Monday 24 October 2016

Places to Visit in Delhi: Qutub Minar, Alai Minar and the Iron Pillar

I have been to the magnificent Qutub Minar a few times. Recently I visited Qutub Minar with a Dutch friend and a German. Actually the area is not only about the Qutub Minar but there are several monuments within the same complex like the Alai Minar, the Iron Pillar, tombs of Imam Zamin and Alauddin Khalji, a mosque (Quwwatul-Islam Masjid) and a Madrassa (School/College). Therefore one must keep at least a couple of hours for sightseeing.

Qutub Minar and Alai Minar (on the left)

When we reached the ticket counter my friends got an unpleasant surprise that my entry ticket cost only Rs 30, but for the foreigners it is Rs 500 per person, 17 times over! Nowhere else in the world is there such a discrimination.

Qutub Minar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The structures have been restored painstakingly. It is commendable that the impression of fragments and ruins is maintained. The complex has well manicured gardens and paths. There are ramps also at a few places for the physically challenged persons. The location also provides a popular backdrop for Bollywood songs, particularly when the film is based in Delhi.

Calligraphy on the Qutub Minar

The Qutub Minar, at 73 meters, is the tallest brick minaret in the World and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Made of red sandstone and marble it has beautiful calligraphy on it.  As the name suggest the construction of this Minaret was started by the ruler Qutubddin Aibak in 1200 AD.

My happy friends under the arch of Quwwatul-Islam mosque & the Qutub Minar 

I remember climbing up its stairs as a kid but after a stampede in 1981 the public is not allowed to climb up the Qutub Minar.

The tomb of Imam Zamin, the Alai Darwaza and the Qutub Minar

The above photo has the Tomb of Imam Zamin in the foreground then the Alai Darwaza or the southern gateway to the Quwwatul-Islam Masjid. It has intricate carvings in red sandstone and marble. And also in the same frame is the Qutub Minar!

The Iron Pillar and the beautifully calligraphed arcged of the Quwwatul-Islam mosque

The seven meter tall Iron Pillar, a victory pillar, predates the Qutub Minar. It was erected first in Udyagiri during the Gupta period (402 AD) and established at its current location in 1233 AD. What is interesting is the non-corrosive property of the pillar that has withstood the vagaries of the Delhi weather over such a long time. I do remember people used to hug the pillar backwards for good luck earlier but now there is a small enclosure surrounding the pillar and one cannot touch the pillar anymore. The pillar has inscriptions written in Brahmi script of the Gupta period. Behind the Iron Pillar are the huge, beautifully cared arches of the Quwwatul-Islam Masjid.

The carved pillars of the  Quwwatul-Islam mosque

Quwwatul-Islam Masjid or mosque is the earliest mosque in India that is still surviving. It was constructed between 1193 and 1197 AD. The mosque was built by Qutbuddin Aibak and later enlarged by Shamsuddin Iltutmish and Alauddin Khalji. It has massive stone screen and arches. The screen is carved with inscriptions. The pillars have carvings that have human and animal figurines. This is definitely non-Islamic and it is believed that these pillars were brought from temples from elsewhere.

The Madrassa and the tomb of Alauddin Khalji

The Madrassa and the tomb of Alauddin Khalji (AD 1296-1316) have thick walls. This part of the complex is damaged to some extent as none of its buildings had a roof on it and some of the walls have also broken down.

The Alai Minar

Inspired by the grandness of Qutab Minar, Alauddin Khalji planned another minaret which would have been twice as tall as Qutub Minar called the Alai Minar. However only one storey was built and after his death the plan was shelved. Its diameter is the proof of it!

My friends were happy visiting the monuments but the humidity and heat of Delhi probably took its toll (it was Monsoon period) and it would have been nice if there was a cafeteria inside the complex to recharge our batteries. It is unfortunate that despite the expensive entry ticket, there is no place for the tourists to even enjoy a cold drink.

In the first photo of this post I was able to capture both the Qutub Minar and the Alai Minar in a single frame. The photo was taken a couple of km away from the complex.

The Qutub Minar complex is located in Mehrauli in South Delhi and can be reached by bus, auto, taxi and the metro. The Delhi metro has a station named Qutub Minar which is the nearest from this complex.

Also read:
Places to visit in Delhi: Mirza Ghalib ki Haveli
Places to visit in Delhi: The Isa Khan’s Garden Tomb
Places to visit in Delhi: Ugrasen ki Baoli
Places to Visit in Delhi: Humayun Tomb