DESIGN INSPIRATIONS: The Romance of the Jali Screen

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Our designers and artisans at Mela are able to draw from a vast treasure chest of traditional design styles that evolved in different regions of the country over more than a thousand years of Indian history. Sharing the inspiration for the products we create is the goal of our new blog series, Design Inspirations. We launch the series with the technique known as ‘jali’ in which artisans use carving techniques to create intricate ornamental fretwork in wood, metal or stone.

Detail of a jali screen.

Specifically, ‘jali’ is a Hindi term for a perforated latticed screen. Omnipresent throughout northern India this traditional architectural feature became widely popular during the Mughal Empire, which flourished from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries.

Jali style latticework at the Sidi Saiyad Ni Jali mosque in Gujarat.

Originally designed to allow highborn women to view life outside their quarters while remaining secluded from prying eyes, the jali design was used for window screens and room dividers but also became popular as a decorative style for railings around thrones, platforms, terraces and balconies. In its exclusive use of floral and geometric motifs, the jali design reflected the Islamic origins of the Mughal dynasty. Historically, Muslim artists and artisans have avoided the representation of the human figure, especially in public spaces, believing it to be a form of idolatry, which is forbidden in the Quran.

Jali work on the exterior of the Junagad Fort in Bikaner, Rajasthan.

Jali latticework patterns are not only limited to architecture. The same intricate patterns adorning the stone palaces also inspired designers of textiles, art and even jewelry.

Mughal-era miniature painting with a jali-inspired border.

‘Chikankari’ is a famous Indian embroidery technique that originated in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh during the Mughal-era and is an example of jali (or lace) work.

Chandelier earrings like these use the same jali style in their design and are still popular throughout India.

The designers and artisans at Mela draw on many traditional design styles in creating our luxury home and accessory collections.

Mela’s Trellis collection is inspired by the jali style, combining the delicate carved fretwork of the age-old technique with a modern design sensibility perfect for your home or office.

To view the entire collection, click here.

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  • Jessica Irias