Day By Day

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Adventures in India, Part 9 -- The Qutb Complex

After leaving the Sikh temple we took to the streets of Delhi, heading for Mehrauli where we would see the famous Qutb Minar and a number of other historical features.

Traffic in Delhi is terrible, in part because vehicles have to share the road with all sorts of animals that in the West would be confined to zoos. 

We passed a number of shopping areas, each with its own distinctive mix of shops.

For a while we were stuck behind a horse-drawn wagon, but eventually it pulled off to the side and we passed it.

Eventually we arrived at the entrance to the Qutb complex and passed into the historical area.

Here is the Qutb Minar up close so you can see the details. It is the tallest minaret in India and the second tallest tower. Construction on it began more than 800 years ago on the orders of the first Muslim ruler of Delhi. It stretches nearly 249 feet into the air and, because it is made of soft sandstone, has had to be repaired several times in the past. It was built specifically to be taller than the highest minaret in Afghanistan, but its height poses a problem. It is so high that the call to prayer issuing from the top of the minaret cannot be heard by worshipers on the ground. 

Here's a more distant shot of the tower so you can see its scale.  

The complex is near the airport and there was a constant stream of airliners passing over.

The site had featured monuments long before the Muslims came. This is a picture of the famous iron pillar. It has stood on this site since at least the fourth century and features script in Sanskrit, the ancient language of Hindu India [some scholars would date it to as early as the thirteenth century BC, but I don't believe them]. It boasts inscriptions honoring a king named Chandra [probably Chandragupta, 375-414 AD] and was long thought to have magical properties because it has stood for so long without rusting. Modern science, however, has shown that the local climate interacted with phosphorous in the iron to create a protective coating that has kept the iron from corroding.

There are more than forty other monuments on the site, most of them long ago fallen into ruin. I wandered around for a while taking pictures of them. Here's a small sample.

This is the base of the Alai Minar a tower intended to honor Aladdin. It was started shortly after his death in 1316, and was originally supposed to be twice as high as the Qutb Minar, but it never completed because his successors lost interest in the project.

A ceiling design. It made me dizzy looking at it. 

Columns at the ruins of the Quwwal ul Islam Mosque, another part of the complex.

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