Shastra (Vaastu- physical environment and
Shastra- knowledge/text/principles. The
't' in both the words is pronounced softly.
Also spelled (Vastu) is one of the traditional
Hindu canons of town planning and architecture.
These canons are codified in texts such
as Manasara Silpa Shastra (by Manasara),
Mayamatam (by Maya), Viswakarma Vaastushastra
(by Viswakarma), Samarangana Sutradara (by
Raja Bhoja), Aparajita Praccha (by Viswakarma's
son Aparajita) and Silparatna. Other treatises
such as Agni Purana and works by Kautilya
and Sukracharya are not popular even though
they preceded the previously mentioned documents.
Distinction of style exists due to each
documents place of origin. Mayamata and
Mansara Silpa Shastra are considered Dravidian
because they are from South India whereas
Viswaskarama Vaastu Shastra is considered
Aryan due to its North Indian origin. Vaastu
Shastra deals with various aspects of designing
and building living environments that are
in harmony with the physical and metaphysical
forces/energies of the cosmos such as the
gravitational, electromagnetic and supernatural.
Building practices based on limited interpretations
of these principles are still sustained
in specific areas of India.
Though Vastu is conceptually similar to
Feng Shui in that it also tries to harmonize
the flow of energy (Also called Life-force,
and Prana in Sanskrit, similar to Chi in
Chinese) through the house, it differs in
the details, such as the exact directions
in which various objects, rooms, materials
etc are to be placed.
of Vaastu Shastra
All places of dwelling are termed Vastu
however the actual physical manifestation
of the dwelling is called Vaastu. There
are four categories of Vaastu:
The earth site - Bhoomi, the principal dwelling
place on which everything else rests
The structures on the earth - Prasada
Movable objects (vehicles) - Yaana
As these categories suggest, the principles
of Vaastu Shastra extend from the macro
level to the micro level- site selection,
site planning and orientation, zoning and
disposition of rooms, proportional relationships
between the various parts of buildings and
the character of buildings.
The Vaastu Purusha Mandala is an indispensable
part of Vaastu Shastra and constitutes the
mathematical and diagrammatic basis for
generating design. Purusha refers to energy,
power, soul or cosmic man. Mandala is the
generic name for any plan/chart, which represents
the cosmos metaphysically/symbolically,
a microcosm of the universe.
In Hindu cosmology the surface of the earth
is represented as a square, the most fundamental
of all Hindu forms. The earth is represented
as four cornered with reference to the horizon's
relationship with sunrise and sunset, the
North and South direction. It is called
Chaturbhuji - four cornered- and represented
in the symbolic form of the Prithvi Mandala.
The astrological charts or horoscopes(Rasi,
Navamsa, etc.,) also represent in a square
plan the ecliptic - the positions of the
sun, moon, planets and zodiacal constellations
with reference to a specific person's place
and time of birth.
The Vaastu Purusha Mandala is a specific
type of mandala used in Vaastu Shastra.
It is the metaphysical plan of a building/
temple/site that incorporates the course
of the heavenly bodies and supernatural
The legend of the Vaastu Purusha is related
thus. Once a formless being blocked the
heaven from the earth and Brahma with many
other Gods trapped him to the ground. This
incident is depicted graphically in the
Vaastu Purusha Mandala with portions allocated
hierarchically to each God based on the
contributions and positions in performing
this act. Brahma occupied the central portion
- the Brahmasthana - and other Gods were
distributed around in a concentric pattern.
There are 45 Gods in all including 32 outer
The principal Gods/presiding deities of
each direction (called the ashtadikpalar)
Northeast - Isaana - Lord of all quarters
(Religions,Luck and Faith)
East - Aditya - Sun God (Seeing the world)
Southeast - Agni -Lord of Fire(Genrating)
South - Yama - Lord of Death (Damaging)
Southwest - Pitru - ancestors (History)
West - Varuna - Lord of water (Physical)
Northwest - Vayu - Lord Of Winds (Advertisement)
North - Kubera - Lord of Wealth (Finance)
Centre - Brahma - Lord/Creator of the Universe
The Vaastu Purusha is the presiding deity
of any site. Usually he is depicted as lying
on it with the head in the Northeast and
the legs in the Southwest but he keeps changing
his position throughout the year.
types and properties
The form of the Vaastu Purusha Mandala is
basically a square but there are various
types of mandalas depending on the way in
which the basic square is divided. In each
case, the square is subdivided into smaller
squares by lines running parallel/ perpendicular
to the sides. Each side of the square can
be divided from 1 to 32 divisions. Thus,
the number of squares in the Vaastu Purusha
Mandala may vary from 12 to 322, i.e. from
1, 4, 16, 25 and so on to 1024. Each of
these mandalas has a distinct name and is
used in specific contexts.
As mentioned earlier, the central area in
all mandalas is the Brahmasthana. The space
occupied by it varies in different mandalas.
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 mandalas are the Manduka/Chandita
Mandala of 64 squares and the Paramasaayika
Mandala of 81 squares- especially the former.
The normal position of the Vaastu Purusha
- head in Northeast, legs in Southwest -
is as depicted in the Paramasaayika Mandala.
However, in the Manduka Mandala the Vaastu
Purusha is depicted with head towards East
and feet towards West.
An important number of squares, or ayugma,
has its centre constituted by one module
or pada and when divided into an even number
of squares or yugma, its centre 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.
site planning and architecture
The mandala being a metaphysical plan is
put to use in site planning and architecture
through a process called the Pada Vinyasa.
Pada Vinyasa is a method whereby any site
can be divided into uniform grids/modules
or padas. 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.
Mandalas have certain points known as marmas
which are vital and vulnerable 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 type
of mandala 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 and building
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 god/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 yajnas. However the Nishkala
is used for installation of idols without
form - nishkalamoorthy - and for auspicious,
pure performances. The amorphous centre
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 centre would cause too high
a concentration of energy for human occupants.
Even here, the Brahmasthana is left unbuilt
with rooms organised around.
In accordance with the position occupied
by the Gods in the mandala, guidelines are
given for zoning of site and distribution
of rooms in a building. Some of these are
northeast should house the pooja room, east-
bathroom, southeast - kitchen, south - bedroom,
southwest - armoury, west - dining, northwest
- cowshed, north - treasury.
Aspects of environment and energy
Vaastu Shastra describes various criteria
which determine the choice of a site. The
most exalted shape for a site is square,
however rectangle is also acceptable. It
explains about soil examination or Bhu -
Pariksha. One particular test involves the
digging of a hole and refilling it again
with the dug soil. Based on the volume occupied
by this soil in the pit, its characteristics
are determined. A gnomon is used in determining
the orientation. This practice is called
Sanku Sthaapanam. Vaastu Shastra also prescribes
sites suitable for different castes.
Vaastu Shastra prescribes desirable characteristics
for sites and buildings based on flow of
energy. Many of the rules are attributed
to cosmological considerations - the sun's
path, the rotation of the earth, magnetic
field, etc. The morning sun is considered
especially beneficial and purifying and
hence the East is a treasured direction.
The body is considered a magnet with the
head, the heaviest and most important part,
being considered the North Pole and the
feet the South Pole. Hence sleeping with
one's head in the North is believed to cause
a repulsive force with the earth's magnetic
North and thus considered harmful. Bedrooms
are therefore designed keeping this in mind.
This is a wide spread practice in Tamil
Nadu even today.
Energy is primarily considered as emanating
from the Northeast corner and many site
and building characteristics are derived
from this. Sites sloping down towards North
or East from higher levels of South and
West are considered good. Open spaces in
site and openings in the building are to
be more in the North and East than in the
South and the West. No obstacles are to
be present in the North and the East. Levels
and height of buildings are to be higher
in the South and West when compared to the
North and East. The Southwest corner is
to be the highest, followed by Southeast,
then by Northwest and finally by Northeast.
The triangle formed by joining the Southwest,
Southeast and the Northwest corner of the
site is attributed to the moon and the triangle
formed by joining the Northeast, Northwest
and Southeast corner of the site is attributed
to the sun. The former are prescribed to
be heavier and higher and the latter light
and lower. Sites having a longer East -
West axis are considered better. The diagonal
connecting Southwest and Northeast is to
be longer than the diagonal connecting Southeast
and Northwest. An extended Northeast corner
is considered beneficial.
Other aspects of buildings
There are many other principles in Vaastu
Shastra, to mention a few which involve
certain mathematical calculations - Maana
for proportional relationships in a building
and Aayaadi which specify conditions for
maximum wellbeing and benefits for the residents
of a building.
Vaastu Shastra evolved as a compilation
of planning principles for a healthy living
based on the knowledge base of the time
(similar to Western treatises such as Vitruvius')
and was not meant to be absolute. Its current
popularity stems from its focus on a wholesome
approach to space and form. Vastu was earlier
used in the design of Hindu homes, but became
less prominent in the industrialization
period during and following the colonial
British Raj. But it is used extensively
in temple design, and so survived in the
clans of temple designers and architects.
In recent years, it has again gained mainstream
popularity, and there are several Vastu
'consultants' in India, some dubious, some
One of the leading lights in this renewal
is the famed temple architect Ganapathi
Sthapati, of the ancient Sthapati clan of
temple architects and sculptors.