Construction on the Taj Mahal was finished in 1643. But it would take artists and artisans another five years to finish decorating the main buildings. On the great gate, artists finished the pointed arch with inlaid marble. Inlay is a decorating method. A pattern is carved into a flat piece of material, such as marble. In this carved pattern, artists lay thin slices of colored stone to form a picture. Jade (a green stone), carnelian (a red stone), and lapis lazuli (a blue stone) are often used. The inlay patterns on the great gate are flowers and vines. The use of plants and other natural elements is common in Indian and Islamic decoration.
Inside the mausoleum is the tomb chamber. Here, workers covered Mumtaz Mahal’s entire tomb with inlay flowers. Calligraphers carved the doorways with passages from the Quran (Islam’s holy book). Shah Jahan ordered a sheet woven of pearls to lie on top of Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb. Outside, workers planted gardens. Historians are not sure exactly what was planted in the Taj garden. But they know that in India’s hot climate, gardens were designed to be cool and fragrant. Most were filled with fruit, almond, and other flowering trees. Beds of herbs, roses, carnations, and poppies lined the paths. Workers also planted straight rows of cypress trees alongside the main walkways. They filled the pools and turned on the fountains.