The majestic Qutb Minar of Delhi stands tall, adorned with both Arabic and Nagari inscriptions. Most of the Nagari inscriptions are records of the various repairs made to the Minar over the years. Some of these inscriptions are unfortunately unintelligible, but let us take a closer look at the English translations of the legible ones. Although some of these inscriptions are incomplete, they still provide us with valuable insight into the history of the Qutb Minar and the people who have worked to maintain it.
1. [Basement] On yellowish quartzite, 1st face on the right side of the main entrance:
"Samat 1256" (AD 1199)
2. [Basement] On yellowish quartzite, left jamb of main entrance door, 4th course:
"Samat 1256" (AD 1199)
3. [Basement] On underside of lowest overlapping arch stone in entrance passage:
"Samat 1256" (AD 1199)
AD 1199 appears thrice in the basement of the Minar. This date could not have been inscribed anywhere else, least of all in a Hindu structure, as Delhi had been under Muslim occupation since 1192. This alone proves that the basement was built during the Muslim rule. AD 1199 is either the date of commencement or the date of completion of the first storey.
4. [Basement] On right jamb of main entrance door, 8th course:
"Stambho" (The Pillar)
5. [Basement] On the south face of the plinth:
"...Ma gaj 51 1/2 — 83 1/4 daranamuni"
[This could be a mark of the Hindu master-mason]
6. [Basement] On left jamb of main entrance door, 9th course:
"The King Pirthi"
It may indicate who was Lord of the Earth, being a native version of Sultan-al-Alam.
7. [Basement] On left jamb of the 5th slit window up stair-way:
(This pillar of fame of Malikdina. May it be for well-being; Malakadina. Malakadina)
8. [Basement] On right jamb of the 5th slit window up stair-way:
"Chunilal fixed this screen in Samvat 1832 (AD 1775). Chunilal, dated....."
9. [2nd storey] On right abutment of door, near iron fixing:
"Written by Visnu Kantha on the 2nd day of the bright fortnight of Chaitra in the year Samvat 1560 (AD 1503)"
In AD 1503, the ruler was Sikandar Lodi (reign: 1489-1517). We can find Arabic inscription also mentioning Sikandar Lodi's repair on the Minar.
10. [2nd storey] On the white granite slab on top of the first storey:
"In the Samat year 1704 (AD 1648) on the 9th day of the dark fortnight of the month Maha (Magha). Tulsi and Hira Devidas....Madholal....Badrgu....the stone-cutters of the chandalavamsa...Ram.
11. [3rd storey] On right jamb of the door:
"Gopa Gopa....in the Samvat year 1599 (AD 1542)"
12. [3rd storey] On left abutment of door:
"On the 6th Magha of the year Samvat 1617 (AD 1560)"
13. [3rd storey] On the face of the 8th angle on the left side of the door:
"Written in the year Samvat 1599 (AD 1542) (by) the stone-cutter Sisa, son of Hira"
14. [3rd storey] On the face of the 8th angle on the right side of the door:
"Samvat 1935 (AD 1878). The mason Mohana Lala on the 5th of the bright fortnight of Bhadra"
15. [4th storey] On left abutment of door:
"Sri Sultrāna Alavadin Vijayastambha"
(The Victory Pillar of the glorious monarch Ala-ud-din [Khilji])
In fact, Ala-ud-din's victory pillar is the Alai Minar [which is still incomplete]. It is interesting to note that Babur also mentions Minar-i-Jami as the minaret of Ala-ud-din Khilji.
16. [4th storey] On the right side of the door, 4th course:
"Nana, Salha, Lola" (Name of masons)
17. [4th storey] On the right side of the door, 8th course:
"On Thursday, the 15th day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna in the year Samvat 1425 (AD 1368) lightning fell during the reign of Firoz Shah (Firoz Shah Tughlaq, 1351-1388). The Vahudi? [monument] was then repaired in the year Samvat 1425. The masons were Nana, Salha, Lola and Lashmana.
We can find an Arabic inscription also mentioning Firoz Shah Tughlaq's repairs on the Minar.
18. [4th storey] On the right hand side of door, 8th course:
"In the reign of Muhammad Sultan (Muhammad Tughlaq, 1325-1350) on the 7th day of the (month) Bhadava in the year Samvat 1382 (AD 1326) in the 25th ghari in the Janaka-matra, lightning struck on the Monument".
19. [4th storey] On right abutment of door:
"Оm Samat 1389 varshe Chaitra-sudi 11 Budha-dine Sri Sultrāna Mahammadsahi ki Kirti"
Om. On Wednesday, the 11th of the bright fortnight of Chaitra in the year Samvat 1389 (AD 1332), the fame of the illustrious Sultan Muhammad Shah [Muhammad Tughlaq, 1325-1350]"
It appears that the intention of this inscription was to commemorate the illustrious reign of Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq, likely due to a noble deed involving the repair of a section of the Minar that had been struck by lightning in 1326 AD.
20. [4th storey] On the fifth course above the floor of the balcony:
"Mason Lashmana (and) Harimani Gaveri, son of Sahadhair"
21. [5th storey] On the marble soffit of arch over doorway:
"On the 8th day of the bright fortnight of Bhadra in the year Samvat 1560 (AD 1503)"
In 1503 AD, the ruler was Sikandar Lodi. We can also find Arabic inscription mentioning Sikandar Lodi's repair of the Minar.
22. [5th storey] On left hand marble abutment of the door:
"Om. In the auspicious reign of the illustrious Firoz Shah Sultan (Firoz Shah Tughlaq, 1351-1388) on Friday the 5th day of the bright fortnight of Phalguna in the Samvat year 1426 (AD 1368), the minar was renovated. The work was completed by the grace of Sri Visvakarma. The architect was Chahada, son of Devapala, and the maternal grandson of....; The measuring cord was drawn. Height 92 yards, 22 Yards, 3 yards, 26 yards, Height 131 yards, 134 yards. The craftsmen were the architects Nana (and) Salha and the carpenter Dharmu Vanani".
We can also find an Arabic inscription mentioning Firoz Shah Tughlaq's repairs on the Minar. The Hindu architects attribute the successful completion of their work to their own supreme deity, Visvakarma, the Hindu god of construction.
Many inscriptions in Arabic and Nagari characters scattered throughout the Minar reveal its rich history. Through the Arabic inscriptions, we have been able to confirm that the basement storey was built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak (r: 1206-1210) while he was the Viceroy of Delhi, for his suzerain Muhammad Ghori, while the 2nd, 3rd and 4th storeys were completed by Iltutmish (r: 1211-1236). Firoz Shah Tughlaq (r: 1351-1388) added the 5th storey and the cupola. Later in 1503 Sikandar Lodi (r: 1489-1517) carried out some restoration on the cupola and the upper storeys (2nd & 5th storeys).
The superintendents were Muslims; Fazl, son of Abul Maali, worked under Aibak, Muhammad Amir Koh under Iltutmish and Khanzadah Fath Khan, son of Masnad-i-Ali Khawas Khan, worked under Sikandar Lodi. Notable architects and masons Nana, Salha, Lola, Lashmana, Hariman Gaveri, Chahada Devapala and Dharmu Vanani worked under Firoz Shah Tughlaq.
Nagari inscriptions also record the names of three Sultans, whose records are not found in Arabic inscriptions: Muhammad Tughlaq, Ala-ud-din Khilji and certain Malikdin. These inscriptions shows that the monument was not only regarded as a mazina, but also a tower of glory and tower of victory.
It should be remembered that during the reigns of Ala-ud-din and Muhammad Tughlaq, the Qutub Minar only had four storeys. These repairs were likely conducted on the original fourth storey of the Minar, which was constructed by Iltutmish. We have already seen the Nagari inscription praising Muhammad Tughlaq. Malikdin and Ala-ud-din Khilji may have also conducted some minor restorations to the original fourth storey of Iltutmish, which was destroyed by lightning during Firoz Tughlaq's reign. According to Pushpa Prasad, Malikdin could be another name for Malik Qutub-ud-din.
During the reign of Muhammad Tughlaq in 1326, the Minar was struck by lightning for the first time and was repaired by him in 1332. Lightning again damaged the fourth storey in 1368 during the reign of Muhammad's successor, Firoz Shah. It seems that the upper portion of the 4th storey and the marble cupola, which Ibn Battuta had seen during the reign of Muhammad Tughlaq, were destroyed in that lightning. Firoz Shah repaired the upper portion using marble and red sandstone in irregular widths. He used marble in the newly built 5th storey too with occasional placements of red sandstone for a striking visual effect. A new cupola was also added by him. When James Blunt saw the Minar in 1794, its cupola was of red granite. Unfortunately, this cupola was destroyed in 1803 during a devastating earthquake.
The addition by Firoz Shah begins from the interior staircase at the beginning of the fourth storey. While the original interior casing of the Minar is made of Delhi quartzite stone, Firoz Shah's repairs were done with red sandstone.
Nagari inscriptions suggest that the architects responsible for the restoration of the Minar during Firoz Shah's period and for the construction of the fifth storey and cupola were Hindus. This reveals the significant role Hindu engineers played in the construction and repair of the Minar. Since the conquerors were primarily soldiers, they had to employ Hindu masons to carry out their designs.
The Nagari inscriptions, crafted by Hindu artisans, were intended to silently inform future generations of the wonder they had built. While the construction of the building was ordered by the Muslim Sultans, it was the Hindu's engineering skill that brought this magnificent engineering marvel into life.
The only Nagari record of a date earlier than AD 1199 is one on the soffit of a window lintel, in a position which leaves no doubt that this particular stone came from some older structure. (Sir Wolseley Haig)
Under the soffit of lintel over 18th slit window, up stairway "थोगोविन्दपलो भोजपलो" (Srigovindapali Bhojapali). Its meaning is uncertain. On epigraphical grounds the inscription is assignable to about the 9th Century AD and is thus the earliest record noticed on the Minar.
"This inscription is on the underside of the lintel in an extremely difficult place to chisel and is on one stone. It seems to be incomplete, that is to say that the ends of the inscription are cut off owing to the ends of the lintel being set on the side jambs of the window. In my opinion the inscription was carved on the stone before it was set in its present position. (J. F. Blakiston). This shows that stones from demolished Hindu structures were used in the construction of Qutb Minar also.
J. A. Page - Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India - No. 22. An Historical Memoir on the Qutb: Delhi
M. C. Joshi - Some Nagari Inscriptions on the Qutb Minar - Proceedings of the Seminar on Medieval Inscriptions, 6-8th Feb. 1970
Daya Ram Sahni Rai Bahadur - Annual Progress Report of the Superintendent, Hindu and Buddhist Monuments, Northern Circle,. Archaeological Survey, for 1919
The World Heritage Complex of the Qutub By R. Balasubramaniam
Sanskrit inscriptions of Delhi Sultanate, 1191-1526 By Pushpa Prasad
The Manara in Indo-Muslim Architecture By A B M Husain
R Nath - Concept of the Qutub Minar - Islamic Culture Vol 49 (1975)