A well planned town has happy inhabitant and a healthy atmosphere and Vaastu Shastra plays an important role to develop a planned town. Indian culture and civilization has survived thousands of years because it is based on the strong foundation of the wisdom known as “Vedas”. Man can improve his conditions by properly designing and understanding the location, direction and disposition of a building that have a direct bearing on the human being. The experience of many generations has proved that the planning of the villages, towns, cities and capitals of ancient India which were considered best as it gave health and peacefulness. Vaastu Shaastra is an ancient Hindu knowledge of architecture, which finds its origin in Vedas. The Vedas are the most ancient sacred scripture of India. There are in fact, four Vedas—the Rig Veda (hymns or verses), Yajur Veda (sacrificed formulas), Sama Veda (melodies of the chants) and Atharva Veda (spells and incarntations for the practice of magic). These Vedas have their four supplementary Vedas (Upa Vedas). Among the four Upa Vedas, Sthapatya Veda deals with architecture. Vaastu Shaastra, the ancient science of designing and constructing buildings is, thus, a part of Sthapatya Veda, considered as an applied knowledge, subordinate to the Atharva Veda. This ancient knowledge of designing and constructing building finds its origin in Sthapatya Veda, which is a part of Atharva Veda (the fourth Veda).
In Vaastu-Shaastra the plot for residences were allotted profession wise:
- The Brahmins –the priest The North
- The Kshatriyas- the warrior class The East
- The Vaishyas- the business class The South
- The Sudras – the lower class The West
Following the above general survey of the land, the site is then judged against the categories of its attributes as a Brahmin site, a Kshatriya site, a Vaishya site and a Sudra site. A Brahmin site brings happiness, a Kshatriya site gives power, a Vaishya site generates wealth and a Shudra site is associated with toil and is an inferior site.
A Brahmin site is square in shape, whitish in hue, and without defects. It gently slopes down towards North. The taste of its soil is sweet, and the land fragrant. The sweet taste is associated with the planet Jupiter that signifies wisdom, happiness and spirituality, which are the associated attributes of the Brahmin Varna. Jupiter and Venus are the ruling planets of Brahmin Varna. The color white is associated with the Northern direction. Such a site brings good fortune.
A Kshatriya site is a rectangle, where the length exceeds the breadth by its eighth part (L = B+B/8, where L is length and B is breadth). It is of a blood red hue, and slopes down towards the East. Its soil is bitter and has an astringent taste. The bitter taste is associated with the planet Mars, which is associated with the color red. The Sun and Mars are the ruling planets of the Kshatriya Varna, signifying velour, courage and strength. Red is also associated with the eastern direction. Such a site brings success.
A Vaishya site is a rectangle, where the length exceeds the breadth by its sixth part (L=B+B/6). It is of a yellowish hue, and its soil tastes sour. Yellow is associated with the southern direction ruled by the Vaishya Varna. Although, Mayamata and Manasara recommend an eastern slope for the Vaishya and Shudra sites too, Rajavallabha and Brihat Samhita recommend a southern slope for the Vaishya Varna. Sour taste is associated with the planet Venus. Such a site has a beneficial quality.
A Shudra site is a rectangle where the length exceeds the breadth by its fourth part (L = B+B/4). Its soil is black and pungent in taste, associated with the planet Saturn. Saturn rules the western direction, and Shudra site slopes down towards the west. Such a soil produces riches and grains.
Fundamental Principles of Vaastu Shastra
Vaastu Shastra is essentially an art of correct setting whereby one can optimize maximum benefits of the Panchbhutas (five elements) of nature, earth’s magnetic field and the rotational influence of the sun, moon and the other planets surrounding the earth. It has laid down several principles for constructing buildings. The fundamental principles of Vaastu Shastra are applied in constructing buildings such as houses, commercial complexes, industry layouts, towns, temples etc. There are five basic principles on which the great edifice of the Vaastu science of architecture stands. They are
- the doctrine of orientation;
- site planning;
- the proportionate measurement of building;
- the six canons of Vedic architecture;
- the aesthetics of the building.
The Doctrine of Orientation
In Indian thought, the cardinal directions hold a particular significance. The various associations given to the eight cardinal directions (northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, northwest and north) help elucidate the orientation principles of Vaastu Shastra. The theory of orientation of buildings is secular as well as ecclesiastical, as laid down by Indian designers of structures, which consists in setting them in such a way that they may get maximum benefits from solar radiation. The fixing of cardinal points thus occupies a prominent place in Vaastu Shastra.
Site Planning (Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala)
Vaastu Shastra lays down various guidelines for choosing the proper site. It emphasizes strongly the examination of the soil, size, shape, taste, colour, and smell and vegetation features of the land. If the plot of land is found to be satisfactory on all these criteria, then it is selected for the purpose of building a house, village, industry, town, fort etc. After the selection of land, the blueprint of Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala is provided for the grid that facilitates the inception of the design, and in addition to being the ‘architect’s square pad’, where the concepts crystallize, each of its lines and divisions holds within it layers of meaning within which the intricacies of design unfold.
The Proportionate Measurement of Building (Maana)
The third basic principle of Vedic architecture is Maana, the proportionate measurements. The measurements are divided into six categories – measurement of height, breadth, width or circumference, measurement along plumb lines, measurement of thickness and measurement of inter-space. The role of Vaastu Shastra in the system of measurement is to achieve harmony between the absolute and the quantifiable. Measurement mediates finality to an architectural concept, similar to the spoken word, which provides a frame over which the canvas of thought is stretched. Measure ‘fixes’ as well as ‘evaluating’.
The Six Canons of Vedic Architecture (Aayaadi-Sadvarga)
There are six main components of a building- base (Aadhistaana), column (Paada or Stambha), entablature (Prastaara), ear or wings (Karna), roof (Shikara) and dome (Stupi). The Ayaadi formulas are some of the aspects analysed to assess the qualities of the house (Guna). In short, Aaya means measurement of building = length × breadth.
The Aesthetics of the Building
Aesthetics as a branch of philosophy deals with the nature of beauty. Applying aesthetic considerations to buildings and related architectural structures is complex, as factors extrinsic to spatial design (such as structural integrity, cost, the nature of building materials and the functional utility of the building) contribute to the design process. Notwithstanding, architects can still apply the aesthetic principles of ornamentation, texture, flow, solemnity, symmetry, colour, granularity, the interaction of sunlight and shadows, transcendence, and harmony. In Indian tradition, beauty is considered as chanda (moon); the structural aspect of building and its rhythmical disposition is like that of poetry . These traditional principles contour buildings in multifarious forms, structures varied from one another to suit the different classes of buildings, to satisfy different functions, and they never present an identical view. As a result, Vaastu Shastra has been described as a body of knowledge, which has been sustained, developed and modified by successive generations of architects through many centuries. It implies a tradition of knowledge that has, at various times, been ordered and expressed (and so is handed down to us) in a range of texts, with a variety of titles.
Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala is considered a model of the Universe and provides the basis for architectural design. It is a metaphorical expression of the plan of the Universe and depicts the link between people, buildings and nature. Here Vaastu means environment, site or a building. As a concept, it extends to include a village, town, a country or indeed the whole earth in all its manifestations. When a building is in a perfect state or order, it is viewed as a Purusha, the ‘man’ of the universe, representing pure energy, soul or consciousness; a kind of creative intelligence in the universe. Mandala means a diagram. It relates to orientation because the earth is essentially demarcated by sunrise and sunset, by east and west, north and south. It is known as Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala because the name consists of three parts: Vaastu +Purusha +Mandala. As a rule its shape is square, which is the fundamental form of Indian architecture. The square form of Vaastu-Purusha can be converted into a triangle, hexagon, octagon or circle of equal area and retain its symbolism. Once the orientation of the site is established, the Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala or the ground plan is superimposed on the site. The Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala was so universal that it could be applied to an altar, a temple, a house, a city or the entire cosmos. Thus, Vaastupurusha is the form of human in a planned site characterized by the symbols of zodiac signs, constellations and planets, which represent the entire solar system, and make the site, house, palace, village, city etc. a micro-cosmic aspect of the macro-cosmic Purusha or Vaastupurush.
The Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala adopts the shape of the site, and this functional attribute of the Mandala active in the mind of the designer in its ideal form of a square, acquiring a different shape in reality, is a primary example of its inherent flexibility. Not only does it adapt to the site constraints, but also it adopts the parameters of design requirements of contexts as diverse as the hot-and-arid state of Rajasthan and the wet-and-humid state of Kerala, as well as the variations in building materials, functional requirements and the social and political context in which it is used. It has been found that the buildings built in accordance with the rules of the Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala have proved conducive to health of a building.
Town planning is a civic art and civil architecture. The planning of town, a habitation, villages, fort, city or any other variety of group residences, should take into account its location first-situation and surrounding climate and soil. The first essential of town planning is to examine the soil. An ideal town must have a green belt of forests where tall trees, plants, flowers are found in abundance. This is necessary not only from the point of view of healthy climate but it is also conducive to the growth and maintenance of the population requiring fruits, fuel and fodder. Moreover, the natural scenery of this green verdure must add the beauty and the grandeur of the town. For a town, the site should be selected at the bank of a river, seashore or lake. Milky trees, fruits and flowers should surround the site. The Eastern side of the town should be lowered to get sunrays on the door fronts. The site should not be selected on the western side of a mountain. The capital of the state should be selected at the center of a town.
Shapes of Town
Vaastu Shaastra recommends five shapes of towns; (1) Chandura (square); (2) Agatara (rectangle); (3) Vrtta (circle); (4) Krtta Vrtta (elliptical) and Gola Vrtta (full circle). A city resembling Vajra-suci or a diamond (octagonal) should be regarded as inauspicious. If the front part of the city is in the shape of a bow, it is very good and auspicious. The Agni-purana recommends highly the semi-lunar shape of the town. The holy city of Banaras is situated on the convex side of the Gangetic belt and presents a semi-lunar phase. Nanjangud town near Mysore also is situated on the convey side of the river Kapila. The Matsya-purana says that the semi-lunar shape of a town is not auspicious. The development of industrial factories at Nanjangud brings the shape of the town to a semi-lunar aspect. The factories may become sick. In a hot country like India, southerly inclination would bring too much exposure to sunrays. The monsoon wind and rain in India are from south and west. Therefore, if the ground is sloped towards that direction, the houses there will be dangerously exposed to every storm. The engineer should consider the weather records of the area for the past ten years in designing any building. In the consideration of the weather data, such as wind velocity and its direction, rainfall, evaporation, humidity of the area, sunlight and maximum and minimum temperature etc, if we design the building, it will satisfy most of the specifications of Vāstu.
Vāstu Shāstra has laid strong emphasis on the selection of a proper site for establishing a new village, town or a city. The sites are generally classified under three categories:
- Barren land used to be called as Jāngala, where wind is hotter and the soil is black.
- Secondly, Anupama, ascribing for a beautiful is fresh and cool with the soft characteristic being humid and cool.
- Thirdly, Sādharana category used to be given to average quality where huge stretches of land existed in village was essentially distributed all round the capital city holiday equidistance and methodologies in controlling their physical sprawls coupled with human population and building densities.
Sukrāchārya had the remarkable intelligence in saying that capital city should be placed in such a local geographical position where various kinds of trees, water bodies, rivers, plants, shrubs, green vegetation cover, including cattle should be present in great number. The Mānasāra describes that the sites for establishing a city should be determined from its smell, taste, shape, direction, sound and touch. The topography should have inclination towards East and North, coupled with higher ground levels in South-West, West and South. If a river adjoins the site it should run from left to right or West to East or South to North. After the survey of the region and the selection of the site, the first thing for a town-planner is to plan out the roads and streets, lanes and by-lanes together with the orientation of the place so as to make it a fit place for human habitation with ease and comforts, healthy and longevity, peace and prosperity. Laying out the roads and streets is inter-connected with the plotting out of the whole area. Water is a fundamental necessity for life. No life can subsist without a good natural supply of water and hence the rivers, lakes, ponds and tanks are indispensable pre-requisites for the laying out of the town.
After the selection of land as per Vāstu, the sight was ploughed on an auspicious day as fixed by astronomical observation by a pair of specific oxen, which had white spots on their heads and knees. The next step was with determination of cardinal directions using gnomon, which concluded with the fixation of Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala. Different kinds of them were used depending upon the need of the application. In fact circular Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala symbolized the terrestrial world with constant movement. The square one showed rigidity and thus represented a perfect and absolute form. The posture of Vaastu Purusha has been different aspect of structural requirements. That is to say, Vaastu Purusha considered in residential buildings differs greatly in the application of temples construction. Vaastu-Shāstra describes 32 ways of constructing Vaastu-Puruhsa-Mandala. The simplest one is conceived with square and longest in these characteristics is of 1024 padas. The exact size and shape of Vaastu- Purusha-Mandala is determined according to the requirements of the building constructions. The Vaastu Purusha is the presiding lord of the whole plot. He is said to occupy the plant area in such a manner so as to occupy the whole plot and thus the presiding deities of the square becomes presiding deities of the different limps of the body.
Mode of application
In building towns and cities, the architect had to decide first, which Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala holds approximation depending upon the size of the town. Thus, fixation of the peripheral limits of a town used to be determined by configuring the alignment patterns of main streets, which resembled the arms of the cosmic cross, attributed to avenues planted with shady trees. This, the longest arm used to be aligned East and West and named after MāhāKāla or Vāmana. The whole Vaastu-purusha-mandala used to be fragmented into 81, 64, 49 pads or landed parcels and pushed into different zones. The innermost square or pada was called Brahma. Different classes of human being occupied different zones or pada. Central square called Brahmasthāna was always occupied either by a temple or a palace. While planning of roads in the course of conceiving the design for a town or a city, the cosmic cross was used for pinpointing the roads running East to West and North to South representing principal streets. Roads running in the Eastern axis ensured towards purification of the street by Sun rays from morning till evening and the North-South road profiles provided a perfect circulation of the air and benefit of cool breeze.
Some of the most important example of town planning according to Vaastu principles was first depicted in Arthashastra in the Medieval Period known as Pataliputra and Taxila. Another well- known example is the city of Jaipur.