Agra, Uttar Pradesh, has been a centre for marble carving ever since the Taj Mahal was built. In fact, several craftsmen carve tiny replicas of the Taj Mahal due to high demand. However, their real skill lies in carving intricate floral, and geometric jaalis (lattices). The crisp work of the jaali craftsmen is an extension of the beautiful jaalis found in monuments in and around the city.
“The geometric jaalis are intertwined with floral motifs but the city has a repertoire of over 200 unique designs. The marble is bought from the Makrana quarries in Rajasthan. At the workshops, the design is stenciled on to the marble surface, after which basic holes are drilled with a hand-held drill and shaped with chisels and files. The products cater to an international clientele, and the flourishing tourism industry. The skills of the craftsmen today are best seen at the ornately carved Radhaswamy Temple, the memorial of the founder of the Radhaswamy sect.”
Pure white marble is also carved into three-dimensional idols. “Those meant for worship are carved without a flaw as it is for religious purposes. We also perform a ceremony called pran pratishtha before the idol is installed to invoke the god or goddess that the idol represents.”