Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal was built by the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal as her final resting place upon her death from childbirth. “Taj Mahal” means the “Crown of the Palace” and was dubbed the “teardrop on the cheek of time” by Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Built entirely of marble and located on the south bank of the Yamuna River, the ivory-white mausoleum was commissioned in 1632 to a Persian architect and took 22 years to complete its construction. It is regarded as one of the best examples of Mughal architecture, an architectural style that blends Islamic, Persian, Turkic and South-Asian architectures, which is characterized by large bulbous domes and slender minarets at the corners. The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the world in 2007.


The white marbles used in construction of the Taj Mahal are decorated with a fine inlay technique known as “parchin kari,” the South Asian correspondent to the Italian decorative art of “pietra dura,” which translates to “hard stones.” It is a traditional art of pictorial mosaic work that involves highly thorough and precise inlay work using manual handwork. The stonework process begins by first grinding and shaping marble stones using an emery wheel. Patterns of floral or geometrical designs are then etched lightly on the white marble surfaces. Craftsmen later engrave the patterns using an iron chisel to chisel out grooves in which cut semi-precious stones such as jade, crystal, lapis lazuli, amethyst and turquoise are fitted into these grooves without any visible gaps, creating colorful images on the marble stones. This technique has remained unchanged since the Mughal era and the knowledge is handed down from generation to generation.