This work of Catherine Asher is a remarkable contribution to the understanding of India’s heritage and India’s history. She studies Delhi’s Qutb Complex in its entirety that includes not only the minaret and the mosque but also the evolution of the village in its vicinity, now popularly known as Mehrauli. She chose, as she tells us, to focus on the entire site so as to investigate how the monuments relate to one another, to ponder over the changing relations and add people—sultans, patrons, saints, common masses—where possible, to the buildings, in recognition of the fact that they are much more than structures in stone.  Enriched by the colour plates and illustrations, the book becomes even more engaging and attractive. Apropos Asher’s Preface, the book indeed is a valuable ‘bridge between popular literature available to the public and dense scholarly material that is inaccessible’ to educated, culture-conscious lay readers.

Emphasizing the significance of the Qutb complex as one of the most visited heritage sites of India, next only to Taj Mahal, Asher reminds that while the complex has acquired the status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its inscription on the World Heritage sign mentions only the Qutb Minar and its immediate monuments. There is no acknowledgement of the neighbourhood structures that formed a vital part of the urban environment in which the Qutb is located. Through this study, Asher attempts to analyse the reasons that attract a large number of visitors not only to Qutb Minar and the Qutb Mosque but its surrounding sites as well, comprising the dargah of Qutb al-Din Bakhtiyar Kaki and the Archaeological Park. She also investigates the visitor’s understanding of the several buildings that lie within the area of Mehrauli. The author traces the evolution of the area of Mehrauli (then known as Yognipura) from 1060 when the Tomar Rajputs shifted their capital there, near the temple of Yogmaya. While the area had inadequate water supply, it was probably chosen by the Tomars for its raised rocky ridge, known as Lalkot, as ideal for defence purpose. Asher points to the conflicting scholarly opinions whether Lalkot was ever held by the Chauhan Rajputs. In popular understanding Lalkot is considered to be Prithviraj Chauhan’s royal capital of Delhi but Asher reiterates that it was perhaps simply a military garrison to defend the Chauhan capital of Ajmer.

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