Located at the site of Delhi’s oldest fortified city, Qutub/Qutb Minar is a minaret and “victory tower” that symbolises the synthesis of traditional Islamic architecture and Southwestern Asian design.
The landmark is one of the tourist spots in India I had the privilege to visit, along with other media representatives from ASEAN nations during the ASEAN Media Exchange programme hosted by India.
Despite the hot and humid weather, we made our way into the magnificent building. Feeling excited like everyone in the team, I made my way into the compound, feeling appreciative and humbled with every detail of the beautiful architecture of Qutub Minar.
The beautiful minaret forms part of the Qutb Complex located at Lal Kot, which is Delhi’s oldest fortified city and is a UNESCO world Heritage Site.
The Qutub Minar is one of the most visited tourist spots in the city, mostly built between 1199 and 1220. The surfaces of the architecture are elaborately decorated with inscriptions and geometric patterns.
This victory tower also serves as a central marker to new Muslim communities from the Islamic West who escaped the Mongol Empire and emigrated to India, as well as being a reminder of Islam’s presence in the area.
The architecture varies greatly from that of the typical style and design of the mosques in the middle-east and is heavily influenced by the local architecture like the Indic temples, as shown in the different materials, techniques and decoration used in its construction.
Apart from the Qutub Minar and the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque, the complex also houses other structures such as Alai Darwaza gate, which hold a special significance in Indo-Islamic architecture as the first Indian monument to be built using Islamic methods of construction and ornamentation and is a World Heritage Site. Meanwhile, the Alai Minar and the Iron pillar, are famous for its rust-resistant composition metals used in its construction.
The Qutub Minar is also the venue of the annual Qutub Festival, held in November–December, where artists, musicians and dancers perform over three days.
From the Qutub, we visited another historical tourist spot and UNESCO World Heritage Site in New Delhi, the Humayun’s Tomb. The garden tomb is considered to be the finest example of Mughal architecture before the Taj Mahal.
This tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in Delhi, India, was commissioned in 1558 by Humayun’s chief consort, Empress Hamida Banu Begum, on patronage of her son Akbar, who chose Persian father and son architects Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and Sayyid Muhammad to design this first garden tomb on the Indian subcontinent.
Humayun’s Tomb is located in Nizamuddin East in Delhi and is close to the Purana Qila (old fort), that Humayun found in 1533 and was also the first structure to use red sandstone at such a scale.
The walk from where we were dropped off at this site was quite a distance, however our journey from the entrance was mostly covered with trees, and we were greeted with the magnificent view that awaited us inside the garden.
While the group scattered to look around the compound, I went through the main gate, leading to the garden as the heat was still getting to me, and I was again presented with a mesmerising view of the building ahead.
The complex not only houses the main tomb of Emperor Humayun but also the graves of Empress Bega begum, Hamida Begum and also the son of Emperor Shah Jahan, Dara Shikoh, who is the great-great-grandson of Humayun.
And as most would know, Dara Shikoh is the son of Mumtaz Mahal, Chief Consort of Emperor Shah Jahan who led the Mughals in reaching the peak of their architectural achievements and cultural glory and who had the Taj Mahal built as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal and considered to be a monument of undying love for her.
It also houses the graves of other subsequent Mughals, which include Emperor Jahandar Shah, the 9th Mughal emperor who only briefly ruled for 11 months; Farrukhsiyar, the 10th Mughal emperor; Rafi Ul-Darjat 11th Mughal emperor; Rafi Ud-Daulat, 12th Mughal emperor; Muhammad Kam Bakhsh, youngest son of Emperor Aurangzeb and Alamgir II, the 15th Mughal emperor of India.
The tomb represented a leap in Mughal architecture and together with its accomplished Charbagh garden, set a precedent for subsequent Mughal architecture of royal mausoleums, which I was told reached its high point with the building of Taj Mahal.
The Charbagh garden is a fusion of Persian and Indo-Persian quadrilateral garden layout based on the four gardens of paradise, and the garden is divided by walkways or flowing water into four smaller parts.