Friday, April 20, 2012

The Tower Of Victory - Qutub Minar

A visit to the Qutub Minar complex is a must visit for tourists, many do not understand its context. Arguably one of the most pivotal monuments, it symbolizes the continuity of invading powers in India and the Minar is inevitably associated with the ascension of Muslim rule in India. It was constructed to overwhelm and subdue the native populace. As a visible and potent symbol of power, it continues to play an axis role in the Indian political psyche.


In its finished state, the Minar is a symbol of architectural perfection and is known to have no parallel in the world. The foundation of Qutub Minar was laid in A.D. 1199. The tallest stone minaret in the world is clearly inspired by many other structures found in the Islamic world including the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. The Qutub Minar has five distinct stories, each marked by a projecting balcony carried on muqarnas corbel.

Qutub-Minar made of red and buff sandstone is one of the highest stone towers in the world. Built in the 13th century, the magnificent tower stands in the Indian capital of Delhi. The tower has a diameter of 14.32m at the base and about 2.75m on the top with a height of 72.5m and has 379 steps towards the top. An architectural marvel of the medieval period, it was built to commemorate the victory of invading Islamic armies over the native Hindu rulers.

The construction of Qutub Minar seems to have begun at the same time as the mosque but its completion took far longer than the Mosque. While the story of the construction of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque spread far and wide, its visual impact was point- blank meaning people who saw it, was impacted by its sheer proportions and symbolic meaning. The Minar was a more potent symbol that could have a mass-visual impact as it was positioned as the Qutub, an axis or pole of Islam. It could be seen from far. It has been suggested by many scholars that the original purpose of building Qutub Minar was to facilitate the mu'azzin (crier) to call believers for prayer. Considering the height of the Minar, it would take a superbly fit and athletic Mu'azzin to climb the 379 steps five times a day.

Aibak lived only to see the completion of the first storey. Other three stories were built by his son-in-law and successor Iltutmish. Qutub Minar served as the tower of victory-the victory of Islamic warriors against the predominantly Hindu, Jania and Buddhist Inhabitants who couldn't stand up to the might of their conquerors. The balcony on the first floor of the Minar which could have been used by the mu'azzin to call the faithful for prayers. A loud mu'azzin calling the faithful could be heard for quite a distance five times a day, reminding the conquered their altered status.

Originally Qutub Minar comprised of only four stories made up of red and buff sandstone. When the top floor (fourth) was damaged due to lightning strike, Feroz Shah Tughlaq the then reigning sultan ordered repairs in 1368. He replaced the damaged uppermost storey with the two marble stories (a way of gaining permanent stake in its construction). Thus today the Minar stands grandly with five floors.

Like most of the monuments built during the Muslim rule in India, Qutub Minar is located within a complex that consists of other important monuments like the iconic Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the Alai Darwaza, tombs of important personalities of the time like Iltutmish, Ala-ud-din Khilji, Imam Zamin, the awe-inspiring Iron Pillar and; the unfinished rival of Qutub Minar- the Alai Minar etc. Considering its strategic status in the Indian history, the UNESCO declared it a world heritage monument. Qutub Minar went on to be one of the most important Tower of Victory in the Islamic world.
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