Did you know that in 2006, more tourists visited Qutub Minar than the Taj Mahal? Though lesser-known to foreign tourists, Qutub Minar contains the tallest brick minaret in the world, and wields a hypnotic power, particularly on a misty Delhi day like the one when our India teacher tour visited.
Qutub Minar reaches 239 feet towards the sky, and was completed in 1368 AD. It is part of the multi-building Qutub Complex, with ancient buildings layered atop even older ruins to create a lasagna of history. These structures include a mosque and tombs, some of which date back to the 1100s AD.
Stunning carvings decorate the walls of the Qutub Complex. Some carvings are purely ornamental, while others display verses of the Koran in Arabic. Islamic art and architecture never fails to impress me with its brilliantly conceived patterns!
So, is a tourist allowed to climb to the top of sky-high Qutub Minar, like we climbed to the top of the largest mosque in India on Christmas Eve? Alas no, and for a very sad reason. In 1981, there was a stampede of schoolchildren inside, and lives were lost. Since then, visitors are not allowed inside.
On a happier note, neon green birds were everywhere at Qutub Minar. How magical to see these arrows of emerald darting between the ancient walls!
We wandered around the foggy complex as if in a dream, imagining the layers of history that occurred in each corner of the buildings. Staring up at Qutub Minar made our heads spin. What must it have been like to build?
But don’t overlook the smaller things! A hugely important historical relic in the Qutub Complex looks like, well… a boring metal tube. See the Iron Pillar of Delhi standing incongruously in the photo below? In fact, this iron pillar was erected in 402 AD and weighs over 14 THOUSAND POUNDS, making it “one of the world’s foremost metallurgical curiosities.” Indeed, I am curious. That’s crazy heavy! How is that density possible?
Moving on to another section of the Qutub Complex, we see the Alai Darwaza gate: the principal gateway to the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, built in 1311 AD. In the next three photos, drink in the stunning architecture of this structure.
We loved our visit to the Qutub Complex, and can see why it’s right up there with the Taj Mahal as a top attraction for tourists in India. Now if we could only fit that 14,000-pound Iron Pillar of Delhi into our bags to put on our mantel…