Delhi: Qutub Minar
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Qutub Minar: a 1902, British account
This section was written between 1902 when conditions were
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Delhi: Past And Present
By H. C. Fanshawe, C.S.I.
Bengal Civil Service, Retired;
Late Chief Secretary To The Punjab Government,
And Commissioner Of The Delhi Division
John Murray, London. I9o2.
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There is no good reason for doubting that Kutab-ud-din-Aibak began the basement storey of the Kutab Minar—the name of the minaret in common parlance is much more probably derived from him than from the saint known as the Kutab Sahib,—any more than there is for doubting that it is entirely of Muhammadan origin, and was primarily intended to serve as a minaret to the mosque of that Sultan.
The last is clear, not only from almost contemporary record, but also from the text from the Koran, cap. 62—The Assembly—on the second storey “Oh true believers, when ye are called to prayer on the day of Assembly, listen to the commemoration of God and leave merchandising. . . . The reward of God is better than any sport or merchandise, and God is the best provider.”
The lowest storey contains an inscription bearing the name of the first King of Delhi, and two others containing the name of his master, Muhammad-bin-Sam, or Muhammad Ghori; the second and third and fourth storeys bear bands of inscription with the name of Altamsh; and the fifth storey one relating to a restoration in 1368 A.D. by Firoz Shah, who, no doubt, entirely rebuilt the two topmost storeys of their original materials. On the entrance door to the Minar, which is modern, as is the railing of the first gallery, is an inscription of the year 1503 A.D., recording a restoration by Sikandar Shah Lodi, which probably preserved the Minar till 300 years later, when it was thoroughly repaired by the British Government, only just in time apparently, to judge from Major Thorn’s narrative of the events of 1803.
The value of this restoration must not be lost sight of in the ridicule which has overtaken the officer in charge of the work, a certain Captain Smith, R.E., in connection with the cupola designed by him for the summit, and which still stands in the Kutab grounds. (Colonel Sleeman wrote, not unjustly, of this: “If Captain Smith’s storey was anything like the original, the lightning did well to remove it !”) One would have been disposed to believe that the original topmost storey was a simple pavilion borne by four, or possibly eight, arches—very likely flat Hindu arches—but this is not borne out by the drawings of the column in Franklin’s book and by Daniell, though Ensign Jas. Blunt, who visited Delhi in 1794, says it was “crowned by a majestic cupola of red granite.” It would add greatly to the effect of the column if a suitable cupola could be placed upon it.
The height of the Kutab Minar is 238 feet, and of the first gallery 95 feet. The lowest storey has twenty-four flutings alternately round and angular, the second has only rounded flutings, and the third only angular. The line of each fluting is carried up unbroken through each storey, and this adds greatly to the effect of the tower.
The parapet of the first gallery appears to have been of a simple crenellated battlement form; the arrow-head pattern in the upper galleries is said to exist also in the Kalaun Mosque of Cairo. The outline of the column is not at first very pleasing to eyes accustomed to Gothic towers and spires, and from a distant point of view seems perhaps less graceful than when seen from nearer.
But of the beauty of the warm colour of the stone, of the splendid bands of texts and ornamentation which encircle it, and of the work on the under sides of the galleries, there can be no question.
The lower bands 1 of inscription can be well seen from the top of the south-east corner of the Kuwat-ul- Islam Mosque and the Alai Gate; while charming views of the column as a whole are obtained in framings of the centre arch of the mosque screen and of the last of Altamash’s arches to the south, and other beautiful glimpses from every side will be enjoyed by those who have time to wander round the outskirts of the general enclosure.[ 1 The six bands of inscription in the basement storey contain: first, the designation and title of Kutab ud-din; second, the titles and praise of Muhammad-bin-Sam; third, a verse from chapter 59 of the Koran; fourth, another recital, as in the second band; fifth, the ninety-seven Arabic names of the Almighty; and sixth, a verse from the Koran, The verse regarding the call to prayer is on the second storey.]
For the rest, it is again sufficient to quote what Mr Fergusson writes in this connection: “It is probably not too much to assert that the Kutab Minar is the most beautiful example of its class known to exist anywhere.1 The rival which will occur at once to most people is the Campanile at Florence, built by Giotti. That is, it is true, 30 feet taller, but it is crushed by the mass of the Cathedral alongside; and beautiful though it is, it wants that poetry of design and exquisite finish of detail which marks every moulding of the Minar.”
It will interest many to note the plumb line of the tower on a stone in the south side of its basement.
The number of steps to the top of the Kutab is 379. The view from there is very striking, but is practically as extensive from the first gallery. At the foot of the column are seen spread out the mosque and all the buildings which surround it. A little further off lie the encircling lines of the defences of Lal Kot, and Kila Raí Pithora rising highest to the west, and bounded there by the dark wall of the heavy Idgah of Old Delhi.
Across the plain north of Rai Pithora’s fort may be traced the Jahanpanah embankments, running towards the ruined walls of Siri, which do not, however, show up from here; the massive dark block of the Begampur Mosque, however, indicates their position. Above Jahanpanah, and to the north-west rises the depressed pale dome of the tomb of the Emperor Firoz Shah in Hauz Khas, and beyond it the bright pointed dome of Safdar Jang’s tomb, and almost in a line with it the still brighter domes of the Jama Masjid of Delhi.
To the east of Safdar Jang appear the long wall defences of the Purana Kila, with the low white roof of Nizam-ud-din, and the high marble dome of the Emperor Humayun’s tomb below them. South of these again is the popular Kalka temple on the rising ground, and below this, and nearly due east of the Kutab, are the fortresses of Tughlakabad and Adilabad, with the low white dome of Tughlak Shah’s tomb between them. Nearer and to the north of the road to Tughlakabad are the large groves of trees which mark the Hauz Rani and Khirki, while south of the road and close to the Kutab are the Jamáli Mosque and the lofty ruins of the tomb of the Sultan Balban, and under it on the south the Dargah of the Kutab Sahib, and the houses of Mahrauli half hidden in trees.
The Qutub, over the centuries
How Qutub stood tall in Mehrauli over the centuries
It's the monument that witnesses the maximum footfall in the national capital, and now visitors to the Qutub Minar will get a chance to see how it evolved through the centuries. To commemorate World Heritage Week in Delhi, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will be hosting an exhibition of rarely seen, archival images and sketches of Qutub Minar dating back to as early as the mid-19th century .
The exhibition will be held in the Qutub Minar lawns. Officials said that out of a collection of over a 100 images from reference books and archival compilation, they shortlisted about 85 to be displayed in the exhibition that will be opened for the public on Wednesday . Depending on the response it gets from visitors, it may be extended beyond the week-long World Heritage Week celebrations ending on November 26.
Padmashree awardee RS Bisht, former joint DG of ASI and renowned archaeologist, will inaugurate the exhibition. “Each image will be accompanied with a caption and short write-up. The selected images show Qutub Minar in the backdrop of 19th century Delhi when most of the surrounding buildings present to day did not exist. It will help visitors see how the surroundings evolved through the decades,“ said officials.
Last year, the World Heritage Week focused on Red Fort. “In 2013, we held an exhibition on the forgotten monuments of Delhi at Red Fort. This year, the focus is not just on Qutub Minar but all the monuments located in Mehrauli and surround ing areas. Mehrauli is archaeologically rich and we want to raise awareness about its heritage. Most people just visit Qutub Minar and then head to other places. But there is much more to see here, from the monuments of Mehrauli Archaeological Park to Zafar Mahal, Adham Khan's tomb, Lal Kot, etc,“ said officials.
Qutub Minar will be the first monument in Delhi where ASI will be installing a board detailing information and locations of other monuments in the vicinity .The first board will list Quli Khan's tomb, Jamali Kamali, Gandhak ki Baoli, Jahaz Mahal, Balban's tomb, Jharna, etc. “The boards will give details and history of these monuments and also directions on how to get there,“ said an official.
In days to follow, five other monuments -Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb, Purana Qila and Safdarjung Tomb -will also have similar boards.
The 2018 touch- up
The Archaeological Survey of India has replaced crumbling doors and cracked windows in each of the four balconies with wood-frame jaalis and iron grilles.
The project would cost about Rs 8 lakh, and this, ASI thinks, would stop the entry of birds and bats.
For centuries, it weathered earthquakes, hailstorms and many other troubles. It stood tall even in the face of invading armies. But the mighty Qutub Minar has been humbled by bird poo.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has, for the first time in over 50 years, replaced crumbling doors and cracked windows in each of the four balconies with wood-frame jaalis and iron grilles. The project would cost about Rs 8 lakh, and this, ASI thinks, would stop the entry of birds and bats.
2 The project would cost about Rs 8 lakh, and this, ASI thinks, would stop the entry of birds and bats.
Over a period of time, doors and windows had developed cracks, allowing winged creatures to enter. At first, the bird and bat droppings were taken just for their nuisance value. But soon, it became a matter of grave concern as officials were cleaning piles of droppings. "The droppings not only made the interiors of the monument unhygienic, musty and foul-smelling, but also affected the precious stones," said N K Pathak, superintending archaeologist, ASI (Delhi circle).
4 The Archaeological Survey of India has, for the first time in over 50 years, replaced crumbling doors and cracked windows in each of the four balconies with wood-frame jaalis and iron grilles.
After careful measurements, the new frames were installed. "The work has been going on for nearly three months. The new frames are being made in Qutub complex itself," said an official.
5 Over a period of time, doors and windows had developed cracks, allowing winged creatures to enter.
Historians say the minaret had doors at each opening, but it's unknown what the original doors were like. But surely, these could be opened and closed. There are several small and large windows inside the minaret to allow light and air circulation. In the 1950s, the ASI had installed new doors, which outlived their utility. The ones being installed now are fixed and will stay closed for most of the time.
7 Bird poo at heritage buildings worries conservationists as these contain acids. "These can cause a lot of damage to ancient building surfaces, resulting in the scarring of building fabric and damaging of appearance. The corrosive effects can continue for a long time after a stone is contaminated," said an expert.
Delhi: Qutub Minar