Through the years my car zoomed by Mehrauli on a number of occasions and I used to see the red and buff sandstone minaret stand tall in all its glory. To me, Qutub Minar was just a minaret. No big deal. The fact that it is the tallest minaret in India didn’t provide much motivation either. It was a couple of years ago when the shutterbug bit me and I developed a keen interest in photography that I stepped into the monument complex. Exquisite and breathtakingly beautiful, I fell in love with the overpowering structure and its architecture instantly. Despite the cacophony of the thronging crowds, there’s a certain serenity that exudes from its surroundings.

The iconic lofty minaret – Qutub Minar

In the book “The Golden Calm: An English Lady’s Life in Moghul Delhi: Reminiscences by Emily, Lady Clive Bayley, and her father Sir Thomas Metcalfe, accounts the wistful and evocative days when Emily Metcalfe spent days enjoying the picturesque aerial views from atop the Qutub Minar. She would carefully walk step by step up the spiral staircase with a basket of oranges in her hand and have a picnic up there. In this diary from the 1840s, she narrates: “Many a time have I, with Colonel Richard Lawrence, taken a basket of oranges to the top of the Kutab pillar, two hundred and thirty-eight feet high, to indulge in a feast in that seclusion…” Such happy memories!

Looking up at the Minar also relives the day when it was shrouded in shrieks and sadness. On Friday, December 4, 1981, a blackout occurred after 11.30 am, when 300-400 visitors filled the inside of the tower and an enthusiastic crowd outside was forcing itself to gain entry. The pitch darkness inside led to panic and chaos resulting in a stampede and death of 45 dead and about 24 injured. A dark day in history! The entry inside the minaret has been banned ever since.

Qutub Minar
Qutub Minar: Awe inspiring through the ages

Surrounded by well-manicured gardens, Qutub Minar is an insignia of Muslim dominance in Delhi and is the contribution of three different rulers. Started by Qutub-ud-din-Aibak in 1192, the basement of the minaret was completed during his rule. The subsequent successor Iltutmish, further added three more storeys of fluted red sandstone to it in 1230. Finally, in 1368, the top most storey was added by Firoze Shah Tughlak. The last two storeys are made of marble and sandstone. Today, the 72.5 meter tall minaret made of marble and sandstone is both mystical and magnificent. Every storey is designed with a balcony and tapers , and the entire exterior is etched with Islamic scriptures – intricate carvings and verses from the Quran.

Iron pillar from the Gupta empire stands tall in the courtyard of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. It has Brahmanic inscriptions.
Old structures, new generation
Posing in front of the posers

However, the way I look at Qutub Minar today is far different from how I saw it the first time.The Qutub Minar complex doesn’t comprise only the minaret but also the Quwwat-us-Islam Mosque which is the first mosque ever to be constructed in India, the 23 feet 8-inch high rust-resistant Iron pillar, the tomb of Iltutmish, Ala’i-Darwaza and the Ala’I Minar. These structures are memoirs of the past. And when the iconic monument is enlivened by hundreds of visitors each day, there is a juxtaposition of the historical backstage with the emotions and moods of people onstage.

Alai Darwaza and Tomb of Imam Zamin
It’s the time to pray
One for memory! – Tomb of Imam Zamin
Till death do us part
The circle of life
A quiet moment for us!

The Qutub Minar provides a spectacular subject for photographers especially when photographed from different, unique angles. School students, tourists, photographers, lovers, friends, a wanderer, philosopher, the thinker, a child, an escapist – my eyes scan through the crowd. Against the mystical background, there is an interplay of energies and emotions. Qutub Minar doesn’t seem the same on any two days. Each part of the complex conveys a different story.

Let’s walk through the pillars of time
Scriptures from the Holy Quran engraved around the complex
A history lesson in the open
Some time to rest and soak in the beauty of the complex
A moment of his own!

The minaret, thus, towers above the surrounding tree line and complex as a symbol synonymous with Delhi still awing generations of Delhiites and Indians. It’s magical and mystical!

Entry Fee: Rs 30 (Indians), Rs. 500 (foreigners)

Location: Mehrauli

Timings: 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Nearest Metro station: Qutub Minar Metro Station

Open all days

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