Qutb Minar & Adjoining Monuments is the first in a series of travel guides being brought out by the Archaeological Survey of India with the aim of introducing the visitor to the World Heritage Monuments in India.
Extensive historical research and a focus on architectural details make this book an invaluable companion for anyone wishing to explore the Qutb and its environs. Apart from focusing on the many monuments within the Qutb Complex, the guide also takes the traveler on a walk-through of Mehrauli, the only settlement in modern Delhi to have been continuously inhabited for more than a thousand years.
Specially commissioned photographs, architectural illustrations and easy-to follow site maps make the book a visual delight.
Also included is a comprehensive section of all the information a traveler needs to make his way to the site - from when to visit through to where to stay, from tourism offices to airlines offices.
India has 16 cultural sites, five natural sites and one industrial site inscribed on the World Heritage List. Of the 16 World Cultural Heritage Sites Qutb Minar & Adjoining Monuments is the first of the guidebooks that the Archaeological Survey of India has planned to publish as a part of a special series.
The book contains a brief account of the architectural and historical importance of the monuments, as well as additional information on the region in and around the Qutb Minar. This concise guidebook contains digitized and hand-drawn maps, several architectural line drawings, colour photographs, and tourist related information to enhance its utility as a travel guide.
I hope this guidebook will be fascinating to read, and be cherished as a souvenir by all.
From the nomadic Aryans down to the British, a time spanning over 3,000 years, invaders have beaten a path eastward in search of the fabled wealth of India.
And except for the sea-faring Europeans, the conquering armies have all come down from the lands beyond the Hindu wealth of the country and the fertility of the plains appeared even more rich and Iush from the barren lands of the North.
One such ferocious horde from Ghur (in morden Afghanistan ) rode down at the end of the 12th Century, led by one Muizuddin ibn Sam, more Famous in history as Muhammad of Ghur.
Each of the earlier invasion- Aryan, Greek, Scythian or Parthian - had left a social and cultural impact that had lasted longer than the terror of its swoop. But what set this latest excursion from the North apart was the quality of the engagement between the conquerors and the conquerors and the conquered.
Islam had made its first appearance in India in the 8th century, but whatever traditions and influences the Semitic Arab may have brought with him on his invasion of Sind, they left few traces on the landscape of the subcontinent. The invaders from Ghazi, too, had left few permanent marks. It was only with the coming of the Ghurs that Islam actually influenced the architectural contours of India. This was because Islam had matured by the time it arrived in India by way of intervening lands.
When the turbulent forces of Islam swept into the Indo- Genetic plains at the end of the 12th century, it was an encounter of non-alkies. Islam was a younger religion, more pragmatic than the ancient and well-settled Hindu religious order of India. As in philosophy, so in architectural precepts from laid-down norms- scriptural in the case of Islam and bound by convention in the case of Hinduism. Beyond that, they were bridged by means of beams and lintels. Islamic builders, on the other hand, used arches to conquer space.
Islam, born in the deserts of Arabia and nurtured in Persia and Asia Minor, was accustomed to building with brick and mortar. Hindu artisans, on the other hand, had been building with stone for more than a millennium before the Muslim arrived.
Their house of worship, too, reflected the tenets of their faiths As the symbol of an iconoclastic religion, the mosque is a straightforward structure with no shrine; while the temple is an abode of mystery', its sanctuary buried deep within it, and dedicated to deity with from and figure.
The earliest mosques in the subcontinent were austere, making allowances only for scriptural inscription and geometric patterns, while the temple celebrated creation, its walls vibrant with images of divine, human, animal and plant life. In form and feature then the lucidity and economy of Islamic architectural expression was posited against the richness and exuberance of Hindu art.
The first point of contact between the two forces was one of friction. Fired by religious zeal, the soldiers of Islam set bout destroying and despoiling the symbols and structures of the other. It was the custom', records Qutbbuddin's chronicler, Hasan Nizami in the Taj-ul-Maasir, 'after the conquest of every fort and stronghold to grind its foundations and pillars to powder under the feet of fierce and gigantic elephants '. This destruction, historians agree, is the reason for the absence of Hindu monuments in the upper Indo-Gangetic plain, especially around Islamic centers such as Delhi and Ajmer.
As the first flush of fervor wore off, the conquerors settled down to co-opt the alien world into new structures of their own making. So, the remains of despoiled temples and palaces were utilised to provide ready-at- hand material for mosques and tombs. The Quwwat-ul- Islam Mosque and tombs of Sultan Ghari in Delhi as well as the Adhai Din ka Jhompra in Ajmer are cases in point. The Quwwat-ul-Lslam Mosque, one of the oldest extant mosques of India is, according to an inscription on it, composed almost entirely of material taken from 27 Hindu and Jain temples demolished by the Ghur soldiers.
In the third phase, as the invaders settled into the rhythm of their new land, they began to build for this land. They planned and built structures that were particular to India and from the Islamic structure of Arabic or even Persia.
This became the Indo-Islamic school of architectural that ensured that the skyline of India was hitherto marked with dominating structural shape changed from the pyramidal (a function of the Hindu trabeate style) to the ovoid, a corollary of the Islamic arch.
For starters, Indo-Islamic buildings were made from stone, and stone not salvaged or scavenged from despoiled, dressed and carved for their buildings. And this stone, used with mortar, achieved aflexbilit that produced some stunning structures.
India craftsmen had been used for centuries to working with stone, and so made use of this medium for the Muslim rulers. As a result, the Indo-Islamic monuments are perhaps the earliest examples of Islamic buildings of dressed stone anywhere in the world.
This stream of architecture also introduced the tomb to India. Hindus raise no monuments to their dead-apart from the chhattris of later Rajput rulers. Infact, even the Islamic tradition does not allow for funerary monuments. But beginning with Sultan Ghari, the fortress like tomb IItutmish built for his first-born a little distance away from the Qutb Complex, the Indo-Laic school produced a series of magnificent mausoleums, including, of course, the Taj.
The Muslim also introduced the concept of secular architectural enterprise in India. While Hindu architecture was so far confined to the building of temples, Muslim rulers not only built innumerable mosques and tombs, but also palaces and forts, pavilions and gardens.
Distinct indigenous element like chhattris (small umbrella-like kiosks or pavilions), chhajjas (eaves), and jharokhas (window embrasures ) became an integral part of Indo- Islamic architecture.
Surface ornamentation, too, altered. Islamic tradition sanctioned only geometric patterns and calligraphic inscriptions, and prohibited any representation of natural form.
But living in a land famed for its ornamented whose natural expression was carving, profuse in detail and decoration, the Muslim builders unbent enough to include a representation, albeit formal and with distinct Central Asian antecedents, of plant and floral life.
The earliest intermingling can be found on the screen Qutubuddin Aibak added to Quwwat-ul-Lslam Mosque, where the calligraphic strokes end in little buds and flowers. In its matured from, this decoration reached its peak in the delicate pietra dura of Shah Jajan's buildings.
The confluence of the indigenous and the Islamic streams of architecture studded India with some of the most notable monuments of the world.
Many Cities of Delhi
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