Qutab Minar is the tallest minaret in India, standing some 240 feet (73 meters) tall. It was built after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom in 1193. The first three of its five distinct stories are made of fluted red sandstone, with the two at the top made of marble and sandstone. The basement of Qutab Minar was built in 1200, with the final story completed more than 150 years later. Each story is marked with a balcony and tapers, and the entire exterior is marked with detailed carvings and verses from the Koran.
The reason for Qutab Minar’s construction is disputed. Some believe it was constructed as a symbol of victory at the beginning of Muslim rule in India. Others believe it was erected as a minaret, for muezzins to call the faithful to prayer.
At the foot of the tower, visitors can see ruins of Quwwat Ui Islam (“Light of Islam”), which is thought to be the first Muslim mosque built in India. According to an inscription above the eastern gate, the mosque was built with material obtained when 27 Hindu temples were demolished.
Wander through the courtyard around the mosque and make a wish at the antique Iron Pillar, which is famous because of its resistance to rust. The highly skilled ancient Indian blacksmiths managed to extract and process the iron in a way that would stop it from corroding over time. It’s said that if you can wrap your hands around the 23-foot (7-meter) tall pillar while facing away from it, your wish will come true. The government has built a fence around the pillar, but there’s no harm in making a wish.
It takes about 30 minutes by car to reach Qutab Minar from downtown New Delhi and 25 minutes from the airport. Regular buses run from downtown to the attraction and take between 60 to 90 minutes to get there.