AGRA, India, Dec, 31, Arshad Ali’s ancestors helped built the Taj Mahal, the white marble monument to love, and he makes them by the hundred.

Making Taj Mahals is his family business.

‘The 24-yearold craftsman specializes in inlay work, the job his ancestors did when the Taj Mahal ‘was built in the 17th century.

Arshad Ali, who inherited the craft watching his parents make intricate designs on pieces of white marble and black onyx, makes thousands of cheap Taj Mahals that tourists like to take home,

But he also makes more elaborate replica that sometimes take more than a year to build and are fitted with jasper, agate, lapis lazuli, cornelian and bloodstone, thé precious and semiprecious stones inlaid in the Taj Mahal.

“My ancestors built the Taj Mahal. Their specific job was to make designs on the marble walls and do the inlays work. Our family has lived in a village near the Taj Mahal for centuries. It was a village of craftsmen and almost its entire population worked on the Taj Mahal”, he said in an interview.

Arshad Ali’s wife has revolved around the Taj Mahal, He was born in its shadows, grew up making Taj Mahals and now has a shop filled with replicas 100 yards from the monument.

He cannot prove that his ancestors helped build the Taj Mahal but it is part of the family legend handed down from one generation to another.

His father, now an ailing old man who when still fit had occasionally been summoned to do restoration work on the Taj Mahal, had told Arshad about family history. The father had been told by his parents.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 8, 1988