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Know Your Monument: The resilience of Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar
Qutub Minar (Source: Ayan Ghosh/Sahapedia.org)

By Paromita Shastri

There are a number of explanation why the 72.5-metre-high Qutub Minar has come to be often known as Delhi’s enduring image. It is the world’s tallest brick tower and one of the best specimens of Islamic craftsmanship as effectively. Situated in a lush inexperienced advanced of monuments and ruins within the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, previously known as Qila Rai Pithora, this UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts round three million guests yearly. Indeed, very very similar to town it symbolises, the Qutub Minar has not solely stood the take a look at of time for over 800 years but additionally weathered a number of design adjustments, repairs and reconstructions, lightning and earthquakes — even preservation efforts.

The Qutub Minar is a five-storeyed crimson sandstone tower constructed by Muslim conquerors within the thirteenth century to commemorate their last conquer the Rajput rulers of Delhi (Qutub means victory), whereas additionally serving as a tower from the place muezzins (criers) name for prayer on the Quwwatu’l-Islam mosque close by. The minar (tower) is engraved with advantageous arabesque decorations on its floor, primarily verses from the Quran. Although reportedly primarily based on the Minaret of Jam in Ghazni, western Afghanistan, Qutub Minar is much bigger and extra richly engraved with looped bells and garlands and lotus borders. Ibn Battuta, the well-known fourteenth-century Moroccan traveller, a decide throughout the time of Mohammed Bin Tughlaq and a caretaker of the advanced for some time, was awed by ‘…the minaret, which has no parallel in the lands of Islam’.

A layered historical past

The story of Qutub Minar is as numerous and layered as India’s historical past and tradition. The Qutub advanced, which additionally homes the Alai Darwaza, Quwwatu’l-Islam mosque and the Iron pillar, showcases the coexistence of the architectural heritage and kinds of numerous faiths, generally a harmonious mix and a hasty juxtaposition at others. The development of the minar was began in 1198 BCE by Qutubu’d-din Aibak, the mamluk (slave) commander-in-chief of Muhammad of Ghori, and founder of Muslim rule in India. Aibak, who grew to become the primary king of the Mamluk dynasty, managed to finish simply the bottom of the tower earlier than his demise in 1211. His son and successor, Shamsu’d-din Iltutmish (1211-36), added three extra storeys. When the minar was broken by lightning within the fourteenth century, Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88) constructed the topmost half, a advantageous specimen of workmanship in white marble and crimson sandstone.

Qutub Minar
Source: Ayan Ghosh/Sahapedia.org

Aibak’s rule, architect Richa Bansal Aggarwal writes in Sahapedia, marked the start of the Delhi Sultanate (1192-1526), which had nice affect on the subcontinent’s tradition, religion, artwork and structure. Indeed, the advanced presents a number of gorgeous examples of a brand new period of structure in India, an amalgamation of Persian, Arabic and Indian kinds that later got here to be often known as Indo-Saracenic, alternatively Indo-Islamic. The combine occurred naturally because the advanced was constructed on the ruins of Lal Kot that had 27 Hindu and Jain temples, a reality the builders themselves inscribed on the monuments. Inscriptions in Persian-Arabic and Nagari characters on the minar inform the entire story-the why, who and the way of the minar, the time taken, and lots of different particulars.

According to 1 inscription in Kufic language, the minar is claimed to have been established to replicate the shadow of God within the East and West. This is especially evident within the adjoining Quwwatu’l-Islam mosque, the primary of its variety in Delhi, constructed by Aibak in a rush over 4 years throughout 1393-97. The mosque has pillars that appear to have been used unchanged from the sooner temple, in addition to carved columns and corbelled domes made of dressed stone, giving it a really feel of a Hindu/Jain temple.

Qutub Minar
Source: Ayan Ghosh/Sahapedia.org

The magnificent Alai Darwaza, added to the advanced in 1311, is the earliest identified instance of a real Mughal arch, with hole minarets and a singular dome housing a small cupola on high of the bigger one. The gateway, constructed of crimson sandstone and white marble, is extensively adorned with jaali (lattice-screen) patterns, and geometric and floral designs. Alauddin Khilji’s madrasa and tomb which are principally in ruins, Iltutmish’s calligraphy-decorated sandstone and marble mausoleum of Saracenic fashion, with geometric patterns and inscriptions, and the tomb of sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Balban (d. 1287) are different sensible specimens of the structure within the advanced. The most excellent of all of them is fully Hindu; it is a 7-metre-high iron pillar, constructed within the fourth century CE as a Vishnudhvaja (god Vishnu’s tower) on the hill of Vishnupada, carrying a picture of the Hindu god Garuda on high. The pillar is made of 98 per cent iron however has nonetheless not rusted. It is broadly believed that the pillar’s inscriptions about being created in reminiscence of king Chandra check with Chandragupta Maurya the second, which dates the pillar to 375-415 CE, highlighting India’s astonishing achievements in metallurgy some 1,600 years in the past.

Experts say that the Qutub Minar-indeed the complete advanced in general-also marks a departure within the finer factors of structure because it depicts a transparent shift from the trabeate (beams, pillars and lintels) kind to arcuate (true structural arches, a mode that originated in Rome), displaying how effectively the indigenous craftspeople tailored to new constructing kinds. One of the engravings on the minar says ‘Shri Vishwakarma prasade rachita’ (created with the blessings of Vishwakarma, the Hindu god of development), reflecting the contribution of the native craftspeople.

Weathered, however not crushed

The Qutub Minar, which tapers out from 14.32 metres at its base to 2.75 metres on the high, has a balcony surrounding every storey, supported by stone brackets adorned in a honeycomb design. Earlier, one may climb the 379-step spiral staircase to the very high, however a tragic stampede in 1981 led to its everlasting closure. Even the iron pillar, which guests used to encircle with their arms for good luck, is enclosed inside a barrier as a result of human contact corroding its floor.

Indeed, the environmental risk to the monuments within the advanced is kind of critical. It has been broken a number of instances by pure disasters. Apart from two lightning strikes in 1368 and 1503, an earthquake in 1802 toppled the cupola. The minar tilts simply over 65 cm from the vertical, which the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) considers secure; it additionally feels that the robust base of the minar precludes any in depth injury owing to human-made components. But rainwater seepage continues to be a risk. Haphazard and hasty development, sorts of supplies used, defective repairs by the British, seismic threats that make the topmost storeys weak, and historic significance — all these components make Qutub Minar prime on ASI’s preservation listing.

Know Your Monument: Ellora Caves

Did you realize?

  • Some 358 lights are used to wash the Qutub Minar advanced and its essential monuments in mild for 4 hours from 7-11 pm day-after-day.
  • In 1828, throughout repairs to the Qutub Minar, a pillared crimson sandstone cupola was added. Everyone discovered it ugly, so Lord Hardinge ordered its elimination in 1948. Known as Smith’s folly, it now lies on a garden south-east of the minar.
  • The Qutub Festival of Indian classical music and dance takes place right here each November-December.
  • According to journey historian Ibn Battuta, even elephants may go up the Qutub Minar passage. He wrote, ‘A person in whom I have confidence told me that when it was built he saw an elephant climbing with stones to the top.’

(The article is part of Saha Sutra‘s extensive coverage of India’s monuments on www.sahapedia.org, an open on-line useful resource on the humanities, cultures and heritage of India.)


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