Qtub Minar – New Delhi

Qutb Minar complex

Qutb Minar is a minaret that forms part of the Qutb complex and is a 73-metre (240 feet) tall tapering tower of five storeys. It is made of red sandstone and marble, The design is thought to have been based on the Minaret of Jam, in western Afghanistan. See the wikipedia entry here.

Qutb Ud-Din-Aibak was the founder of the Delhi Sultanate and it was he that started construction of the Qtub Minar’s first level in around 1192. In 1220, Aibak’s successor and son-in-law Iltutmish completed a further three storeys. A lightning strike in 1369 destroyed the top storey. Firoz Shah Tughlaq replaced the damaged storey, and added one more. The British also added a storey to the building but it was so out of keeping with the original that it was never used and stands alone in a part of the complex.

Qtub Minar

Qtub Minar entrance cost and guide

First thing to know is that it will cost you, the tourist, 500/-INR (just over £6 and nearly 17 times more than the locals pay). Indians enter a lot more cheaply at 30/- INR. It is now a UNESCO site of Historic Interest which has undoubtedly put the prices up as it has in the Alhambra in Spain. I was accosted by a gentleman who claimed to be a guide. I wasn’t really interested as I had read up on Qtub Minar, however he told me that the guide was included in the price of admission and showed me an official looking ID. Whether it was or not was any Photoshopper’s nightmare. The guide certainly knew his stuff, showed me the points of interest for about half an hour and then told me that his “clients” usually tip him $20. Three times the cost of the entrance fee? I didn’t have twenty dollars on me and I wasn’t about to give him $20 for half an hour’s work. I gave him what I had in my wallet at the time, which was 200/-INR. He moaned and made such a scene that I asked him if he wanted me to rob someone to pay him his extortionate demand. He left. Twenty dollars is 1280+ rupees. Bearing in mind that you can eat out substantially for about 70/-INR I thought it excessive for half an hour.

The building of Qtub Minar

Qtub Minar was built after the defeat of the last Hindu kingdom by the Muslim invaders and provocatively there is an inscription over the east gate informing the public that the minaret was built using the materials from 27 destroyed Hindu temples. The Qtub site still has remains of the Hindu temples as you can see in the photos. The tower is decorated with Arabic writing that I was told were passages of the Q’ran. Because of the plundered Hindu remains there are a number of Hindu decorative features inter mixed in this Islamic design, including a frieze of positions from the Kama Sutra which would be in direct opposition to the Q’ran’s rules on the depiction of life.

Diverse opinions surround the creation of the minaret. A few sources claim it was built as a pinnacle of triumph denoting the start of Muslim domainatin of India, others say it served the muezzins who called the steadfast to prayer from the minaret. There are a number of opinions around the naming of the tower with some saying it was named after a Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki while others believe it was named after Aibak himself.

The rust-free Iron Pilar of Qtub Minar

One of the other features of the complex is the 7m tall rust free iron pilar that has scientists wondering how it was made. This pillar dates from Gupta Empire which reached its peak from approximately 320 to 550 CE and covered much of the Indian subcontinent. This was a time of peace and prosperity and it lead to the Golden Age of India with many innovations in science, art, philosophy, engineering etc. and eventually crystallised into what is now the Hindu culture. (See this wikipedia entry.) There is a belief that that if you can embrace the pillar with both hands while standing with your back to the pillar then your wish gets fulfilled. This possibility is now made difficult due to crash railings around the pilar.