Jaipur, in Rajasthan is well known for the wood carvings. The art of wood carving is still surviving here mainly due to the royal patronage. Jaipur of Rajasthan, also uplifts the tradition of Elephant jali carvings. It is one of the major indigenous crafts of Jaipur. Teak-wood is mainly used for most of the wooden crafts done here.
The term ‘jali’ or ‘jaali’ means net or mesh work made from wood, stone or metal. Jali work is a delicate hand carving craft. It is presented in different sizes, shapes and designs. Most of the times the jali work is made of geometric shapes or floral designs on the animal figures and on the buildings. But as most commonly the geometric designs are easy to carve, these shapes are used for designing the elephant jali work. The jali work/mesh work is initially used in architecture abundantly as a stone jali work. They are made on doors and windows as a screen. This is mainly done for the ventilation purpose. Jali work was one of the important parts of architecture in northern and north-western India since long time. It flourished well at the time of Mughals. These stone jali works are seen on different architectures of India and they are most inspiring and fascinating. The jali screens of stone are done on two types of stones.
They are (1) Sandstone (red and yellow variety) and (2) Marble.
Some examples of jali work that are used in the forts of Rajasthan, Gujarat and other places in northern India are:
Taj Mahal which is intricately designed by marble jali work, Agra, Uttar Pradesh;
The Mausoleum of Saint Salim Chisti at Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh;
Humayun’s Tomb at Delhi;
Adalaj step well at Ahmedabad, Gujarat;
Bibiji mosque at Ahmedabad, Gujarat;
Sidi Saiyad mosque at Ahmedabad, Gujarat;
Junagarh Fort at Bikaner, Rajasthan;
Lodurva temple at Jaisalmer, Rajasthan;
Mehrangarh fort at Jodhpur, Rajasthan;
Patwon-Ki-Haveli at Jaisalmer, Rajasthan and others.
The main purpose of including the jali work in the building architecture was not only for the beautification of constructions, they also served as an air conditioner for the buildings by keeping the vicious sunlight out and allowing the cool breeze to blow inside and outside of the building.
These jali works were also often used as screens that helped to keep the privacy for ladies by which women inside could see outside but not the reverse. The intricately designed carvings would also create a subtle play of light and shadow in the interior, creating an illusion. These jali designs are also used for interior decorations of the building along with the exterior. Here they were used as the partition walls as well. The pillars, door frames and roof beams were also used for creating the art of jali works. These marble jali works in Jaipur are very graceful and charming. The best quality timber, oak and kadam trees are used for making jali substances. Between these days jali work is also done on peacock statues, horse statues and many wooden boxes with ornamental designs and etc.
In Jaipur, elephant jali work is done by the group of artisans who are self-taught artists. They are in this field for 35 years. These artisans make elephant jali work from the kadam wood. A set of 2-3 small sized elephant jali work is done per day, whereas it takes a week’s time to craft a big size jali work for them. These wooden elephant jali works are delicately crafted by the experienced artisans of Jaipur.