Qutb Complex and Qutub Minar- History and Design

Delhi Dec 14, 2019

Qutb Complex, which houses the famous Qutb Minar, is a UNESCO world heritage site and was once part of the first urban complex in Delhi, the Lal Kot, which was built by the Tomar Rajput rulers.


Following the victory of Mahmud of Ghazni over Prithviraj Chauhan, the Turks constructed the significant structures that still exist here today. Structures like the tomb of Imam Zamin, Alai Darwaza. The iron pillar, Iltutmish’s tomb, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque Alai Minar, Alauddin Khalji’s tomb collectively form the Qutb Complex, along with the Qutb Minar.

The Qutb Minar was started by Qutbuddin Aibak, who could only see the construction of the first story during his lifetime. The Qutb Minar, as it exists today, is the result of additions made by his successor Iltutmish and later by Firoz Shah Tughlaq. Sikandar Lodi, too, made repairs to the structure in the sixteenth century. The minaret was conceived by his governor, Qutbuddin Aibak, who passed before it was completed to its present form. The first story is said to be named after Bakhtiyar Kaki, a local saint popularly known as Qutb Sahib.


It is 72.5 meters tall, with a base diameter of 14.3 meters, which tapers to about 2.7 meters at the top. The Qutub Minar has five levels. Firoz Shah Tughlaq added a dome on top, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1803. Three hundred seventy-nine steps are leading to the top. Each story has a balcony. However, because of a fatal stampede in 1981, visitors are not allowed inside anymore.

Qutb Minar, some say is a maznah for the Quwwat-ul Islam Mosque, which is the first documented mosque in India - Maznah is a tower adjoining a mosque, from where the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer, but some dispute this citing that the height of the tower is not consistent with the purpose. Some say it is a victory tower constructed in celebration of Muhammad Ghori over Prithviraj Chauhan, the then Rajput ruler of Delhi.

Tallest of all the stories, the first story depicts a vibrant union of Indian and Islamic aesthetics with intricate floral patterns, combining beautifully with verses of the Quran. Following Aibak’s death, his successor, Iltutmish, took over the construction work and erected three more stories over the first floor of this minaret. Subsequently, the fourth floor was replaced by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in AD 1368 with two stories, faced in white marble and sandstone, lending a distinctive look and demonstrating a tale of architectural development from the age of the Slave dynasty to the Tughlaq era.