Qutub Minar : Standing Tall On The Ruins

“What is the history of Qutub Minar?” first thing my niece asked me when we planned our trip to Delhi.

The only answer I had was, “It is a huge tower built by a king called ‘Qutub ud-Din Aibak’. It is made of stone and has beautiful carvings on it.”

Carvings on the Qutub Minar – Arabic Text and Islamic Style Designs

First time when I visited Qutub Minar, I was in 7th std and was not much interested in the history. For me, Qutub Minar was only a picnic spot and a tourist attraction. We took photos with various poses, lifting the Qutub Minar on the palms, holding it in the mid-air between the fingers etc. It was a fun place for me. And, I simply ignored the iron pillar standing beside the Qutub Minar as it was not as huge or attractive as the minar itself.

I used to think that the stone carved pillars surrounding the Qutub Minar, the Iron Pillar were part of Qutub Minar and were also built by Qutub ud-Din Aibak.

It took me 10 years after that to learn about the reality of the Qutub Minar. The complex of the stone carved pillars surrounding the minar and the Iron pillar were not part of the Qutub Minar and were not built by Qutub ud-Din Aibak. I learned that the stone pillars were the part of a Hindu and Jain temple’s complex. The iron pillar is the Kirti-stambha the column of fame or Vijaya-dhwaj the pillar of victory which was raised by King Chandragupta II during 3th to 4th century CE.

Qutub Minar

This time, when I visited Qutub Minar I was looking at the pillars and other broken structures around it to get the first-hand glimpse of the pieces of evidence of the history. I had mixed feelings because I paid the ticket to enter into the Qutub Minar complex but, ‘to see what?’ For the kids, and the family members who were not so much interested in history, it was a usual tourist attraction. For me, it was a chance to see to what extent we have gone to celebrate the destruction of our culture and history?

For anyone who knows the basics of Indian archeology, it is evident that the pillars at the entrance of the complex do not even have a shred of Islamic architectural influence. As you can see in the photos below, they look like pillars of the sabha-mandap or grand hall of a temple.

The Ruins of a temple. The Sabha-mandap at the entrance of Qutub Minar Complex – 1

The Ruins of a temple. The Sabha-mandap at the entrance of Qutub Minar Complex – 2It sure must have been part of a beautiful temple. But, today it is nothing but a structure of stones standing by itself. Broken parts of the pillar and the stone roof are lying on the floor. Tourists sit on it, stand on it and carve hideous things on them. It was a very sad scene to see the condition of a temple.

Ruins of a Hindu or Jain Temple. Also, you can see parts of pillars on the ground and broken roof of the structure

Carvings and Shape of the pillars match the pillars in Hindu and Jain temples

Of course, after entering the complex Qutub Minar attracts all the attention. There is no doubt that the view of this huge tower is overwhelming. The bricks and the stones look magnificent.

After passing the first ruins of a temple you enter the actual compound of the Qutub Minar through another complex of stone pillars. Because I knew about the history of the Qutub Minar and how it was built, I felt very sad to see the ruins of a huge stone carved pillars complex surrounding the Minar.

Entrance to the Qutub Minar Complex through pillars of a temple complex

Lotus design on the inner side of the roof of the pillars complex

If you take a close look at the pillars you will see many Hindu architectural symbols such as chains, bells, vines, dancers and Hindu god’s sculptures etc. But, there was no temple to fulfill their presence. ‘Where are the temples?’ a question of which I knew the answer popped in my mind. The temples were broken into pieces and stacked up in the shape of the pillar standing tall in front of me.

Can you imagine a temple complex where there are only pillars but no actual temple, no idols and no gopura’s?

Beautiful carvings on the stone pillars. Carvings contain shapes of Kalash (holy vessel), lotus, vines, temples, gods and human like figures

Another view of pillars complex surrounding Qutub Minar

Deformed carving of unknown god or a dancer on one of the pillar

Design of flowers and vines on the pillars

Qutub Minar and the temple pillars complex

On one side of the Qutub Minar there lies the Iron Pillar. Alone. I am not sure why? and how? this pillar survived the plunder? Maybe it was left alone as the piece of history to remind us about our past and be confused whether to be happy or sad? Although this iron pillar is made of an iron alloy which is an engineering or forging wonder in itself. Almost, no one really worries to take a close look at this old witness of the past and everything that happened around.

Iron pillar also known as Kirti Stambha or Viajaya Dhwaja, standing in a corner of Qutub Minar complex

Kirti Stambha or Vijaya Dhwaja (Iron Pillar) in Qutub Minar complex

While walking in the complex I could see stone structures, more ruins, more tourists trying to take a perfect picture of the ruins. Many of them looked proud after seeing the Minar and also the mosque. On the other side of the complex behind a gate, my journey came to an end when I saw an actual temple. Of course in ruins. Destroyed by rulers, nature etc. The walls and the pillars had beautiful carvings of bells and flowers. There were also stones placed on the ground randomly. These stones had Hindu’s god’s carved images.

Ruins of a temple of other side of Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar and Temple Ruins. Check the Bells, chains and other designs on the pillar

Qutub Minar and Temple Ruins. Check the Bells, chains and other designs on the pillar

For a moment I forgot about the Qutub Minar and the trip. All I could think of was the time when there was a temple complex, full of spirituality, life, colors and prayers. Now, all I could experience was silence.. eerie silence.

Abandoned pieces of ruins which have carvings of gods and other human figures. Which were once part of a temple – 1

Abandoned pieces of ruins which have carvings of gods and other human figures. Which were once part of a temple – 2

Unknown god’s carving

“Am I walking in a ghost town?” I asked myself looking at the ruins. They looked like ruins of a ghost town or an abandoned city. If one thinks logically we Indian’s in general and Hindu’s, in particular, have abandoned our culture, religion, and history for an invader to plunder. Till this date, I can’t understand How did we allow this thing to happen?’..I don’t know the answer.

And yes there was Alai Minar, which Allah -ud Din Khilji began building but, remained unfinished because of his death. Today it is nothing but a big pile of stones and bricks. It was planned to be double the size of Qutub Minar. I wondered ‘how many temples would have ruined to build this tower?’

Alai Minar. Unfinished minar built by Allah Ud-Din Khilji

More time I spent in the Qutub Minar complex, more I could see the ruins. I thought I am in some kind of graveyard. Where my history was plundered, buried and which to me and millions like me is not more than a ‘Tourist Spot’. I left the Qutub Minar complex with heavy heart and speechless.

Of course, not each and every building or construction in the whole complex was not built on top of temples. But, I came out of the Qutub Minar complex with a silence in my heart. I wanted to cry. I wanted to hug the pillars, the stones, and the ruins. I wanted to say sorry that ‘my ancestors allowed such thing to happen to them!‘.

Everyone saw the Qutub Minar and all I could see was a Grand Pillar standing tall on the ruins! Ruins of my history, culture, architecture, self-esteem and everything what India was..


The views and opinions mentioned in this blog are my personal views and opinions. They must not be attributed to my employer Autodesk India Pvt Ltd.

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