History lessons in the shadow of Qutub Minar
The Quest recently took the students of Delhi Public school,R K Puram,on a tour to the Qutub Minar complex
On February 20,our class went on a heritage walk to the Qutub Minar complex. It was truly a wonderful experience. The ancient buildings contrasted starkly with the modern ones and it was like taking a step back in time. I had thought it would be like an ordinary history class,but I was in for a surprise.
With a guide explaining each and every story associated with the place,it made me realise that we truly have a rich heritage. The architecture stunned me I found it hard to believe that even then people were so creative and hardworking. The carefully carved figurines,patterns and Arabic inscriptions were all so finely done that even the best of modern-day architects will not be able to replicate them. The best part was that it wasnt just a single monument in a vast area. Next to the 72.5 metre tall Qutub Minar stood the Alai Darwaza,Alai Minar,and the Iron Pillar,to name a few.
What truly amazed me though,was the fact that buildings which were built centuries ago continue to stand,while modern ones collapse within months of their construction.
I thoroughly enjoyed the heritage walk and learned much more than I would have in the normal course sitting in the history class at school and would love to go on a visit like this again.
On February 20,we went on a heritage walk to Qutub Minar. We first went to the Alai Darwaza,the main gateway from the southern side of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. It was built by the second Khilji sultan. He also added a court to the eastern side. The domed gateway is decorated with red sandstone and inlaid white marble decorations. It had inscriptions in Naskh script and latticed stone screens showcasing the remarkable craftsmanship of the Turkish artisans who created it.
We then went to the Qutub Minar. It is the tallest brick minaret in the world,inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan and is an important example of early Afghan architecture. This later evolved into Indo-Islamic architecture. The Qutub Minar is 72.5 metres (239 ft) high,has five distinct storeys,each marked by a projecting balcony carried on muqarnas corbel and tapers from a diameter of 14.3 metres at the base to 2.7 metres at the top,which is 379 steps away.
It was built as a victory tower,to celebrate the victory of Mohammed Ghori over the Rajput king, Prithviraj Chauhan,in 1192 AD,by his then viceroy, Qutb-ud-din Aibak,who later became the first Sultan of Mamluk dynasty. Its construction also marked the end of the last of the Hindu kingdoms in north India and the beginning of Muslim rule in India. Even today,the Qutub remains one of the most important towers of victory in the Islamic world. Aibak,however,could only build the first storey. For this reason,the lower storey is replete with eulogies to Mohammed Ghori.The next three floors were added by his son-in-law and successor, Iltutmish.
After that we went to the Quwat-ul-Islam mosque which is the first mosque built in Delhi after the Islamic conquest of India and the oldest surviving example of Ghurids architecture in Indian subcontinent. The construction of this Jami Masjid (Friday Mosque) started in the year 1192AD,when Aibak was the commander of Muhammad Ghoris garrison that occupied Delhi. The Qutub Minar was built simultaneously with the mosque but appears to be a stand-alone structure. it was built as the Minar of Jami Masjid,for the muezzin to call azaan,the call for prayer.
We then went to the iron pillar one of the worlds metallurgical curiosities. The pillar,7.21 metre high and weighing more than six tonnes,was originally erected by Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375415 CE) in front of a Vishnu temple complex at Udayagiri around 402 AD,and was later shifted by Aangpal in 10th century AD from Udaygiri to its present location. Anangpal built a Vishnu temple here and wanted this pillar to be a part of that temple.Then we went to see the tombs of Iltutmish and Imam Zamim.
Lastly,we went to see the Alai Minar. It was constructed by Alauddin Khilji,after he had doubled the size of Quwwat ul-Islam mosque. He conceived this tower to be two times taller than Qutb Minar. The construction was,however,abandoned,just after the completion of the 24.5-metre-high (80 ft) first-storey core. Ala-ud-din died in 1316 and the work was never taken up by his successors. The first storey of the Alai Minar,a giant rubble masonry core,still stands today,which was evidently intended to be covered with dressed stones later on. Noted Sufi poet and saint Amir Khusro in his work, Tarikh-i-Alai,mentions Ala-ud-dins intentions to extend the mosque and also construct another minar.
History as always been my weak point. This was proven once more when I saw that the Qutub complex had not only the Qutub Minar,but other structures and ruins.We (my friends and I) went there on a school trip .We met a guide who showed us around the monuments. The unfinished Alia Minar,the Alia Darwaza and the ruins of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque were fascinating. The Qutub Minar,which looks so mundane from far,surprisingly,has carvings from the Quran and other designs on its walls. There is an iron pillar which was erected by King Chandragupta II Vikramaditya.
The Qutub Minar was constructed in 1192 by Qutb-ud-din Aibak,and later completed by his successor Iltutmish. The soaring conical tower is an exquisite example of Indo-Islamic Afghan architecture.
Qutub Minar is a World Heritage Site and has survived the ravages of time impressively. The minar is surrounded by a lush green garden,which is an ideal leisurely place for visitors.
The Alai Darwaza is the main gateway to the complex. The gateway was built by the first Khilji sultan of Delhi,Ala-ud-din Khilji. The domed gateway is decorated with red sandstone and inlaid marble decorations,latticed stone screens and showcases the remarkable craftsmanship of the Turkish artisans. It was built in 1311 AD.
Ala-ud-din Khilji started building the Alai Minar,which was conceived to be two times taller than Qutb Minar. The construction was abandoned,however,after the completion of the 24.5 meters high first storey,soon after death of Ala-ud-din. The first story of the Alai Minar still stands today.It is considered to be one of the most important buildings built in the sultanate period.
Then we saw the Iron Pillar. It is almost seven meters high and weighs more than six tonnes. It was erected by Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375415 CE). It is the only piece of the Jain temple that is remaining,which stood there before being destroyed by Qutb-ud-din Aibak. A fence has been erected around the pillar due to the popularity of a tradition which considered it good luck if you could stand with your back to the pillar and make your hands meet behind it. After some time we had to leave Qutb Minar. We bid goodbye to the tall monument,the guide and then left.
One of the greatest minarets in history,the Qutub Minar,stands at an height of 75.2 metres. It is tilted about 60 cm due to earthquakes and tsunamis.
The Qutub Minar complex consists of the minar,the famous iron pillar,a mosque and three arches. On this interesting historical trip,I had fun because I got to learn so much about the culture of our nation.
The Qutub Minar was built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak in 1192 and was completed by his successor Iltutmish. It is 72.5 meters tall. The base is 14.2 meters wide and tapers to 2.7 metres at the top. The minar was used as a watchtower and was built on the capital city of the chauhans called Lal Qot. They were the last Hindu rulers of Delhi. The minar has five storeys,with each storey separated by decorative balconies. The first storey has alternating curved and angular bands,the second curved and the third angular. The top two storeys were repaired by Sikander Lodi as they were damaged by lightning. White marble,red and yellow sandstone were used to built the minar. The materials for building the minar were brought from Makrana in Rajasthan. The minar and its adjoining buildings are collectively called the Qutub complex. Iltatmish’s grave is behind the minar. There is also a mosque in the complex,called the Quwat-ul-Islam mosque which was completed in 1198 by Firoz Shah Tughlaq. The entrance to go up the minar was closed due to many stampedes,especially the one in 1981,in which many died.
It is believed that the Qutub complex was built by using stones of 26 Hindu and Jain temples. Many stones have pictures of Hindu Gods and depictions. The Hindu and Jain style of architecture can be seen on many buildings,which support this theory. There are engravings of bells,lotuses,and the conch shells on many buildings. These examples also show that by adopting many Hindu and Jain styles of architecture the rulers wanted to show the co-existence of Hindus,Jains and Muslims.
A remarkable pillar,called the Iron Pillar is also part of the complex,which has not rusted after all these years. It is 7 metres tall and is estimated to weigh more than 6 tonnes. An inscription in Sanskrit written in the Brahmi script on the pillar also mentions a ruler named Chandra,who might be Chandragupta II Vikramaditya. A small sculpture of Garud once rested on top of the pillar (which was the symbol of Chandragupta) which has now been removed. There is a legend which says that if one could stand with ones back to the pillar and make their hands meet behind the pillar, it would bring good luck. This practice caused significant wear and tear on the lower part of the pillar and thus it has now been barricaded.