Indigenous Culture in Ornamentation of Taj Mahal

Seeing Taj through the Great Gate

Taj Mahal viewed from an edge

The ornamentation work on Taj Mahal is carved beautifully with intricate design patterns inside and out. The patterns are floral, spiral and geometric. The design varies harmoniously from inlay work (parchin-kari) to relief work (munabbat-kari) and lattice screen (jali work).

Elements of decoration in the entrance of Mausoleum of Taj Mahal (By Ar. Mehak Ahuja)            

  • Inlay work or ‘parchin-kari’: 

Floral Arabesque pattern in Pietra Dura

There is inlay of semi-precious stones in white marble decorated with floral arabesque pattern of stalk, leaf and flower. Movement of nature inspires the unbroken flow of spiral.

  • ‘Girih-bandi’ in mosaic: 

Geometrical pattern in Landscape Architecture of Taj Mahal

Chameli Farsh of Taj Mahal (Source:

Chameli farsh has geometric pattern (girih-bandi) with floral appearance of four pointed stars of red sandstone fitted in white marble octagons.

  • Calligraphy: 

Calligraphy all around rectangular frame

Inlay of black marble in white, creating lovely contrast. These are inscriptions of verses from Quran, prayers to Allah and different names of Allah.

  • Relief work or ‘Munabbat-kari’:

Delicate relief carving on plinth of Mausoleum of Taj Mahal

On top: Row of hanging leaves with interlacing stems, alternate with pendant acanthus.
Middle: Interlacing cartouches with mirror-symmetrical acanthus leaves.
Bottom: Related pattern as top, with row of hanging flowers and buds.

  • ‘Jali’ work or lattice screen: 

Honeycomb Jali work in entrance arch of Mausoleum of Taj Mahal

The entrance arch shown on the left is decorated with jali work done in honeycomb pattern of small hexagons. The jali allowed light and air to pass through along with creating play of shadow.

Agra is well known for its parchin-kari or inlay work. Itmad ud Daula and Taj Mahal were known as the epitome of pietra-dura. We often hear our grandmothers telling us that Taj shone bright in a full moon light, due to its ornamentation and flawless marble. Where is the shine gone now? and why? Is it just theft and vandalism that took away the beautiful ornamentation? Or are we responsible too?


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