Qutub Minar, the 239ft sandstone tower situated 15 km south of Connaught Place, Delhi, is distinguished as the tallest stone tower in India. A marvel of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture, construction of the tower was started by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak in AD 1199 and completed by Iltutmish in the year 1230. It was erected as a victory tower proclaiming the triumph of Islam over the last Hindu Kingdom of Delhi. The complex houses a number of other important monuments- the gateway built in 1310, the Alai Darwaza, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque; one of the oldest existing mosques in India, the tombs of Altamish, Alauddin Khalji and Imam Zamin. An awesome structure in the Qutub Minar complex is the 2000 year old 7m high Iron Pillar- the Alai Minar. It has not rusted ever since it was built.The Three Stages of its Construction :
There were three stages involved in the construction of the tower. In the first stage, Qutub-ud-Din completed the first storey. During the second stage, his successor and son-in -law, Illtutmish completed the second, third and the fourth storeys in AD 1230. In AD 1368, the minar was first struck by lightening and the fallen top storey was replaced by two storeys's, the fourth and the fifth in 1370 AD by Feroz Shah Tughlaq. This constituted the third and final stage of the construction.
The Imposing Structure :
The tower has five storeys, each marked by a protruding balcony. It has a diameter of 14.32 m at the base and about 2.75 m at the top. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone and have heavy indentures of different styles of fluting, alternately round and angular on the bottom floor, round on the second and angular on the third. The fourth and fifth floors are made of marble and sandstone. A door on the northern side leads to a spiral stairway inside with 379 steps that winds its way up to the balcony in each floor and culminating in a platform at the top. The balconies are held together by stalactite vaulting technique and are in the pattern of honey combs.
From the base to its top, the decoration of the Qutub Minar is essentially. Islamic in character. However, the somewhat hybrid style of Firoz Shah's later additions is quite conspicuous. Numerous Arabic and Nagari characters are inscribed as wide encircling bands in the plain fluted masonry of the Minar. The inscriptions reveal the glorious history of the minar from its inception in 1199 to the repairs in between.