Qutb Minar

Qutb Minar, Delhi

We’ve passed by it several times, seen it from quarters both close and distant and yet there remains an aura about the place that is hard to diminish. I’m talking about the famous Qutb Minar and complex – probably THE monument to see in Delhi.

Few know that this UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by rows after rows of monuments. Together they are all known as the Qutb Complex. The history of Qutb Minar can not then be separated from that of the Qutb complex.

The minar – the tallest of its kind in the world – was started by the deputy of Mohamad Ghori, Qutb ud-din-Aibak, at the end of the 12th century. There are several theories surrounding the purpose of its construction. Some say it was intended as a monument to celebrate the defeat of local Rajput king Prithvi Raj Chauhan by Ghori. The nearby Quwat ul-Islam mosque was also built as memorialisation of the beginning of Islamic rule in India. Roughly translated it means “might of Islam” and gives an idea of the commemorative purpose of the mosque.

I bring this up in relation to the Qutb Minar is because it is suggested that the minaret was intended as a place from which to summon the people to prayer. Perhaps these two reasons are not too different from each other – both could be equally valid, historians suggest.

What is also uncommonly known is that the region was a site of ancient Hindu and Jain temples. Few of these remain today. Other monuments within the complex apart from the Qutb minar and the Quwat -ul-Islam mosque include the Alai Darwaza, Alai Minar, the Iron Pillar and Iltutmish’s tombs among the 27 different monuments found inside the complex.

The above teaches us something very valuable about history, I think. History and culture are not something that can be separated. What we are today – our being and culture – is also a result of our past. It is, moreover, a past that is difficult to divide and segregate. While we might study our past as the history of Delhi – ancient, medieval and modern, the monument complex teaches us that it is more complex, more intermingled than that. And we are better off for it.