Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque (built 1192-1316)
Quwwat-ul-Islam was sponsored by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, founder of the Mamluk dynasty. Born a slave in Turkey, Qutb rose to prominence as a general during Muhammed Ghari's invasion of India in the 1180s. After Muhammed's assasination in 1206, Qutb seized the throne and crowned himself Sultan of the Mamluk dynasty, often disparagingly called the "Slave Dynasty" after Qutb's origins. Although the dynasty lasted for only a few centuries, Muslim rule in India endured up to the British occuption in 1858.
Qutb was a fanatical Muslim. When his garison occupied Delhi under the command of Muhammed Ghari in 1192, he ordered the destruction of twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples to furnish building materials for the construction of Delhi's first mosque. Quwwat-ul-Islam, the "Glory of Islam," was hastily erected by the young amir, who conscripted an army of local craftsmen, presumably Hindus, to assemble the structure. The Hindu stonemasons re-used columns from the destroyed temples, but adapting them to use in a mosque proved problematic given Islam's injunction against the use of images in temples. The masons were forced to plaster over the highly sculpted Hindu columns and presumably cover them with geometric designs. However, after centuries of neglect the plaster has fallen away, revealing the original Hindu carvings.
The Quwwat-ul-Islam is best known for its tower of victory, celebrating the Muslim conquest of India. It is built of red sandstone, gray quartz, and white marble, but is probably inspired by the iron "Pillar of the Law" that stands on the site. Built in the Mauryan dynasty in the 6th century, it is the only piece of the temple that stands in its original location. Qutb built around it when he constructed the mosque. Although made of iron, it has resisted rust for over 1,500 years, evidence of the Mauryan's superb knowledge of metallurgy.
Expansion of the mosque continued after the death of Qutb. His son-in-law Altamash (or Illtutmish) extended the original prayer hall screen by three more arches (image 8). By the time of Altamash the Mamluk empire had stablized enough that the Sultan could replace most of his conscripted Hindu masons with Islamic ones. This explains why the arches added under Altamash are stylistically more Islamic than the ones erected under Qutb's rule.
Just to the west of the expanded mosque, Altamash built his own tomb, the first to be erected for the Delhi Sultanate. Despite the presence of Muslim craftsman, the tomb is mostly Hindu in design if not in execution. Much of the superstructure and most of the walls are built of pillaged building material. Altamash's body was laid to rest in a subterranean chamber beneath the tomb.
The decline of Quwwat-ul-Islam began during the rule of Ala-ud-din (1296-1316), known to the West as "Alladin". Ala-ud-din at first seemed inclined to patronize the mosque, even adding an enormous new courtyard wall and erecting the base of a huge new minar (tower). However, Ala-ud-dins dreams were so grand that he decided to abandon the Lal Kot (Delhi) capital and move to nearby Siri, whereupon Quwwat-ul-Islam lost its pre-eminence.
The approximate location of the mosque is 28.524532' N, 77.185365' E (WGS 84 map datum).
Images copyright 2001 Prof. Gilbert Daenzer of Concordia University, Seward, Nebraska; April Clark; Kaye Yeo Ahn
Tadgell, Christopher The History of Architecture in India.
Phaidon Press, 1990. Singapore