QUTUB MINAR

Qutub minar is the India’s highest single tower which marks the site of the first Muslim kingdom in North India. It was established in 1193 and it is 5 story victory tower made of red sandstone. Qutub minar is a minaret that forms part of the Qutub complex in the Mehrauli area of Delhi, India. Its design is thought to have been based on the Minaret of jam in Afghanistan. Qutub Minar is a 73-metre (240 feet) tall tower of five storey, with a 14.3 metre (47 feet) base diameter, reducing to 2.7 metres (9 feet) at the peak. It contains a spiral staircase of 379 steps.Qutub Minar is a World Heritage Site and has survived the ravages of time impressively. The Minar of Delhi is surrounded by a lush green garden, which is an ideal leisurely place for visitors. Qutab Minar is the favourite destination of tourists. It is India’s most visited monument attracting around 3.9 million visitors every year.

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Before 1974, the general public was allowed access to the top of the minar through the internal staircase. On 4 December 1981, public is stopped due to lightning strike staircase fall down and 45 people were killed in the crush.
There are claims and evidence that Qutubminar was built much before by Hindu emperors. Later Kuttubuddin has replaced the writing on stones. The stones has hindu God pictures on one side and arabic writing on other side.

The minar’s topmost storey was damaged by lightning in 1368 and it was rebuilt byFiroz Shahand Firoz shah added another storey. In 1505, an earthquake damaged Qutb Minar, it was repaired by Sikander Lodi. On 1 September 1803, a major earthquake caused serious damage. Major Robert Smith of the British Indian Army renovated the tower in 1828.Stones dislodged from the Minar have Hindu images on one side with Arabic lettering on the other. Those stones are now in Museum. These stone represent that invaders used to remove the stone- dressing of Hindu buildings, turn the stones inside out to hide the image facial and inscribe Arabic lettering on the new frontage.

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Damage, Repairs and Additions to Qutub Minar

While Qutub Minar has withstood the ravages of time, it has also been suffered serious damaged over the centuries. Repairs and reconstruction on large parts of the tower were carried out by later rulers of Delhi as well as the British during their occupation of India.

Qutub Minar has been regularly struck by lightning during rainy days. The tall tower has served as a natural passage for the charge generated in the atmosphere. However the only common conductor in Qutub Minar is iron, used in the form of clamps to hold the stone blocks together. The other material — red sandstone, marble and granite — are non conductive.

The first recorded instance of lightning striking the top storey of Qutub was in 1326 AD, during the reign of Muhammad Tughlaq (1325-51 AD). The second recorded strike occurred during the reign of Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88 AD) in 1369, which destroyed the fourth storey added by Shams-ud-din Iltutmish. Firoz Shah Tughlaq carried out restoration work and replaced the damaged storey with two new storeys.

Unlike the other storeys, marble was also used along with red sandstone in the construction of the fourth and fifth storeys, making them stand out from the rest. Firoz Shah Tughlaq also added a chhatri/cupola atop Qutub Minar.

In 1803, when India was under the rule of the British, an earthquake seriously damaged Qutub Minar and threw Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s cupola to the ground. Two years later, repair work was authorised by the Governor-General of India, Richard Wellesley, and was performed under the supervision of Major Robert Smith of the Bengal Royal Engineers. The restoration was finally completed 25 years after the earthquake, in 1828 and at a cost of Rs. 17,000 and a further Rs. 5,000 for the removal of debris.

As part of the restorations, Major Smith liberally made some additions to Qutub Minar, which were severely criticised, most notably by Major Alexander Cunningham, the first Director General of Archaeological Survey of India. In one instance, explaining the changes to the entrance door of Qutub Minar, Major Smith wrote that it had been “improved with new mouldings, frieze and repair of the inscription tablet.”

Other changes included the installation of balustrades (railings) on all the balconies of Qutub Minar, which were (and still are) in contrast with the beautiful, ornate bands around the balconies.

Major Robert Smith’s most ambitious addition was the installation (in 1828) of a Mughal-style cupola (chatri) at the top of Qutub Minar. It came under sever criticism for its awkward design, which was out of sync with the intricate design structure of Qutub Minar. Twenty years later, in 1848, it was removed under instructions from the Governor General of India, Sir Henry Hardinge.

-Ashish kapoor

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