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Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar

Soaring high above the Quwwatual Islam mosque is the tower Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak built in AD 1196 to celebrate the invincibility of Islam. Although modelled as a classical minaror tower from which the muezzin calls the faithful to prayers, the Qutb Minar was a symbolic rather than a functional structure. It would be an extraordinary muezzin who would expect to be heard from a height of 72.5 meters - assuming, in the first place, that he managed to trudge up the 379 steps five times, each day.

The Minar was a symbol of the military might of the Turko-Afgan Slave dynasty - so called because its earliest kings were all slaves of their predecessors- and the qutb or axis of Islamic dominion. An inscription on the tower says that it was erected by Qutbuddin, literally Staff of God, to 'cast the shadow of God over both East and West'.

Qutbuddin lived to see only the first storey finished, and it was his successor Illtutmish who completed the next two floors. According to some Nagari and Persian inscriptions on the tower, the Qutb Minar was damaged twice by lightning.

An earthquake in the early 19th century destroyed its crowning cupola. An English engineer, Major Robert Smith, replaced it in 1829, but his addition looked so grossly out of place that it was removed in 1848 by Governor-General Lord Hardings. It now stands on the lawns and has acquired the sobriquet Smith's Folly. Till a while ago, the base of the Minar had a number of glass plates banded by concrete, installed by the Archaeological Survey of India to monitor earthquakes.