Qutb Minar

Although Islamic incursions into the Indian subcontinent started as early as the 8th century, it was during the last quarter of the 12th century that the Muslim conqueror Mohammed of Ghur (in modern Afghanistan) made his way through the Khyber Pass into northwestern India. When Mohammed returned to Ghur, his general, Qutbuddin Aibak, proclaimed himself the first Sultan of Delhi. In 1193, he started construction of a memorial mosque and, later, a tower (minar) to commemorate the event. These are the core monuments at what is now called the Qutb Complex, south of Delhi.

Alai Darwaza
The Qutb Complex Alai Darwaza, early Indian Islamic building
Qutb Minar Qutb Minar
Qutb Minar, the Victory Tower Qutb Minar, detail

The tower was actually completed by Qutbuddin's successor Iltutmish. At 72.5 meters, it is the hightest stone tower in India.

The Quwwat-ul-Islam ("might of Islam") mosque, not only employed Hindu artisans in its construction but even used pillars from previously existing Hindu and Jain temples which were otherwise destroyed by the invaders.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque Hindu pillars
Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Hindu pillars Hindu personage on pillar capital
Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Pointed arch of mosque's western screen Arch and 4th-century iron pillar
in honor of Vishnu
Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque The pointed arch of the mosque's
western screen is built with Hindu
stone-corbelling techniques.
The decorative bands here and
on the minar combine Koranic
script with Indian floral designs.
The iron pillar is an amazing
example of the iron-working
skills of the time as it has rusted
only slightly.

 Next to the mosque is the tomb of Iltutmish, Qutbuddin's successor. There is also the uncompleted stump of what was to be an even grander tower, the Alai Minar, but which was never completed.

Iltutmish's tomb Alai Minar
Iltutmish's tomb Alai Minar

It was a beautiful day in a fascinating place and most of the people there were not at all western tourists but Indian ones, some of whom were frolicking on the grass.

On the grass

Back to India 2007