Near the famous Qutub Minar of Delhi, is a circular monument that many visitors would easily miss. Still around twenty seven meter high, the Alai Minar, or what remains of it, has an interesting story. It was a vanity project of one of the most aggressive, ambitious and controversial of the Delhi Sultans, Alauddin Khilji.
A man who called himself the Sikander-i-Sani or the ‘Second Alexander’, Khilji (1296-1316 CE) was proud of his achievements and adamant to outdo Qutubuddin Aibak’s great Qutub Minar, which was the tallest and most famous structure of its kind, in the Indian Subcontinent. He planned to make his minar, double the size of the Qutub!
Alauddin Khilji was proud of his achievements and adamant to outdo Qutubuddin Aibak’s great Qutub minar
The Alai minar was to be a mark of his great glory and Alauddin Khilji had reason to celebrate. His armies had been victorious across India and within few years of his reign, he had conquered the kingdoms of Rajasthan – Chittor, Ranthambore, Jalore, as well as other regions of Gujarat and Malwa. The Khilji armies were also the first to head south. The most famous of its campaigns was the one led by his general, Malik Kafur, in 1308 CE to South India, where the Khilji forces conquered the Yadava, Hoysala , Kakatiya and Pandya kingdoms, bringing in immense wealth.
As wealth poured in, Khilji decided to commemorate his victories with a massive monument. He ordered that the enclosure of the main mosque called Quwat-ul-Islam, in the Qutub Minar Complex be increased four times in size and a new minar, twice the size of the Qutub minar be built.
The Sultan hoped this ‘Tower of Victory’ would make him famous across time. The best contemporary description of this vanity project is provided by the renowned Sufi poet, Amir Khusro in his book Tarikh-i- Alai (Life and times of Alauddin Khilji) . In this, he talks about how the Sultan wished to ‘raise a minar so high that it could not be exceeded’.
The Sultan hoped this ‘Tower of Victory’ would make him famous across time
The exact date of the beginning of construction of the Alai Minar is not known, but it is estimated to be somewhere around 1300 CE. The minar had just reached the first storey when the Sultan died in 1316 CE. The project was abandoned soon after.
Now all that remains of Khilji’s grand monument is a rough edged six storied circular mass, lost under the shadow of the monument that it could never manage to cut to size!
LHI TRAVEL GUIDE
Alai Minar lies within Qutb complex in Delhi. The nearest railway station is New Delhi railway station just 2 kms away and the nearest airport is Indira Gandhi International Airport – New Delhi about 20 kms away.
Get access to weekly Live events, experiences and an exclusive repository of films, articles and books