Mehrauli holds a few wonders and mysteries beyond the Qutub Minar. While the Qutub Minar is the tallest minaret of India at 238 feet, Alauddin Khilji had dreams of building Alai Minar next to it at twice its height! The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque next to the Qutub Minar is the first Mosque ever built in Islamic India. The Iron Pillar which is supposed to belong to the period of Vikramaditya adds a bit of mystery to this place for having not rusted for the last 1600 years! Read on for a possible explanation for the secret behind.
Qutub Minar is located in Mehrauli in South Delhi. The easiest way to reach Qutub Minar is to take a Metro from Gurgaon or Central Secretariat. Buses are also available from other parts of Delhi.
Qutub Minar is open every day from Sun Rise to Sun Set. Entry fee is Rs 10 for Indians and 250 for Foreigners. Children upto age 15 are allowed without any ticket. Note that entry into the Minaret per se is not permitted but one can go around the complex and have a look.
Qutub-ud-din Aibak was inspired by the Minaret of Jam in present day Afghanistan and build the Qutub Minar to celebrate his King, Ghori's victory over Prithviraj Chouhan. While the construction of Qutub Minar was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak as a Viceroy in 1199, he went to become the King who started the Mamluk or Slave dynasty and the construction was completed by his son-in-law Iltutmish in 1236. The Qutub Minar has five storeys and a balcony projects at each level. It was used by muezzin to call people for prayer at the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque nearby.
The first three storeys of Qutub Minar are made of red sandstone while the fourth and fifth floor is made of marble and sandstone.
Qutub Minar was struck by lightning in 1368 AD knocking off its top storey. Firoz Shah Tughlaq, the Sultan of Delhi from 1351 to 1388 helped rebuild it.
An earthquake in 1803 damaged the Qutub Minar. A British Major Robert Smith re-built the tomb in 1829. Later the tomb was relocated to an adjacent garden.
(The relocated Tomb)
The first mosque built in Delhi after the Islamic conquest was Quwwat-ul-Islam. Aibak built it in same style and design as his other creation, the Arhai-din-ka Jhompra or Ajmer mosque. An inscription states that the mosque was built with materials obtained from demolishing 27 Hindu and Jain temples. A 16 feet stone screen separates the prayer hall from the courtyard. Although in ruins the Mosque looks beautiful with its corbelled arches, floral motifs, and geometric patterns.
Allaudin Khilji of the Khilji dynasty built the Alai Darwaza in 1310 as a grand entrance to the Mosque. The gateway looks magnificent with its zafri work. Allaudin had brought architects from far away Turkey to build this gateway. The Alai Darwaza is the first instance of bow type arches in India.
Allaudin Khilji had a dream to surpass the Qutub Minar. He wanted to build a tower twice its height. Thus began the construction of Alai Minar. However, Khilji died after Alai Minar was just 27 meters tall. It never got completed.
The mysterious Iron Pillar in the Qutub Minar complex has raised the curiosity of visitors for several millennia. It was originally built by Chandragupta II also known as Vikramaditya in AD 402. It was part of a Vishnu Temple in Udayagiri. Anangpal the Tomar King had brought the pillar to Mehrauli in 10th century to be part of a Vishnu Temple he had built. The pillar is 7.2 meters high and weighs 6 tons. An inscription on the Pillar mentions that it was built as a Vishnudhvaja, standard of god Vishnu, on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of Chandragupta.
The mystery is that the pillar, which is made of 98 per cent wrought iron, has stood 1,600 years without rusting or decomposing!Recent developments by scientists at IIT Kanpur have revealed that a thin layer of "misawite", a compound of iron, oxygen and hydrogen, has protected the cast iron pillar from rust. This layer is just 1/20th of a millimeter in thickness! Some say the high phosphorous content in the Iron of those times helped in this film getting formed. In those times, there was a unique process for making iron. Iron ore was reduced into steel in one step by mixing it with charcoal. In contrast, today’s blast furnaces use limestone instead of charcoal and this leads to the phosphorous getting lost in slag. There is enough to learn from these ancient metallurgical techniques despite todays’ technological achievements. Experts say these practices can help us in reducing corrosion on containers of nuclear fuel.
Folklore says that anyone who is able to catch his own hands from the back by covering the Pillar will have his wish fulfilled! King Vikramadtya would be amazed in his Grave to hear this application of his Pillar. Do give it a try when you next visit the Qutub Minar, may be you will be the lucky one.
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