Delhi Series Part 2~ History Walk: Qutub Minar

Delhi Series: Featuring stories, places of visit and pictures from my 3 years living in the capital of India, New Delhi

Image Sources : Online Media


Delhi Series Part  2~ History Walk: Qutub Minar

I lived in New Delhi for 3 years, as a student of History. Each year of my 3 year graduation program we visited a historical place of importance. This post features Qutub Minar.


For me as a student of history,  the Qutub Complex is a beautiful chaos – it has stories of beauty, survival, learning, endurance, victory and mortality.

The complex hosts the incredible tallest minar,

along with the first mosque in India on the ruins of a Hindu temple

it also depicts the endurance and perfection of the Iron Pillar

it showcases a failed project in Alai Minar and a story of a ruler buried in a dipalated tomb, in unsung glory


The Qutub Minar is situated in Delhi in Mehrauli area. A minar is a tower or turret.

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Qutub Minar Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org

The construction of the Qutub Minar was started in 1193 by the founder of Delhi Sultanate – Qutub-ud-din-Aibak. The tower was built to celebrate Muslim dominance in Delhi after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu ruler.The minar went through further additions by his son-in-law and successor Iltutmish.

The Qutub Minar is made up of red sand-stone and marble. The Qutub Minar is nearly 73m high. It has five distinct storeys- the first three storeys are made of red sandstone, the 4th and 5th storeys are of marble and sandstone. All the five storeys have projecting balconies.

The minar has verses from the Quran, inscribed in beautiful calligraphy all across the tower.

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Calligraphy Image Source: historicaltimeofindia.blogspot.com

Qutub Minar Facts :

  • The Qutub Minar is the tallest minaret in the world.
  • Its a UNESCO heritage site (1993)
  • The Qutub Minar is also surrounded by many other historical monuments, all of which form the Qutub Complex.
  • The Qutub Minar was built as a mighty tower of victory after the defeat of the last Hindu kingdom in Delhi (Founder of Delhi Sultanate). Some sources say it was built to honor the Sufi saint Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki
  • The top floor of the minar was destructed by lightning in 1369, and rebuilt by Firoz Shah Tughlaq (of Tughlaq Dynasty). These floors are quite distinguishable from the rest of the minar as they are made up of white marble.
  • Closing of the top balcony of the minar – Until 1974, general public was allowed to access the top of the minar. On December 4 1981, 45 people were killed in a stampede that followed an electricity failure that plunged the tower’s staircase into darkness. Currently, public access to the inside of the tower is banned.

My visit

Our History class was guided by renowned historian Biba Sobti for the heritage tour of the Qutub Complex.

We arrived in the morning and met Ms Sobti at the entrance gate. Our tour included visits to the entire Qutub Complex that included the following structures:

Alai Darwaza

The Ala’i Darwaza is the exquisite gateway to the whole Qutub complex.The gate was built in 1311 by Allaudin Khilji and was made of red sandstone.It is also one of the earliest buildings in India to employ the Islamic principles of arched construction.

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Alai Darwaza, Qutub Complex Image Source: http://www.indiantravels.com

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid (The Might of Islam Mosque) is considered to be the first mosque to be built in India. It was constructed in 1193, with various additions over the centuries, and completed in 1198. The mosque stands at the foot of the Qutub Minar.

The original mosque was built on the foundations of a Hindu temple, and an inscription over the east gate states that it was built with materials obtained from demolishing ‘27 idolatrous temples’.This building symbolizes in stone the ascendance of one religious power over another.

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Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque Image Source: delhisultanate.blogspot.com

Alai Minar

Allaudin Khilji started the ambitious project of construction of the Alai Minar, after his victory over the Deccan Kingdom. This minar was supposed to be twice the size of the Qutub Minar. However the consrtuction of the tower was abandoned after the death of Allaudin Khilji. The 24.5 metre high -first storey of the incomplete Alai Minar, still stands today.

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Alai Minar Source: Google Images

Iron Pillar

The Qutub complex is also home to a 4th-century pillar, originally made as a flagstaff in Vishnu’s honour. This 7m-high pillar stands in the courtyard of the mosque and it was here a long time prior to the mosque’s construction. A six-line Sanskrit inscription indicates that it was initially erected outside a Vishnu temple, possibly in Bihar, and was raised in memory of Chandragupta II, who ruled from AD 375 to 413.

This iron pillar is a tribute to ancient Indian metallurgy- the iron in the pillar is of exceptional purity. In the last 2000 years or so, it has stood the test of time and has never rusted.

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Iron Pillar Image Source: touristturtle.com

Tombs of Illutmish and Ala-ud-din khalji

Tomb of Illutmish (Shams-ud-din-Illutmish) was built in 1235 AD and its situated outside the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. The exterior of the tomb is very plain, but the interior is richly decorated.

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Tombs of Illutmish Image Source: http://www.thehindu.com

Ala-ud-din’s madrasa and tomb is located to the south-west of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque.The tomb is a simple brick structure with no decorative marble or intricate carvings. There were two small chambers connected to the tomb by passages on either side. The tomb is in a very dilapidated condition. Ala-ud-din Khilji was a mighty ruler, belonging to the Khilji dynasty – he triumphed over the Deccan kingdoms. Alai Darwaza (in the same complex) was built by him. He undertook the construction of the Alai Minar as well.

The tomb of Ala-ud-din doesnt justify his reign or his royal power in bygone days.

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Tomb of Alauddin Khilji Image Source: Trip Advisor

Alauddin Khilji was the second Sultan of Delhi from Khilji dynasty, who ruled from 1296 to 1316 AD. It is believed that Ala-ud-din’s body was brought to the complex from Siri and buried in front of the mosque, which formed part of the madrasa adjoining the tomb.

Ala-ud-din also established a madrasa for education on Islamic scriptures and theology. It has rooms and halls built around a quadrangular court. Screened walls were originally present on the eastern and western sides of the quadrangular court. On the western side, a group of seven small, cell-like structures are present, which are believed to have served as residents of the teachers and staff. The entry on the north side consists of an elaborately carved doorway. The central room of the Madrasa, which has Aladdin tomb, has now lost its dome, though many rooms of the structure are intact.


  • Read more about the Qutub complex  here 
  • The Qutub Complex is open everyday from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm IST
  • Great place for picnics, photo-shoots
  • Entrance fee for SAARC Nation citizens is 10 rupees, Rs.250 (foreigners)(2016)
  • Guided tours available
  • Visitors usually spend a few hours to half a day at this heritage site
  • I do recommend a visit to this heritage site. It wont disappoint you!
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