Nestled in a quiet corner of South Delhi, towering over the surrounding landscape, is New Delhi’s most recognizable monument, the Qutub Minar. Standing at a height of 72.5 meters, this minaret was built by Qutab-ud-din-Albak sometime in the 1190s. Now, a World Heritage Site, the Qutub Minar remains one of Delhi’s most famous and visited monuments.
With a base diameter of 14.3 meters and the top diameter of 2.7 meters, a total of 379 steps are required to reach the top. Unfortunately, after an incident in the 1980s where power failure resulted in a stampede, members of the public are no longer allowed inside the Qutub Minar. I do have faint memories of having climbed once to the top, but without any photographic proof, I often wonder if it’s just a figment of my imagination.
While many monuments have intrigue and suspense linked to them, Qutub Minar comes with its own modern-day mystery. Over centuries it has seen its fair share of problems with the top two of the seven stories getting damaged. A myth I grew up believing was that the reason for the collapse of the two tiers was a plane crash. However, the truth is that the damage was caused by lightning, There has been some structural damage to the Qutub Minar due to earthquakes over time as well, but the remaining five stories have been repaired as and when the damage occurred and as a result, this minaret remains a standing marvel for generations to see.
The Qutub Minar complex also houses another interesting ” monument”. The Iron Pillar is a roughly 6000 Kilogram weighing, 24-foot high pillar that has Sanskrit inscriptions on it. Having grown up in the region of the Qutub, a theory attached with the Iron Pillar is that if a person stands with his/her back to the pillar and manages to wrap his/her hands around it, then they can wish for anything and it will come true. As a child, I was never able to do that, and now, over the past couple of decades, due to the negative effects of “oily” hands being placed on the pillar, it has been cornered off. No more free wishes you, unfortunately. The other magnificent fact about the pillar is that even though it is 98% Iron, and has been in the open, it still remains rust free after close to 1600 years.
Besides the above two more famous monuments, the Qutub complex is made up of noteworthy reminders of the past in the form of the Ala’i Minar – a failed attempt at making a minaret twice the size of the Qutub Minar – a mosque and tombs along with architecturally beautiful pillars and walls that have stood the test of time and present different architectural techniques and styles.
The entry to the complex is ticketed at a nominal price of Rs. 30, – for Indians and a somewhat slightly expensive Rs 500 for foreign nationals when last checked.
It is advisable to reach as early as possible – Opening time is 7 AM – as you can skip the crowds and get some wonderful photographs of a more vacant complex. Although the complex is open on all days, weekdays can get busy because of school trips and the weekends usually have a number of tour groups. The complex closes in the evening at 5.
As the place also has religious connotations, one should be respectful of the tradition and culture at all times.
In order to keep the complex clean and tidy, most of the gardens have been cornered off, but there are a few places outside the complex where one can still have a small picnic during the winter months.
There are guides present but they do not harass and an official audio tour is available at a nominal price if you would rather do your own sightseeing. Moreover, most of the monuments are well labelled with their history on plaques next to them.
Although there are shaded areas in the complex, it is advisable to carry sun protection and water, especially during summer months.
The Qutub Complex is part of village Mehrauli in New Delhi and while a visit to the Minaret is a must, so is one to the nearby Mehrauli Archaeological Park which is full of ancient splendour.
The entire Qutub Minar complex is a well-maintained property with lush gardens, nooks and corners to explore, the forgotten past to re-discover, and it is the perfect place in the city to immerse oneself into the charm of glorious architecture.
For more facts about Qutub, check out Shivani’s beautiful photo essay that captures the Minar closer to sundown.