Headnote: The rotation axis or the spine of the earth is known as ‘meru’ (मेरु) in Sanskrit, just as our spinal-nerve is known as meru-cheta (मेरु-चेता). The eighth muhurut of the day, when the sun is right on our heads is known by many names including Abhijit Muhurat, Chaturtha Lagna, Kutub Muhurat, Kutupa Mahurat and Swami Tithiyansha Muhurat. And here-in lies the explanation to the name of the column-observatory known as Kutub-Minar.

In the year 1977, Professor M.S. Bhatnagar flew over the top of Kutub Minar in a helicopter to get a close glimpse of the tower from the skies. A study of the pictures that were taken revealed that the top of the column was shaped like a 24-petaled lotus. He found that like the base of the column, the entire column is shaped like a lotus flower. Each petal represents what is known in Sanskrit as ‘hora’ (होरा) or an ‘hour’. Around the tower lie the ruins of a 27 temple-complex, each temple dedicated to the 27 nakshatras or constellations. Obviously, the tower is an observatory.

That there are major discrepancies in the popular beliefs regarding the construction of the tower, its origin, its name and so forth is well known. One of the myths is that it was built by the slave dynasty ruler of Delhi, Kutubuddin Aibak – which is absolutely unconvincing especially because the site predates the birth of Kutubuddin Aibak by many centuries !!

In his analysis of the history of Kutub, historian P.N.Oak quotes Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (the founder of Aligarh Muslim University) who had in his own research come to the conclusion that the Kutub tower was a Hindu building. There are many who are skeptical about what Prof P.N.Oak has written, but here are the actual passages from Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan’s Urdu Text ‘Asar-ul-Sanadid’ translated into English by Fatima Quraishi who works as Assistant Curator at the Mohatta Palace Museum in Karachi.

Sir Sayyid Khan writes, “The Kutub cannot be a minaret because the column’s door is north-facing similar to Hindu temples, while the doors of minarets are always east facing…. The structure’s first level also shows evidence of stones being placed at a later stage and there is evidence of the bell-and-chain motif of Hindu temples on the first floor. Additionally, the inscription on this pillar is similar to that of Qutbuddin Aibak and Muʿizzuddin’s conquest on the converted temple-mosque.”

The text also states,” …there is nothing odd in the fact that epitaphs have been inscribed where idols once were…..when the Muslims conquered the temple, they added their own epigraphs upon the building’.

About the Islamic inscriptions Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan says, “….. Often, the shape of letters has been made out, but close inspection reveals that they are incorrect, in some cases just imitations of alphabets, and in other cases words which have little to do with the subject of the inscription. Until today, the inscriptions of this monument had not been read. I have read all of them with the aid of a telescope”.

But even more glaring is what Professor P.N.Oak points out and states hence, “The frieze patterns on the tower show signs of tampering, ending abruptly, or in a medley of in-congruent lines. The Arabic lettering is interspersed with Hindu motifs like lotus buds….”.

Here is a Hindu ‘Bell and Chain’ Motif inscribed on the walls of the Kutub Minar that Sir Syyed Ahmed Khan had written about:

Notice the ‘Hindu ‘Bell and Chain Motif on the
Kutub Wall that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan wrote
about in his book ‘Great Monuments’
The Bell and Chain Design
on the Temples Columns of Kutub Complex
The Bell and Chain Motif on Kutub Temple Walls
The Bell and Chain Motif on the ruins of ancient temples of Kutub
The same ‘Bell and Chain’ motifs that are seen
on the ancient temples of the complex are seen
on the walls of the Kutub Tower.

Scholars who have read the Surya-Siddhanta have the explanation to the concept behind the construction of this column-shaped-observatory. Kutub-minar is model of Sumeru. The semi-vertical angle of the column is equal to difference between true and mean latitude of the point at which the column stands. According to Surya-Siddhanta a pillar divided into 12-units, known as the 12-angula Shiva Linga or the Shankhu, can be used to measure the latitude and the time at any point on the surface of the earth. The smallest shadow of the Shankhu or the column will obviously occur at the time when the sun is directly over the tip of the column. The shape of the shadow will be like a funnel or like the ‘kutupa‘ as a funnel is known in Sanskrit. The time or the muhurut at that instance is known as the kutupa or the kutuba mahurat. Hence the name.

Minar is a later distortion of the word ‘mana’ (मान) or measure to equate it with ‘tower’ – though originally the kutupa-mana was named Vishnu-dwaja or Vishnu-Stambh meaning Vishnu’s tower. This named is inscribed in Sanskrit in the Bramhi script on the non-rusting pillar in the temple Complex of Kutupa-Mana. It names the hillock Vishnupad Giri.

The name Mehrauli, the location of the tower, is said to be a distortion of the Sanskrit Mihiravali – named after astronomer Varahamihira who is regarded as the architect of the ancient Kutub. Unlike the word ‘Mehrauli’ which has no meaning in any language, Mihiravali is a compound Sanskrit word, ‘mihira’ (मिहिर) means ‘sun’ and ‘avali’ (आवलि) means a ‘row’, ‘a line’, or ‘lineage’. Mihiravali is known to have been astronomer Varahamihira’s residence. Varahamihira is one of the most prominent known Vedic astronomers and pre-dates Aryabhatta by a few centuries.

A diagram made from the picture takenby Prof. M.S. Bhatnagar 

flying over the Kutub Minar in 1977, reveals
the 24-Petal Lotus shape of the Tower.

To read more about it, click here. 

Above Plates: Courtesy: Satyashodh.com/kutub.html

Suggested Links:

1.Great Monuments by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan
2. Mihirawali – The original name of Mehrauli
3. About the Temple of Kutub
4. Meru
5. Kutub Minar – Its Origins


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