Qutb Minar by Moonlight

I had wanted to visit the Qutb Minar complex since I saw it featured in the TV series The Story of India.  Located in south Delhi, the Qutb Minar is the second tallest minar (tower) in India.

This was the end of my day tour of Delhi, and having arrived in India at 3 AM, I was jetlagged and exhausted by this point, but there was no way I was leaving Delhi without visiting the Qutb Minar.  We arrived just after the monument closed for the day, but we were able to stick around and go in for the night viewing since it was close to the full moon.

The five-storied Qutb Minar

The five-storied Qutb Minar

Qutb Minar with the full moon

Qutb Minar with the full moon

Construction of the tower itself began in 1192, and the fifth tier was finally completed in 1368.  The bottom three tiers are made out of red sandstone, a common construction material for Mughal complexes in this area, and the top two levels are made out of marble and sandstone.  The minar (tower) itself contains inscriptions of verses from the Quran, which are carved beautifully into the stone.

Inscriptions on Qutb Minar

Inscriptions on Qutb Minar

One of the most well-known parts of the Qutb Minar complex, other than the Qutb Minar itself, is the Iron Pillar, metallurgically interesting for its rust resistance.

Qutb Minar and Iron Pillar

Qutb Minar and Iron Pillar

There is some debate about when and how the Iron Pillar was originally made, but it is generally thought to have been during the reign of the Guptas.  It contains descriptions of the greatness of the king Candra and inscriptions in praise of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Qutb Minar and Iron Pillar by moonlight

Qutb Minar and Iron Pillar by moonlight

The Qutb Minar complex is one of the few places that I saw in Delhi where so many major religions and civilizations were all represented at the same site.  The Qutb Minar itself was built under the Mughal empire, and many of the surrounding structures show influence from Islamic and Persian art.  The Iron Pillar, of course, represents the Gupta empire and is a representation of Hinduism.  In the surrounding complex, there is also evidence of Buddhist carvings. It’s fascinating to see the layers of history in evidence here, since in many other parts of the Indian subcontinent, civilizations have had a penchant for destroying previously existing structures before building their own.  It has not been uncommon in Indian history for empires and civilizations to build important structures on the same sites as previous societies, and I wish more places had the different cultures as well preserved as the Qutb Minar complex does.  There is a lot to be learned from such sights about culture and history from looking at the architecture.

Have you ever been somewhere where you could see evidence of multiple civilizations? What did you think of it?

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