Qila Rai Pithora Ruins in 1850s-1860s

Given the relevance of Qila Rai Pithora and the few remaining artifacts from the Pre-Sultanate Rajput period in Delhi, the three photographs given below assume a special significance. As you may know, the Qutb Minar was built after Muhammad Ghori won the Second Battle of Tarain, having defeated Rai Pithora (Prithviraj Chauhan). The Minar is built on the ruins of Lal Kot, the citadel of the Tomars and thereafter of the Chauhans (in the expanded Qila Rai Pithora). There have been conjectures that the Minar itself was developed over a previously standing Rajput tower, fueled by engravings such as the one on the minar that reads, “Shri Vishwakarma prasade rachita” i.e. conceived with the grace of Vishwakarma, the  presiding Hindu deity of all craftsmen and architects. 


Rao Petarah's Temple, Delhi 1858


Photograph of Rao Petarah’s Temple, Delhi, taken by Dr. John Murray in 1858

The photograph shows a section from the Quwwat al-Islam mosque. The complex was first begun by Qutb-u’d-din Aibak, the first ruler of the Mamluk Dynasty. Inscriptions record that spolia from 27 Jain and Hindu temples that were torn down for its creation. Pillars from the destroyed temples were reused and evident signs of these elements still remain. This may explain why the caption for this mid-nineteenth century photography refers to the building as a temple instead of a mosque created out of Hindu architectural material.

Ruins near the Kootub Delhi - 1858

Photograph of the Qutb Minar at Delhi, taken by Robert and Harriet Tytler in 1858

This is a general view from the east looking towards the tower and surrounding structures.

Tytler and his wife Harriet took some 500 large-format calotype negatives of scenes associated with the Mutiny. This picture comprises one of those treasured pictures of the area surrounding the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque and the Qutb Minar.

Iron pillar at Kutub, Delhi  - 1858

Photograph of Iron Pillar in the Qutb Minar complex in Delhi from ‘Murray Collection: Views in Delhi, Cawnpore, Allahabad and Benares’ taken by Dr. John Murray in 1858 

The Iron Pillar, with a height of 7.2 m and radius of 16 cm, is dated to the Gupta period. This pillar was taken from a Vishnu temple and placed at this site before the construction of the complex, possibly during Pre-Sultanate times. The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, in the background, contained within the complex is one of the earliest examples of Islamic architecture employing Islamic principles of construction, although utilising Indian building traditions. I have been interested in these elements and will be discussing them probably soon in a blog post.

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