Delhi Sultanate Monuments

delhi sultanate monuments

With its capital in Delhi, the Delhi Sultanate ruled over a sizable portion of South Asia for 320 years (1206–1526). Five dynasties successively controlled the Delhi Sultanate, namely

  1. Mamluk dynasty (1206-1290)
  2. Khalji dynasty (1290-1320)
  3. Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1414)
  4. Sayyid dynasty (1414-1451)
  5. Lodi dynasty (1451–1526).

The Delhi Sultanate included vast portions of the Indian subcontinent or what is now modern-day Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India, as well as sections of southern Nepal.

This article on Delhi Sultanate monuments will be beneficial for UPSC exam preparation.

The Architecture Of The Delhi Sultanate

The architectural landmarks of the Delhi Sultanate period was a combination of different faith and region. The mix of Arab and Indian styles along with the addition of Islamic monuments led to the creation of Hindu-Muslim architecture styles. It was a unique work of art created by skilled craftsmen of both faiths. Also, these monuments built during the Delhi sultanate depict the socio-economic and political conditions of that time. Thus, these architectural wonders are a source of information on Indian architecture and history.

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Delhi Sultanate Monuments: Unique Features

Incredible architectural development took place during the Sultanate period. Delhi Sultanate encouraged the use of new and unique building designs and methods. This was also a period of great artistic achievement. This is evident in the many beautiful architecture and monuments that remain today. Also, the features of these Muslim buildings were quite different from the then common Hindu buildings. Beautiful mosques, tombs, pillars, and forts became common after the Islamic conquest.

The mosques and tombs that the Muslim nobles demanded were different from the previous huge structures that were constructed in India. Both buildings’ exteriors had many arches and enormous domes as roofs. Hindu temple architecture and other native Indian forms seldom ever employed either of these aspects. Both sorts of structures forgo the figurative sculpture vital to Hindu temple construction and instead contain one huge room under a tall dome.

Many tombs in Delhi have two-domed ceilings, which are often called false domes and true domes. The Delhi Sultanate saw a dramatic change in architecture and two domes were common. The house’s roof is the internal dome, while the external dome crowns it. Two domes allow for a lower ceiling while keeping the exterior elevation proportions intact. Early trials of the Double Dome feature on tombs of Sultan Sikandar Lodi. Yet, it was not until the Humayun tomb that the concept fully matured. The Mughal era saw the double dome as a key feature in the construction and maintenance of monuments. This style is best illustrated by the Taj Mahal, which has two separate domes.

In place of the polychrome tiles seen in Persia and Central Asia, the Indo-Islamic style of architecture adopted strikingly contrasting colors of masonry, such as red sandstone and white marble. This would later become a regular element in Islamic architecture styles. The inside margins of the pointed arches are not cusped but rather lined with conventionalized “spearhead” projections. The pointed arches’ bases are slightly converging to provide a small horseshoe arch appearance. Here, stone openwork screens known as jali came into use.

Notable Architectures And Monuments Of Delhi Sultanate Period

Let us brush through some of the historic buildings and monuments built by Delhi sultans during the Delhi Sultanate period. These are categorized into 3 sections for merely easy reading. Read on and learn.


Adhai Din Ka Jhopra

The Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra is a huge and impressive structure located in Ajmer, India. It was commissioned by the sultan Qutub ud-din Aibek in 1192 CE. Abu Bakr of Herat, an architect who accompanied Muhammad Ghori, designed it. The mosque was constructed by Hindu masons directed by Afghan supervisors.

The structure is surrounded by a seven-arched wall and is a stunning example of early Indo-Islamic architecture. The mosque was completed in 1199 CE. Later, Iltutmish from Delhi added to it. Up until 1947, the building was a mosque. The building became supervised by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) Jaipur circle when India attained its independence. Today, people of all faiths visit it as a beautiful example of a fusion of Indian, Hindu, Muslim, and Jain structures.

Moth Ki Masjid

Moth ki Majid is one of the most prominent mosques in India. It was built approximately 500 years ago. The Moth ki Masjid is a historic landmark in Delhi. It was built in 500 AD by the Lodi clan. Its name means “Lentil Mosque” which refers to the fact that the proceeds of the sale of lentils helped in its construction.

The red stone structure, double-storeyed towers, and semi-circular dome make it a unique Indo-Islamic architectural marvel. Beautiful decoration adorns Moth ki Masjid’s exterior. The dome-shaped chhatri of the Moth ki Masjid is covered with blue tiles. The gates are carved in a style similar to Hindu temples. The main gateway and entrance are decorated with square pillars and elephant trunk carvings. Many stone carvers were Hindu, and this influenced the architecture at the Moth Ki Masjid. It is a great place to worship due to its simple yet striking design. It is also notable for its latticework in the windows

Jammat Khana Masjid Or Khilji Mosque

The Khilji mosque is Delhi’s oldest mosque that is still in use for prayer. The mosque was built in 1315-1325 AD by Khizr Khan, son of Sultan Alauddin Khilji. It is the biggest monument in the Dargah enclosure.

As is customary, each of the three bays has a domed ceiling, with the central one being the biggest. The domes’ tops are adorned with marble finials. Bands of magnificent geometric designs and Quranic verses adorn the center bay and the entry arches. This would be the first conservation or restoration of monuments project at a mosque in worship in Delhi, if not India.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque is also known as the Qutub Mosque or the Great Mosque of Delhi. It was commissioned by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the founder of the Mamluk or Slave dynasty. It was constructed with spoils from 27 temples on the site of a huge temple in the heart of a fortification.

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Built on the ruins of ancient temples, the Quwwatul-Islam mosque is Ghurids-inspired. Many of the stones used in the construction of the mosque were taken from the Jain temple ruins. The building is also made out of brick and mortar and contains many Hindu motifs. The Quranic inscription is the first sign of the mosque’s Islamic character.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque houses a stunning screen. It is a 16-meter-high, stone arch that is surrounded and framed by two smaller arches. The screen, made of red and white sandstone, is richly decorated. Iltutmish finished the screen in 1229. The mosque was further extended by Ala-ud-din Khilji in 1311.


Nizamuddin Dargah

The Nizamuddin Dargah is an Islamic shrine located in Delhi’s Nizamuddin West. The Nizamuddin Dargah is one of the most famous Sufi shrines in the world. It houses the tomb of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (one of the most well-known Sufi saints). There are many reasons that you should visit Nizamuddin Dargah. The dargah houses the graves of Muhammad’s favorite sons and daughters. This shrine also houses Jahanara Begum, Shah Jahan’s favorite daughter.

Religious pilgrims from all parts of the world visit this shrine. The location is known as the “nerve center of Sufi culture in India.” Many music fans also come to hear the traditional Sufiqawwali music which is played on Thursdays. The location is especially well-known for its nighttime performances of qawwali devotional music. The descendants of Nizamuddin Auliya oversee the whole operation of Dargah Sharif.

Tomb Of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq

Ghiyas ud-Din Tughluq founded the Tughluq dynasty in India. He planned to establish the new fortified city of Tughluqabad quite near to the former capital in Delhi. It is believed that Ghiyas erected a tomb for himself at Multan when he was governor. Yet, after becoming Sultan, he chose to construct another for himself in Tughluqabad.

The tomb was created in 1325. It is made of red sandstone and white marble, both of which were extensively employed in Islamic constructions during the period. It features a white marble dome. Instead of vertical walls, the tomb has sloping walls that form a 75-degree angle with the earth. This architectural style is comparable to the sloping walls of Mandu’s Hindola Mahal (Swing Palace).

The tomb building is square in plan and contains three graves. Besides Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq’s grave in the center, the other two are that of his son, Muhammad bin Tughluq, and his wife, Makhdum-i-Jahan. It is surrounded by a private courtyard. It is designed in the Indo-Islamic style. It has three arched entrances with a pointed dome supported by an oval drum.

Alauddin Khilji’s Tomb And Madrassa

Qutb Complex in Delhi is home to Alauddin Khilji’s madrassa as well as the tomb. It is composed of three buildings enclosed by a common wall. It was built in 1315 by Alauddin Khalji. His grave is inside the madrasa. It is believed to be the first tomb-madrassa combination in India. Such a tomb within a madrasa structure is a characteristic of the architecture of the Seljuk Empire.

The tomb complex is an L-shaped building that has seven rooms. Two of these are domed. The tomb of Alauddin Khalji is placed in the southern wing’s center chamber. The western wing of the madrasa is made up of seven tiny cells and two high-domed halls. The domes are “high-drummed,” with corbel arched gates underneath. The domes of these chambers are supported by corbelled pendentives, which were used for the first time in India. The cubicles were most likely utilized as residences.

Towers, Forts, And More!

Qutub Minar

The Qutb Minar is a minaret and “victory tower” that is part of the Qutub complex. It is located on the grounds of Lal Kot, Delhi’s oldest walled city established by the Tomar Rajputs. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Complex. It was largely constructed between 1199 and 1220. This victory tower represents a fusion of traditional Islamic architecture with Southwestern Asian style. It is comparable to the 62-meter all-brick Minaret of Jam in Afghan architecture built in 1190.

Standing tall at 72.5 meters, Qutb Minar the highest minaret made of brick in the world. The base diameter of the tower is 14.3 meters (47 feet), tapering 2.7 meters (9 feet) at the apex. It has a spiral staircase of 379 steps. A spiral staircase of 379 steps runs the length of the tower. The Quwat Ul Islam Mosque is located at the base of the tower. The Minar is tilted a little more than 65 cm from vertical.

Alia Minar

The Alai Minar is an unfinished structure located in South Delhi’s Qutb complex. Sultan Alauddin Khilji was an ambitious Khilji dynasty Sultan who won many wars and battles. Following a victory in one of his Deccan wars, the Sultan envisioned erecting a massive Tower or Minar to celebrate his achievement. He desired a building that was double the height of the Qutub Minar.

This way, he would be recognized as the only Sultan who dared to build such a gigantic masterwork that was greater than the Qutub Minar of the Slave dynasty that ruled before him. This second minaret was abandoned during the early stages of the building. Sultan died and the building didn’t grow anymore. What remained was a 24.5-meter-tall tower base near Qutub Minar.

Alai Darwaza

The Alai Darwaza a beautiful example of Islamic architecture. It is the oldest door in Delhi and is a jewel of Islamic architecture. It was built by Alauddin Khilji in 1311 AD, one year before his death. It was part of a larger project to beautify Qutab Minar’s grounds. It is a World Heritage Site.

The Ala’i Darwaza is the southern gatehouse of the Quwat-ul-Islam Mosque at Mehrauli, Delhi. It was constructed from red sandstone and features arched entrances. The Alai Darwaza consists of a single hall. The 1311 gatehouse nonetheless demonstrates a cautious attitude to new technology, with exceptionally solid walls and a shallow dome visible only from a specific distance or height. The use of contrasting brick colors, like as red sandstone and white marble, introduces what would become a frequent aspect of Indo-Islamic architecture. The Darwaza’s walls have Islamic calligraphy. The arches are horseshoe-shaped, and this is the first time such arches were used in India.

Tughlaqabad Fort

The Tughlaqabad Fort is a ruined fort located in Delhi. It was built by the Tughlaq dynasty during the thirteenth century and abandoned after 1327. Ghiyasuddin Tugluq founded the fort in 1321. The fort is approximately 6.5 kilometers long with many architectural structures. The tomb of Ghiyas-ud-din is located south of the main entrance. The causeway leads to it via six-foot-wide arches. The tomb consists of a square-domed tomb with a sloping wall. The inside of the tomb has white marble and slate decorations.

According to legend, Tughlaq was so passionate about this ideal metropolis that he ordered every laborer in the Sultanate of Delhi to work on its construction. Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya was building a stepwell at his home at the same time that the city and fort were being created. He couldn’t get laborers to build his stepwell since everyone was busy building the fort. As a result, laborers would work on the fort during the day and construct the stepwell at night. The conflict between the Sufi saint and the regal ruler has become a legend. The saint issued a curse that would reverberate across history till the present day.

Lodhi Garden

Lodhi or Lodi Gardens is 90 acres of a city park in New Delhi. The park contains many historical monuments such as the Tomb Sikandar Loli and Mohammed Shah’s Tomb. The park is also home to several architectural works such as Shisha Gumbad or Bara Gumbad. Post-Independence, it was redesigned in 1968, by J.A. Stein, an eminent architect. Some of the buildings are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India and others by the State Department of Archaeology, Delhi.

The garden’s historical past is proof of how the city now includes within itself a rich heritage with its undulating walking routes and running lanes bordered by old trees, colorful shrubs, and floral plants. The garden is well-known for its beautiful architecture and is a popular location to shoot models, hold wedding ceremonies, or host house parties. It’s also a great location for a romantic picnic. Lodhi is a popular spot not only for bird watching but also for picnicking and other outdoor activities.


Why should anyone learn about the earliest mosques, tombs, and buildings made centuries ago? Well, to begin with, they are relics of our past. They define our roots, our history, and the mesmerizing grip our ancestors had over art and architecture. The impressive buildings constructed during the Delhi Sultanate reign have historical as well as a cultural value. The ancient building materials, styles of construction of buildings, reasons behind their commission, and their present stature say a lot about our heritage. Additionally, they have added to Delhi tourism and the tourism of North India in measures we cannot even imagine. Do brush through these facts and look up pictures to get a better aesthetic sense of their architecture.

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