Above the foundations of Lal Kot, the “first city of Delhi” founded in the eleventh century by the Tomar Rajputs, stand the first monuments of Muslim India, known as the Qutb Minar Complex, 13km south of Connaught Place. One of Delhi’s most famous landmarks, the fluted red-sandstone tower of the Qutb Minar, covered with intricate carvings and deeply inscribed verses from the Koran, tapers upwards from the ruins to a height of just over 72m. In times past it was considered one of the “Wonders of the East”, second only to the Taj Mahal, but historian John Keay was perhaps more representative of the modern eye when he claimed that the tower had “an unfortunate hint of the factory chimney and the brick kiln; a wisp of white smoke trailing from its summit would not seem out of place”.
Work on the Qutb Minar started in 1202; it was Qutb-ud-Din Aibak’s victory tower, celebrating the advent of the Muslim dominance of Delhi (and much of the Subcontinent) that was to endure until 1857. For Qutb-ud-Din, who died four years after gaining power, it marked the eastern extremity of the Islamic faith, casting the shadow of God over east and west. It was also a minaret, from which the muezzin called the faithful to prayer. Only the first storey has been ascribed to Qutb-ud-din’s own short reign; the other four were built under his successor Iltutmish, and the top was restored in 1369 under Firoz Shah, using marble to face the red sandstone.