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The origins of Qutab Minar are shrouded in controversy. Some believe it was erected as a tower of victory to signify the beginning of the Muslim rule in India. Others say it served as a minaret to the muezzins to call the faithful to prayer. No one can, however, dispute that the tower is not only one of the finest monuments in India, but also in the world.
Qutab-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, commenced the construction of the Qutab Minar in 1200 AD, but could only finish the basement. His successor, Iltutmush, added three more storeys, and in 1368, Firoz Shah Tughlak constructed the fifth and the last storey. The development of architectural styles from Aibak to Tughlak are quite evident in the minar. The relief work and even the materials used for construction differ.
The 238 feet Qutab Minar is 47 feet at the base and tapers to nine feet at the apex. The tower is ornamented by bands of inscriptions and by four projecting balconies supported by elaborately decorated brackets.
Even in ruin, the Quwwat Ui Islam (Light of Islam) Mosque in the Qutab complex is one of the most magnificent in the world. Its construction was started by Qutab-ud-din Aibak in 1193 and the mosque was completed in 1197. additions were made to the building by Iltutmush in 1230 and Alla-ud-din Khilji in 1315.
The main mosque comprises of an inner and outer courtyard, of which the inner is surrouded by an exquisite collonade, the pillars of which are made of richly decorated shafts. Most of these shafts are from the 27 Hindu temples which were plundered to construct the mosque. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Muslim mosque has typical Hindu ornamentation.
Close to the mosque is one of Delhi's most curious antiques, the Iron Pillar. Dating back to the 4th century AD, the pillar bears an inscription which stated that it was erected as a flagstaff in honour of the Hindu god, Vishnu, and in the memory of the Gupta king Chandragupta II (375-413). How the pillar moved to its present location remains a mystery. The pillar also highlights ancient India's achievements in metallurgy. The pillar is made of 98 per cent wrought iron and has stood. 1,600 years without rusting or decomposing.
So called because of the red stone with which it is built, the Red Fort is one of the most magnificent palaces in the world. India's history is also closely linked with this fort. It was frorth here ht the British deposed the last Mughal ruler, Bhadur Shah Zafar, marking the end of the three century long Mughal rule. It was also fromits ramparts that the first prime. Minister of India, pandit Jawharlal Nehru, announced to the nation that India was free form colonial rule.
The mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, after ruling from Agra for eleven years, decided to shift to Delhi and laid the foundation stone of the Red Fort in 1618. For its inauguration in 1647, the main halls of the palace were draped in rich tapestry and covered with silk from china and velvet from Turkey. With a circumference of almost one and a half miles, the fort is an irregular octagon and has two entrances, the Lahore and Delhi Gates.
From the Lahore Gate, a visitor has access to the Chatta Chowk (vaulted arcade ) which as once a royal market and housed court jewelers, miniature painters carpet manufacturers, workers in enamel, silk weavers and families of specialized craftsmen. The road from the royal market leads to the Nawabarkhana (band house) where the royal band played five times a day. The band house also marks the entry into the main palace and all visitors, except royalty had to dismount here.
The Diwani-I-Am is the Red Fort's hall of public audience. Built of sandstone covered with shell plaster polished to look like ivory, the 80 x 40 feet hall is sub-divided by columns. The Mughal emperors would hold court here and meet dignitaries and foreign emissaries. The most imposing feature of the Diwqani-I-Am is the alcove in the back wall where the emperor sat in state on a richly carved and inlaid marble platform. In the recess behind the platform are fine examples of Italian pietra-dura work.
The piece de resistance of the fort, the Diwan-I-Khas was the hall of private audience. The most highly ornamented of all Shah Jahan's buildings, the 90 x 67 feet Diwani-I-Khas is a pavilion of white marble supported by intricately carved pillars. So enamoured was the emperor by the beauty of this pavilion that he engraved on it the following words: If there is paradise on the face of this earth, it is this, it is this."
Richly decorated with flowers of inlaid mosaic work of cornelian and other stones, the Diwan-I-Khas once housed the famous Peacock Throne, which when it was plundered by Nadir Shah in 1739, was valued at six million sterling.
Residence of the senior queens, the Rang Mahal (hall of colours ) has a central hall surrounded by six apartments. The apartments are assured privacy by intricately carved screens which do not hinder the free flow of fresh air and light. The stream of paradise flows through the main hall, and is marked in the centre by a huge lotus shaped marble basin with an ivory fountain.
Constructed by Emperor Aurangzeb in 1662 as his private mosque Moti Masjid (pearl mosque) is built with highly polished marble. The mosque is a good example of the Mughal fetish for symmetry with cusped arches, sinuous decorative designs, carved cornices and bulbous domes.
Other building of interest in the Red Fort complex are the Musamman Burg (Octagonal tower), Khwabgah (bedroom) and the Hammam (royal baths).
At first sight, the Jantar Mantar appears like a gallery of modern art. It is, however, an observatory. Sawai Jia Singh II of Jaipur (1699-1743), a keen astronomer and a noble in the Mughal court, was dissatisfied by the errors of brass and metal astronomical instruments.
Under patronage from the emperor, he set on himself the task of correcting the existing astronomical tables and updating the almanac with more reliable instruments. Delhi's Jantar Mantar is the first of the five observatories that he built with large masonary instruments.
The observatory has the Samrat Yantra, a simple equal hour sun dial, the Ram yantra for reading altitudinal angles; Jai Prakash for ascertaining the position of the sun and other celestial bodies, and the Misra Yantra which is a combination of four scientific gadgets.
Built as a memorial to commemorate the 70,000 India soldiers killed in World War I, India Gate was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and completed in 1931. Located on Rajpath, the road which leads to the magnificent Rashtrapati Bhawan, the gate is 160 feet high with an arch of 138 feet.
Built from sandstone, the arch also houses the Eternal Flame, a gesture in memory of the Indian soldiers who laid their lives in the 1971 war with Pakistan.
Work on the Jama Masjid mosque was begun in 1650 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to complement his palace at the Red Fort. More than 5,000 workers toiled for six years to complete the largest mosque in India. Every Friday, the emperor and his retinue would travel in state from the fort to the mosque to attend the congressional prayers.
A fine example of Mughal architecture, the Jama Masjid has three gateways. The largest and highest on the east was reserve exclusively for the emperor. The main courtyard of the emperor. The main courtyard of the mosque is 408 square feet and paved with red stone. In the centre is a large marble tank in which the devout wash before attending prayers.
The main mosque is crowned by three onion shaped domes made of white marble and inlaid with stripes of black slate. On the north and south of the complex are two 130 feet high minarets which offer a spectacular bird's eye-view of the city. Jama Masjid is not only architecturally beautiful, but also a place of great religious significance as it houses a hair from the beard of the Prophet and also a chapter of the Holy Quran written by him.
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