Bengal Institute of Oriental Studies (BIOS), Kolkata 700104.
India is one of the ancient civilizations of the world with its history going back as far as Indus valley civilization. House and family has always been an important part of Indian life, culture and history. House has always been considered as a living being and has been designed as the adobe of Gods. Vastu Shastra principles which have been developed over the ages were the guiding principles for the construction of house, town planning, temple architecture and sculpturing in India for centuries. Vastu in context of Vastu Shastra means place where immortals and mortals dwell. It has been classified into various elements of nature which are: earth, fire, water, air and sky/space.
British introduced to India new concept of municipal administration and development control regulations (DCR). Over a period of time, the DCR has given an industrial outlook to the city rather than individual and regional characteristics of the Vastu Shastra. These are very fixed rules which had no inclination or consideration towards the climatic, directional, and site characteristics. This paper tries to critically analyse both the approaches and their individual characteristics and tries to evolve a middle path.
India is an ancient civilization which is renowned for the various progresses it has made on various disciplines like: Science, Mathematics, Medicine, architecture and Culture. In each of this area it had established scientific methods of practice like – Ayurveda, yoga, Vastu Shastra, Vedic Mathematics, Astrology etc. These disciplines were conceived and developed on the basis of strong scientific research and patronage of the ancient rulers. These were the some of the factors behind cultural development and economic prosperity along with the fact that India was a very fertile land. Vastu Shastra which is also known as Hindu Architecture is a Sanskrit word. In Sanskrit the word “Vastu” means a building or structure or a dwelling and “Shastra” means science so the expression “Vastu Shastra” is the science of structures/ buildings to prepare fertile ground for seed of life to flower and eternally experience the ‘Sat-Chid-Anand’ (the eternal bliss). The fundamental concept behind Vastu Shastra is that world is made up of five basic elements: Earth, water, fire, air and space and it is purely based on some of the following basic principles of science:
• The gravitational and magnetic force of the earth
• Rotation of the earth on its axis, and the centrifugal and other forces created by its movement.
• Energy is neither created nor destroyed. There is a constant flow of energy.
It’s a vast and highly developed branch of learning. This science basically explains how to achieve harmony between all the five elements so that there is balance between human and nature. It gifts us with a technology to create buildings with regenerative properties of peace, prosperity and love. Vastu Shastra was used even in 6th Century B.C. But the application of Vastu Shastra along with other indigenous traditional methods of construction slowed down after 10th century AD because of increase in foreign invasions to India. And during the British rule in India Vastu Shastra was referred to as inferior to new scientific out look that was brought in.
ORIGIN OF VASTU SHASTRA:
The origin of Vastu Shastra may have taken place well over thousands of years ago. It’s a part of Vedas which are believed to be 4000 to 5000 year old. The art of Vastu originated in the Stapatya Veda, a part of Attarva Veda. It used to be a purely technical subject and it was confined to architects (Sthapatis). 5000 years ago in Mahabharata, demon Mayan had designed place Maya Sabha as per Vastu Shastra guidelines.
Maya Sabha, Mahabharata Ayodhaya, Ramayana, Vastu finds mention in Ramayana as well. The construction of the holy city of Ayodhya where Lord Ram was born and ruled, shared a similarity with the plan written in the great Vastu architecture text MANASARA. Even in the archaeologically found cites like Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro the application of Vastu Shastra can be seen.
Though it’s a known fact that Hindu temples are based on Vastu principles even Buddhist temples and monasteries are based on Vastu. Various Buddhist literatures make numerous mentions of buildings based on Vastu.
One can see the application of Vastu Shastra not only in Monasteries ( viharas) and temples but also in buildings which are partly residential and partly religious (Ardhayogas), residential storied buildings (Prasadas), multi storied buildings( Harmyas) and also in residential buildings for middle class people (Guhas). It covers all buildings irrespective of their use: residential, commercial, industries, institutional etc. It deals with the selection of site, orientation and alignment of the buildings. It basically defines the various rules and regulations to ensure a proper flow of energy and to achieve harmony with the surrounding environment. Traditional Vastu Shastra does not usually promote the rectification of buildings but focuses on how to get it right from the beginning.