The Alai Minar is an incomplete monument that lies within the Qutb complex in South Delhi. Sultan Ala-ud-Din Khalji was an over ambitious Sultan of the Khilji dynasty and won many wars and battles. After a win from one of his Deccan campaigns, the Sultan dreamt of constructing a huge Tower or Minar to commemorate his victory. He wanted a structure that would double the height of Qutub Minar in order to be remembered as the only Sultan who dared to create such a monumental masterpiece that was grander and more spectacular than the Qutub Minar of Qutb-ud-din Aibak of the Slave dynasty that ruled before him.
Sultan Ala-ud-din Khalji also executed the plan and increased the size of the enclosures of the Quwwat-Ul-Islam Masjid by four times its original size to provide a ceremonial entrance gateway on either sides of the mosque. He wanted the Alai Minar to match up with the size of the increased height of the mosque and also wanted a second tower of victory under his name and hence the Alai Minar began to take its shape. The construction was completed up till the first storey and at a height of 24.5 metres but unfortunately, the construction was abandoned after the death of Sultan Ala-ud-din Khalji in 1316 AD and the subsequent successors could not continue the further construction as they were defeated and the Delhi Sultanate was taken over by the Tughlaq dynasty.
During the reign of the Khilji dynasty, a renowned Sufi poet named Amir Khusro makes a mention in one of his works named ‘Tareekh-i-Alai’ of the Sultan’s intentions to increase the size of the mosque and the plan to construct the Alai Minar. Amir Khusro was born in 1253 AD in Patiali in Northern India to Amir Sayf-ud-din Mahmud who was a Turkic Officer. He was a renowned scholar, musician, poet and a Sufi mystic who wrote numerous poetries in the Persian and Hindavi. He was also known as the ‘Father of Qawwali’ and introduced Arabic and Persian elements in his Hindu Classical music. He invented the use of Tabla, Khayal and Taraana styles in his music.
If you historically look back at the Khilji dynasty, it attributes to the Turkic origin. The first three Khalji Sultans belonged to the Khalji tribe of Turkic origin and were known for their ferocity, mercilessness and constant greed to penetrate through all the parts of India and thus rule over it. Their courts were filled with Ministers, Viziers, Writers, Poets, Scholars etc of different backgrounds including Persian, Arabic, Indian, Turkic and other origins. Even the Iranian slaves and Turks that came with the Sufis, Physicians and Scientists of noble families greatly influenced this tribe.
Khalji means ‘Swordsmen’ in the Turkic language, ‘Long Hand’ in Ottoman-Turkic language and ‘Thief’ in the Pashto language. They mainly originated from central Asian continents and came along with the Turks and Iranian Slaves who later came into power after Ala-ud-din Khalji aka Ali Gurshap took over the Delhi sultanate reign after he married the reigning Sultan’s daughter and finally took over the Throne and ruled ferociously for 20 whole years.
The Alai Minar depicts that very high ambition, pompous attitude and ferocity of Ala-ud-din Khilji who wanted to compete by building a structure higher than the Qutub Minar but today, is an incomplete mammoth of a foundation that cannot even be compared with the massive Qutub Minar beside it.
The Alai Minar in fact looks like a piece of undulating rubble core that was definitely intended not to look like it does now but in fact would have been ornamentally decorated and covered with stone carvings, intricate design and art work as Ala-ud-din had planned. Today, it sits silently amidst the other elaborate and stunning structures within its proximity in this Complex.
This incomplete Alai Minar structure today can only mark and set as a perfect example for all the people who can literally see what over ambition can do to you. The result is always incomplete work and failure and hence, ‘Over Ambition’ is not a well encouraged virtue amongst Indians who believe that it can only lead to destruction and disappointment.