Mehrauli Qutub Minar UNESCO World Heritage Complex Tour Guide

Mehrauli Qutub Minar UNESCO World Heritage Complex Tour Guide - Destination Overview

About Mehrauli UNESCO Archeological Park

Mehrauli Archaeological Park is an archaeological area spread over 200 acre in Mehrauli, Delhi, adjacent to Qutub Minar World Heritage site and the Qutub complex. It consists of over 100 historically significant monuments. It is the only area in Delhi known for 1,000 years of continuous years of occupation, and includes the ruins of Lal Kot built by Tomar Rajputs in 1060 CE, making it the oldest extant fort of Delhi, and architectural relics of subsequent period, rule of Khalji dynasty, Tughlaq dynasty, Lodhi dynasty of Delhi Sultanate, Mughal Empire, and the British Raj.

Qutub Minar stands just outside the Quwwatul mosque, and an Arabic inscription suggests that it might have been built to serve as a place for the muezzin, to call the faithfuls for namaz. Also it is known as qutub, an Axis or Pole of Islam. The Qutb Minar was commissioned by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the first Sultan of Delhi, and was completed by his successor - Iltutmish.

It is not known whether the tower was named after Qutb-ud-din Aibak or Qutbuddin Bhaktiyar Kaki, a famous Sufi saint who was living in Delhi contemporarily.

One engraving on the minar reads, "Shri Vishwakarma prasade charita" (Conceived with the grace of Vishwakarma).

Qutub Complex first Indian monument to have an E-ticket facility. Qutab Minar is the closest station on the Delhi Metro. A picture of the minaret is featured on the Travel Cards issued by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.

Main Attractions of the Mahrauli Complex

  • Tomb of Balban, ca 1287 CE, wherein a true arch and the true dome were built for the first time in India.
  • Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb of Maulana Jamali Kamali (Jamali Kamboh), built 1526 - 1535 CE,
  • Quli Khan's Tomb,
  • Gandhak ki Baoli,
  • Rajon Ki Baoli, a stepwell,
  • Madhi Masjid.
  • Jahaz Mahal
  • Zafar Mahal of Bahadur Shah II alias Lal Mahal
  • Hauz-i-Shamsi
  • Tomb of Adham Khan.

The redevelopment of the area as an archaeological park and conservation of important structures started in 1997, in collaboration between Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC). Over the years, 40 monuments in the Park have been restored and added signages, heritage trails, and sandstone trail-markers.

About Qutub Complex and Qutub Minar

The Qutb complex also spelled Qutab or Qutub, is an array of monuments and buildings at Mehrauli in Delhi, India. The best-known structure in the complex is the Qutb Minar, built to celebrate the victory of Mohammed Ghori over Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192 AD, by his then viceroy, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who later became the first Sultan of Delhi of the Mamluk dynasty.

After the death of the viceroy, the Minar was added upon by his successor Iltutmish (a.k.a. Altamash) and much later by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, a Tughlaq dynasty Sultan of Delhi in 1368 AD.

Destruction of Old Hindu & Jain Temples in Qutub Complex

Qutub complex initially housed a complex of twenty-seven ancient Hindu and Jain temples which were destroyed and their material used in the construction of the Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque or Dome of Islam  next to the Qutb Minar, in the Qutb complex.

The complex was added to by many subsequent rulers, including Firoz Shah Tughlaq and Ala ud din Khilji as well as the British.

Main structures in the Qutub complex are as below

  • The Qutb Minar,
  • The Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque,
  • The Alai Gate,
  • The Alai Minar,
  • The Iron pillar,
  • Tombs of Iltutmish
  • Alauddin Khilji and Imam Zamin,
  • Jain temple ruins.

Qutub Festival

It is also the venue of the annual 'Qutub Festival', held in November–December, where artists, musicians and dancers perform over three days. The Qutb Minar complex, with 3.9 million visitors, was India's most visited monument in 2006, ahead of the Taj Mahal, which drew about 2.5 million visitors.

About Alai Darwaza

The Alai Darwaza is the main gateway from southern side of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque in Qutub Complex. It was built by the second Khilji Sultan of Delhi, Ala-ud-din Khilji in 1311 AD, who also added a court to the pillared to the eastern side. The domed gateway is decorated with red sandstone and inlaid white marble decorations, inscriptions in Naskh script, latticed stone screens and showcases the remarkable craftsmanship of the Turkic artisans who worked on it. This is the first building in India to employ Islamic architecture principles in its construction and ornamentation.

The Slave dynasty did not employ true Islamic architecture styles and used false domes and false arches. This makes the Alai Darwaza, the earliest example of first true arches and true domes in India.It is considered to be one of the most important buildings built in the Delhi sultanate period. With its pointed arches and spearhead of fringes, identified as lotus buds, it adds grace to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque to which it served as an entrance.

About Qutb Minar

The Qutb Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world, inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, it is an important example of early Afghan architecture, which later evolved into Indo-Islamic Architecture. The Qutb Minar is 72.5 metres (239 ft) high, has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony carried on muqarnas corbel and tapers from a diameter 14.3 metres at the base to 2.7 metres at the top, which is 379 steps away. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with surrounding buildings and monuments.

Qutb Minar as Victory Tower

Qutb Minar was Built as a Victory Tower, to celebrate the victory of Mohammed Ghori over the Rajput king, Prithviraj Chauhan, in 1192 AD, by his viceroy, Qutbuddin Aibak, later the first Sultan of Mamluk dynasty. Its construction also marked the beginning of Muslim rule in India.

Every Storey of Qutub Minar shows varied Architrecture

  • Qutub Minar structure displays a marked variation in architectural styles from Aibak to that of Tughlaq dynasty. Aibak was able to build the first storey, for this reason the lower storey is replete with eulogies to Mohammed Ghori.
  • The next three floors were added by his son-in-law and successor, Iltutmish.
  • The minar when lightning in 1368 AD, it knocked off its top storey, after that it was replaced by the existing two floors by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, a later Sultan of Delhi 1351 to 1388, and faced with white marble and sandstone enhancing the distinctive variegated look of the minar, as seen in lower three storeys.
  • It was further repairs by Sultan Sikander Lodi in 1503, when it was struck by lightning.
  • In 1802, the cupola on the top was thrown down and the whole pillar was damaged by an earthquake. It was further repaired by Major R. Smith of the Royal Engineers who restored the Qutub Minar in 1823 replacing the cupola with a Bengali-style chhatri which was later removed by Governor General Lord Hardinge in 1848, as it looked out of place, and now stands in the outer lawns of the complex, popularly known as Smith's Folly.

About Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque (Strength of Islam, Or Qutub Mosque or the Great Mosque of Delhi) was built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, founder of the Mamluk or Slave dynasty.

It was the first mosque built in Delhi after the Islamic conquest of India and the oldest surviving example of Ghurids architecture in Indian subcontinent.The construction of this mosque started in the year 1193 AD, when Aibak was the commander of Muhammad Ghori's garrison that occupied Delhi. The Qutub Minar was built simultaneously with the mosque , built as the 'Minar of Jami Masjid', for the muezzin to perform adhan, call for prayer, and also as a qutub, an Axis or Pole of Islam.

Destruction of 27 Hindu & Jain Temples to Make Mosque

According to a Persian inscription still on the inner eastern gateway, the mosque was built by the parts taken by destruction of twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples built previously during Tomars and Prithvi Raj Chauhan, and leaving certain parts of the temple outside the mosque proper.

Structure of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

The mosque is built on a raised and paved courtyard  surrounded by pillared cloisters added by Iltutmish between 1210 and 1220 AD. The stone screen between prayer hall and the courtyard, stood 16 mt at its highest was added in 1196 AD, the corbelled arches had Arabic inscriptions and motifs. Entrances to the courtyard, also uses ornate mandap dome from temples, whose pillars are used extensively throughout the edifice, and in the sanctuary beyond the tall arched screens.

What survives today of the sanctuary on the western side are the arched screens in between, which once led to a series of aisles with low-domed ceilings for worshippers.

Expansion of the mosque continued after the death of Qutb. Qutbuddin's successor Iltutmish, extended the original prayer hall screen by three more arches. By the time of Iltutmish, the Mamluk empire had stabilised enough that the Sultan could replace most of his conscripted Hindu masons with Muslims. This explains why the arches added under Iltutmish are stylistically more Islamic than the ones erected under Qutb's rule, also because the material used wasn't from demolished temples. Some additions to the mosque were also done by Alauddin Khilji, including the Alai Darwaza, the formal entrance to the mosque in red sandstone and white marble, and a court to the east of the mosque in 1300 AD.

The mosque is in ruins today but indigenous corbelled arches, floral motifs, and geometric patterns can be seen among the Islamic architectural structures.

About Iron pillar in the Qutb Complex

The iron pillar is one of the world’s foremost metallurgical curiosities Because it is not rusted even after thoudands of years.

Secrets of the Iron Pillar at Mahrauli Complex

The most baffling aspect of the Iron Pillar  is that thousands of years ( 1600) of corrosion have failed to affect this giant mass of iron .The rust-free nature of this metallurgical marvel and the absence of known technology to forge such a structure of Iron in the 4th century AD, led author Erich von Daniken to propose that the Iron Pillar’s true home lay in Outer Space, that it was aliens who forged it and punched it into the ground at Mehrauli.

Astronomy behind the Pillar Architecture and Location

The Pillar is a sign of the expertise of ancient Indian astronomers. Udaygiri, by virtue of its presence on the Tropic of Cancer, was a centre of Indian astronomical studies during the Gupta period. The Pillar, standing in front of a large relief of Ananthashayana, served as a sundial. Its Chakra or Garuda would cast a shadow at the feet of the Vishnu only once a year, early in the morning on summer solstice (June 21).

Symbolic Power Attached to the Rust-Free Iron Pillar

Islamic Rulers retained the Pillar as a symbol of permanence, The last Hindu rulers of Delhi, the Tomaras, were driven out of Delhi by Shahabuddin Ghori and so began the rule of Islamic rulers in India. The Aibaks or the Slave dynasty destroyed or defaced the Tomara temple complex and began construction of the Qutub Minar and Quwwat ul Islam mosque in the same area. However, even they left the Iron Pillar intact, endorsing its status as a symbol of Strength.

Mettalurgy Secrets Behind the Iron Pillar

The mystery of the pillar’s corrosion-proof existence and forging was partly solved by Dr. Balasubramaniam from IIT Kanpur. In addition to other factors, the Pillar remains rust-free mainly because of the presence of minute amounts of Phosphorus, whose amount was increased by the deliberate addition of wood with high phosphorus content during the smelting process. Phosphorus acts as a catalyst in the formation of a layer of iron oxyhydroxide which prevents rust from eating into the iron of the Pillar.

What is mystery  is how ancient Indian metallurgists had acquired the forging techniques involved in the merger of the huge lumps of iron required to make this pillar, the ornate designs on the capital, the bulb-base of the capital and the now-absent Garuda or Chakra.

Structure of the Iron Pillar

The pillar, 7.21-metre high and weighing more than six tonnes, was originally erected by Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375–414 AD) in front of a Vishnu Temple complex at Udayagiri around 402 AD, and later shifted by Aangpal in 10th century AD from Udaygiri to its present location. Anangpal built a Vishnu Temple here and wanted this pillar to be a part of that temple.

The estimated weight of the decorative bell of the pillar is 646 kg while the main body weighs 5865 kg thereby making the entire pillar weigh at 6,511 kg. The pillar bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script dating 4th century AD, which indicates that the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja, standard of god, on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra, believed to Chandragupta II. A deep socket on the top of this ornate capital suggests that probably an image of Garuda was fixed into it, as common in such flagpoles.

About Tombs in Qutb Complex

Iltutmish Tomb

The tomb of Slave Dynasty ruler, Iltutmish, the second Sultan of Delhi (r. 1211–1236 AD), built 1235 AD is also part of the Qutb minarat Mehrauli. The central chamber is a 9 mt sq. and has squinches, suggesting the existence of a dome, which has since collapsed. The main cenotaph, in white marble, is placed on a raised platform in the centre of the chamber. The facade is known for its ornate carving, both at the entrance and the interior walls. The interior west wall has a prayer niche (mihrab) decorated with marble, and a rich amalgamation of Hindu motives into Islamic architecture, such as bell-and-chain, tassel, lotus, diamond emblems.

About Alauddin Khilji's tomb and madarsa

At the back of the complex, southwest of the mosque, stands an L-shaped construction, consisting of Alauddin Khilji's tomb dating ca 1316 AD, and a madarsa, an Islamic seminary built by him. Khilji was the second Sultan of Delhi from Khilji dynasty, who ruled from 1296 to 1316 AD.

The central room of the building, which has his tomb, has now lost its dome, though many rooms of the seminary or college are intact, and since been restored. It was the first example in India, of a tomb standing alongside a madarsa. Nearby stands the Alai Minar, an ambitious tower, he started constructing to rival the Qutub Minar, though he died when only its first storey was built and its construction abandoned thereafter. It now stands, north of the mosque.

About Alai Minar Qutb Complex


Alauddin Khilji started building the Alai Minar, after he had doubled the size of Quwwat ul-Islam mosque. He conceived this tower to be two times higher than Qutb Minar in proportion with the enlarged mosque. The construction was however abandoned, just after the completion of the 24.5-metre-high (80 ft) first-story core; soon after death of Ala-ud-din in 1316, and never taken up by his successors of Khilji dynasty.

The first story of the Alai Minar, a giant rubble masonry core, still stands today, which was evidently intended to be covered with dressed stone later on. Noted Sufi poet and saint of his times, Amir Khusro in his work, Tarikh-i-Alai, mentions Ala-ud-din's intentions to extend the mosque and also constructing another minar.

Tomb of Adham Khan

A short distance west of the enclosure, in Mehrauli village, is the Tomb of Adham Khan who, according to legend drove the beautiful Hindu singer Roopmati to suicide following the capture of Mandu in Madhya Pradesh.

When Akbar became displeased with him he ended up being heaved off a terrace in the Agra Fort. Several archaeological monuments dot the Mehrauli Archeological Park, including the Balban's tomb, Jamali Kamali mosque and tomb.

There are some summer palaces in the area: the Zafar Mahal, the Jahaz Mahal next to Hauz-i-Shamsi lake, and the tombs of the later Mughal kings of Delhi, inside a royal enclosure near the dargah shrine of Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. Here an empty space between two of the tombs, sargah, was intended for the last king of Delhi, who died in exile in Rangoon, Burma, in 1862, following his implication in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Also standing nearby is the Moti Masjid mosque in white marble.The ruins of the alai minar are currently in the qutb complex.


Tourist's Access to Qutb Minar Now a days

Before 1981, the general public could climb to the top up the seven-storey, narrow staircase.

Later due to unstability, the access was allowed only till 2nd Storey, However, on 4 December 1981 an accident occurred when an electricity cut plunged the tower's staircase into darkness. Around 45 people were killed in the stampede that followed the electricity failure. Most of the victims were children because, before 1981, school children were allowed free access to historical monuments on Fridays, and many school groups were taking advantage of this. Subsequently, public access has been forbidden.

Film Shootings in Qutub Minar Complex

  • Bollywood actor and director Dev Anand wanted to shoot the song Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar from his movie Tere Ghar Ke Samne inside the minar. However, the cameras in that era were too big to fit inside the tower's narrow passage, and the song was shot inside a replica of the tower instead.
  • The site served as the pitstop of the second leg of the second season of The Amazing Race Australia, the Australian version of the Emmy-winning series The Amazing Race.
  • Movie Fanaa song names "Chand Sifarish ji karta Tumhari" from the Aamir Khan-Kajol starrer Fanaa was shot in Qutub Complex