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Vastu Shastra

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Vastu Shastra

Vastu Shastra is a traditional Hindu system of architecture which literally translates to “science of architecture.” These are texts found on the Indian subcontinent that describe principles of design, layout, measurements, ground preparation, space arrangement and spatial geometry. Vastu Shastras incorporate traditional Hindu and in some cases Buddhist beliefs. The designs are intended to integrate architecture with nature, the relative functions of various parts of the structure, and ancient beliefs utilizing geometric patterns (yantra), symmetry and directional alignments.

Vastu Shastra is the textual part of Vastu Vidya, the latter being the broader knowledge about architecture and design theories from ancient India. Vastu Vidya knowledge is a collection of ideas and concepts, with or without the support of layout diagrams, that are not rigid. Rather, these ideas and concepts are models for the organization of space and from within a building or collection of buildings, based on their functions in relation to each other, their usage and to the overall fabric of the Vastu. Ancient Vastu Shastra principles include those for the design of Mandir (Hindu temples), and the principles for the design and layout of houses, towns, cities, gardens, roads, waterworks, shops and other public areas.

Terminology

The Sanskrit word vastu means a dwelling or house with a corresponding plot of land. 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”. The term shastra may loosely be translated as “doctrine, teaching”.

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

History

Proposals tracing potential links of the principles of composition in Vastu Shastra and the Indus Valley Civilization have been made, but Kapila Vatsyayan is reluctant to speculate on such links given the Indus Valley script remains undeciphered.[17] According to Chakrabarti, Vastu Vidya is as old as the Vedic period and linked to the ritual architecture. According to Michael W. Meister, the Atharvaveda contains verses with mystic cosmogony which provide a paradigm for cosmic planning, but they did not represent architecture nor a developed practice.Varahamihira’s Brihat Samhita dated to the sixth century CE, states Meister, is the first known Indian text that describes “something like a vast purusamandala to plan cities and buildings”. The emergence of Vastu Vidya as a specialized field of science is speculated to have occurred significantly before the 1st-century CE.

Vastu and superstition

The use of Vastu Shastra and Vastu consultants in a modern home and public projects is controversial.[45] Some architects, particularly during India’s colonial era, considered it arcane and superstitious. Other architects state that critics have not read the texts and that most of the text is about flexible design guidelines for space, sunlight, flow, and function.

Vastu Shastra is considered as pseudoscience by rationalists like Narendra Nayak of Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations. Scientist and astronomer Jayant Narlikar considers Vastu Shastra as pseudoscience and writes that Vastu does not have any “logical connection” to the environment. One of the examples cited by Narlikar arguing the absence of logical connection is the Vastu rule, “sites shaped like a triangle … will lead to government harassment,  a parallelogram can lead to quarrels in the family.” Narlikar notes that sometimes the building plans are changed and what has already been built is demolished to accommodate Vastu rules. Regarding superstitious beliefs, in Vastu, Science writer Meera Nanda cites the case of N.T.Rama Rao, the ex-chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, who sought the help of Vastu consultants for his political problems. Rama Rao was advised that his problems would be solved if he entered his office from an east facing the gate. Accordingly, a slum on the east facing side of his office was ordered to be demolished, to make way for his car’s entrance  The knowledge of Vastu consultants is questioned by Pramod Kumar, “Ask the Vaastu folks if they know civil engineering or architecture or the local government rules on construction or minimum standards of construction to advise people on buildings. They will get into a barrage of “ancient” texts and “science” that smack of the pseudo-science of astrology. Ask them where they were before the construction boom and if they will go to slum tenements to advise people or advise on low-cost community-housing—you draw a blank.

Sanskrit treatises on architecture

Of the numerous Sanskrit treatises mentioned in ancient Indian literature, some have been translated in English. Many Agamas, Puranas and Hindu scriptures include chapters on an architecture of temples, homes, villages, towns, fortifications, streets, shop layout, public wells, public bathing, public halls, gardens, riverfronts among other things. In some cases, the manuscripts are partially lost, some are available only in Tibetan, Nepalese or South Indian languages, while in others original Sanskrit manuscripts are available in different parts of India. Some treatises or books with chapters on Vaastu Shastra include:

  • Manasara
  • Brhat Samhita
  • Mayamata
  • Anka sastra
  • Aparajita Vastu Sastra
  • Maha-agamas (28 books, each with 12 to 75 chapters)
  • Ayadi Lakshana
  • Armada Pratishtha Paddhati (includes garden design)
  • Kasyapiya
  • Kapadia Jala Sthana Lakshana
  • Kshetra Nirmana Vidhi (preparation of land and foundation of buildings including temples)
  • Gargya Samhita (pillars, doors, windows, wall design and architecture)
  • Griha Pithika (types of houses and their construction)
  • Ghattotsarga Suchanika (riverfront and steps architecture)
  • Chakra sastra
  • Jnana Ratna kosha
  • Vastu sarani (measurement, ratio and design layouts of objects, particularly buildings)
  • Devalaya Lakshana (treatise on construction of temples)
  • Dhruvadi shodasa gehani (guidelines for arrangement of buildings with respect to each other for harmony)
  • Nava sastra (36 books, most lost)
  • Agni Purana (Chapters 42 through 55, and 106 – Nagaradi Vastu)
  • Matsya Purana (Chapters 252 through 270)
  • Maya samgraha
  • Prasada kirtana
  • Prasada Lakshana
  • Tachchu sastra (primarily home design for families)
  • Manushyalaya Lakshana (primarily human dwelings)
  • Manushyalaya Chandrika
  • Mantra dipika
  • Mana kathana (measurement principles)
  • Manava vastu lakshana
  • Manasollasa (chapters on house layout, mostly ancient cooking recipes)
  • Raja griha nirmana (architecture and construction principles for royal palaces)
  • Rupa mandana
  • Vastu chakra
  • Vastu tattva
  • Vastu nirnaya
  • Vastu purusha lakshana
  • Vastu prakasa
  • Vastu pradipa
  • Vastu manjari
  • Vastu mandana
  • Vastu lakshana
  • Vastu vichara
  • Vastu vidya
  • Vastu vidhi
  • Vastu samgraha
  • Vastu sarvasva
  • Vimana lakshana (tower design)
  • Visvakarma prakasa (home, roads, water tanks and public works architecture)
  • Vaikhanasa
  • Sastra jaladhi ratna
  • Sipla prakasa
  • Silpakala Dipika
  • Silpartha sastra
  • Sanatkumara vastu sastra