Study – Difference between Jaalis and Mashrabia

For this post, let us look into the difference between Jaalis and Mashrabia.

First of all, Jaali and Mashrabia is quite similar – a window or doorway decorated with ornamentation made in carved wood or stone. It is design so to let the individuals inside a building to see outside in privacy, as well as to allow air to circulate (which is welcome in the dry desert heat)

While at first glance both Jaali and Mashrabia are very much simillar, there is quite a number of difference to distinguish of one another, and made it unique.

  1. The designs–  Between Jaali and Mashrabia there are quite distinct features that differs the two. While two of these architectural features may designed with organic, vegetal design or geometrical design, there are slight difference between the two. Jaali are more complicated, and the carving are more delicate and more refined. The design might also mix different designs on one Jaali, while remaining in one style. While Mashrabia while are refined as well, but not as delicate as Jaali. It is thicker, perhaps to allow more privacy to the dweller within where the Mashrabia is employed.
    Author - Rémih

    A Mashrabia installed in Abou Al-Haggag mosque, built over the Luxor Temple in Egypt. Note the more thicker ornamentation to the Mashrabia.

  2. The materials – Jaali craftsmen usually uses stone such as marble and red sandstone, maybe because the said materials are more easily accessible in the region. It is also decorated with precious and semi-precious stones, especially during the late period of the Mughal Empire. Mashrabia usually done in wood and other easily malleable materials. However it is more thicker than its Jaali cousins.Jaali surrounding the cenotaphs in the Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Note that is is made out of marble, and also that the designs are much more detailed and delicate.
  3. The Regions – The term Jaali is used in Central Asia – mostly in India, Pakistan and the countries surrounding,while Mashrabia is used mostly in the Arabic world ; from Iran, Iraq to Morocco and Andalusia.
    Author - Dan Searle

    Shadows of a Jaali screen in Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Jaali are unique to the Indian region, while Mashrabia are characteristic to Arabian region.

  4. Areas of Employment – Both Jaali and Mashrabia are used in religious and secular buildings. Jaali are employed in palaces, mosques and even tombs and mausoleums, used as windows, decorations over portals etc. Mashrabia are mostly used in housing and public buildings such as mosques and hammams, but rarely in tombs and mausoleum . Mashrabia are used for functional reason rather than aesthetics, unlike Jaali.
    Author - Papillus

    A Mashrabia window on a residential building in Cairo, Egypt. Mashrabia have more functional use rather than just aesthetics.