Qutub complex: an adumbration of Delhi

Qutub complex: an adumbration of Delhi

2 minutes to read

On the southern brink of Delhi lies an array of outstanding monuments that reveal more about the history of architecture, culture, and politics of Delhi than any other monument in the city. The Qutub Minar complex or the Qutub complex is a cluster of monuments that have been constructed, erected, rearranged by almost all of the dynasties, empires, sultanates and occupiers Delhi has witnessed. Even though the Qutub Minar (“The Victory Tower”) is its most prominent attraction, the complex is an adumbration of Delhi. It seats monuments from the Gupta Empire dating back to the 415 BCE all the way to subsequent additions from the successive empires of Tughlaqs, Alauddin Khalji, and even the colonising British. 

A complex history

The Qutub complex has a rather complex or perhaps even controversial history. Since Delhi witnessed the rise and fall of quite a few glorious empires while frequently serving as their capital, the city has rather rich and conceivably dense historical testimonies. This gets particularly enhanced in the case of the Qutub complex. As most of the empires and emperors implicated iconoclasm, there was a lot of rearranging of the formerly existing monuments. A peculiar example of this is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque that resides in the Qutub complex. This is the first mosque built in Delhi after the Islamic conquest of India. It is the oldest case of the Ghorid architecture in India, dating back to the 11th century. However, the mosque itself is built by using ruins of more than twenty Jain temples, that stood there before. The Jain temples intrinsically were from the Tomara dynasty, that existed in the region in the 9th century. There are also contradictions as a few historians credit the construction of the mosque to Mamluk Sultan Iltutmish instead of Qutb ud-Din Aibak. 

© iStock/diegograndi
© iStock/diegograndi

History of politics and religion

The mosque was built during the 11th-century Ghorid Empire using the ruins of the 9th century Jain and Hindu temples of the Tomara dynasty. This is one of the many sardonic examples that the Qutub complex accommodates. The complex is full of such riches of political and sometimes religious interjections. However, most of the iconoclasms were results of establishing political domination rather than being driven by religious statements. The miraculous Iron pillar of the Qutub complex is the testimony of it. Even though it is more famous for its metallurgical curiosities, this iron pillar has invited attention from all corners of the world being a millennium-old six-tonne iron pillar without any signs of corrosion. The legend about its origin is also quite interesting. However, it is most commonly accepted that the pillar dates back to 3rd century BCE. It was brought to the centre of the mosque in the Qutub complex to mark the victorious military conquest of the Ghorids over the Gupta king Chandragupta ll.

© iStock/Rakesh Nayar
© iStock/Rakesh Nayar

Walk through history

Qutub complex is a quite well-preserved adumbration of Delhi for anyone who wants to seek deeper into the minutiae of the entangled and rich cultural, political and religious history of the city. This complex is housing monuments that were taken as mementos of political expansion dating back to the 3rd century BCE to rearranged religious structures of temples into mosques. Each monument present in the Qutub complex is an extensive chapter about the city. It is so extraordinary that it was taken and conquered countless times, and that the city rose to glory from the ashes each time.

Cover picture © iStock/AMAYRA

Qutub complex, New Delhi
Qutub complex, New Delhi
Seth Sarai, Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi 110030, India

The author

Rajat Sharma

Rajat Sharma

I'm a visual artist from Delhi who holds an MA in Media Arts and Practices with a specialization in Films. I am a curious flaneur, who is very intrigued by different cultures, lifestyles, cuisines, architecture and people.

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