Architectural excellence holds a significant spot in all historical sites over India. Even people with no interest in architectural art fail to overlook the eye-catching beauty of its forms. One such form of architectural design is ‘Jali‘ or ‘Jaali’. Prevalent amongst Islamic and Indo-Islamic architecture, Jaali refers to the perforated stone screen with ornamental patterns crafted by keeping in mind the art of geometry and other artistic intricacies. It mostly included geometrical openwork in the beginning but subsequently, the Mughals also used finely engraved floral or plant-based designs reflecting their Islamic origins. Apart from being an exquisite add-on to the Islamic architecture, Jaali has multiple practical usages and purposes behind its origin.
Jaali was primitively designed to provide an expedient partition for women to view life outside their precincts while remaining in ‘purdah’, meaning the olden social custom of female seclusion, followed mostly during the 16th to 18th century amongst Muslim and Hindu communities.It alsorenders a clear view from within while blocking the same from the outer space, satisfying the role of being a perfect screen and an effective privacy provider for women to endure seclusion from all the meddling eyes.
Coming to the wind factor of air passage stimulation; Jaali also performs the function of being a natural low cost and energy consuming air conditioner. Owing to the generic behavior of fluids, the air gets compressed while flowing through the small apertures of Jaalis and gains increased velocity, resulting in expansion and better diffusion even in the case of a clement wind. This natural phenomenon of compression and release of cool air works just like the mechanical air-conditioning compressors used in this day and age.
Another role of Jaali includes cutting down the heat and controlling the light. The aperture comes to run yet again and efficiently decreases the ingress of heat in the day-time. It can also be an excellent replacement for expensive and conventional window system by favorably performing the function of filtering the daylight and letting in the adequate amount of the same. Also, it welcomes a classic view as the perforations cast stippled shadows on the walls and floors that keeps moving with varying angles of the sun.
This 16th-century wonder has overpassed space and time to now exist across every next material and has become an everyday part of design lexicon. With all the practical elements of Jaali, it outlives to be splendidly artistic and strengthening environment sustainability. It continues to be a common device in various interior and exterior designs, be it on balconies and terraces or even partitions and decorative screens.
Some consider it to be art like that of poetry and some simply a scientific creation of fabulous architecture. But that is exactly what the role of Jaali is about, of the interplay between the opposites; of cold and humid, of public and private, of light and shadow and that of simplicity and complexity.