Ala-ud-Din's Gateway. Doorway on the southern side [Alai Darwaza, Qutb]
Ala-ud-Din's Gateway. Doorway on the southern side [Alai Darwaza, Qutb]: Note.—The white marks on the left of the Photograph represent feet, as measured on the wall. © British Library./ Charles Shepherd

THE interior of the doorway is, in its way, one of the most pleasing and agreeable sights of the Kutb buildings. The ornament, applied to the surface of the walls with a lavishness of carving scarcely exceeded by the Alhambra itself, is everywhere appropriate, and of an elegance and ingenuity difficult to find the equal of in any other building in India. The mode by which the square Avails are changed into the form of an octagon in the upper part supporting the dome is remarkable and full of suggestion. The corners of the square are cut off by pointed arches or niches of the horse-shoe shape, which diminish in size as they retire towards the angle, the effect being that of massiveness, and of that class of beauty which any thoroughly appropriate and simple feature necessarily expresses.

The ornament inside the doorway is one of those delicately-traced arabesques which are always pleasing by reason of then wonderful ingenuity and elegance,1 and the geometric patterns on the inner walls are diversified, suitable and handsome. The dome and pendentives are quite plain; it having no doubt been obvious to the builders that the grateful shade cast by the dome would have made any elaborate ornament so high up ineffective; whilst to have introduced light through the dome would have been to admit a glare; thus defeating the obvious purpose of the building, namely, to provide at the threshold and entrance to the inclosure of the mosque, a pleasant retreat in the middle and heat of the day.

The Arabic inscriptions, which contain verses from the Koran and the name of Ak-ud-din frequently repeated, are incomplete both inside and outside the building, on account of its ruined state, but the well-known title of Ala-ud-din Sikandar Sam, and the date A. d. 1310 are to be read.

  • 1. A portion of this carved wall surface may be seen in fac-simile at the Kensington Museum, as I had a plaster cast made on the spot.