Amid more and more monuments and mosques built during the Muslim era in India coming under public scrutiny, a former Regional Director of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Dharamveer Sharma has claimed that the Qutb Minar was constructed by Raja Vikramaditya and not by Qutb ud Din Aibak. It was to study the movement of the sun, he said.
“It isn’t Qutb Minar but a sun tower (observatory tower). It was constructed in the 5th century by Raja Vikramaditya, not by Qutb ud Din Aibak. I have a lot of evidence to support my claim,” Sharma said. He has surveyed Qutb Minar several times on behalf of the ASI.
“There is a 25-inch tilt in the tower of the Qutb Minar. It is because it was made to observe the sun and hence, on 21 June, between the shifting of the solstice, the shadow will not fall on that area for at least half an hour. This is science and an archaeological fact,” the former archaeologist said.
Hence, Sharma added, what is called Qutb Minar is an independent structure not related to the mosque near it. “The door of the Qutb Minar faces the north. That is to see the Dhruva tara (pole star) in the night sky,” Sharma said.
There is already an ongoing dispute over the Hindu idols like a Ganesha murti in the precincts of Qutb Minar.
Official history of Qutb Minar
History and the official record of the monument say Qutb Minar is a minaret and “victory tower” that forms part of the Qutb complex, which lies at the site of Delhi’s oldest fortified city, Lal Kot, founded by the Tomar Rajputs. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site in Mehrauli in south Delhi.
Qutb Minar is one of the most visited tourist spots in the city. Much of it was ostly built between 1199 and 1220, say at least three authoritative sources: the “WHC list” on who.unesco.org, “Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque” on the website qutubminardelhi.com and Ali Javid and Tabassum Javeed’s book World Heritage Monuments and Related Edifices in India (pages 14, 105, 107, 130).
The Qutb Minar can be compared to the 62 m all-brick Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, built in AD 1190, nearly a decade before the probable beginning of the Delhi tower’s construction. The surfaces of both are elaborately decorated with inscriptions and geometric patterns.
The Qutb Minar has a shaft that is fluted with “superb stalactite bracketing under the balconies” at the top of each stage, says the second edition of Islamic Art and Architecture 650-1250 by Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar and Marilyn Jenkins.
James C Harle wrote in The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent, minarets gained popularity in Indian Islamic architecture gradually, with the structures often detached from the main mosque where they were built. Such minarets were uncommon in south Asian-Islamic design until the 17th century. The lag owed to the slow adoption of the typical Middle Eastern style in India.
Historical sources named above also say the Qutb Minar was built over the ruins of the Lal Kot, the citadel of Dhillika. The construction of the Qutb Minar began after the Quwwat ul Islam Mosque, which was started around AD 1192 by Qutb ud Din Aibak, the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate.
While it is popularly believed that the tower is named after Qutb ud Din Aibak, who ordered the construction, it is possible, historians say, that it was named after Khwaja Qutb ud Din Bakhtiar Kaki, a 13th-century sufi and spiritual guide of Shams ud Din Iltutmish, the third of the Mamluk kings who ruled the former Ghurid territories in northern India. Iltutmish was the first Muslim sovereign to rule from Delhi, and is thus considered the effective founder of the Delhi Sultanate.
Sold into slavery as a young boy, Iltutmish spent his early life in Bukhara and Ghazni under multiple masters. In the late 1190s, the Ghurid slave-commander Qutb ud Din Aibak purchased him in Delhi, thus making him the slave of a slave.
After his death on 30 April 1236, Iltutmish was buried in the Qutb complex.
Qutb Minar is Vishnu Stambh: VHP
In April, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) spokesperson Vinod Bansal had said that the Qutb Minar was actually the ‘Vishnu Stambh’. This statement came a day after the VHP demanded that the government rebuild the Hindu structures in the Qutb Minar complex.
Bansal said that the structure was built with materials obtained after demolishing 27 Hindu-Jain temples and that had been done to “tease” the Hindu community.
“Qutb Minar was actually ‘Vishnu Stambh’. Qutb Minar was built with materials obtained after demolishing 27 Hindu-Jain temples. The superimposed structure was built just to tease the Hindu community,” Bansal said, adding that evidence of it being so was scattered across the Qutb Minar campus. “It is alarming to see broken idols and inscriptions that attest to the fact that this was a complex of Hindu-Jain temples,” he said.
VHP leaders, including Bansal, visited the compound of the monument, which was designated as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1993.
“We demand that all the 27 temples, which were demolished at the site in the past, be rebuilt and Hindus be allowed to offer prayers there,” Bansal said.
Aibak wrote he had demolished Hindu, Jain temples, used parts from debris to build Qutb Minar
The construction of the Qutb Minar, the tower with carvings and detailing, was in AD 1199 finished by Aibak’s successor Iltutmish. It stands 72.5 m in height.
The Qutb complex consists of a rectangular courtyard enclosed by cloisters, erected with the carved columns and architectural members of 27 Jain and Hindu temples, which were demolished by Aibak as recorded in his inscription on the main eastern entrance. Later, a lofty arched screen was erected and the mosque was enlarged by Itutmish and Ala ud Din Khalji.
The Iron Pillar in the courtyard bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script of AD 4th century. According to the inscription, the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja (standard of god Vishnu) on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra.