Mehrauli and the Qutb Minar Complex, Delhi

1 - Qutb Minar

The Qutb Minar, dating from 1192 A.D., in Mehrauli.

Our Grand Tour of Delhi begins in Mehrauli, ancien address of one of the seven mediaeval cities of Delhi, and home also to spectacular Qutb Minar Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mehrauli was one of the capital cities of the Delhi Sultanate – a pre-Mughal, Muslim Sultanate that ruled over much of the Indian Subcontinent from the 1200s to the 1500s. The Delhi Sultanate wasn’t a single entity, but consisted of five dynasties in succession: the Mamluks (1206 – 1290), the Khaljis (1290 – 1320), the Tughlaqs (1320 – 1414), the Sayyids (1414 – 1451) and the Lodis (1451 – 1526).  The tombs of their kings are scattered all around Delhi today.

Qutb Minar Complex

Work on the Qutb Minar began in 1192 under the auspices of Sultan Qutb al-Din Aibak, the first Sultan of the Mamluk Dynasty, and therefore the Delhi Sultanate as a whole. In the course of successive dynasties – and even during the British period – Delhi’s rulers would add to the height of the Qutb Minar, such that today, the structure has the distinct honour of being the world’s tallest free-standing brick structure.

For it to stand quite so tall, its base has to be immense – and the photos earlier able below attest to this girth. Inscriptions in Persian script around the Minar tell the storey of its construction.

The Qutb Minar was built beside the Quwwat al-Islam Mosque, the first mosque built in Delhi, also undersigned by Qutb al-Din Aibak and established in 1192.  Part of the mosque was built using sections from earlier Hindu and Jain temples that had been destroyed by Qutb al-Din Aibak’s iconoclastic troops. They can still be seen today.

Within the mosque complex stands the Iron Pillar, dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, originally dating to the Gupta Dynasty (300s – 500s AD), and ultimately brought here by Qutb al-Din Aibak as well. Around the mosque are other structures, including the tomb of Iltutmish, the third of the Mamluk Sultans, and Alai Minar – the stump of a planned tower, commenced during the Khalji Dynasty, that was never completed.

2 - Details Qutb

Indo-Persian script around the base of the Qutb Minar.

3 - Detail

Detail of one of the storeyed balconies with muqarnas.

5 - Alai Darwaza

Approach towards the Alai Darwaza, the entrance gateway to the Quwwat al-Islam Mosque. The Alai Darwaza was built by Alauddin Khalji in the 1300s and is the first building in India to incorporate Islamic architectural principles.

6 - Alai Darwaza

Side view of the Alai Darwaza.

8 - Detail Alai Darwaza

7 - Alai Darwaza and Tomb of Imam Zamin

Qutb Minar, Alai Darwaza and the Tomb of Imam Zamin. The Imam Zamin lived during the final decades of the Lodi Dynasty and the tomb itself was built in the early Mughal Period.

9 - Quwwat al-Islam Mosque

In the central courtyard of the ruins of the Quwwat al-Islam Mosque, circa 1192.

10 - Iron Pillar

The Iron Pillar commissioned by Chandragupta II, of the Gupta Dynasty.

11 - Alternate Approach to Mosque

12 - Pillars

Pillars which, upon closer inspection, appear to consist of architectural elements from demolished Hindu and Jain Temples.

13 - Details of Pillars

Detail of one of these pillars.

15 - Alai Minar

The Alai Minar, a folly of its time (the Khalji Dynasty).

16 - Tomb of Iltutmish

The tomb of Iltutmish, third Sultan of the Mamluk Dynasty.

17 - Interior of Tomb

Mehrauli Archaeological Park 

Near the Qutb Minar Complex, and almost completely ignored by tourists, sits Mehrauli Archaeological Park, a sprawling park that contains within it many other important historic sites, including the ruins of Lal Kot, dating to the 1000s, and therefore pre-Delhi Sultanate.

I took a leisurely and entirely delightful stroll through the Park while I was here, far away from the madding crowd, stopping occasionally to visit a large and beautiful ancient baoli, or stepwell, and to pay homage to the many tomb complexes here.

At the end of my walk, I tucked into lunch at an Armenian restaurant, dreaming of the Qutb Minar…

18 - Gate near entrance of Mehrauli Archaeological PArk

Mughal-style gate near the entrance of Mehrauli Archaeological Park.

19 - Tomb of Kamali

The Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb, built in the 1520s (the transitional period between the Lodi Dynasty and the Mughal Dynasty).

20 - Interior Tomb

Interior arcade, Jamali Kamali Mosque and tomb.

21 - Forest Walk

22 - Lodi Tomb

Tomb structure beside an ancient stepwell.

23 - RAjon Ki Baoli

The Rajon ki Baoli – an ancient stepwell.

24 - Rajon ki Baoli

Alternate view of the Rajon ki Baoli.

25 - Tomb_of_Balban,Mehrauli_Archaeological_Park,New_Delhi,India (1)

Balban’s Tomb. CC BY-SA 4.0. By Harvinder Chandigarh, available at: 

26 - The_bastion_of_Lal_Kot_fort,_Mehrauli,_Delhi (1)

Ruins of Lal Kot Fort. CC BY 2.0. By Varun Shiv Kapur. Available at:,_Mehrauli,_Delhi.jpg.

27 - Metcalfe's_Dilkusha_with_Qutub_Minra_in_the_background

Metcalfe’s Dilkusha (Tomb of Quli Khan). Sir Thomas Metcalfe, Governor-General of India during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zahar, built a country estate here in Mehrauli, incorporating the pre-existing tomb of Quli Khan. CC BY-SA 3.0 By Nvvchar. Available at:

29 - Mehrauli Gardens

View from a tomb in Mehrauli Gardens.

30 - Detail of Tomb
31 - Adham Khan's Tomb

Adham Khan’s Tomb (1560s), sits at the edge of Mehrauli Archaeological Park.

32 - St John's Church

Nearby is St John’s Church, founded in 1927 by the Bishop of Lahore. It has a Neo-Mughal style.

6 - Armenian Food Mehrauli

Lunch at Lavaash by Saby, an Armenian restaurant in Mehrauli.

33 - Qutb Minar

Dreaming of the Qutb Minar…

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Heritage, India, Landmarks & History, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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