You are standing in front of the tallest brick minaret in the world – 72.5m / 238 ft. tall, Qutub Minar. Built as a victory tower, this imposing minaret wasn’t initially planned to be of this height. The construction of the Qutub was initiated by the Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the first sultan of Delhi of Mamluk Dynasty in 1192.
Unfortunately, he never lived to see it in its full glory. It was only later in 1220, that a four-floor tower of the Qutub was finally ready. This, thanks to Qutb-ud-din Aibak’s successor and son-in-law, Shams-ud-din Iltutmish who ensured the completion of the minaret.
But did you know that the Qutub you see today, isn’t the one that was entirely constructed by him? Yes, a lightning strike damaged the top floor of the Qutub in 1369. At this time Delhi was under the rule of Firoz Shah Tughlaq of the Tughlaq dynasty.
However, as if there was a conspiracy against this minaret by nature, the tower was yet again damaged when a severe earthquake struck Delhi in 1505. And later again in the early 19th century. At both times it was reconstructed.
Today, the Qutub continues to stand tall since but with a slight tilt. The minaret can be seen tilting approximately 25 inches southwest. Though this isn’t seen as a cause of concern by the archaeologists.
The outer walls of the Qutub have inscriptions from the Quran as well as stories about those who commissioned its construction and renovation. These are in Arabic and Nagari characters.
The structure of the Qutub minar, which is said to be inspired by the Minaret of Jam of Afghanistan, wasn’t built alone. The complex that houses Qutub also hosts a mosque, an iron pillar and Smith’s folly. Do look out for them.
Interesting facts about the Qutub Minar:
#1. The name game: Some say, the minaret was named after the ruler who commissioned its construction – Qutb-ud-din Aibak, while others debate it was named after Qutbuddin-Bakhtiar Kaki, a sufi saint, who was revered by Iltutmish.
#2. A tower it is: There is still debate around whether the Qutub was constructed as a victory tower, a watch tower, or a place where devotees would be invited for worship to the mosque through the azaan.
#3. No view from the top: Entry is barred inside the minar after a stampede took place inside the tower in 1981.
#4. An inspiration: During Alauddin Khilji’s rule, he had a desire of building a tower that was twice as tall but the tower couldn’t be completed beyond 25 m as Khilji passed away. He had named this tower Alai Minar. Other smaller minars have been constructed too.
#5. A 6 floor tower: A cupola i.e. a small dome like open structure having tall arches on all sides was added by a British Indian Army Major, Robert Smith during the early 19th century.
The rebuilding of the Qutub:
The Qutub has weathered nature’s wrath since 1369:
In 1369 Qutub Minar was struck by a bolt of lightning. Post the destruction of the top floor of the minar, it was Firoz Shah who commissioned its reconstruction. Not just that, he even added an additional floor to the tower.
In 1505, a quake struck and damaged the minaret again. This time it was repaired by Sikander Lodi, a ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. The early 19th century saw the Minar being struck again by an earthquake, thereby leaving it severely damaged.
Qutub was then reconstructed by a British Indian Army major Robert Smith, who even added a cupola – a small dome with tall arches to the top, thereby making the Qutub a six-floor tower. The cupola was later pulled down and can be seen to the East of the minar to date, known as “Smith’s Folly”.
The beautiful minaret of the Qutub Minar is built entirely in bricks with red sandstones and marble. The 72.5 m tall tower has a base diameter of 14.3m that tapers towards the top to 2.7m. The exterior walls of the tower display intricately carved floral motifs and characters in Arabic and Nagari.
Four of the five storeys have ornate circular balconies that jut out. To reach the top of the minar, one had to scale 379 spiral steps but today this is closed for visitors. Additionally, this minar has a total of 37 doors and windows inside, with four doors opening out on each floor and one door at the base.