Step Back in Time – The Qutub Restored
Qutub Minar, the second tallest minar in India has always been considered a landmark of Delhi. But the relevance of this monument has been dwindling of late. Tourists tend to visit Old Delhi and Humayun’s tomb, many giving the Qutub Minar a skip altogether. Old Delhi with its history, the many gastronomic flavors, people and an undeniable intrigue about it is an easy decision. But in recent times, the Qutub has got a real boost.
To start with, the government has infused the place with new life. With the Qutub being recognized as a World Heritage Site and with funds flowing in during the Commonwealth Games, the complex has been revamped. A large parking just opposite the area puts you at ease. One may opt for the very informative audio guides or hire a ‘manual’ one. Qutub Minar and the surrounding ruins of Mehrauli are connected beautifully by paths and it is easy to spend a few hours walking around in the pretty landscaped greenery. The Minar itself has been restored – the markings appear almost new. For the uninitiated, despite being the first landmark Persian architecture in India, the Qutub Minar also has Prakrit markings on the structure. The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque standing at the foot of the Qutub renders a striking resemblance of the area to some famous Greek architectural sites with the odd standing pillar or arch. Quwwat-ul-Islam has the distinction of being the first mosque in India. The maintenance of the complex is probably something to be proud of with a team of janitors on their toes to keep the place impeccably clean.
Close to the Qutub complex is the Mehrauli village, which can be an experience in itself. Come October and you can see the two hundred year old procession – Phoolwaalon ki Sair. That’s when the flower sellers of the area pray for a good harvest in the upcoming year. Since the Mughal era, Mehrauli has been a place for the royalty to relax and had many beautiful country houses built over the centuries. Surrounded by farms and gardens, it was a peaceful place to spend quality time away from the squabbling politics of the capital. While the Qutub complex houses tombs of the earlier Sultanate rulers Iltutmish and Khilji, Mehrauli houses the graves of the later Mughal rulers.
Today the area is crowded during the day. Discerning visitors tend to frequent in the early mornings, usually with one of the many guided walks of the area. As you approach the village from the Qutub complex, Adham Khan’s tomb, also known as the BhulBhulaiya, leads you into this historical city of Mehrauli – the oldest populated city of all the cities Delhi bears witness to. From there a road deviates to the famous dargah of Saint Qutbuddin – the oldest dargah of Delhi. The village also houses the famous Jogmaya temple close by, believed to be one of the five surviving temples from the Mahabharata period in Delhi.
A large area of the previously neglected monuments, lying next to the Qutub complex, has been turned into the Qutub Archeological Park. The tomb of Balban is a highlight and considered very significant for housing the first true arch built in India. The tomb of the famous Sufi saint Jamali, its attached mosque – the Jamali-Kamali mosque, and the Rajon ki Baoli step well are some notable sites to visit. The restoration of the park has been ongoing for more than a decade, primarily driven by the culture trust INTACH.
But it is not just the historical significance of the area which is striving to make it a hot spot of South Delhi. KD Marg opposite the Minar has become home to a large variety of eateries and hangouts. Olive Bar and Kitchen and Cherie One Qutub are two notable Continental joints. In addition to offering sumptuous palates, the décor and setting is perfect for romantic evenings and Sunday brunches. Eastern food can be sampled at the elegant Thai High, offering romantic views of the towering Qutub Minar amidst tastefully done décor. The Blue Frog, one of the premier clubs in South Delhi, offers a hip crowd some great food and live music. Move further into Mehrauli and the options keep on getting more interesting. Dramz Whiskey Bar and Lounge and Shroom are other options for clubbing. Dining at any of the many five-stars of Delhi can go easier on the pocket than visiting the En-Fine Japanese. A large number of cafes and Mughlai food joints are spread over the area offering a host of options to visitors.
The sheer volume of recent development in the area can be mind boggling. But let’s hope it does not take away from the lazy charm of visiting for a Sunday morning brunch and letting out your inner shutter bug.
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