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Qutub Minar not a place of worship: ASI

GS Paper 1

Syllabus: Salient aspects of Art forms, literature and architecture.



Qutub Minar                     

  • Context:
    • The Qutub Minar complex is not a place of worship and its character cannot be changed now, the Archaeological Survey of India submitted in a Delhi court recently, while opposing a plea challenging the dismissal of a civil suit seeking “restoration” of Hindu and Jain temples on the premises.
    • The original suit, claiming that 27 temples were demolished to build the QuwwatulIslam mosque at the Qutub Minar complex, was dismissed last year under the provisions of Places Of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.


    Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

    • It is under the Ministry of Culture.
    • It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham- the first Director-General of ASI.
    • Alexander Cunningham is also known as the “Father of Indian Archaeology”.
    • It is the premier organization for the archaeological research and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation.
    • It carries out surveys of antiquarian remains, exploration and excavation of archaeological sites, conservation and maintenance of protected monuments
    • It administers more than 3650 ancient monuments, archaeological sites and remains of national importance.


    Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991:

    • It seeks to maintain the “religious character” of places of worship as it was in 1947 except in the case of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, which was already in court.
    • Section 3 of the Act bans the conversion of a place of worship or even a section of it into a place of worship of a different religious denomination or of a different segment of the same religious denomination.
    • Section 4(2) says that all suits, appeals or other proceedings regarding converting the character of a place of worship (that were pending on 15th August, 1947) will come to end when the Act commences and no fresh proceedings can be filed.
    • The legal proceedings however can be initiated if the change of status took place after 15th August, 1947 (after enactment of the Act).
    • It also imposes a positive obligation on the State to maintain the religious character of every place of worship as it existed at the time of Independence.
    • The legislative obligation on the part of the State to preserve and protect all faiths equally is an essential secular feature and one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution.
    • Exemption:
    1. The disputed site at Ayodhya was exempted from the Act.
    2. Any place of worship which is an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
    3. Any dispute that has been settled by the parties or conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence before the Act commenced.
    • Penalty:
      The Act under section 6 prescribes a punishment of maximum three-years imprisonment along with a fine for contravening the provisions of the Act


    Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958:

    • Under this Act The Archaeological Survey of India
    • It provides for preservation of ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance.
    • It provides for the regulation of archaeological excavations and for protection of sculptures, carvings and other like objects.
    • The Act prohibits construction in ‘prohibited areas’, an area of 100 meters around protected monuments.
    • The construction is not permitted in such prohibited areas even if it is for public purposes, except under certain conditions.
    • The area can be extended beyond 100 meters by the central government.
    • The iconic monuments in India, Taj Mahal, Ajanta Caves, The Great Stupa at Sanchi and the Sun Temple of Konark, among others are designated as “ancient monuments of national importance” and protected under the AMASR Act.


    Qutub Minar:

    • It is a five-storeyed red sandstone tower (72.5 m high) built by Muslim conquerors in the thirteenth century to commemorate their final triumph over the Rajput rulers of Delhi (Qutub means victory), while also serving as a tower from where muezzins (criers) call for prayer at the Quwwatu’l-Islam mosque
    • A 7 m-high iron pillar stands in the courtyard of the mosque.
      Its surrounding contains Alai-Darwaza Gate, the masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art (built in 1311).
    • The building process of Qutub Minar took about 75 years. Its construction was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak (1206-1210) in 1193 and finished by Iltutmish (1211-1236).
    • In 1368, it was repaired by the rulers of the day, Muhammad-bin-Tughluq (1325-51) and Firuz Shah Tughluq (1351-88).
    • The minar (tower) is engraved with fine arabesque decorations on its surface, mainly verses from the Quran.
    • Qutub Minar and its monuments were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.



 Prelims Link:

Archaeological Survey of India(ASI)

Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991

Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains(AMASR) Act, 1958

Qutub Minar architecture

UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993

Delhi Sultanate


Mains Link:

Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 seeks to maintain the religious character of places. In the light of this statement critically analyze the provision of Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.