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Posted at: Mar 21, 2015, 1:38 AM; last updated: Mar 19, 2015, 8:55 PM (IST)

Frames with a rich history

The modern-day decorative jharokhas are inspired by ancient architectural art form of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Even in the present settings, these look as graceful

Surabhi Singh

It is one of the most popular architectural elements of all time. Even with a history of centuries to it, jharokhas continue to lure interior designers with their timeless appeal. It is a kind of bay window that besides having a visual appeal also lets the natural light and air usher in your house. Interior designers prefer to pick modern and ethnic elements of décor to create perfect settings and jharokhas fit the bill really well. Miniature replicas of these are equally popular as wall hangings or photo frames.

For art’s sake

Most commonly found in the Mughal and Rajput style of architecture, a jharokha is an over-hanging enclosed balcony or stone window, mostly canopied, adding an artistic dimension to an abode. Examples of ornate jharokhas are still found in towns of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and a number of other Indian states. Jharokhas these days only serve the decoration purpose. These make for great wall hangings inside hotels, resorts and even some temples. Made in wood or marble, ornately carved Jharokhas can add an ethnic touch to the décor of the house. These also come in an array of sizes. These can be huge, with mirrors installed inside, or smaller in size to frame the paintings.

Behind the scenes

These days, jharokhas are used to add a touch of vintage charm to living rooms. In earlier times, however, their main purpose was to let the sunlight stream into the house. Another reason for installing a jharokha in palaces and forts was that it acted like a natural purdah. Royal women used these to view public events without stepping out.

In the Mughal era, jharokhas were used to address the public. The practice — popular as Jharokha-i-Darshan — was introduced by Emperor Akbar, who used a jharokha to communicate with his subjects on a day-to-day basis. Till date, paintings depicting Akbar sitting in a jharokha are extremely popular. Palaces and havelis apart, jharokhas soon became a part of the architecture of temples and mosques in the 18th century.

The most famous building with jharokhas in India, the Hawa Mahal, was built in 1799 in Jaipur during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh. The building has beautifully sculpted windows that look out into the city. Built for the royal ladies of Rajasthan, who wanted to view city life from behind the purdah, the Hawa Mahal has 953 beautiful windows or Jharokhas made out of pink sandstone. The windows are built in such a way that these resemble a honeycomb. Behind every window is a small chamber meant for the royal ladies.

Patterned to perfection

Another famous building that is the inspiration behind many decorative jharokhas is the Halvad Palace in Gujarat. The palace is exclusively adorned with carved wooden columns, brackets, friezes and jalis with geometrical patterns, all defining a courtyard. It is the historically famous jharokhas like these that have been replicated to adorn the walls of modern villas and homes. Today one can find all kinds of wall-art jharokhas in the market. Though mostly made of wood and decorated with clay, these come in a variety of materials ranging from metal to the more expensive silver and gold foil decorations.


Art of the matter

Most of the decorative jharokhas available in the market these days derive their inspiration from the famous forts, palaces and havelis of Rajasthan and Gujarat, which had intricately carved bay windows, built of sandstone and marble. Some of most famous inspirations are 

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Hawa Mahal in Jaipur has 953 Jharokhas carved out of pink sandstone. It was built to help the royal women in purdah view city life. This famous building was made by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799.

Halvad Palace, Gujarat

The huge courtyard of Halvad Palace houses a seven-storey tower with jharokhas overlooking all directions. On a clear day, one can see the surrounding villages from these Jharokhas giving the palace its other popular names, Jhalawad Darshan and Ek-Dandia Mahal.

Phalodi Fort, Jodhpur

This fort is a historical monument located in the small town of Phalodi near Jodhpur. The fort was built in 1488 by Rao Hammir Narawat, the grandson of the Maharaja of Jodhpur. It is a reflection of the fine work of ancient artists of Marwar and houses many beautifully sculpted Jharokhas.

Zenana Mahal, Jodhpur

Zenana Mahal is a part of the famous Mehrangarh Fort and was the royal abode of Jodhpur queens. The prominent queens’ court is situated inside the Zenana Mahal and is called the Moti Mahal Chowk. A number of Jharokhas with intricately carved jaali can be seen in the three wings of this court.

Patwon Ki Haveli, Jaisalmer

This five-storey edifice, which was constructed in 1800 AD and is the largest of its kind, is one of the grandest mansions of Jaisalmer. The haveli is known for its stunningly carved Jharokhas. Each of these has two pillars and a cupola.

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