History of The Art

The art of marble inlay or “Parchin kari” was introduced in India in the 17th century by the Mughals. The Mughals who were known for their great passion for art and architecture brought with them many different forms of art during their rule, which was the golden period of India’s architectural history.

"Parchin Kari" was a little known art which was made famous by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who envisaged the decoration of the Taj Mahal (today one of the seven wonders of the world) by this exquisite work, to fulfill the last wish as of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

The master craftsman who specialized in this fine art of setting gems and semiprecious stones in marble came from Persia (today’s Iran) to decorate the Taj Mahal. So enormous was the vision of the emperor that it took 20,000 highly skilled master craftsmen 22 years to realize his dream. During these years most of the master artisans had chosen Agra as their second home, as Agra was the capital of the most powerful imperial courts of the east and a great center for scholars and artisans. Since then this exquisite art has been an integral part of the cultural heritage of Agra, and has been kept alive by the world the mesmerizing Taj Mahal.


Taj Mahal: An Introduction

Taj Mahal, is one of the most splendid master pieces of architecture in the world. Located in the city of Agra, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, on the banks of the Yamuna River.. It was bespoke by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the son of Jahangir, as a tomb for his wife, Arjumand Banu Begum, also known as Mumtaz-ul-Zamani. It took 23 years to complete (1630 - 1653).


Taj Mahal: History

Shah Jahan & Mumtaz were married in 1612 A.D. The Empress Mumtaz used to go with her husband in his military campaigns, and it was in Burhanpur in 1630, that she gave birth to her last child, after which she died. So in memory of his wife Mumtaz, he ordered the building of the most beautiful mausoleum on Earth, THE TAJ MAHAL, one of the wonders of the earth.

Construction work began in early 1630 and completed in 1648. All sculptors, masons, craftsmen, and calligraphers were called from Persia, Ottoman Empire and Europe to make the TAJ MAHAL a real symbol of Great Emperor Shah Jahan' feelings for her wife.

The architectural complex of the Taj Mahal comprises of five main elements:

  • Darwaza or main gateway
  • Bageecha or garden
  • Masjid or mosque
  • Naqqar Khana or rest house
  • Rauza or the Taj Mahal mausoleum

The actual Tomb of Mumtaz is situated inside the Taj. The unique mughal style architecture combines elements & styles of Persian, Central Asian, and Islamic architecture. Most striking are the black and white chessboard marble floor, the four tall minarets (40 m high) at the corners of the structure, and the majestic grand dome in the middle. On closer inspection, the lettering of the Holy Quran verses around the archways appears to be uniform. The lettering spacing and density has been customized to give this impression to the viewer. The impressive pietra dura artwork includes geometric elements & style, plants & flowers, which are common in Islamic architecture. The level of sophistication in artwork includes a 3 cm decorative element containing more than 50 inlaid gemstones.

"The interior of the building is dimly lit through pierced marble lattices and contains a virtuoso display of carved marble. Externally the building gains an ethereal quality from its marble facings, which respond with extraordinary subtlety to changing light and weather."

Sir Banister Fletcher. A History of Architecture, P624, 630.


Taj Mahal: Architectural Details

  • On a platform 22' high and 313' square.
  • Corner minarets 137' tall.
  • Main structure 186' on a side, dome to 187'.
  • The mausoleum is 57 m (190 ft) square in plan. The central inner dome is 24.5 m (81 ft) high and 17.7 m (58 ft) in diameter, but is surmounted by an outer shell nearly 61 m (200 ft) in height.

Sir Banister Fletcher. A History of Architecture, P630.

Specific design credit is uncertain, and is given by different sources to Istad Usa, Ustad Ahmad Lahori, Isa Muhammad Effendi, or Geronimo Veroneo.