Post 6 – Day 1 ‘There, and in between’ (Pt 4)

Post 6

The second listed world heritage site is that of the Qutab complex. It comprises a number of constructions and items of a peculiar and singularly unique form. Amongst these is Qutb Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world, and inspired by the minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. I had a grandfather once who from the despair of destitution took to climbing industrial chimneys to repair the corruption of their aging brickwork. But the Qutb Minar is a structure of an altogether different league. It was built in the year 1192 CE as a victory tower to celebrate the victory of Mohammed Ghori over the Rajput king, Prithviraj Chauhan.

In 2006 the complex, for entirely different reasons, attracted 3.9 million visitors, nearly 1.5 million more than did the Taj Mahal. The complex was added to by subsequent potentates, but it is notable that the fanatical Islamic ruler Qutb-ud-din Aibek, founder of the Mamluk or Slave Dynasty, took it upon himself to destroy 27 Hindu and Jain temples, and used the materials pre-emptively recycled, for the construction of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque and the Qutb Minar. In my Hometown, in the absence of any architectural gem worth destroying, we have to content any residual Viking and Anglo-Saxon genes still inclined to rampaging and monastery looting (‘loot’ being a word derived from Indian Sanskrit), with the odd bit of clear-felling of native forests and the destruction of threatened vertebrates. And we are, if at all, only a little inclined to restore the victims of our vandalism. We prefer to build more shopping malls and sporting complexes. At least Qutb-ud-din Aibek got world heritage status for some of his efforts.

The Qutab complex also houses the Iron Pillar of Delhi, a metallurgical curiosity measuring all of 7.21 metres in height. The Iron Pillar was set up as a Vishnudhaja, a ‘standard of god’. Someone took the trouble to weigh it, for it is more than 6 tonnes in weight. It was first erected at Udayagiri about 402 CE, supposedly by king Chandra Gupta II Vikramaditya. To put this time into some sort of Western context, this was at the period when the Western Roman Empire was being overwhelmed by numerous invaders and associated land disputes, chronic civil sloth and discord, and Rome itself was nearly due for sacking. Fortunately the Roman Emperor had relocated to Ravenna, a fate that also befell the Pillar for it too was relocated to its present site, though so far has better lasted the uncertainties of history. Unlike the temples and shrines with which it once held company, only the image of Garuda, that was thought to adorn its structural capital, seems to have been lost.

But Delhi has a darker history than that of neglect and destruction wrought upon its monuments. In 1398 CE, Timur, better known as Tamerlane, not content to gain humble pleasure as a brilliant military genius and tactician, that future history was to bestow upon him, invaded India. He attacked on the context that the ruling Muslim Delhi Sultanate was too tolerant towards its Hindu subjects, and in taking Delhi Tamerlane massacred 100,000 captives. In hindsight this was but a small portion of the 17 million dead cumulatively attributed to Tamerlane’s military campaigns, this number estimated at five percent of the then world’s population. One story goes that the prisoners made the mistake of prematurely rejoicing at the prospect of being freed by the army of Tamerlane’s opponent. There you go, timing is everything. Only Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and those American Presidents intent on displacing Native American Indians, seemed to have outdone his enthusiasm for misery and slaughter. Tamerlane was also known as a patron of architecture and the arts in general, but this aspect of his character apparently could prove no assuaging deterrent to other traits.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s