Qutab Minar

On the southern edge of Delhi, on Aurobindo Marg in Mehrauli, lies Qutab Minar, another architectural marvel of ancient India.

Qutab Minar stands tall at a height of 72.5 metres and is the highest stone tower in India. Built in 1192 AD, with red and buff sandstone, Qutab Minar is a conical structure, with 15 m diameter at the base, becoming narrower as it goes up, thus decreasing the load on the lower storeys and adding the illusion of extra height.

Initiated by Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak to symbolise the invincibility of Islam, Qutab Minar was modelled as a classical ‘minar’ or tower from which the muezzin calls the faithful to the prayers. However with its towering height and deterring 379 steps, Qutab Minar remained a symbolic rather than a functional structure.

Erected as a ‘qutb’ or axis of the Islamic dominion, the tower bears an inscription that says that it was erected by Qutbuddin Aibak to ‘cast the shadow of God over both East and West’.

Qutbuddin Aibak lived to see the construction of only the first storey and the next two storeys were completed by his son-in-law and successor Iltutmish.

As per Nagari and Persian inscriptions on the tower, Qutab Minar was struck and damaged by lightning a couple of times. In 1368 AD, the top floor was struck by lightning and the then Sultan Feroze Shah Tughlaq not just restored it but also added two more storeys introducing white marble exterior to the otherwise red and buff sandstone structure.

Qutab Minar has also survived a series of tremors, acquiring a slight tilt off the perpendicular.


Smith’s Folly

An earthquake in early 19th century destroyed Qutab Minar’s crowning cupola. An English engineer Maj Robert Smith substituted it in 1829 AD but the added structure looked so grossly out of place that it was removed in 1848 on the orders of the then Governor General Lord Hardinge.

The structure now stands on the lawns next to Qutab Minar and has acquired the nickname ‘Smith’s Folly’.


Quwwat-Ul-Islam Mosque

At the foot of the Qutab Minar, in Qutb Complex, stands the oldest surviving mosque in India, Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid.

The construction of the mosque was begun by Qutbuddin Aibak (1192-1198AD) to celebrate his master Mohammad Ghori’s victory over the Rajputs.

At the time, his army contained no artisans and local craftsmen had no clue of how a mosque was to be designed. The result was a courtyard surrounded by more than a hundred richly-carved pillars, with figurines of gods on all sides and just a west-facing prayer wall to do the religious needful.

However in a triumph of pragmatism over purity of faith, Islam’s mandates against representation of human forms were obeyed by heedlessly defacing the figures on the pillars, chopping off a nose here and an ear there!

Also, Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was built on the foundation of an ancient Hindu temple, using stones of 27 Jain temples demolished by the invaders.

The mosque was later enlarged by Qutbuddin Aibak’s son-in-law and successor Iltutmish, who doubled the size of masjid to accommodate the increasing number of the faithfuls.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid was further extended by Alauddin Khilji of the next dynasty who added gateways on northern, eastern and southern walls.


Iron pillar

Close to the Qutab Minar stands a 7 metre high iron pillar, bearing Sanskrit inscriptions in the style of 4th century Gupta Rulers.

Believed to be a flagpole of a 4th-5th century AD Vishnu temple, this iron pillar has been an object of curiosity as it has not rusted even after over 1500 years of its existence.


Tomb of Iltutmish

Close to Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Sultan Iltutmish built a tomb for himself much before his death. Tomb of Iltutmish has plain exteriors but the interior is covered with inscriptions from the holy book of Koran which are so intricately and delicately carved that they seem like lacework in stone.


Alai Minar

To the north of the Qutab Minar lies 25.5m high unfinished base of a mammoth tower conceived by Alauddin Khilji as a taller rival to the Qutab Minar, when he returned after his Deccan victory.

As the fate would have it, the Sultan died even before the completion of the first storey and the project was abandoned.


Alai Darwaza

Alai Darwaza, the gateway to Quwwat-ul-mosque added by Sultan Alauddin Khilji in 1311 AD, is a fine example of Islamic architecture.

A red sandstone structure, Alai Darwaza, has arched openings on all sides. Interior of the gateway is carved heavily with geometric symbols and inscriptions in the Naqsh script.


Tomb of Imam Zamin

Eastern door of Alai Darwaza leads to the octagonal tomb of a Turkish holy man who came to India during the reign of Sikander Lodi (1488-1517 AD) and was revered as Imam Zamin.


Entry Ticket Fee for Qutab Minar

INR 10 for citizens of India and SAARC and BIMSTEC countries.

INR 250 for citizens of other countries.

Free for children upto 15 years of age.

INR 25 for video filming



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