OwlStories is a journal of events, journeys and experiences of this beautiful world by Naveena Mohan.
I asked my soul: What is Delhi?
She replied: World is the body and Delhi it’s soul
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib
Delhi, to all those who want to be formal or Dilli, to all those who feel at home and speak fondly about the food, place or people, is the capital of this incredible country called India. Gateway to all other places of interest and a repository of monuments, Delhi, is a traveller’s delight! Awe-inspiring and a fine blend of modernity and rich history – That’s Delhi. One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and an important political centre, it has been the capital for several empires in the past and continues to be one till date. Centuries ago Delhi Sultanate, Mughal Empire and the British ruled the country with Delhi as the capital; it is but natural that the monuments during their reign would be as captivating as it’s history.
Speaking about the monuments, one cannot go further without mentioning or visiting this magnificent piece of Mughal Islamic craftsmanship, Qutub Minar. A monument built in commemoration of victory over the last Hindu ruler and advent of Muslim rule of that era, Qutub Minar is an important part and monument in the UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Mehrauli area in Delhi.
Built using red sandstone, this 73-metre tall minar/tower with a base diameter of 14.32m and 2.75m on the top has a spiral staircase running up to 5 stories. The foundation of the minar was laid in 1199 A.D by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak, the founder of Delhi Sultanate, but was completed over a period spanning 28 years, by his successors. One of the most important “Towers of Victory” in the Islamic world, Qutub Minar is an example of early Afghan architecture. The details like the Arabic inscriptions, delicate jaali work on the projected balcony encircling the tower and the elegance of this massive tower can be appreciated only by spending time and watching the tower from all possible places in the huge Qutub complex where it stands.
Alai Darwaza (Gate of Alauddin), an attractive structure adjacent to the tomb of Imam Zamin, instantly grabs one’s attention with its Indo-Islamic style of construction. Huge dome and highly ornate facade & arch with extensive arabic inscriptions at the entrance, is a stunner. Yet another red sandstone construction, alai darwaza is a square structure with a single chamber and arched entrances. It was built by Sultan Alauddin Khalji of the Khalji dynasty in 1311 and serves as the southern gateway of the mosque.
While the Minar is itself a part of a large complex, one can also walk and explore the other impressive monuments located within. Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque built to the north-east of the tower is majestic. Also known as the Qutub mosque, commissioned by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, it is believed to have been built on a raised and paved courtyard using the ruins of Hindu and Jain temples. The large courtyard surrounded by the remnants of the arches, ornate-pillared-corridors, houses a majestic iron pillar – out in the open and standing tall for 1600 years, the pillar has stood the test of time! 7.21-metre high and weighing more than six tonnes, the iron pillar is believed to have been in the hindu god Vishnu’s temple in Udayagiri.
Inscriptions, floral motifs and the geometric patterns on the archway is an example of extremely deft craftsmanship. Much of the portions of the mosque is in ruins but the beauty of the ruins is still in tact.
In the silent corner of the Qutub complex beyond the mosque, lies the tomb of Iltutmish – Delhi Sultanate ruler (A.D.1211-36). An attractive square chamber decorated with exceptional sculptures and arabic inscriptions in the interiors commands a visit. The open squinch over the chamber suggests the existence of a huge dome in the past. The facade of this regal structure is as ornate as it’s interiors.
Another structure within the complex which generally goes unnoticed is the Alai Minar. The construction was started with the intention of making yet another tower, double the size of Qutub Minar, was abandoned in the initial stages. Alauddin Khalji had started the construction and the incomplete structure stands at a height of 24.5-metre. A mere rubble structure today would have been yet another elegant tower in the same complex, standing tall overlooking Qutub Minar had it been completed.