We visited Qutub Minar when a lovely, peachy, cloudy dawn was breaking over Delhi. The air was fresh and creamy white frangipanis glistened with dews. The previous evening we had arrived too late and apart from an unscrupulous guide who attempted to fleece us, there was nobody who could have sold us tickets or let us in. It was a bit of a pity because that night the moon was big and white and the beautiful Qutub Minar was resplendently lit up. However, the next morning we were the first persons to arrive and for nearly a quarter of an hour, the entire complex was left to us. We spotted squirrels, owls, eagles, and a lone peacock apart from the regular strays of dogs and cats. Owing to the lack of crowd, the animals did not take notice of us and we explored this beautiful archaeological complex in peace.

Qutub Minar at dawn

History of Qutub Minar

Located in the Mehrauli area of Delhi, the Qutub Minar is one of my favourite archaeological complexes in the city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 73-meter-tall tower looms over the city and it is very popular among local and international tourists. Made of red sandstone and marble, Qutub Minar was originally meant to be a victory tower. It was commissioned by the founder of the Mamluk Dynasty in Delhi, Qutb ud-Din Aibak in 1192 and the project was completed by his successor and son-in-law Iltutmish in 1220. Qutub Minar has five storeys with five different architectural designs. The first three are made of red sandstone while the fourth and fifth are constructed of marble and sandstone. The tower was twice hit by lightning in 1326 and 1368 and was repaired by the rulers of the day, Muhammad-bin-Tughluq (1325-51) and Firuz Shah Tughluq (1351-88). Subsequent rulers of different dynasties carried out various restorations and enlargements thus making the complex a treasure trove of architectural delights. These include the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the Tomb of Iltutmish, the Alai Darwaza, the Iron Pillar of Delhi, Sanderson’s Sundial, and the Tomb of Imam Zamin.

Tomb of Iltutmish at Qutub Minar

Why Qutub Minar was sued?

Many claim that the iron pillar in the mosque compound was brought from somewhere else in India. It bears a Sanskrit inscription from the 4th century AD describing the exploits of a ruler named Chandra. It is believed to be an ode to the Gupta King Chandragupta II (375-413). Interestingly, this led to a massive hue and cry recently and the poor Qutub Minar complex, the glory and pride of India and its capital city found itself in court. The reason is that this fortified complex housing the minaret has a checkered history of pillage and pilfering. Evidence points out that twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples that were located on the site before the construction of the minar were demolished and their materials were used to construct Delhi’s first mosque. As you can imagine, in contemporary India, the poor UNESCO World Heritage Site complex was of course guilty of a triple crime. First, it demolished temples; then it dared to be constructed of their debris, and third, and most, unforgivable, it built a mosque at the site. The sturdy minar managed to survive more than 800 years and two lightning strikes, and recently found itself wrestling in courts in India against a plea seeking the restoration of 27 temples in the complex.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever

Thankfully, in November, a civil court rejected the petition saying that India had been ruled by several dynasties and wrongs committed in the past “cannot be the basis of disturbing peace of our present and future”. Archaeologists are clear about the status of the complex, which is a protected monument under federal law. They say its character is “irreversible and frozen”. ´´Much ado over nothing´´. A thing of beauty is to be enjoyed and cherished, don´t you agree? Anyway, take a look at a photo essay of this beautiful architectural icon of India and how it looks at dawn.

Qutub Minar Travel Tips

The best time to visit

Visit either in the morning or late in the evening. Avoid public holidays and weekends.

Location and How to Reach

It is located in Mehrauli in south Delhi and is easily accessible by public transport. Take a taxi or an autorickshaw. Alternatively, go there by the metro rail. Qutub Minar has its metro station. It lies on the yellow line connecting Samaypur Badli to HUDA City Centre. There are other three metro stations located close to the Qutub Minar namely Saket Metro Station, Chattarpur Metro Station, and Hauz Khas Metro Station. These are at a distance of 1.8 km, 3 km, and 3.7 km respectively from the monument. Most people take an autorickshaw from outside the metro station to reach the complex entrance gate. You can also walk it in around 20 minutes.

Opening Times and Ticket Prices

Qutub Minar is open from 7 am to 8 pm. The entrance fees are as follows:

  • Rs 30 per person for Indians
  • 0 per child (below 15 Years)
  • Rs 500 per person for Foreign Tourists
  • Rs 25 for Still Camera (non-commercial use)
  • Rs 25 for Video Camera (non-commercial use)

What to see inside the Qutub Minar complex

Qutub Minar is surrounded by many other historical monuments and the most impressive ones are as follows:

  • Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque – It is one of the oldest mosques and many scholars believe that the Qutub Minar was constructed as a prayer-calling tower for this very mosque. It has beautiful carvings.
  • Tomb of Iltutmish – Iltutmish was the successor and son-in-law of Qutub-ud-din Aibak. He was very powerful and his tomb was stunning.
  • Ala’i Minar – Inspired by the Qutub Minar but longer in height, the Ala’i Minar was never completed, and even today, you can see the wonderful structure standing right next to the Qutub Minar.
  • Tomb of Firoz Shah Tughlaq – This is another extremely beautiful monument dedicated to Firoz Shah Tughlaq, is scion of the Tughlaq Dynasty, which had a significant reign in India.
  • Zafar Mahal – Although in partial ruins, it was built to be the summer castle of the Sultan and has a grand scale.
  • Hauz-i-Shamsi – This water reservoir that was built by Iltutmish in the 13th century still survives today and is in the same spot.

Other Travel Tips

  • The Delhi weather can be quite harsh in summer. Wear comfortable clothes, hats, and sunglasses. Carry enough water and try to go there early to avoid the harsh mid-day sun.
  • Qutub Minar is open and operational on all public holidays.
  • Carry your official ID card to buy tickets on site. OCI and POI cardholders need to present their original IDs to avail of the Indian ticket price.
  • The gates close after the sun sets, which is usually around 5 PM. However, the Qutub Minar is open in the evenings as well, from 7 PM to 10 PM.

Information Credit – BBC