India Day 8 (17 Jun 11) – The Soaring Tower in Qutb Minar and the Forgotten Tomb of Safdarjung

I started my day lazing on the bed as I think the heat was making me very tired (and very sweaty too). Then I realise I do not have much time today as I have to check out by 2pm to avoid extra charges. The hotel staff is kind enough to arrange for a late check out for me so that I do not have to pay 7500 rupees for half day extension. I quickly cleaned up and had my breakfast, and headed out in with little time wasted. I wanted to take the metro to Qutb Minar, my first stop for the day, but thinking that I have to get an auto rickshaw to the metro station and once reaching the other metro station and get another one, I thought going to Qutb Minar from my hotel in auto rickshaw will make more sense. Moreover the distance is not that great afterall.

Qutb Minar

Once reached Qutb Minar, purchased the ticket I entered the site. However I headed back out again as I wanted to try out the audio guide (which I have not tried that out yet). I rented the audio guide and headed back in. I must say the audio guide thingy is quite informative and a good way of seeing the monuments. Should have done it a long time ago with the other monuments, especially Taj Mahal. Anyways, the audio guide really gives good details of the Qutb Minar and the surroundings, it even point out things that I would usually have missed. The Qutb Minar was very distinctive the moment I entered the complex grounds, there is no way anyone can miss it. Afterall this is the world’s tallest brick minaret, standing at about 72m. The audio guide has pointed out that the Qutb Minar was built by 5 different kings, and the first one merely built the first storey. The Minar is mostly made of red sandstone and has intricate carvings and verses from the Holy Qur’an carved on it. There is a stairway leading up to the tower itself, but pity it is sealed nowadays. I can imagine how far I will be able to see up this tower. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this tower is the last 2 levels are built with white marble instead of sand stone. As I was walking around the Minar, it is not difficult to spot the symmetry in its design and construction. There is a partially ruined building to the side of the minar, I was drawn to the carvings of dancing ladies that was perhaps forgotten by many visitors who came to see the tower. These carvings was in a very inconspicuous corner, unless one walk along these ruins , they are likely to be missed.

Qutb Minar Complex
Ticketing office in Qutb Minar Complex
The Qutb Minar
Me with Qutb Minar
Panoramic shot of Qutb Minar Complex
Islamic engravings on the Qutb Minar
Inside Qutb Minar Complex
Me at Qutb Minar Complex
Apsara carvings in Qutb Minar Complex
Carvings of Dancing Ladies in Qutb Minar Complex
The majestic Qutb Minar

The audio guide led me to the entrance of what used to be a mosque. This mosque is now in ruins, but before entering the mosque compounds, I was drawn to these set of ruins, which looked like pillars of some building, it’s current state looks very much like the ruins of Persepolis I have seen in Iran. As I entered the mosque, the audio guide pointed out the many different designs, hinting presence of Hinduism carved into the pillars within the mosque. It was believed that the king had used the best craftsmen from the region to make this mosque. As the craftsman were Hindu, they carved what they believe to be holy onto the pillars. After centuries, the carvings on these pillars are still very much in tact. I went around looking at the pillars, true enough each pillar seemed to be different to the one before it. As I was looking around, a man in security uniform approached me and asked where I was from. I volunteered the information, and then he just blabbered information about the pillars and the sites. Well I already gotten most of the information he had just spilled. After blabbering those information, the guy actually asked for tips. Well I kinda saw that coming and told him straight in the face that I paid 100 rupees for the audio guide which gave the information and more that he just shared with me. I also told him I am not going to tip him as he volunteered the information. Upon hearing this, the guy backed off and went to hunt for another pray whom he can rip some tip off.  I went to the corner the audio guide pointed me to. This is part of the mosque with different carvings in the pillars. However this corner was believed to be truly muslim as the pillars have little carvings on them. I was then guided to the centre of the mosque where lies an Iron pillar. The big deal about this Iron pillar was that the purity of it was almost non existent in those days when this is casted, thus this was the purest iron at that time it was smelted. There are some scripts carved on it, which is not muslim. Also the pillar used to have a hindu god on its top. I was wondering why this iron pillar with Hindi origin is doing in the middle of a mosque. quite puzzling. At the back drop of the iron pillar seemed to be some gate way. These gate ways are full of carvings with Arabic words. It only make sense that these could well be part of the Holy Qur’an. There isn’t much to see on these doorways, other than its intriguing carvings. The other puzzling thing about this mosque is there seemed to be 3 tombstones in its courtyard. The audio guide mentioned that the reason for their presence is rather sketchy, it can only be presumed that this mosque was once so abandoned that people just used its grounds for burial. Well whoever the genius thought of that is now resting amongst the graves of the kings.

Me with parts of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque laying in ruins
Carvings on the pillars of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Hindu carvings on the pillars of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Hindu carvings on the pillars of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Hindu carvings on the pillars of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Ruins of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque and the Qutb Minar
Iron Pillar
Qutb Minar and the Iron Pillar
Qutb Minar
Qutb Minar
Me at the Iron Pillar

I exited the mosque area and headed towards this giant looking stump of rocks. The audio guide mentioned that this was supposed to be another Qutb Minar, once completed it will be grander then the one opposite it. However the construction barely reached the first storey when the king who ordered its construction died. His descendants were busy fighting each other over power then to complete this tower. I then headed over to the King’s tomb – Tomb of Iltutmish second sultan of Delhi, which is tucked away in a quiet part of the complex grounds. There used to be a dome for this now open aired tome, and as the audio guide pointed out, the intricate carvings are of muslim origins with hints of hinduism like the lotus buds on the archways. The entrance to the mausoleum crypt is still visible at one of the entrance of the tomb. It is now sealed and probably forgotten by the thousands of visitors flogging to this site daily. Moving right on was the tomb of Khiliji, second Sultan of Delhi from the Khilji dynasty. Well this is not exactly another tomb, this set of ruins used to be the college of muslim studies in Qutb Minar complex. To commemorate the founder of this college they buried him here within the college grounds. Too bad the tomb of this founder was not restored and in a rather bad shape, however the audio guide did pointed out that this tomb was once grand. I was then guided back where the Qutb Minar was, passing the mosque and then the Minar. I was guided to a gate way. There are more carvings of muslim nature mixed with hints of hinduism in it. From here I can really see the amount of work put into the carvings of this gate way and its interior. Every inch on the archway was carved with something, both inside the gate way and its exterior. Truly amazing!! The other side of the gate way was actually an empty field, instead of heading that way, I was guided to the side exit of the gate way, where a small crypt lies. This is the tomb of Imam Zamin, a saint from Turkey. This smallish tomb is one of the most in tact building around within the complex. I was then guided to the next area through a very small door. Well the next 2 areas within the complex that the audio guide led me to were of British origins, one is a pavilion and another a sun dial. Well not too interested in those 2, I headed towards the exit as soon as I took a couple of “I have been here” photos of these 2 items. I returned  my audio guide and started to walk towards the metro station.

The uncompleted Alai Minar, which was designed to be taller then Qutb Minar
This area was believed to be a school in Qutb Minar Complex
Qutb Minar Complex
Tomb of Iltutmish

 

Smith’s Folly, which was supposed to be on top of Qutb Minar
Qutb Minar Complex
Qutb Minar Complex

Tomb of Safdarjung

Well the walk is longer then it should be. According to the guide book, the closest metro station is Saket. After about 20 mins of walking under the hot sun, asking a few locals where the station is, I finally reach the station. However I realised this was not the station I wanted to be, and it is the further station. Well as long as I reached the station, I am not really complaining about it. The train arrived shortly the moment I was at the platform and off I went, heading towards the next destination – Safdarjung’s Tomb.  I was contesting between 2 stations as the map suggests that one is closer to the other. So I alighted at this station which appeared to be closer on the map. I got out of the station and started asking locals where the tomb is. One of the local, who happens to be heading the same direction, motioned for me to follow him. And so I did. He told me that the other station (that I was considering) is actually closer then this one. Damn it seemed today I had walked alot of unnecessary distances. The local then told me to keep to this side of the road and the tomb as well as the station is on the right side. So I followed his instructions and reached the tomb in no time. Well this tomb was rather abandoned, not in the deserted and no restoration kind of way, but the visitorship is really few. The main gain of the tomb, to be honest, was quite modest. However the Persia influence in the design is very clear on the ceilings of the arch on the gate. Through the gate was the garden before the tomb. This garden also has the Persia design, reminded me of the Fin Garden in Iran. The design of the tomb is very similar to that of Taj Mahal, which follows the Mughal architecture. I walked towards the tomb, and it seemed to be under some kind of restoration that was abandoned halfway through. I climbed onto the platform and start to take pictures of the tomb and the garden around it. I thought the garden is better maintained then the tomb itself. The significance of this tomb is it represents the last of the Mughal style tomb architecture, which started off with Humayun’s tomb, apexed at Taj Mahal and declined at this one.  Entering the interior of the tomb, the carvings are still in order with little or no damaged done it it. I guess one thing good about being a forgotten tomb is no one comes to mess around with the walls. In the centre of the tomb lies the grave of Safdarjung. I went around taking more pictures before exiting the tomb.

On the Metro
Entrance to Tomb of Safdarjung
This building is the Tomb of Safdarjung
Tomb of Safdarjung
Islamic design on the Tomb of Safdarjung
Cenotaph of Safdarjung
Cenotaph of Safdarjung
Persian-designed garden on the grounds of Tomb of Safdarjung
Tomb of Safdarjung upclose
The 3-domes mosque inside the grounds of Tomb of Safdarjung

Shopping In New Delhi

I headed back to the hotel via metro to pack up. To avoid paying for the half day extension I need to check out by 2 pm, which i delayed till about 2.45pm. The staff at the hotel was amazing, not only they did not rushed me, they also told me it is fine and to take my time. I left my luggage with the concierge, and spent the rest of my time in Delhi shopping around the malls. I wanted to catch a movie at the cinemas, but the timings are really bad. Headed over to the mall next door where Hard Rock Cafe is, had my lunch and bought some HRC merchandise before heading back to the mall next door. As I was walking pass coffee bean, I saw someone surfing net there. I check with the staff and they informed me that they do have free Wifi! I went back to the hotel concierge and grabbed my macbook and spent about 2 hours at coffee bean surfing net and working on this blog. Soon it was time for me to head to the airport.

New Delhi Airport

The hotel has arranged a taxi for me to the airport. It arrived about 5 mins before the time I wanted to head to the airport. We reached the airport in about 30 mins. The traffic along the way was bad, with the constant honkings (I am rather used to hear honking in India after my 2nd day here). The checking in part was easy, but the immigration part was a chore. The amount of security here is ridiculous for India. Every bag has to have a luggage tag before they allow you to put them through the x-ray machine. Not having a luggage tag (well I was not told about the luggage tag thingy), I approached some Air India staff whom gladly gave me the amount I needed. I went through the security checks with little problem and headed for the lounge to chill out before my flight. Arrival in Bangkok was early, I changed my flight to a later one as I was rather tired and was afraid that I might miss my flight from Bangkok to Singapore. After changing the flight, I went to the lounge in Bangkok airport to sleep for another 3 hours (they do have slumber rooms in the lounge). Luckily I changed my flight, I would have missed my flight if I hadn’t.

Shopping mall in Delhi
Shopping mall in Delhi
Hard Rock Cafe Delhi
Hard Rock Cafe Delhi
Hard Rock Cafe Delhi
Shopping Mall in Delhi
Shopping Mall in Delhi
Shopping Mall in Delhi
Streets of Delhi
Streets of Delhi
Streets of Delhi
Inside Delhi Airport
Me chilling out at the Airlines lounge
Selfie before flying towards Bangkok

Soon it was time for me to board the flight back to Singapore, thus concluding my 1 week trip to India. My deepest impression of the place is the heat! It was totally unbearable , especially in Jaipur, where it hit 47°C. I tried walking from one place to another, but the heat is just too much for walking. Dealing with touts and staff or even security personnels at the sites is another challenge too. Over the week I have learnt how to identify them and stand on my grounds that I did not ask for their service and was not obliged to tip them or give them what they ask for. Looking pass the exorbitant entry fee that foreigners have to pay over the locals (the locals only pay 10% of what foreigners pay), the constant honkings in Indian roads, the auto rickshaw drivers whom ask for ridiculous amount of fare seeing that you are a tourist, and the touts and tip askers, India is really a nice place to visit (if only the sun was more merciful), with monuments dating back centuries and the nice infusion of Muslim and Hinduism. Well I am not sure if I will be back to India, if I ever come back again, I will definitely avoid summer, where I spent most afternoons in the hotel chilling out and head out again in the evening time.

Transiting in Bangkok Airport
Transiting in Bangkok Airport
Me chilling out in the Airline lounge in Bangkok Airport
Pushing back
Flying home

 

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