Parchinkari

Parchinkari - The art of inlaying semi-precious stones in marble.
The art of Parchinkari had begun in India in the early 17th century with Shah Jahan being its patron and pioneer. This art is derived from an Italian artform known as pietra dura (hard stones) which originated in Florence in the 16th century. It involves shaping small pieces of semi-precious stones in the form leaves, flower petals etc. and fitting them together so that they look like one complete flower or animal or any other shape the artist intended it to look like.

Inlay on one of the 4 doors of The Taj Mahal.

Detail of the inlay

The European travellers brought pietra dura works as presents for Shah Jahan. The Mughal emperor was impressed with the technique and immediately incorporated it in his architectural endeavours. He refined and perfected the technique over several years which came to be known as Parchinkari in India. The art became more intricate, symmetrical and distinct from pietra dura. The inlaid stone pieces were made smaller and precious stones were introduced in the masterpieces.

The Taj Mahal is the shining example of the perfection to which parchinkari was taken during Shah Jahan's rule.

Water color drawing of details of screen around Emperor Shah Jahan's cenotaph

Intricate inlay on the cenotaph of Emperor Shah Jahan kept at the centre of the Taj

The Taj Mahal is the shining example of the perfection to which parchinkari was taken during Shah Jahan's rule. The most beautiful work is seen on the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal in the interior tomb chamber, where the same flowers are repeated with exactly the same number of stones in each one. This beautiful and precious art has been passed down since the Mughal times through generations of parchinkars and is still alive in Agra after more than 350 years.