A jali is a perforated stone or latticed screen, with ornamental patterns that draw on
the compositional rhythms of geometry and calligraphy. In the parts of India, western
Asia and the Mediterranean where solar rays are strongest and brightest, ustads (or
master artisans) were able to evolve an aesthetic language of light, giving it form and
shape through lattices of stone and other materials. Jalis share a common aim of
bringing filtered light into enclosed spaces, while providing protection and privacy.
Additionally, they shape the atmosphere of a sacred space, augment the grandeur of
palaces and enhance the charm of domestic interiors.
This book explores the delicate beauty of more than two hundred jalis across
India, from seventeenth-century examples in Agra to those designed by global
contemporary artists influenced by historical styles. The expansive volume covers
the temple-inspired designs of the Gujarat Sultanate, imperial symbolism and Sufi
allusions in Mughal jalis, the innovations and adaptations of jalis across Rajasthan
and central India and, further south, calligraphy in pierced stone in the Deccan.
With contributions by American art historian Mitchell Abdul Karim Crites, George
Michell, an authority on South Asian architecture, and Ebba Koch, a leading authority
on Mughal architecture and art, and Afterword by film director James Ivory, this
lavishly illustrated publication reveals the poetry etched in these stone screens.
Navina Najat Haidar is Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah Curator-in-Charge of the
Department of Islamic Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Mitchell
Abdul Karim Crites is an American art historian, who has lived and worked in India
for more than forty years. George Michell, an authority on South Asian architecture,
has made the study of Deccani architecture and archaeology his life’s work. Ebba
Koch, art and architectural historian, is Professor Emerita at the Institute of Art
History, University of Vienna, Austria, and was a senior researcher at the Austrian
Academy of Sciences. James Ivory, Oscar-winning film director, writer and artist,
has made several films with Ismail Merchant and Ruth Praver Jhabvala as part
of Merchant-Ivory productions. He has travelled and photographed extensively
in India. Abhinav Goswami, based in Vrindavan, is trained as an archaeologist,
photographer and temple priest.