gateways and a madrassa.

    For more detailed photos, check out the travelogue: "Quwwat ul Islam Masjid."

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    Alai Minar

    by MM212 Updated May 26, 2010
    Alai Minar
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    After significantly enlarging Quwwat ul Islam Mosque, Sultan Aladdin Khilji went on to build a second minaret, intended to be twice the size of Qutb Minar, to match the grandeur of the expanded mosque. Unfortunately, only the first phase of the construction, reaching a height of 24 metres, was completed by the time the Sultan had died in 1316. His successors never completed the project so we have been left with this odd circular structure that looks like a mound of rubble (see attached photos). It is located just north of the mosque within the Qutb Minar complex.

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    Tomb of Imam Zamin

    by MM212 Updated May 25, 2010
    Tomb of Imam Zamin
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    Located just outside Alai Darwaza, the best preserved gate in the Qutb Minar complex, the Tomb of Imam Zamin dates to 1538. It is a small square structure topped by a dome. The façades contain beautiful jalis (latticework) in red standstone. Imam Zamin was a religious figure, originally from Turkestan but settled in Delhi around 1500.

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    Aladdin Khilji Tomb & Madrassa

    by MM212 Updated May 25, 2010
    Aladdin Khilji Madrassa
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    Built in 1316 within the Qutb Minar complex by Aladdin Khilji, the Sultan who succeeded Iltutmish, his namesake Madrassa served as a theological school. It is an L-shaped structure with two domes and a few pointed arches, and next to it is his ruined mausoleum. Surprisingly, both lack any ornamentation which is a striking a contrast to other nearby structures that he built, such as the Alai Darwaza. He was also responsible for the Alai Minar, the unfinished tower that was to be twice the height of Qutb Minar.

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    Qutb Minar

    by MM212 Updated May 25, 2010
    Qutb Minar
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    The most magnificent structure in this complex, the triumphal tower, Qutb Minar rises to a dizzying height of 72 metres. It was commissioned in 1193 by Qutb al-Din Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, as a tower to symbolise the victory of Islam and the minaret of the adjacent grand mosque, Quwwat ul Islam Masjid. Only the lower part of the tower (29 metres) was completed in his lifetime, and it was left to his successor, Iltutmish, to add three more floors. Following slight damage from a lightning strike in 1368, Sultan Firuz Shah Tughluq added the top two floors, which make use of white marble. The design of the tower was inspired by Afghani tower architecture, brought over by the Moslems, but with a mix of Hindu and Islamic decorative motifs. The result is this stunning tower with intricately carved decorations.

    For more detailed photos of this stunning monument, check out the travelogue: "Qutb Minar."

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    Tomb of Iltutmish

    by MM212 Updated May 25, 2010
    Decorations on the walls of the mausoleum - Mar 09
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    A ruined but stunning mausoleum, the Tomb of Iltutmish was built in 1235 by Shamsuddine Iltutmish himself a year before his death. He was the Sultan who had succeeded Qutb al-Din Aibak, the founder of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate. Iltutmish had enlarged the Mosque of Quwwat ul Islam in the Qutb complex and built his own mausoleum next to the enlargement. He utilised local artisans who adapted Hindu style decorative motifs into Islamic form and art to create this wonderfully carved structure, but he refrained from recycling materials from older Hindu temples. Koranic verses in Arabic script are surrounded by floral and geometric motifs. The dome of the mausoleum collapsed twice and was never rebuilt after the last time. The importance of this mausoleum lies in the fact that it is one of the earliest examples of the use of arches in domes in India, both of which were introduced to India by the Moslems and were previously unknown.

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    Alai Darwaza

    by MM212 Updated May 25, 2010
    Alai Darwaza - March 2009
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    Alai Darwaza is the sole survivor of four monumental gateways commissioned by Sultan Aladdin Khilji for the Qutb Minar complex. It was built in 1305 and consists of a square structure with four archways, topped by a shallow dome. Its sandstone and marble façades are very intricately carved with Arabic script and floral and geometric motifs that derive from a synthesis of two distinct decorative styles, Hindu and Islamic. Alai Darwaza is on the southern side of the complex, right next to the Qutb Minar tower.

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    Tomb of Imam Zamin

    by illumina Written Feb 25, 2010

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    This tomb is probably the latest structure in the complex. It was built in the early 16th century, next to the Alai Darwaza, for Imam Muhammed Ali, or Imam Zamin, a saint from Turkestan who settled in India in around 1500. He had the tomb built during his lifetime, and was buried there after his death in 1539.

    It is constructed on a raised platform; an octagonal sandstone building surmounted by a dome, decorated with white marble and perforated screens knowns as jalis.

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    Ala-ud-Din Khilji's Tomb and Madrassa

    by illumina Written Feb 25, 2010

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    At the back of the complex stands this building which consists of the tomb of Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316 AD), the second Sultan of Delhi of the Khilji dynasty, and the madrasa, or Islamic school, that he had built. It is actually the first example in India of a tomb being built next to a madrasa.

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    Tomb of Iltutmish

    by illumina Written Feb 25, 2010

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    This tomb was built in 1235 for Iltutmish, the second Sultan of Delhi (1211-1236 AD). It consists of a 9 metre square chamber of red sandstone, with a centrally placed white marble cenotaph on a raised platform. It is now roofless, but is believed to have once been covered by a dome, since collapsed. The entrance and interior walls are covered with ornate carving, in which parakeets now roost. It's a very atmospheric place, I really loved it.

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    Alai Minar

    by illumina Updated Feb 25, 2010

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    This unfinished minar or tower, with it's extant height of 24.5m, was commenced by Alauddin (or Ala-ud-Din) Kalji, (1296-1316 AD), who had also doubled the size of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid. He planned for the Alai Minar to be twice the height of the Qutb Minar, to be in better proportion to the enlarged mosque, but construction was halted before more than the first storey was completed due to his death.

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    Iron Pillar

    by illumina Written Feb 22, 2010

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    The iron pillar once stood in the complex of 27 Hindu and Jain temples that originally stood on the site of the Qutb Minar. It stands 7 metres (22ft) high, and apparently weighs more than 6 tons! It is 98% pure wrought iron, and is curious for the fact that it has resisted corrosion for so many centuries. It is believed to have been made at the time of Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375–413), but may be even older than that. The pillar bears a Sanskrit inscription in Brahmi script (second photo, the translation of which is in the third photo).

    There is a popular superstition that if you stand with your back to the pillar and can encircle it with your arms, your wish will be granted. A fence has now been erected around the pillar to protect it from tourists wishing to try their luck!

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