Monday, July 4, 2011

Qutub Minar as World's Tallest Brick Minaret - Roaming Delhi Part 2

The world was a chaotic place in 1193. Richard the Lionheart was captured by Leopold V, Duke of Austria. Pope Celestine III called for a crusade against pagans in Northern Europe. Chinese Emperor Renzon of the 5th western Xia Dynasty died and his minions grieved (he built schools and gave examinations before hiring his officials). So did Saladin, the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria (resulting into the separation of lands split among his descendants). More interestingly, the Aztec civilization began in Mexico. In South Asia, a muslim rule has began after the fall of the last Hindu ruler.

In 1193, a former slave began ambitiously conceptualizing the construction of what would become one of the world's tallest towers.

Delhi is a worthy capital in terms of tourist sights. It has a long brush with the beginnings of civilization. Human habitation was believed to have occurred as early as the 2nd century B.C. In the Indian epic “Mahabharata”, the ruling Pandavas have constructed a city called Indraprastha. And Delhi is believed to have been this place. Since then, seven major cities have risen from these lands, like Lal Kot (736 A.D.) and Qila Rai Pithora (1180). King Prithviraj III, a Chauhan king, was the last of the Hindu kings. He was eventually defeated in 1192 by Afghan muslim conqueror Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori. Delhi then came under the control of the Muslim rulers. The following year, in 1193, plans for building Qutub Minar began.

In 1206, Qutbuddin Aybak, the first ruler of the Slave Dynasty established the Delhi Sultanate. Qutbuddin (who was a slave purchased by Afghan conqueror Ghori mentioned above) started the construction of Qutub Minar and Quwwat-al-Islam (might of Islam), the earliest extant mosque in India. Qutbuddin Aybak (Delhi’s first muslim ruler) was a very refined and intricate builder. During his rule, he led the construction of the security towers, check posts, tax posts and a few of the forts in the most important cities of his empire to avoid plunderings and loots.

Qutub Minar soon rose as a tower, the world’s tallest brick minaret, with a height of 237.8 feet (72.5 meters). The whole complex boasts of several other medieval and ancient structures and ruins. This 5-story tower has projected balconies between each “floor”, supported by stone brackets, which are decorated with honeycomb design. The minaret is made of fluted red sandstone covered with intricate carvings and verses from the Koran.

What was the purpose in its construction? Speculations provided say that the minaret was used to calling people for prayer in the Quwwat-ul-Islam but it is so tall that you can't hear the person standing on the top.

Accordingly, an Iron Pillar rises within this complex. It is one of the world's foremost metallurgical curiosities, since according to traditional belief, anyone who can encircle the entire column with their arms, with their back towards the pillar, can have their wish granted. I’d say this was a possibility since I was able to perform this maneuver. The possibilities of being richer than Bill Gates… darn! Unfortunately, due to the corrosive qualities of human sweat, the government has built a fence around it for safety.

India boasts of 39 places listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site; four of them are in Delhi.

It is easy to understand why Qutub Minar is a World Heritage Site. The architectural structure is awe-inspiring, the design is exquisite, and details are intricate. Stepping into the complex is like being transported to an other-worldly complex. You just don't know where to begin clicking for a snap - or when to stop for that matter. It is easily one of my favorite places in Delhi, aside from Humayun’s Tomb and Lodhi Gardens. The complex is open daily from dawn to dusk. Locals pay 10 rupees while foreigners pay 250 rupees ($5.60 or P242).

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Pillars at the Jain Temple.

Lawn at the Qutb Complex.

Qutub Minar from the outside. This photo only courtesy of wikipedia.

Up next: More images from the Qutub Minar Complex.

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