Q for Qutb Minar

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(A special post today as this is the 200th on this blog!)

The Qutb Minar is in Delhi, India.

Originally the minar had only 4 storeys, faced with red and buff sandstone. The uppermost storey which was damaged in 1368 during Firuz Tughluq’s reign was replaced by him by 2 storeys, using marble but leaving the lower portion of the 4th storey in original red sandstone.

The minar narrows from the bottom to the top. It has a diameter of 14.3 meters at the bottom, while at the top it is only 2.7 meters

Verses of the holy Quran in Naskh style on the walls of Qutb Minar

With a height of 72.5 m and 379 steps, it is the highest stone tower in India and a perfect example of minar known to exist anywhere.

Verses of the holy Quran in Naskh style on the walls of Qutb Minar

close-up

The mosque is in ruins today but indigenous corbelled arches, floral motifs, and geometric patterns can be seen among the Islamic architectural structures. Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, constructed by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak, dates back to the year 1198. (below and header photo)

Alai Gate
Alai Gate

Alai Darwaza is the name given to the southern gateway of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. Ala-ud-Din Khalji got the gateway constructed in the year 1311. It boasts of being the first gateway with a horseshoe arch and true dome. Along with that, it was also the first structure, which employed Islamic principles of construction and decoration.

Q = Pillars
Jain Temple Pillars

All the artisans employed for the construction of Qutb Minar were Hindus and even the raw material for the monument was obtained from existing Hindu and Jain temples. Since human and animal figures are not allowed in Islam, the motifs illustrating them were later disfigured.

M for Mosque, Minarets and Mausoleum

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The five principal elements of the Taj Mahal complex—main gateway, garden, mosque, jawab  and mausoleum (including its four minarets)—were conceived and designed as a unified entity.

A couple of weeks ago I used the Jawab to illustrate architecture for the letter J  so this week I am going to show you the Mosque, Minarets and Mausoleum which were mentioned in that post. Remember, the Jawab is simply a building mirroring  the Mosque for symmetry in the design.

Mausoleum and Minarets
Mausoleum and Minarets

At the western side is the mosque (masjid) facing east, reported to have been built by Isa Muhammed 1631-1648. It is built of red sandstone and has one dominant portal known as an iwan.

Mosque
Mosque

Either side of the major iwan are two smaller arches sandwiched between four towering pinnacles. The spandrels above the arches are studded with coloured marble inlay and the mosque dados feature naturalistic floral designs.

mosque

On the roof and complementing the arches below are three marble-coated domes. Inverted lotus shaped designs cloak the top of the domes, surmounted by gilded finials. On the four corners of the mosque are chattris, or domed kiosks, which have a marble coated veneer.

Mosque
Mosque

I will also include a minaret, four of these form part of the mausoleum, which have the same chattris as on the corners of the mosque and jawab.

Minaret and Chattri
Minaret and Chattri

One of the most beautiful structural compositions in the world, the Taj Mahal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.

L for Lotus Temple

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The Lotus Temple, located in New Delhi, India, is a Bahá’í House of Worship completed in 1986. Notable for its flowerlike shape, it serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent and has become a prominent attraction in the city. Wikipedia

Baha'i Temple (6)Delhi in winter is unfortunately plagued by fog and pollution caused by the many open fires in the city. Hence the rather hazy photographs.

Before you reach the House of Worship you need to deposit your shoes at the shoe room.  You can then enter the Prayer Hall, which is a place for silent prayer and meditation for people of all religious backgrounds. Photographs are not allowed inside, but it is very plain with rows of chairs although the roof structure is quite interesting.

Baha'i Temple (4)

The lotus has been used as a unifying symbol for all Indian religions.  The most basic idea in the design is that light and water are used as its two fundamental elements, and that these two elements alone are responsible for the ornamentation of the House of Worship in place of the thousands of statues and carvings to be found in other temples.

 

J for Jawab

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The Taj Mahal, still one of the Seven Wonders of the World, attracts millions of visitors each year.  The traditional southern view of the white domed mausoleum doesn’t always demonstrate the sheer scale of the building, nor take into affect the remainder of the integrated structures on the complex and its harmonious proportions.

Jawab - facing west
Jawab – facing west

At the far end of the complex, there are two grand red sandstone buildings that are open to the sides of the tomb. These identical buildings flank the main tomb effectively and help to present the white marble monument in an aesthetic setting and form an integral part of the Taj design.

At the western side is the mosque (masjid) facing east, reported to have been built by Isa Muhammed 1631-1648. More about this when we reach M. On the eastern side is the Jawab (literally “answer”; a building mirroring the mosque) and providing aesthetic balance to the site. At the time of my visit the Jawab was covered in scaffolding, so I wasn’t able to go inside.

Jawab
Jawab

One of the most beautiful structural compositions in the world, the Taj Mahal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.

Counting the Cost in Camels

Iranian / Afghani border @ Maschhad / Herat – November 1973

Having failed to reach the border in time (it closed at 6 pm) we found ourselves spending the night in a huge warehouse on the outskirts of Maschhad, Iran. I was amused to see an Australian couple roll out their rather large and lovely Persian carpet to sleep on. Goodness knows whether they ever managed to get it back to Oz.

Early in the morning we caught a bus to the border where we had to walk through no man’s land to the other side where we could catch an Afghan bus to Herat. It took hours to get through the border. The bored Afghani border guards were very keen to have some fun by offering to buy some of the females amongst us with anything from cash to camels!

Although in my head I knew (well hoped) that these border officials would not do anything illegal, I have to confess to being slightly worried at their comments. When half a dozen men with thick beards and black piercing eyes surround you, you begin to feel uncomfortable. When these same men are holding Kalashnikovs and sabres in sheaths at their sides you start to feel even more vulnerable and when one of them grins at you and strokes your hair with the end of his machine gun, you become decidedly jumpy. If he really fancied you for a ‘wife’ what could any of the dozen or so westerners actually do to prevent him?

Smiling inanely at the guards (I did not wish to offend) I handed over my precious blue British passport to be stamped. The man behind the desk looked at me for what seemed like hours studying my face and then the photograph. I tried not to feel embarrassed, but could feel the heat rising from my cheeks. He spoke aside to his colleagues who also looked at me and grinned fiercely. I have no idea what they were saying, but I knew I was blushing. Suddenly the main guy pointed at me and said,

Thirty five camels

his face breaking into a huge grin showing black and broken teeth amongst the mass of facial hair. Was he really suggesting that my travelling friend sold me in exchange for nasty, smelly, spitting camels?

My friend coughed nervously. He shook his head before glancing at me to gauge my reaction. I frowned – was I being undersold? Was he even serious?

Fifty camels then, a very good deal

I raised my eyebrows. How far was he prepared to go? The guard closest to me stroked my hair once again, grinning mindlessly and I was beginning to wish I had covered it as it seemed to be attracting too much attention. I was definitely not keen on this machine gun at my temple.

Eventually sensing my discomfort the main man stamped and handed me my passport back. Still grinning he asked my companion if he would accept the fifty camels. Uncertain of giving the right answer and not wanting to cause offence to me or the guards, he kept his gaze on the floor and muttered that he really didn’t need any camels. I held my tongue even though I was starting to feel quite annoyed. Eventually, roaring with laughter at our embarrassment, the guard shook his head and beckoned us to leave the room which we did in haste.

To this day I still wonder whether fifty camels was an insult or an honour.