Medieval Indian history has always held a special place in my heart. I remember studying medieval Indian history books while I was in my engineering college. Well these books had nothing to do with my engineering curriculum but it was my passion to know more and more about medieval India that prompted me to do so. Delhi sultanate and Mughal empire were my favourite parts in Medieval Indian history. I feel this fondness for medieval India was because of the fact that I had been seeing the monuments and tombs of that era in Delhi since my childhood. The more I looked at them , the more I wanted to know about these magnificient structures from the past, about the great men who were their patrons and about the life of that era. I had always seen Qutub Minar on way to my home and it had always fascinated me so much. Everyday when I crossed this monument, I would look at it thinking how beautiful it is. No doubt this sandstone tower called Minar was definitely an imposing structure in the skyline , standing tall at a height of about 73 metres in the Qutub complex in Mehrauli area of South Delhi. And along with this Minar in the Qutub complex ,there are other grand monuments too reminiscent of India's rich heritage and past. No doubt this complex has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its importance.
I had visited this complex a couple of times earlier too but then there is something mystical about it that makes you want to explore it again and again. So there I was standing again in front of the mighty Qutub Minar this weekend too. Once you enter this Qutub complex you will see there are other monuments too that captivate you attention, almost all of them built during the Mamluk or Slave dynasty and the Khalji dynasty. The main monuments that you will across here are Qutub Minar, Alai Minar, Iltutmish's tomb, Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, Alauddin khalji's tomb and madrasa, Alai darwaza, Imam Zamin's tomb and Smith's cupola.
The most remarkable structure here that you will first notice as you enter the complex is the Qutub Minar. No wonder you will see most of the tourists in the complex taking a selfie with the Qutub Minar. Qutub Minar's construction was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak who was the first ruler of the Slave dynasty or Mamulak dynasty in the 12th century AD. This name of Slave Dynasty is technically not very correct because though Aibak was a slave in his early years but later on when he founded this empire he was a free man and all his successors were also free men. But stilll this name of slave dynasty is very popularly used for this first Muslim dynasty that ruled Delhi after defeating the Hindu Rajput rulers.
Later on the construction of Qutub Minar was further carried on by another Mamluk dynasty's ruler Iltutmish and Tughlaq dynasty's ruler Firouz shah Tughlaq. It is believed that the Qutub Minar was built as a minaret for the adjacent Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, for calling out the prayers or adhan. Some even believe that it was constructed as a mark of victory of Ghurid rulers over the Rajput rulers of northern India. Qutub Minar was named after the first Mamluk ruler Qutubuddin Aibak according to some historians, and after the famous sufi saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki according to some other historians.
Qutub minar is having five storeys and has beautiful carvings and engravings all over it. This beautiful minar is made of sandstone and the present upper two storeys have also used marble in their construction. The most noticeable carving is that of the calligraphy which is beyond remarkable. It makes you think how talented people were in those times when everything would have been so difficult without the help of technology.
This tapering Minar has a ribbed pattern on the lower three storeys and balconies at each level. There are spiral steps inside the Minar which used to be earlier open to the tourists but after a stampede in 1981 in which many people died, the entry to the inside of the Qutub Minar was stopped.
There is an entry door at the lowest storey of the minar which can now be seen as locked as entry inside the minar is not allowed now. Oh looking at this door i was thinking how great it would have been if I could just go inside the minar and see how it looked from inside, but our bad luck because we may never be able to see that. I was so mesmerised by the beauty of the Minar that I just couldn't get enough of it.
During the British rule of India in the modern times, a British officer Smith was entrusted with the task of restoring the original grandeur of this Minar. In his attempt to make it more beautiful he added a cupola on the top of the Minar, but it was immediately removed from the Minar on orders from his senior officer. It is called as Smith's folly or Smith's Cupola . This cupola can now be seen installed in a corner of the complex in a park. I had an amazing time seeing this cupola because from here you can get some really nice shots of the Qutub Minar and other monuments. And if you want to relax for some time then you can just sit in this beautiful green garden and look at our past heritage and admire its beauty. Just have a look at some of the shots that I took from here.
Another interesting monument that will definitely catch your attention is an unfinished single storey tower made of rubbles and stones. This is called Alai Minar and it is believed to be an ambitious project of Alauddin Khalji who wanted to make a tower double the size and height of Qutub Minar. Alauddin Khalji was a great ruler of the Khalji dynasty which succedded the Mamluk dynasty in Delhi. However unfortunately due to the death of Alauddin Khalji, this Minar could never be completed. Had this tower been completed it would have been definitely one of the most magnificient towers of that time. But still this unfinished structure offers some really remarkable view. Have a look at some of the pictures below.
Just near the Alai Minar is the tomb of Iltutmish who was the the successor of Qutubuddin Aibak and was the greatest ruler of the Slave dynasty. Iltutmish's tomb is one of the earliest examples of the spectacular Muslim architecture in India. This tomb is a square tomb without a dome . It is believed that the dome was originally there but had fallen off later. When you look at this monument from outside it looks like a very simple and plain tomb . Once you enter inside, you can see the tomb very beautifully and ornately carved from inside. The cenotaph is made of marble with some calligraphy on its base.
You will see that there are three arched entrances to this tomb but the fourth wall has no gate. This fourth wall is having three Mihrabs out of which the centre one is bigger and is made of marble. Mihrab is the prayer niche where one has to to face while offering prayers because that is the direction of facing the holy Kaaba. This central marble mihrab was what caught my attention the most. The verses on it are so beautifully engraved that it leaves you awe-struck. Outside the tomb, there are big arched extentions which were added by Iltutmish.
There is so much to see and explore in the Qutub Complex and for the Indian history lovers it is definitely a heaven. This place is definitely not be missed by the tourists coming to Delhi. In my next post I am going to explore and write about the other iconic structures in the Qutub complex including the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. So keep a tab on my blog for the concluding post on Qutub complex if you are a medieval Indian history buff like me.
Read also A heritage walk in the Qutub Complex: Part II
My overall rating for this place
Beauty and visit worthiness of this place-5/5
Best time to visit this place
Few tips and helpful information about this place
Tourist attractions near Qutub Complex
There's alot to see around this place. You just need to have spare time to see all of them.
Where to eat
If you are a foodie then you are definitely in one of the best places of Delhi when you are here.
What to wear
There is no restrictions on the type of clothes you can wear here. But better to wear some cool breezy clothes and comfortable shoes or sneakers because Qutub complex is expansive in area and you need to walk a lot. Don't forget to carry a pair of shades. Its better to carry a hat too. I forgot to take a hat and the sun's heat in the Delhi summers definitely left me a little drained and exhausted.
I chose to keep my look very relaxed and casual. I wore my comfy fitted Khakhi Chinos with a yellow cold shoulder top and my favourite, ever comfortable Crocs sandals.
My outfit details:
Top: Faballey from Central, Aerocity
Chinos: Scullers from Central, Aerocity
Reflectors: Sprint from Shopper's Stop
Lipstick: Mac Ruby woo. You can buy this lipstick at the best price from the link below:
Location and How to reach Qutub Complex
Qutub Complex is located in Mehrauli area of New Delhi. See the map below for reference.
Indira Gandhi airport is about 13 kms from here. You can reach here by road and it is very well connected to all parts of Delhi. You can also reach here by taking a metro train and the nearest metro station is Mehrauli metro station but it is about 0.5km away from Qutub complex. So you can either take an autorickshaw from metro station or if you have the stamina then you can even walk upto the Qutub complex.