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Qutub Minar and Smith’s Folly ~ An Architectural Disaster

Qutub Minar and Smith’s Folly

An Architectural Disaster

Smith's Folly, with Qutub Minar in the background

Smith’s Folly, with Qutub Minar in the background

It is said that lightning never strikes a place twice, but tall structure like the Qutub Minar have always been exceptions. There are several records of the tower being struck by lightning and other natural calamities have taken its toll on the highest stone tower in the world. But the string of disaster has left the minar unscathed except for a slight tilt, some two feet of the perpendicular.

The first recorded lightning strike on the Qutub Minar happened in 1368, when a lightning strike severely damaged the top storey of the Qutub Minar. Sultan Firoz Shah Tughluq replaced the fallen storey with with two floors and crowned it with a cupola. The restoration also introduced white marble into the otherwise red and buff sandstone.

Sikandar Lodi also carried out some repairs on the Qutub Minar in 1503 but the nature and extent of damage is not recorded.

The next major damage happed during the earthquake of 1803. Although much lesser in magnitude than the 1368 lightning the damage was significant enough to destroy Firoz Shah’s cupola permanently.

Faced with an incomplete Minar, the then British Governor-General of India , Lord Wellesly authorized Major Robert Smith, the hitherto respected builder of the St.James’ Church, Delhi, to carry out the necessary repairs. These works were completed in 1828 at the not-insignificant sum of Rs. 17,000 of the time.

Only, Major Smith had exceeded his brief by re-inventing what he had been asked to re-create. He had replaced an Indo-Islamic cupola with a Bengali style chatthri! The glorious tower of Islamic dominance had been capped with a Hindu cupola!

The prospect was so ridiculous and the cupola so out of place, that Lord Hardinge eventually had it taken down in 1848 and placed it on the outer lawns of the Qutub Complex, where it still lies, like an impure,  adulterated crown that has fallen off the Minar’s head. It has been called Smith’s Folly ever since.


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  1. August 17, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    It’s sad that it has been removed, India is a outcome of both the cultures and it’s intermingling is not to be taken by surprise or pointed as to be odd. The qutub minar would have looked better with the crown than not having one. and thanks for the resourcefulness.

    • September 19, 2012 at 8:54 PM

      Thanks Cynthia for your comment. India is a outcome of not two but many culture. But I don’t think the folly would fit atop the tower, any way its my opinion. Thanks once again.

  2. November 3, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Interesting write up. The Qutub Minar has much concealed within itself. A systematic and close study of the structure can bring much information to light but unfortunately this much acclaimed structure is not much researched.


    • November 3, 2012 at 8:50 PM

      Thanks Administrator, Cattaindia.

      You are right many of the well known structures of India are surrounded by lesser known but interesting structures and many of these are not properly researched.

      I also went through your website and really appreciate your efforts. I would be very much interested in joining your efforts.

      Do keep in touch.

      • November 3, 2012 at 9:20 PM

        Thanks for your words of appreciation would want you to be part of our efforts !

  3. November 3, 2012 at 9:23 PM

    Yes, with pleasure, do drop me a mail at rangan_datta@yahoo.com.

    I have also joined your FB page.

  4. August 3, 2016 at 3:06 PM

    There is a mistake with the post

    • August 3, 2016 at 3:51 PM

      Dear Ashish, can you mention the mistake

  5. January 6, 2017 at 4:18 PM

    Golden Triangle Tour Packages are the best packages that are contains the best sites of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. You will see the most picturesque places along with the heritage temples of India.

  6. rajeshprasad
    October 19, 2018 at 10:02 AM

    Any detail about major smith?

  7. K
    May 28, 2022 at 4:46 PM

    How and when the stories of qutub were added and reduced and made small

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