January 1200

The Qutub Minar Complex: One of Delhi's seven cities

Incredible India!

The Qutub Complex in New Delhi, India, contains masterpieces of Indo-Islamic art and remnants of far older civilizations. Its centerpiece is the Qutub Minar, an exquisitely decorated minaret that dates from the early 1200s. The complex also includes two mosques, one of which, the Quwwatu’l-Islam, is the oldest mosque in northern India. 

The Qutub Minar soars 72.5 meters toward the heavens. Construction began in the early 1200s, by order of Qutb-ut-Din-Aibak, the general established the Delhi Sultanate.

Click on the arrows in the image to explore the Qutub Minar complex.

Qutb al-Din Aibak's successor, Iltutmish, completed the stunning tower. Over the centuries, the minaret has been damaged, restored, and extended.

The tower is made of sandstone, with marble facings and inlays. The decorations consist of geometric patterns and inscriptions from the Koran. Like all minarets, the Qutub Minar provided high platforms for calls to prayer. This tower also celebrated victory and represented the power of the new dynasty.

The Qutub Minar displays not only the faith of rulers from the time but also the skillful stonework of artisans who carved its surfaces. Elsewhere in the Qutub complex there are remnants of fine stone carvings which date to centuries before the minaret and mosques.

A view on looking up from the first storey of the Qutub Minar.

Another Indo-Islamic masterpiece is the Alai-Darwaza, a finely proportioned, domed building of white marble and red stone, decorated inside with finely carved geometric figures. Built by order of Sultan Ala-ud-din Khilji, the Alai-Darwaza was completed in 1311.

Ala-ud-din Khilji was the first ruler of a new dynasty, and eager to display his power. His ambitious building program included a plan to build a minaret that was taller than the Qutub Minar. His building plan, like his dynasty, did not survive his death in 1316.

The Alai-Darwaza leads into the grounds of the Quwwatel-Islam mosque, the oldest mosque in northern India. Some columns still contain traces of carved designs from earlier eras.

The Qutub complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts visitors from around the world. They come to gaze up at the dizzying heights of the Qutub Minar and to worship in the ancient mosques. The complex also contains a madrasa, or religious school, tombs, and the ruins of walls and other structures.

A view from the 4th storey of the Qutub Minar

The Qutub complex has been a sacred space for centuries. Its atmosphere is mysterious, tranquil, and spiritual.

The Qutub Minar and the ancient stones that surround it are testaments to many faiths and cultures and to the enduring beauty of Indian art and culture.

Incredible India!
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