Stone ''Jali'' (lattice) windows - part of Hindu temple architecture dated back to 5th CE

lattice window, Chennakesava  temple,

Kappi Cennenigaraya Belur

Above image:  Built in 1117 CE, the Kappe Chennigaraya temple is a minor shrine located at the south of the main sanctum of the Chennakesava temple complex, Belur............

In tropical countries like India  during the summer season (April to June- July)  the weather  is unpleasant in most parts and it is further aggravated by humidity on the coastal regions. Being an effective down-to earth simple tool, Jali  serves as an air-conditioner and  diffuser of sunlight besides providing privacy.  The advantages of incorporating jali in the buildings including Hindu temples, mosques  and palaces are manifold and as such jali  is  multi-functional.  

A jali   is the term for a perforated stone or latticed screen, usually with an ornamental design in  geometrical pattern.  This form of decoration is common in Hindu temple architecture, Indo-Islamic Architecture and more generally in Islamic Architecture

Jali   meaning "net") was an important element in Indian architecture of yore.  The word refers to a nicely perforated ornate stone or latticed screen, usually with a striking geometrical  pattern. In the Islamic architecture,  use of calligraphy in jali may be noticed in many places. Not only does jali increase the aesthetic value of the building but also gives impetus to the beauty of the structure. 

The use of jali in historical Hindu temples is not new prior to 11th century. Lots of Hindu temples had jali on the walls at  many places except the main sanctuary. Its purpose was to illuminate the  dark interior with natural light and allow  free flow of cool air inside the temple.  

It is true that  in a Hindu temple the deities are venerated in a dimly lit sanctuary (sanctum) reminiscent of natural cave environment. Devotees worship the deities near the doorway in a spacious and better illuminated hall compared to garbagriha. In many temples natural light entering the temple through the big doorways and windows is too much  and needs to be cut  down  to a comfortable level. Hence jali is prudently used in  temple architecture  as a producer of soft and diffused light  indoors creating a unique ambiance conducive to devotion to god.  Devotees in a soft light environment can easily focus their attention on the god enshrined in the sanctuary.

Buddhist temple main doorway Bedsa,

Above image; Almost 2nd century CE. Buddhist prayer hall, wooden fame in the arches section missing, Bedsa, MH

Use of wooden jali in Buddhist temple has been known for  for several centuries. The jali was made of quality wood preferably teak wood,  but historians say wooden jali does not last long in the Western Ghat regions of the Deccan primarily because of vagaries of weather and climatic changes.  In regions like  Kondane and Karla in the Western Ghats of the Deccan region  the presence of  2000 year old  teak wood ribs in the Buddhist prayer  hall - chaityas suggests the use of jali has been known to Indian s for more than 2000 years. The wooden ribs supported the jali screens  that functioned as diffuser of light on the arched doors. The jali wooden screens were set into the arched frames above the windows and doors of rock cut monuments. At Bedsa the monuments with jali date back to  first  or second century. As for Hindu temples since the 5th century stone jali had a role to play for aesthetics and decoration. Invariably, jali had multiple horizontal and vertical openings defined by horizontal and vertical bars, reinforced by angled struts. The later were  used as anti-sagging besides offering additional support.  

The Parvati temple,  Nachna in central India, the Mundeshvari temple in Bihar, the Ladkhan temple, Chennakeshava temple, Belur (Karnataka), 12th century, Airavaraeswara temple (dedicated to Shhva), Darasuram, TN  are some of the historical Hindu temple that were built with Jali.

It must be borne in mind that  implementation of jali in the Hindu temple  architecture  was far  their introduction in Indian  Islamic architecture.  Hindu temples older than 5th century CE had jalis/ lattice windows on the walls.t may go back to 5th century and beyond. During the mogul period use of jali in mosques, etc gained prominence but the concept was borrowed from the Hindu Buddhist temple architecture.  

The following are the essential facts of Jali:

01. Jali reduces the temperature indoors by compressing the air passing through the holes. Air, when compressed and released, becomes  cool just like an air-conditioner. 

02. The diffusion of air  occurs because of increase in velocity when passing through small holes in the jali-lattice screens. So, there is a good penetration of air indoors.  

03. Jali  proves to be effective in hot dry and  humid climate zones. Humid areas like Kerala and Konkan have larger holes with less opacity than in the case of  dry climate regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. 

04.  The design  style and hole size  in jalis may vary depending on the climate of region. 

05. Jali provides good ventilation, filters the sunlight and increases the movement of cross  air findoors.

06. Jali helps reduce  direct sun beam, haze and glare and at the same time maintains light intensity and illumination  resulting in smooth and soft light. The recessed jali window does not allow rains to enter the temple. 

07. In the place of a large window opening,  jali with  individual small holes of considerable dimension - equal depth and height will help reduce the glare and ingress.

08. Yet another advantage  of  Jali is  everything outside is visible from indoors where as  interior  is not visible from outside; this being due to light difference. 

09. Jali has many advantages over  glass windows, the latter is brittle, once the doors are shut, indoors will be sultry less air-flow inside.  Glass  windows. do not reduce the glare.Nor do they allow free flow of cool air, Jali  has aesthetic grace and privacy. 

10. Architect Laurie Baker was the one who popularized the use of Jali in modern architecture based on his experience in Kerala.

09. It is true, the old  traditional building practices have declined a lot.  Wooden windows, stone jharokhas, wood-carved screens, pre-molded clay or cement block with voids, etc  are  occasionally used in modern building  constructions that are dominated by solid walls and glass windows.

12th C Airavateswara temple, Darasuram, TN

Darasuram   temple.

Jali  perforated windows Airavatheswara  temple Darasuram  Getty images

Above images: Darasuram templw, near kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. 12th century CE  Shiva temple (Airavatheswara) a   unesco  WHS. Jali on the outer wall from inside.

Chennakesava  temple, Belur,

Above image: Chennakesava temple, Belur, Karnataka: Part of perforated store screen - Jali  on square plan. Horizontal friezes ( a horizontal band -sculpted or painted work on the wall ) on the base of wall all around.

jali on outer wall, Chennakesava temple,

lattice window, Chennakesava temple,

Kalinga variant of Nagara style

Mukteshwar temple Odisha.

Mukteshwar temple Odisha.

Above images: Jali- perforated windows in Mukteswar temple. Odisha. Dedicated to God Shiva, this beautifully ornamented Hindu temple was built in way back in 950 CE by Somavamshi dynasty. 

 Stone carved jali in a Hindu temple.

Kedareshwara Temple,

Kedareshwara Temple, Halebidu.KA

Above image: Perforated windows, North East wall, Kedareshwara Temple, Halebidu,  Karnataka India;  constructed by Hoysala King Veera Ballala II (r. 1173–1220 A.D.) and his Queen Ketaladevi, Kedareshwara Temple is dedicated to God Shiva.........

Kedareshwara Temple, Halebidu.KA

Above image:   Interior of  Kedareshwara Temple, Halebidu. KA  dedicated to god Shiva. look at the lathe turned pillar and the jali- stone perforated scree on the side. Mainly soap stone is used to come up with intricate carvings of superb quality- roughly 1000 years ago.   

Mukteshwar Temple at Bhubaneshwar

Above image: The Mukteshwar Temple at Bhubaneshwar, Orissa, was built between 960 - 975 AD by the Somavanshi Kings.

Chalukys temple, Aihole, KA/

12th C CEChola temple. Darasuram Jala_stone  trellis_windows

 Manikesvara Temple with lathe-turned stone

 Jali perforated stone window, Manikesvara Temple

stone  window screen Manikesvara Temple in

Manikesvara Temple in
Lakkundi -

Above images: A pierced window screen brings light into the mantapa at Manikesvara Temple in
Lakkundi - 12th century Western Chalukya temple, Karnataka. Look at the stone jali at the entrance. 

Aihole Hindu temple

Aihole in the Deccan. In the latter monument, timber-like sandstone jalis on the 3 sides of the walls to illuminate the hall, Siva is impaling a victim..........

Jali window, kopeshwar

Jali window, kopeshwar temple,,

Above image:  Top image - Jali  perforated windowa in the temple entrance of   kopeshwar temple,  Khidrapur, Kolhapur district, Maharashtra. bottom image; stone jali on the wall on the side. The temple was   built in the 12th century by Shilahara (Shelara) king Gandaraditya between 1109 and 1178 CE  to the east of Kolhapur,  on the bank of the Krishna river...........................

 Hindu temple in Kathmandu

Ladkhan temple with floral jali

Above Image: : The Hindu temple dated dated to the 7th or 8th century,

Perforated stone window at Parvati Temple

 Above image: Perforated stone window at Parvati Temple at Nachna-Kuthara. Panna dist. MP. dated to the 5th- or 6th-century Gupta era. 

It is quite obvious that jali or perforated  stone  window concept was conceived way back in the  5th century CE as part of  the Hindu temple architecture.  In the case of Buddhist temple i the concept was prevalent in the western ghat of the Deccan   in the 2nd century itself ; they used  teak wood to make Jali and fixed the screens above the  arched entrance.   Positively,   The concept of jali or perforated screen was not  first introduced in India by the  Moguls and  this utility-based concept  had been in across India for centuries before their arrival.   No doubt  moguls  came up with striking designs , added aesthetics to their Indo-Islamic architecture/ and popularized the use of jali in various buildings- palaces, mosques mausoleums, etc.  They preferred marble  or sandstones for carving eye-catching designs.