Vastu shastra

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For the 2004 film, see Vaastu Shastra (film).
Iraivan Temple built using Vastu Sastra principles in Hawaii, United States.[1][2]
Angkor Wat, a World Heritage Site and one of the world's largest Hindu temples.[3] This Cambodian temple deploys the same circles and squares grid architecture as described in ancient Indian Vastu Sastras.[4]

Vastu shastra (vāstu śāstra, vastu veda, vastuvidya, Thachu Shastra, Thatchu Shasthra, "shastra of construction", "architecture") is an ancient doctrine which consists of precepts born out of a traditional Hindu view about cosmos and how the laws of nature affect human dwellings.[5] The designs are based on integrating architecture with nature and ancient Indian beliefs utilizing perfect geometric patterns (yantra), symmetry and directional alignments.[6]

Ancient Vastu Sastras discuss design of Mandir (temples), and include chapters on the principles, design and layout of houses, towns and cities.[7][8][9]

Terminology[edit]

The Sanskrit word vastu means a dwelling or house with a corresponding plot of land.[10] The vrddhi, vāstu, takes the meaning of "the site or foundation of a house, site, ground, building or dwelling-place, habitation, homestead, house". The underlying root is vas "to dwell, live, stay, reside".[11] The term shastra may loosely be translated as "doctrine, teaching".

Vastu-Sastras (literally, science of dwelling) are ancient Sanskrit manuals of architecture. These contain Vastu-Vidya (literally, knowledge of dwelling).[12]

Description[edit]

Ancient India produced many Sanskrit manuals of architecture, called Vastu Sastra. Many of these are about Hindu temple layout (above), design and construction, along with chapters on design principles for houses, villages, towns. The architect and artists (Silpins) were given wide latitude to experiment and express their creativity.[13]

There exist many Vastu-Sastras on the art of building houses, temples, towns and cities. One such Vastu Sastra is by Thakkura Pheru, describing where and how temples should be built.[6][14] By 6th century AD, Sanskrit manuals for constructing palatial temples were in circulation in India.[15] Vastu-Sastra manuals included chapters on home construction, town planning,[12] and how efficient villages, towns and kingdoms integrated temples, water bodies and gardens within them to achieve harmony with nature.[8][9] While it is unclear, states Barnett,[16] as to whether these temple and town planning texts were theoretical studies and if or when they were properly implemented in practice, the manuals suggest that town planning and Hindu temples were conceived as ideals of art and integral part of Hindu social and spiritual life.[12]

The Silpa Prakasa of Odisha, authored by Ramacandra Bhattaraka Kaulacara sometime in ninth or tenth century CE, is another Vastu Sastra.[17] Silpa Prakasa describes the geometric principles in every aspect of the temple and symbolism such as 16 emotions of human beings carved as 16 types of female figures. These styles were perfected in Hindu temples prevalent in eastern states of India. Other ancient texts found expand these architectural principles, suggesting that different parts of India developed, invented and added their own interpretations. For example, in Saurastra tradition of temple building found in western states of India, the feminine form, expressions and emotions are depicted in 32 types of Nataka-stri compared to 16 types described in Silpa Prakasa.[17] Silpa Prakasa provides brief introduction to 12 types of Hindu temples. Other texts, such as Pancaratra Prasada Prasadhana compiled by Daniel Smith[18] and Silpa Ratnakara compiled by Narmada Sankara[19] provide a more extensive list of Hindu temple types.

Ancient Sanskrit manuals for temple construction discovered in Rajasthan, in northwestern region of India, include Sutradhara Mandana’s Prasadamandana (literally, manual for planning and building a temple) with chapters on town building.[20] Manasara, a text of South Indian origin, estimated to be in circulation by 7th century AD, is a guidebook on South Indian Vastu design and construction.[6][21] Isanasivagurudeva paddhati is another Sanskrit text from the 9th century describing the art of building in India in south and central India.[6][22] In north India, Brihat-samhita by Varāhamihira is the widely cited ancient Sanskrit manual from 6th century describing the design and construction of Nagara style of Hindu temples.[13][23][24]

These ancient Vastu Sastras, often discuss and describe the principles of Hindu temple design, but do not limit themselves to the design of a Hindu temple.[25] They describe the temple as a holistic part of its community, and lay out various principles and a diversity of alternate designs for home, village and city layout along with the temple, gardens, water bodies and nature.[9][26]

Fundamental concepts[edit]

The 8x8 (64) grid Manduka Vastu Purusha Mandala layout for Hindu Temples. It is one of 32 Vastu Purusha Mandala grid patterns described in Vastu sastras. In this grid structure of symmetry, each concentric layer has significance.[6]

There are many principles in Vaastu Shastra. To mention a few which involve certain mathematical calculations, Maana is used for proportional relationships in a building and Aayaadi specifies conditions for maximum well being and benefits for the residents of a building.

In Indian architecture, the dwelling is itself a shrine. A home is called Manushyalaya, literally, "Human Temple". It is not merely a shelter for human beings in which to rest and eat. The concept behind house design is the same as for temple design, so sacred and spiritual are the two spaces.

—Hinduism Today[27]

Vastu Purusha Mandala[edit]

The Vastu Purusha Mandala is an indispensable part of vastu shastra and constitutes the mathematical design. It is the metaphysical plan of a building that incorporates the coursly bodies and supernatural forces. Purusha refers to energy, soul or Universal Principle. Mandala is the generic name for any plan or chart which symbolically represents the cosmos.

In Vastu-purusa-mandala, the areas (padas, squares) are associated with certain deities, such as:

  • North- Kubera- Ruled by lord of wealth (Finance)
  • South- Yama- Ruled by lord of death – Yama (Damaging)
  • East- Indra- Ruled by the solar deity- Aditya (Seeing the world)
  • West- Varuna- Ruled by lord of water (Physical)
  • Northeast {Eshanya} – Ruled by Shiva
  • Southeast- Agni- Ruled by the fire deity – Agni (Energy Generating)
  • Northwest- Vayu- ruled by the god of winds (Advertisement)
  • Southwest- Pitru/Nairutya, Niruthi- Ruled by ancestors (History)
  • Center- Brahma- Ruled by the creator of the universe (Desire)

Mandala types and properties[edit]

Pitha Mandala, a 3x3 (9) padas Vastu Purusa Mandala architecture
Some representations of Vastu Purusha Mandala embed a person in manduka (frog mudra) pose inside the Vastu Purusha Mandala grid.
A floor plan according to Vastu Sastra's symmetric grid

The central area in all mandala is the Brahmasthana. Mandala "circle-circumference" or "completion", is a concentric diagram having spiritual and ritual significance in both Buddhism and Hinduism. The space occupied by it varies in different mandala – in Pitha (9) and Upapitha (25) it occupies one square module, in Mahaapitha (16), Ugrapitha (36) and Manduka (64), four square modules and in Sthandila (49) and Paramasaayika (81), nine square modules. The Pitha is an amplified Prithvimandala in which, according to some texts, the central space is occupied by earth. The Sthandila mandala is used in a concentric manner.

The most important mandala is the Manduka/ Chandita Mandala of 64 squares and the Paramasaayika Mandala of 81 squares. The normal position of the Vastu Purusha (head in the northeast, legs in the southwest) is as depicted in the Paramasaayika Mandala. However, in the Manduka Mandala the Vastu Purusha is depicted with the head facing east and the feet facing west.

An important aspect of the mandala is that when divided into an odd number of squares, or ayugma, its center is constituted by one module or pada and when divided into an even number of squares or yugma, its center is constituted by a point formed by the intersection of the two perpendicular central lines. In spatial terms, the former is sakala or manifest/ morphic and the latter is nishkala or unmanifest/ amorphous.

Mandala in siting[edit]

The mandala is put to use in site planning and architecture through a process called the Pada Vinyasa. This is a method whereby any site can be divided into grids/ modules or pada. Depending on the position of the gods occupying the various modules, the zoning of the site and disposition of functions in a building are arrived at. Mandala have certain points known as marma which are vital energy spots on which nothing should be built. They are determined by certain proportional relationships of the squares and the diagonals.

A site of any shape can be divided using the Pada Vinyasa. Sites are known by the number of divisions on each side. the types of mandalas with the corresponding names of sites is given below.

  • Sakala (1 square) corresponds to Eka-pada (single divided site)
  • Pechaka (4 squares) corresponds to Dwi-pada (two divided site)
  • Pitha (9 squares) corresponds to Tri-pada (three divided site)
  • Mahaapitha (16 squares) corresponds to Chatush-pada (four divided site)
  • Upapitha (25 squares) corresponds to Pancha-pada (five divided site)
  • Ugrapitha (36 squares) corresponds to Shashtha-pada (six divided site)
  • Sthandila (49 squares) corresponds to sapta-pada (seven divided site)
  • Manduka/ Chandita (64 square) corresponds to Ashta-pada (eight divided site)
  • Paramasaayika (81 squares) corresponds to Nava-pada (nine divided site)
  • Aasana (100 squares) corresponds to Dasa-pada (ten divided site)

Mandala in construction[edit]

The concept of sakala and nishkala are applied in buildings appropriately. In temples, the concepts of sakala and nishkala are related to the two aspects of the Hindu idea of worship – Sagunopaasana, the supreme as personal God with attributes and Nirgunopaasana, the supreme as absolute spirit unconditioned by attributes. Correspondingly, the Sakala, complete in itself, is used for shrines of gods with form (sakalamoorthy) and to perform yajna (fire rites). However the Nishkala is used for installation of idols without form- nishkalamoorthy- and for auspicious, pure performances. The amorphous center is considered beneficial to the worshippers, being a source of great energy. This could also be used for settlements. In commercial buildings, only odd numbers of modules are prescribed as the nishkala or amorphous center would cause too high a concentration of energy for human occupants. Even here, the Brahmasthana is left unbuilt with rooms organised around.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Frommer's Hawaii 2013, ISBN 978-1118287866
  2. ^ Lavina Melwani, The Temple That Siva Built, Masonry Design Magazine, Fall 2009
  3. ^ "Angkor Temple Guide". Angkor Temple Guide. 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2010. 
  4. ^ R Arya, Vaastu: The Indian Art of Placement, ISBN 978-0892818853
  5. ^ Kumar, Vijaya (2002). Vastushastra. New Dawn/Sterling. p. 5. ISBN 978-81-207-2199-9. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Stella Kramrisch (1976), The Hindu Temple Volume 1 & 2, ISBN 81-208-0223-3
  7. ^ George Michell (1988), The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0226532301, pp 21-22
  8. ^ a b GD Vasudev (2001), Vastu, Motilal Banarsidas, ISBN 81-208-1605-6, pp 74-92
  9. ^ a b c Sherri Silverman (2007), Vastu: Transcendental Home Design in Harmony with Nature, Gibbs Smith, Utah, ISBN 978-1423601326
  10. ^ Gautum, Jagdish (2006). Latest Vastu Shastra (Some Secrets). Abhinav Publications. p. 17. ISBN 978-81-7017-449-3. 
  11. ^ Monier-Williams (1899).
  12. ^ a b c BB Dutt (1925), Town planning in Ancient India at Google Books, ISBN 978-81-8205-487-5; See critical review by LD Barnett, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol 4, Issue 2, June 1926, pp 391
  13. ^ a b Michael Meister (1983), Geometry and Measure in Indian Temple Plans: Rectangular Temples, Artibus Asiae, Vol. 44, No. 4, pp 266-296
  14. ^ Jack Hebner (2010), Architecture of the Vastu Sastra - According to Sacred Science, in Science of the Sacred (Editor: David Osborn), ISBN 978-0557277247, pp 85-92; N Lahiri (1996), Archaeological landscapes and textual images: a study of the sacred geography of late medieval Ballabgarh, World Archaeology, 28(2), pp 244-264
  15. ^ Susan Lewandowski (1984), Buildings and Society: Essays on the Social Development of the Built Environment, edited by Anthony D. King, Routledge, ISBN 978-0710202345, Chapter 4
  16. ^ LD Barnett, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol 4, Issue 2, June 1926, pp 391
  17. ^ a b Alice Boner and Sadāśiva Rath Śarmā (1966), Silpa Prakasa Medieval Orissan Sanskrit Text on Temple Architecture at Google Books, E.J. Brill (Netherlands)
  18. ^ H. Daniel Smith (1963), Ed. Pāncarātra prasāda prasādhapam, A Pancaratra Text on Temple-Building, Syracuse: University of Rochester, OCLC 68138877
  19. ^ Mahanti and Mahanty (1995 Reprint), Śilpa Ratnākara, Orissa Akademi, OCLC 42718271
  20. ^ Amita Sinha (1998), Design of Settlements in the Vaastu Shastras, Journal of Cultural Geography, 17(2), pp 27-41, doi:10.1080/08873639809478319
  21. ^ Tillotson, G. H. R. (1997). Svastika Mansion: A Silpa-Sastra in the 1930s. South Asian Studies, 13(1), pp 87-97
  22. ^ Ganapati Sastri (1920), Īśānaśivagurudeva paddhati, Trivandrum Sanskrit Series, OCLC 71801033
  23. ^ Heather Elgood (2000), Hinduism and the religious arts, ISBN 978-0304707393, Bloomsbury Academic, pp 121-125
  24. ^ H Kern (1865), The Brhat Sanhita of Varaha-mihara, The Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta
  25. ^ S Bafna, On the Idea of the Mandala as a Governing Device in Indian Architectural Tradition, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 59, No. 1 (Mar., 2000), pp. 26-49
  26. ^ Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple, Vol 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-0222-3
  27. ^ Multiple authors (Editors of Hinduism Today). 2007. What is Hinduism? Himalayan Academy. ISBN 978-1-934145-00-5

Further reading[edit]