Qutb Minar: Ancient Hindu temples converted into mosques

Qutb Minar
Couldn’t decipher what these calligraphic inscriptions have to say.


 Address:  Mehrauli, New Delhi.

Nearest Metro Station: Qutb Minar

How to Reach: Take auto-rikshaw from Qutb Minar Metro Station

Timings: 6 AM – 6 PM

Opens: All weekdays

Cost:  INR 20 (Ticket counter on the opposite road)

Photography: Allowed

Why you should visit:

    •  Must know your history.
    • Crowded on Weekends. Better to visit on Weekdays.
    • Location for photography. This place makes you more photogenic.
  • Big bags not allowed. Cloak room available near Ticket-counter. Charges-INR 20 per bag.

What’s inside?

Qutb Minar, (also spelled Qutub Minar) at 73 meters, is the tallest brick minaret in the world and second highest minar in India after Fateh Burj at Punjab, India. Qutb Minar, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its monuments are a group of religious and funerary buildings that display the architectural and artistic achievements of Early Islamic India. They are located in Mehrauli, South Delhi.

Qutb Minar
Tall monuments breathe

The untold story: The entire Qutb complex is actually built by Maharaja Vikramaditya of Ujjain, the tower is known to have been erected to celebrate the victory of the great emperor Vikramaditya over the lands now called as Arab lands. They have known to celebrate the beginning of the Vedic way of life. (Adapted by Page 315 Sayar-ul-okul).

The township adjoining the Qutub Minar is known as Mehrauli. That is a Sanskrit word Mihira-awali. It signifies the town- ship where the well-known astronomer Mihira of Vikramaditya’s court lived along with his helpers, mathematicians, and technicians. They used the so-called Qutb tower as an observation post for astronomical study. Around the tower were pavilions dedicated to the 27 constellations of the Hindu Zodiac.

Qutub-ud-din has left us an inscription that he destroyed these pavilions. But he has not said that he raised any tower. The ravaged temple was renamed as Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque.

Qutb Minar
Peeping around the doorframe

The Hindu title of the tower was Vishnu Dhwaj (i.e. Vishnu’s standard) alias Vishnu Stambh alias Dhruv Stambh (i.e., a polar pillar) obviously connoting an astronomical observation tower. The Sanskrit inscription in Brahmi script on the non-rusting iron pillar close by proclaims that the lofty standard of Vishnu was raised on the hillock named Vishnupad Giri. That description indicates that a statue of the reclining Vishnu initiating the creation was consecrated in the central shrine there which was ravaged by Mohammad Ghori and his henchman Qutub-ud-din. The pillar was raised at the command of an ancient Hindu king who had made great conquests in the East and the West.

The iron pillar was the Garud Dhwaj alias Garud Stambh, i.e, the sentinel post of the Vishnu temple.

The minar was built on the ruins of the Lal Kot, the Red Citadel in the city of Dhillika. Lal Kot is the first of seven cities of Delhi established by the Tomar Rajput ruler, Anangpal in 1060.  Anangpal Tomar was the first ruler to make ancient Delhi his capital. The Qutub complex lies in the middle of the eastern part of Lal Kot.

Qutb Minar
Isn’t our nature free talk to these monuments?

Construction of the might of Islam convocational mosque began in A.D. 1193 by Qutub-ud-din-Aibak, completed in A.D. 1197 using the demolished remains of Hindu temples.  It was enlarged by Iltutmish and again by Alauddin Khilji. It’s the earliest mosque built by the Delhi sultans. Iltutmish erected a massive stone tower of the lofty five arches which imparted Islamic character to the building. The artists employed by Aibak and Iltutmish were Hindus and the raw material was also obtained by the existing Hindu and Jain temples. The figures carved on the pillars were disfigured by them because the depiction of human and animal figures isn’t allowed in Islam.

Architecture: Qutb Minar is surrounded by several historically significant monuments, which are historically connected with the tower and are part of the Qutb complex. These include the Iron Pillar of Delhi, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Alai Darwaza, the Tomb of Iltutmish, Alai Minar, Ala-ud-din’s Madrasa and Tomb, and the Tomb of Imam Zamin. Other minor monuments include Major Smith’s Cupola and Sanderson’s Sundial.

Qutb Minar
Unearthed remains of a very early date.

Qutb Minar is the second highest tomb tower as well as the finest Islamic structures ever raised in India. The Qutb Minar is built of red and buff sandstone blocks rising to a height of 73 meters, tapering 3 meters of an amateur at the top to 14 meters of the base, making it the highest tom tower in India. It has 379 steps to get to the top. In its present form, it consists of five storeys. Each storey is separated from the next by highly decorated balconies carrying Muqarnas corbels. These storeys were replaced, repaired and rebuilt by the rulers of their times.

Qutb Minar
Calligraphy on Qutb Minar as seen from bottom up
Qutb Minar
Iron Pillar

The Iron Pillar: The nearby Iron Pillar from Gupta empire is a metallurgical curiosity. The pillar standing in the Qutb complex has Brahmic inscriptions on it describing the exploits of the ruler named Chandra, believing the Gupta King – Chandragupta II and it predates the Islamic minar. The Iron Pillar in the mosque compound was brought from elsewhere in India. The Iron pillar is 7 meters in length, I meter there’s been below ground. Cast in approximately the 3rd century B.C., the six and a half ton pillar, over two millennia has resisted all rust, is the largest hand forged block of iron from antiquity.

Qutb Minar
Qutb Minar view from Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

Accident: Before 1974, the general public was allowed access to the top of the minar accessed through a narrow staircase. On 4 December 1981, 45 people were killed in the stampede and there were 300 to 400 people inside the minar at that time that followed an electricity failure that plunged the tower’s staircase into darkness. Most of the victims were children because at the time school children were allowed free access to historical monuments on Fridays. Subsequently, public access to the inside of the tower has been stopped.

Still want to know how it looks from inside? 

Watch very famous Dev Anand and Nutan’s song – Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar‘ . Bollywood actor and director Dev Anand wanted to shoot the song “Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar” from his film 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 therefore the song was shot inside a replica of the tower.

Qutb Minar is nearby Mehrauli Archeological Park. A recently launched start-up in collaboration with Archaeological survey of India has made a 360o walkthrough of Qutb Minar available.


Sonam Rajput
Sonam Rajput is a student of Education at Central Institute of Education, University of Delhi. She is a foodie and enjoys going on historical walks and imagining the world that had been. She hopes to keep her love for history in tandem with her passion for travel and unravel cultures, and experiences while doing so.

4 thoughts on “Qutb Minar: Ancient Hindu temples converted into mosques

  1. Great Places for clicking photos. I really enjoyed this place.
    You told ticket fare is 20. but now fare is 30 for indians..
    great post.

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