Astrology and Vastu Consultations - Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabhad, Mumbai & Kolkatta Dr. B. V. Raman Niranjan Babu B Dr. B. V. Raman Niranjan Babu B

Vastu Shastra - The Science of Vedic Architecture

In the Amara Kosa, Vastu is defined as a dwelling. Vastu Sastra is the science of dwelling or architecture and dates back to the Vedas or the knowledge books of India.

The epics Ramayana and Mahabharata contain description of cities with multi-storeyed buildings with spacious balconies and porticoes. Vastu references in Epics - Mahabharata, Ramayana etc.It is said that the site plan of Ayodhya city was similar to the plan found in the great architectural text Manasara.

In the Mahabharata, mention is made of a number of houses that were built for the kings who were invited to Indraprastha for the Rajasuya Yajna of King Yuddhistira. Sage Vyasa says that these houses were as tall as the peaks of Kailasa mountains, perhaps, meaning that they stood tall and majestic. The houses were free from obstructions, had compounds with big walls, and their doors were of uniform height and inlaid with numerous metal ornaments.

References are also found in Buddhist literature, of buildings constructed on the basis of Vastu. The Jatakas contain detached references to individual buildings. Lord Buddha, is said to have delivered discourses on architecture and even told his disciples that supervising the construction of a building was one of the duties of the order.

Mention is made of Viharas, Ardhayogas, Prasadas, Harmyas and Guhas. A treatise known as Chullavagga with a commentary of Buddhaghosa is said to contain much material on the science of architecture.

Many Puranas such as Skanda, Agni, Matsya, Garuda, Narada, Vayu, Brahmanda and Linga deal with Vastu fairly extensively. For instance, the Matsyapurana (Chap. CCL II - 2 to 4) refers to eighteen sages proficient in Vastu: Bhrigu, Atri, Vasishta, Viswakarma, Maya, Narada, Nagnajita, Visalaksha, Purandhara, Brahma, Kumara, Nandisa, Saunaka, Garga, Vasudeva, Aniruddha, Sukra and Brihaspati are the eighteen celebrated authors referred to as Vastu Sastropadesakas or instructors in the science of Vastu.

The Brihat Samhita exquisitely deals with residential and temple architecture. In this classical work, reference is made to underground water and how to divine it. Various methods detail the exploration of water springs. According to Chapter LIV, Stanza 40, if a palm or coconut tree is found to be covered with anthills, a southerly water-vein is present at a depth of 20 cubits and at a distance of 6 cubits from the tree. (A cubit which in Sanskrit is termed as hasta is approximately 18").

Another important factor to note is that this classic recommends water tanks or sumps to have their Eastern and Western sides longer than the Southern and Northern sides. (The morning sunrays emanating from the East are a rich source of good energy and by having the East sides longer, the water is better exposed to these good rays.) The preparation and use of an adamantine glue to be used in construction of residential buildings, temples and idols finds a prominent place in Brihat Samhita.

The various Agamas also give much useful information on architecture. Notable among them are Kamikagama, Karnagama, Suprabhedagama, Vaikhansagama and Amsumadbhedagama.

Certain works on Tantra such as Kirana Tantra and Hayaseersha Tantra are also said to contain much information on architecture.

Other treatises like Kautilya's Arthasastra and Sukra Niti are said to dwell on structural aspects of architecture.

Some of the more important works on the science of dwelling are Mayamata, Manasara and Samarangana Sutradhara.

Manasara is a comprehensive treatise on architecture and iconography. According to P K Acharya, the editor of Manasara, this book is considered to be the source of all presentations of architecture in Purana and Agama as well as in more specialised texts such as Brihat Samhita and Mayamata. In fact, this treatise itself is identified as a Vastu Sastra, the first Vastu being the earth Manasara represents the universality of Vastu tradition and contains also the iconography of Jain and Buddhist images. The work is universally accepted all over India.

Mayamata occupies a very important place amongst the various treatises on Vastu. It is said to have originated from South India. It is the best-known among the ancient treatises dealing with architecture and iconography. Maya, the author, was not only an expert in Vastu but also in Jyotisha. The famous astronomical Surya Siddhanta is also authored by Maya.

Samarangana Sutradhara also deals with architecture in detail. It even speaks of mechanical devices called Yantras. The classical works referred to above speak of Aya. Every plot and building is said to have life and hence, has to be built to perfect proportions based on certain formulae. When a building is so constructed, it is ensured of long life and the residents live happily with good health, wealth and prosperity.

These formulae called the Ayadi Shadvarga are, 1) Aya, increase or profit, 2) Vyaya, decrease or loss, 3) Rksa or Nakshatra, 4) Yoni or source or the orientation of the building, 5) Vara (week day) or the solar day; and 6) Tithi or the lunar day. The following Sloka from Manasara may be noted with advantage.

When there is more merit than demerit, there is no defect in it;
but if the demerit is more than the merit, it would be all defective.

It is necessary that Vastu, which can be dated to many centuries back, is understood properly and adapted to modern conditions of construction and living.

Phala Jyotisha

Jyotisha or astrology consists of three main divisions - Ganita, Phalita and Samhita. Ganita is the mathematical part, Phalita is the predictive part and Samhita is the division under which comes Vastu, weather forecasting and such other natural phenomena.

Vastu is, therefore, an integral part of Jyotisha. In fact, Utpala's commentary on Brihat Samhita refers to Vastu Vidya as an anga or limb of Jyotisha and says that Vastu falls in the category of Samhita teaching. Coming to the Phala Jyotisha, the fourth house in a horoscope is generally looked into for property and inheritance. The lords of the second, fourth and twelfth in Kendras and Trikonas ensure smoothness in affairs pertaining to property and houses. The fourth lord in Lagna or in the seventh gives one a house without any difficulty. On the other hand, if the lord of the fourth is in the eighth, afflicted or debilitated, it deprives the person of his land and houses. Property is also indicated, if Venus is posited in the fourth house. When Mars occupies the fourth, the person will own a house but will not be happy on that account. If the Sun is in the fourth house, inheritance is indicated. If Ketu is in the fourth, the person is deprived of properties. It is to be remembered that these results get modified by aspects and conjunctions of other planets. A collective approach is absolutely necessary, if we have to understand the true significance.

Importance of Muhurtha

Muhurtha is another important aspect of house building. It comes into play at four stages of construction viz., digging of a well, laying of foundation, placing the maindoor-frame or Vasakal and finally the first entry into the new house or Grihapravesam. According to Muhurtha Sastra,

House building is not advised in the lunar months of Jyeshta, Ashada, Bhadrapada, Aswiyuja, Margasira, Pushya and Phalguna.

The favourable lunar months are Chaitra, Vaisakha, Sravana, Magha and Kartika.

All odd Tithis except the 9th are good.

Of the even Tithis, the 2nd, 6th and 10th can be selected.

Of the weekdays, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are the best.

The rising sign or Lagna should be a fixed sign. The Lagna should be fortified by the disposition of malefics in 3rd, 6th and 11th houses and benefics in Kendras and trines. The 8th house should be vacant without the aspect of a malefic planet

For digging of wells, select Revati, Uttarabhadra, Hasta, Anuradha, Makha, Sravana, Rohini or Pushyami. Let the rising sign be Pisces, Cancer or Capricorn.

The main door-frame can be fixed when the Lagna is a fixed sign. Wednesday and Friday are good, if ruled by beneficial lunar day.

Grihapravesam can be done when the Sun is in Uttarayana, that is from January to June of each year. Jupiter and Venus should be strongly disposed. Lunar months of Vaisakha, Jyeshta, Magha and Phalguna are the best. Kartika and Margasira may also be considered. The weekdays Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are good. The Lagna should be a fixed sign. Grihapravesam is normally not recommended when the lady of the house is in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

Energy Fields

Professor B. Suryanarain Rao, my esteemed great grandfather says that Vastu refers to the form of construction of the house and the energies or forces called into existence by the arrangements made and the materials used in the construction. Energy Fields in Vastu.The subtle chemical results, effected by the conjunction of various materials, though not seen by the naked eyes, are still there and any evil tendencies they may have to produce danger, disease or death to the occupants, must be very sensibly and dexterously neutralised or counteracted. The astrological works lay down certain principles where those evil influences are averted. In any plot, various energies - good and evil - are at play continuously. These energy fields get distorted when a building is constructed on the plot.

Our ancients, after great contemplation and experimentation, arrived at a certain way of building so that these buildings worked with the forces of nature rather than against them, in the process making man a compatible part of the area/environment. Our sages were aware that the human body has layers of aura or energy levels. The strength of these energy levels depend on the evolution of the person. When the energy fields of the structure interact with the energy fields of the person, good and bad results follow. Hence, they felt that it was all the more necessary to build a house such that the two energy levels, one of the animate and the other of the inanimate, worked in harmony and resonance. This way, the ancients tried to ensure the happiness of the residents of the buildings.

Our ancients were equally aware of the universal energies emanating from the celestial bodies or planets. They, therefore, saw the importance of Muhurtha in various stages of construction so that the evil energies were minimised and the good energies maximised. Ancient Masters.Let each one of us contribute to the society by building our houses according to the principles of Vastu. The Ancients were past masters, not only in philosophy but also in literature, medicine, mathematics, Jyotisha etc. In fact, the reach of the ancients was across our borders. In the Mahabharata, Sage Vyasa, describes the Romans coming to the Emperor Yudhishtira with precious gifts for the Rajasuya Yaga at Indraprastha.

Experiment, observation and inference were the main criteria of arriving at the truth. However, the additional tool that the wise men of ancient India had, was the intuitional perception with which many disciplines of knowledge developed. The ancients saw the influence of cosmic energies on living beings. They held that various energies that run around us in a particular pattern could be harnessed such that they resonated with the individual being or the people residing in the building in a good way to make their lives meaningful and harmonious. They had exceptional analysing powers apart from great intuition and this is how they gave us a set of guidelines for planning a building, village or town. They took into consideration the various creative, destructive and sustaining energies present in the cosmos.

Ancient Civilisations

MohenjodaroThe Mohenjodaro and Harappan civilizations, which date back to 3000 B.C., are examples of the exquisite and elaborate planning that went into their construction. Several cities have been found and it is said that the planning was based on a rectangular grid or Mandala oriented to the cardinal directions viz., East, South, West and North. The main construction material was the brick. The house had courtyards with well-designed drainage systems. Timber was used for floors and roofs and the cities had walls on all the four sides.

Another notable centre of ancient architecture and civilisation is Pataliputra situated between the Ganges and the modern Patna in Bihar. It is said that this town was protected by a timber fence of pointed stakes. It was fortified with 64 gates and had 570 towers surrounded by a deep moat. The palace was an extensive collection of buildings standing in a beautiful park that had trees and nice water pools.

Glory of Vedic Architecture

Vedic architecture was seen in its glory during the reign of the Guptas, Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Chalukyas and most importantly, during the period of the Vijayanagar empire. It was during the reign of these kings that great temples and temple-towns were built. The Vastu Purusha Mandala or grid governed the arrangement of the town, which included a temple, a granary, an armoury, treasury and big halls for public and private audience. The main court designated as Rajabhavana was the place where the king gave audience to the public.

One of the outstanding contributions of the Pandyas is the temple-town of Madurai, which has the Meenakshi temple complex as its centre. The Meenakshi shrine itself has a three-storeyed Gopuram.

The Pallava influence is seen in the temples of Mahabalipuram (near Chennai) and the Siva temple at Kanchi.

The imposing Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple which was in the news recently for suspected fire sabotage, in which many were killed, is a good example of the Chola architecture. Tjanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple.The 30-foot Sivalinga is said to be sculpted from a single stone. The temple complex of Chidambaram with Nataraja, the lord of nritya or dance is another outstanding contribution of the Cholas. Four imposing towers, each 135 feet high, are seen in all the four cardinal directions spread over the 7 storeys.

The famous Chennakesava temple at Belur and Halebidu is an outstanding example of the architecture of the Chalukyas. This temple is described by a historian as "one of the most marvellous exhibitions of human labour." The Vijayanagar school of architecture is seen in the temples of Hampi.

The engineering skills of the Hindus are very much reflected in the gigantic temples hewn out of the huge rocks at Elephanta, Ellora and Ajantha. It is interesting to know that the India of yesterday was totally different from the India of today. Our country was one of the most prosperous countries.

Greatness of India

In the History of India, Prof. Murray says : "India has always appeared to the imagination of the Western world adorned with whatever is most splendid and gorgeous; glittering as it were with gold and gems and redolent of fragrant and delicious odours. The varied grandeur of its scenery and the rich production of its soil are scarcely equalled in any other country."

The historian Abdullah Wassaf dwells on the beauty of India and says : "If it is asserted that Paradise is in India be not surprised, because Paradise itself is not comparable to it."

Colonel Tods in his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, referring to India, says: "Where shall we find astronomers whose knowledge of the planetary system yet excites wonder in Europe as well as the architects and sculptors whose works claim for admiration and the musicians who could make the mind oscillate with joy to sorrow, tears to smiles with the change of modes and intonation."

Describing the temple of Rameswaram, Lord Valenta says : "The whole building presents a magnificent appearance which we might in vain seek adequate language to describe."

It is sad to see that the many achievements of our ancients have been lost in oblivion due to the distorted history presented in school and college books and the centuries of destruction of priceless architectural splendours by invaders. It is a folly on our part to justify everything on the basis of so-called scientific reasoning. Our ancients saw much more than mere rationalising. They were familiar with the various energies that are perpetually created in nature and designed the rules such that harmony prevailed between the animate and the inanimate. It is interesting to note that saga Vyasa identifies the security aspect when he says that the houses, designed for the kings who came to attend the Rajasuya Yaga of King Yudhistira, had no obstructions and had big compound walls. The doors were of uniform height and had numerous ornaments and metal inlaid into them not only enhancing their beauty but also giving them great strength.

Four Types of Architects

The ancients mention four types of architects - the Sthapati, Sutragrahin, Vardhaki and Takshaka.

The Sthapati is the chief architect or master builder. He is well-qualified in all Sastras or sciences and has command over the four Vedas. He is a cultured, decent man free from vices. He has the ability to direct his team. He is the Acharya.

The Sutragrahin is the supervisor and is said to be normally the Sthapati's son. He is also well-qualified in the Vedas and Sastras. He is an expert draftsman or Rekhagna, who directs the rest of the work force.

The Vardhaki is the painter and has made a special study of it. He is also well-versed in the Vedas.

The Takshaka is the master carpenter who is responsible for all the intricate wood work including doors, windows, pillars etc.

Vastu gives importance to the selection of a site and the primary considerations are the nature of the slopes, colour and strength of the soil apart from the directions that the plot faces. The ancients used a great degree of precision in their measurements. The smallest unit mentioned is the paramanu or the atom. The angula and the hasta are the units normally used for idols and buildings. The set of six formulae or Ayadivarga viz., the Aya, Vyaya, Yoni, Tithi, Vara and Nakshatra are prescribed to enable the builder to find the proper orientation and correct dimensions of his building.

Thirty-two plans for construction are elaborated. These plans are also called Vastu Purusha Mandalas beginning from the single cell Mandala known as the Sakala to the 1024-cell Mandala called the Indrakanta. The Sakala is recommended for homakundas or fire altars and the Indrakanta for planning of towns and cities. Other commonly used Mandalas are the 64-grid Mandooka, the 100-grid Asana mainly used for temples, Prasada, and the 81-grid Paramasyika used for residential buildings. The centre point of the Mandala is called Brahmanabhi or Brahmabindu.

The Vastu Purusha Mandala is divided into four concentric zones. The central zone is called the Brahmastana or the space corresponding to total awareness. The next three zones are Daiva, Manushya and Paisacha areas and are said to denote enlightenment, consciousness and grossness respectively. The terms Daiva, Manushya and Paisacha perhaps denote the energy flow pattern which begins from the centre or Brahmabindu, that is the point of awareness, and flows outward as three basic Gunas viz., Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. A building structure is normally recommended in the Daiva and Manushya zones. Vastu is also particularly concerned with the Panchamahabhootas and studies the five elements viz., earth, water, fire, wind, and cosmic space. Proper selection of a site, placement of water bodies, cooking areas, hearth and ovens, doors and windows and open space within the building and in the plot are said to infuse life energy.

Landscape Representing Panchamahabhootas

When we go deep into the work of the ancient masters on Vastu, we will be convinced that they had tremendous knowledge about engineering and other sciences. Let us now try to understand this.

In Brihat Samhita, Varahamihira talks about the different building materials like sila or stone and ishtika or brick. Much importance is laid on the strength and stability of the house when he says that the thickness of the wall should be 1/16th the width of the house. The recommendation of a certain thickness of the wall was, perhaps, based on the fact that the load distribution of bricks was through comprehensive or load-bearing strength and not tensile strength which is negligible. Varahamihira also tells us it is auspicious to have the same height as the breadth of the house. Could this mean that he was not only emphasising the aesthetic beauty of a building but also saw the necessity of a proper and optimum distribution of loads acting on the wall? A building becomes majestic if it has massive supporting pillars. Brihat Samhita brings out the importance of pillars in several Slokas. The strength aspect is emphasised when it says that the thickness of the main beam should be the same as that of the pillar. The pillars are described as being divided into several parts, each part being carved with various designs and few at the bottom being worked in gold.

Here, apart from the strength of the pillars, the aesthetic beauty is brought into focus. There is also the mention of minor beams relating to the modern secondary and tertiary beams*. Let us consider the general Vastu theory that the North and East should be free and open. The morning rays of the Sun are a known source of good energies and probably, our seers wanted these rays to flood the house and benefit the inmates. It is also precisely for this reason that the bathroom where one takes one's bath every morning, is also recommended in the East. Similarly, the placement of the shrine in the North-east where we offer our prayer in the mornings and the kitchen in the South-east where the traditional housewife is most of the time busy are also related to the fact that the morning rays are as much required by the housewife in the kitchen as by the master of the house in the shrine. Similarly, the location of water bodies in the North-east could, perhaps, be related to the need of having water available near the fire ovens in the South-east kitchen in case of any fire hazards.

Another aspect of the scientific thinking of our ancients is reflected in the position one is supposed to sleep. It is normally recommended for people to sleep with their heads to the South. The human body is said to have the ability to acquire the property of magnetism because there is a large percentage of iron in the blood circulating all over our body. It is also known that the earth is a huge magnet with its poles having attractive and repulsive powers as is evident by the pointing of a compass needle. The feet for the most part of the day are in contact with this huge magnet. The South polarity is said to be induced in the feet and consequently North polarity, in the head. This arrangement of poles in the human body is natural to it and, therefore, conducive to health. When lying down with your head to the South, the magnetic poles of your head and feet will attract the South and North poles of the earth respectively, thereby preserving the polarity of the body natural. It is precisely for this reason too that the ancients said that the body enjoys perfect health and longevity that is strengthened by sleeping with the head to the South. By sleeping with the head to the North, this natural polarity is disturbed or diminished and the body becomes vulnerable to disease. Sage Markandeya, who was able to conquer death, is said to have stated that a person acquires strength and longevity by placing his head Southwards, and brings upon himself disease and death by lying down with his head placed to the North.

Hospitals can expect to have faster recovery of their patients if they insist that they lie with their heads to the South. That our ancients were aware of the usefulness of lightning rods is seen from the fact that ancient temple tops have iron or copper rods inserted into them. These rods placed at the top of a temple are similar to the lightning conductor rods that are now fixed at the roof-top of modern buildings.

The Vastu Mandala or grid is given importance not only for the structure but also for certain daily activities like sitting for food etc. Every human being has a definite energy pattern or vital force around his body, normally called the aura. Depending on the evolution of each individual, this energy-flow round the body is weak or strong. The ancients felt that whenever a person sat for food within a square traced on the floor (or a wooden peeta or platform) without touching his neighbour, the aura or the vital force would not be disturbed. The non-disturbance of the aura would actively assist in proper digestion of food, thereby keeping the individual in good health. Many traditional families, even to this day, squat on the floor and have their food sitting in a pre-drawn Mandala, not touching each other. The same reasoning can be extended to explain why most Hindus prefer to do the Namsakaram rather than shake hands with others.

As the awareness in Vastu grows rapidly, the ever-questioning mind of the so-called rationalist tries to find a reason for every Vastu move. However scientific our ancients were, it is sometimes impossible to fit the rules of Vastu totally to the limited framework of modern scientific thinking. The limitations of the modern thinking mind can be compared to the commonsense in a child. For example, how does the child reconcile to the fact that the Americans who are on the underside of us stay glued to the surface of earth without falling off ? What commonsense (in the child) says is not possible is proved to the contrary by irrefutable evidence. The child is just not able to understand the logic because of its limited thinking, but as it grows into adulthood, it is able to comprehend the laws of gravitation and understand why the Americans do not fall off from the underside of the earth. Our scientific thinking, I feel, is still in its childhood.

Universal Application

Vastu Sastra can be used not only for individual houses but also for group-housing schemes and town planning. Our ancients have provided us with wonderful knowledge about planning and construction and we need to discipline our senses to make use of this knowledge for the betterment of mankind at large. Vastu can provide us all the vital information required to make our lives healthy and peaceful

The fundamental Vastu plan includes the modern spaciousness, the verandahs open to the sky lawns, various rooms, kitchen, bath etc. Industries, offices, shops, business complexes can all benefit by the application of the fundamental Vastu rules. It is unfortunate that the town planners of today have absolutely no knowledge or inclination to take the assistance of the science of Vastu.

The growth of cities is totally unplanned and congestion, lack of basic sanitation and total negligence of the aspect of symmetry and beauty are to be seen everywhere. The planning of houses on the micro level and of towns on the macro level are the finest traits of human civilisation one can think of. If only our people and the town planners made use of the principles of architecture as laid down by our ancients, this earth would be a better place to live in. While wishing you all a very happy new year, let us hope each one of us applies the principles of this great science in our lives and attain health, harmony and happiness.

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