(Windsor, ON, Canada)
It is a known fact that India, as we know it, boasts a history that goes back thousands of years. There are, in fact, priceless relics of ancient as well as modern India still around in terms of not only great buildings and monuments of magnificent architectural styles standing and in good shape and which all testify to its advanced civilization and culture and also which bear tangible testimony to the great civilization that flourished on the sub-continent. India, in fact, has remained a fascinating country with a checkered history that has continued to dazzle the world by its many achievements in science, mathematics and philosophy which have helped the West to draw from its remarkable source of wisdom and enhance its own cultures and civilizations and which, at the same time, helped them contribute, in very significant ways, to the advancement of modern civilization – as everybody knows!
So much so, it is little wonder that through the ages, India enjoyed a reputation for its wealth and riches in terms of its lucrative trade in gold and spices particularly. It, therefore, obviously became, despite itself, a prey, down the years, to ruthless invaders and looters and eventually paid the price of its open arm ‘policy of being friends to all and enemy to no one.’ Not all the invaders, however, came to plunder though! We all know that the Mughal Babur invaded India in 1526 and defeated the Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodhi and took over the Sultanate and thus established himself as new ruler and also founded a dynasty — the Mughal Dynasty — that would rule the country for almost three hundred years and, in the process, would give India an era of glory and some of its most prestigious architectural buildings and monuments that have defied time and that continue to fascinate the world as examples of superb architectural gems. Here, immediately, comes to our mind the inimitable Mughal gem – the Taj Mahal — in Agra or the towering tower of Qutub Minar in Delhi, which have survived the onslaught of time and continue to captivate visitors from all over the world even to-day.
The Qutub Minar or ‘Victory Tower’ in Old Delhi, India, is one fine example– indeed, a testament of the prowess and ingenuity of Indian architecture that has continued to amaze and dazzle the world. It is a fascinating complex surrounded by several other monuments all placed in the lap of a lovely garden.
The Qutub Minaret was built by Qutub-ud- Din Aitbak in 1193 after his victory over the last Hindu ruler of Delhi. Aitbak would thus become the founder of the Mameluk (Slave) Dynasty on the Sultanate of Delhi. The Qutub Minar is said to be the tallest structure in India and has five stories, which were NOT completed all at the same time. In fact, the whole Tower would be completed in phases. It was begun by Qutub ud-Din Aitbak and completed by his successors: Sham-ud-Din IItimish, Firuz Shah Tughlaq, Sher Shah Suri and Sikandar Khan Lodi. It runs 72.5 metres high and is fitted with 375 stairs that take you all the way to the top and is, understandably, among the most popular tourist-sights in Delhi. However, for security reasons, the use of the stairs has been closed to the public since 1981.
The base of the Qutub Minar is 14.3 metres in circumference, which gets narrowed to 2.7 metres at the top. Moreover, the Qutub Minar site is also famous for housing some other well-known monuments – among them Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, one of the first mosques built in India.
Work on the Qutub Minar was begun by Qutub ud-Din Aitback to celebrate his victory over the last Hindu ruler of Delhi but the project would not be completed until seventy-five years later, that is, in 1268 by his successors. It was completed in three phases. The early part was made of red bricks while the later parts were completed in white marbles. Besides, the millions, who visit the monument every year would easily recognize the difference. Over the years, the Minar had been hit by lightnings – particularly in 1369 and the damage was quickly repaired by Firuz Shah Tughlaq. The later segments of the walls of the Minar also have inscriptions on the outside in both Urdu and Arabic languages. In the same vein, it must be mentioned that the Tower was also hit by a major earthquake and went through major repair works in 1505.
Moreover, visitors to the Qutub Minar site are treated, each year, with the annual “Qutub Minar Festival” that takes place in November and December. It is a colourful festive event that has become a tradition.
Also, it would not be out of place to mention here that, in the Qutub Minar Complex, is also located another Column or Pillar of wonder – the Iron Pillar. It is a metal or iron column that is 7 m. 21 cm high and has a diameter of 41 cm. The Pillar, it is said, was built by Raja Chandragupta (375-415 A.D.) The amazing thing about that Pillar is that it has NOT rusted in the past 2000 years. It is a piece of wonder. It is said that the Pillar is made of a special mixture of metals that has defied time and has continued to stay — for lack of a better word– ‘intact’.
India is, indeed, a fascinating land and, as one good friend of mine has put it:
–“It is an incredible land with a diverse and fascinating culture. It is unique and a visitor who takes the time to visit this land of our ancestors, will enjoy and marvel at so many wonderful sights and creations of the human mind in terms of arts, sciences and philosophy and monuments that just boggle the human mind — to put it mildly!”
Indeed, India is a land of magic and wonder with its many splendored display of facets of human arts, culture and civilization that have continued to amaze and fascinate humanity, in one way or another, through the ages.
The Qutub Minar is just but one item in the thousand and one things of wonder and fascination that “Incredible India” has to offer.