Ch. 35, The Qutub Minar in Delhi
The first Muslim state was founded in India in 711 and ever after the Hindus of India saw their temples destroyed and the material used to build vast Muslin mosques and madrasas (religious schools), and those Muslims were busy builders indeed.
Such a place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is our destination for the first morning in Delhi. We drive through pleasant, tree-lined boulevards to the Qutub Minar, which features a tower, or minaret, some 238 feet high, which certainly means it will never be lost to future generations because of vegetative growth, as have many ancient structures.
A provocative inscription over the entrance gate claims the complex was built by using material from the demolition of 27 Hindu temples. The first three stories of the centerpiece tower are built of red sandstone and the top two stories of marble and sandstone. The over-all effect is stunning.
The tower, considered the finest in the world, was started in 1193 after the last Hindu kingdom was defeated. There is a dispute as to the reason for its construction, with some saying it marks the defeat in Hindu India and others claiming it is a minaret, from which the adhan (Islamic calls to prayer) were sung.
|Inscriptions are from the Quran.|
It measures 47 feet at its base and tapers to nine feet at the top. The original top was destroyed by lightning. After the British assumption of power in India, a Major Smith removed the damaged pavilion at the top and replaced it with a design of his own, though he carefully restored earthquake and lightning damage to other parts of the tower.
Major Smith’s pavilion was removed and now sits in a garden area in a corner of the complex.
|Taking advantage of a leaky pipe.|
Up until 25 years ago, visitors to the complex could climb the narrow interior staircase to the top, an activity very popular on Fridays when admission was free to school children. On Dec. 4, 1981, a power outage occurred while many people and children were in the tower, throwing the interior into blackness.
Forty-five people, many of them children, died in the ensuing stampede. Today, no one is allowed to climb the tower, which is just as well because it leans two feet off vertical and is carefully monitored lest rainwater further damages the foundation.
|Quwwat Ui Islam Mosque|
A short distance away are the ruins of the Quwwat Ui Islam (Light of Islam) Mosque, begun in 1193 and completed four years later. This was Delhi's principal mosque until 1360. It, too, is considered one of the most magnificent structures in the world.
|Note the people for size perspective.|
One of the most curious enigmas in the world stands in the center of the mosque courtyard, a 98 per cent pure cast iron pillar almost 23 feet high and weighing over six tons. As one source wrote, "...[A]n extraordinary feature of the pillar ... is that it has not corroded for at least 1600 years. Scientists remain baffled as to how iron of such purity could be cast at that time, let alone refuse to rust. Legend states that anyone who can stand with his or her back to the pillar and join their hands around it will be granted a wish (a fence now keeps wish-seekers out)."
|Repeating this photo as it shows the Iron Pillar.|
Over in the farthest corner of the complex lie the ruins of a madrasa and a nearby tomb. Two young men stopped me there and asked if they could have their photo taken with me and I, of course, obliged. A minute later, I saw them crossing a pedestrian bridge, called to them, and took their photo. They smiled and waved and we all went on our separate ways.
MORE PHOTOS FROM THE QUTUB MINAR:
As I watched the tower, I found it was right in the flight path of airliners taking off every three or four minutes from a nearby airport. I though these two photos created an anachronistic juxtaposition of old and new.
When I looked at the photos on the camera display to see if I had gotten what I wanted, something else struck me--the seared images in my mind of the passenger aircraft just before they hit the Twin Towers in New York.
While doing research for this post, I found many people have taken similar photos.
|Outside the gates, vendors selling refreshing drinks.|
|I hope this fellow doesn't have to wheel his cart very far.|
I found this beautiful photo on the Internet and offer it here for your enjoyment. This is a Super Moon.
A diagram of the Qutub Minar complex.
|Number 5 on the map, at far right, is the unfinished attempt to build an even higher tower. The rulers death in 1316 left the tower unfinished at 80.3 feet.|