Shelter is one of the basic needs for Human beings. People spend much of their time in their homes. Therefore comfort and environmental conditions are important aspects of a house.
Vastu Shastra is the science of building and an art of balancing the structure with environment. Recently the ancient Vastu culture has gained a significant role in the planning and orientation of residential and commercial buildings in India.
However in contemporary India this ancient practice is being termed as “myth” or “occult” by the majority .Still this practise proves to be extremely popular with contemporary clients, who insist on their house being built and designed as per Vastu Shastra.
This thesis deals with Vastu Shastra’s fundamental rules of architecture which are based on now proven scientific facts and addresses them to today’s architectural and interior design practices.
The aim is to prove that Vastu Shastra has a scientific background with a practical application and is not just a superstition .The purpose is to remove the fears in the mind of the people about the misconception of Vastu Shastra and its tenets, the fear created by consultants by threats of destruction, death, disease and miserable life.
Therefore, knowing and applying the rules of Vastu Shastra would be extremely beneficial for any modern day Architect and/or Interior Designer in India.
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The thesis contains four chapters.
The first chapter introduces Vastu Shastra and its rules governed by the various elements of nature .This chapter discuss the history and the present of Vastu shastra in India.
The second chapter discusses the ‘occult’ aspect of Vastu .It is an attempt to reason out why people have an impression of Vastu as a superstition and to enlighten and encourage the reader to study Vastu Shastra with an open mind and demystify its occult garb.
The third chapter puts forward various issues dealing with environmental relevance of Vastu Shastra’s rules and their scientific backgrounds. It reveals two important aspects of the relevance of solar energy and geomagnetic energy with Vastu .The first part displays the vector analysis of the varying directional solar energy field as implored on stationary geomagnetic flux. The second part explains the correlation between the movement of the sub atomic particles and the electromagnetic flux.
The fourth chapter discusses an ideal Vastu layout and also presents a case study of a contemporary residential project with the application of Vastu rules.
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Chapter 1.Vastu Shastra in India
Vastu Shastra is an ancient building science that governed the Indian architecture in the Vedic times. ‘Vastu’ means building and ‘Shastra’ means the science so in essence it is the “building science”. It explains the basis of creating spaces in respect to its surrounding.
Vastu Shastra originated around 3000 BC. It was first mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures like Rig Veda, Mahabharata etc.
In primitive India, education, medication, horoscopy, astrophysics, occultism, metaphysics and religiousness lived in complaisant proximity, their borders superimposing and one enhancing the other. The rules of Vastu Shastra and environmental reflections in residential buildings were established considering the cosmic influence of the Sun, wind direction, magnetic field of the earth and the impact of cosmos on the ‘Earth’. House building design, including its internal and external environment, has customarily been the duty of the architects. Vastu Shastra scriptures were written in the olden days when architecture was essentially for the rulers, the nobles and for the divine structures. The fundamental architectural Rules namely climate, orientations, functions, planning, etc are now being overlooked by the architects and designers. Especially in India, the very fact of buying and owning a house is considered as a sign of high class belonging to community and status in the society.
Considering environmental factors in buildings is as old as the architecture, the Vastu and the ‘Vedic Era’.
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With the guidelines of Vastu Shastra the architects can design buildings in such a way that it will bring good health, wealth and peace to the inmates. ‘Man builds the city so that the city shall build its dwellers’. (Bhaskar1998)
The upcoming occupation of architecture has outcast the ‘Vastu Vidya’ or the customary Indian wisdom of architecture. ‘Vastu Shastra’ is as aged as knowledge itself, but the practise of the ‘Vastu Consultants’ is a fairly new and modified one, it addresses only a part of this science. It is time ‘Vastu Shastra’ is made free of its mysterious guise and exhibited as a rational and judicious branch of knowledge.
Vastu Shastra is furthermore distinguished by the ‘Vastu Pundit’s (experts) and is termed as
‘The Edifice Science’ (implication of the rules of this science while designing a building will assuredly bring peace and prosperity to its occupiers)
Vastu Shastra has been acknowledged as a science derived from the study of nature and the supernatural by the prehistoric Aryan ‘sages’.Vastu Shastra takes into account the influences of the sun, its light and heat. It considers the impacts of earth’s electromagnetic field, bio-chemical effects in a human body, in order to lead a healthy and prosperous life.
Advanced study in neuro-science has proved that the Sun, the Moon and the Planets which are the cosmic counter-parts, have a one-to-one relevance to the various fragments of the human brain.
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Hence, the Vedic formula for the orientation of the dwelling towards the east is to achieve the benefits of the morning sun and a perfect square house with a central open space to avoid the scorching afternoon sun.
Various ailments like insomnia, cerebral palsy, hypertension, etc experienced healing in the past 15 years with the help of Environmental energy much before it was acclaimed by the scholars of today through the study of ‘Matsya’, ‘Mansara’ and many more epics and were recognised and acknowledged as science for example the military science ‘Dhanur-Vidya’
‘The profession of the designer or the architect is absolutely mistaken with the role of the astrologer.’ (Sahastrabudhe 1999)
Traditionally the Indian Architecture was acknowledged as unique and was not subject to be analysed by the western examples.
The fundamental rules of Vastu Shastra are based on two important aspects
1. The five natural elements sky, air, fire, water and earth and
2. The eight cardinal directions North, South, East ,West, North East ,North West, South East, South West.
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2.Fundamental concepts of Vastu Shastra
The science of Vastu Shastra considers the world to be comprised of five basic elements termed as ‘Panch Mahabhoota’
Vastu Pundits (experts) believed Presence of Life on earth is a result of the balance of these five elements which are present on Earth which is now proven by the modern world scientists. ( Gadge,2003,p.93-96)
a.The Five elements of the Nature
BHUMI (EARTH) – The position of Earth is third in order from the sun. Presence of electromagnetism makes it a large magnet in the space with the North Pole and the South Pole as centres of attraction. Every living and Non – living organism on Earth is influenced by its magnetic field and Gravitational pull.
JALA (Water)-Water is in a liquid form and is represented by rain, ocean, sea, and river. It forms a portion of every flora and fauna.
VAYU (Air) – Air is considered as the foundation of life and is a supreme source of life. The comfort value of human beings is directly dependant on the balance of humidity, temperature, pressure, flow and the composition of the air and its contents.
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AGNI (Fire) -Fire is symbolised by light and heat which forms an indispensable part of day and night , climatic conditions, radioactivity, avidity, energy and vigour
AKASHA (Space) – The space or the sky shelters all the above four elements of nature. It is the primary conductor of all the sources of energy for example light, sound, social energies namely emotional and psychological and cognitive energies namely intuition and intellect.
There is an unseen relationship amongst all the above five elements. Thus various human conditions can be improved by considering the effectiveness of these five basic natural forces while designing the buildings. The role of Vastu Shastra is to combine these elements of nature and balance them with the man and the matter. Taking advantage of the gifts bestowed by the nature to make a pleasant living and working conditions thereby promoting spiritual well-being and enhancing health and wealth leading to prosperity and happy living
b.The Eight cardinal directions
Vastu takes into consideration the eight possible directions after analysing and studying the four coordinal directions- North, South, East and West and four angular directions – North East, North West, South East, South West
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In Vastu Shastra these directions are established with the help of a tool called the ‘Vastu compass’ which is a magnetic compass. The building site is first analysed with this tool and later inscribed on the layout to start the process of designing taking in consideration the Vastu principles.Vastu affirms that it helps one to tune with nature and derive its free benefits by honouring the five basic elements and the eight cardinal directions.
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Chapter 2. The Occult aspect of Vastu
There are three important factors that influence the misconception of Vastu Shastra.
1.Personal Motives of the consultants
Human mind has always been intrigued by the Occult and the supernatural. In a lot of cases the beliefs and faiths of common people have been wrongly used and abused. It is therefore important to understand when and where should one draw the line .This fear of being a victim to such immoral practices by some Vastu consultants who do not understand the subject but scare people for their advantage has created unbelief of Vastu Shastra in India.
The purpose of this chapter is to clear the fears in the mind of the people about the misconception of Vastu Shastra and its tenets, the fear created by consultants by threats of destruction, death, disease and miserable life.
The truth is that the original Vastu script is lost and all modern available text are only compilation, this has made Vastu a victim of unscrupulous interpretation.
2. Mythological Stories
Moreover the terminology used by the ancient scholars while explaining the scientific laws of Vastu Shastra also gives rise to the superstitious aspect of its understanding.
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In the ancient times, the ‘Vedas’ ,or the knowledge ,was limited to a particular cast of people, which is why it was difficult for a common person to understand the principles of this science, if explained in a scientific way.
The wise ones used the terminology which was easy for the common man to understand so for example, when the scholars had to say that by constructing a window in a particular direction, one can make the most of the early morning sun rays, they would rather say that by placing the window in a particular direction the deity of that direction will bless them with good health and prosperity.Consequently Vastu in India is treated as a religious duty more than art of construction, which leads to the misunderstanding of its concepts.
The problem starts when Vastu Shastra is mixed up with religious rituals. The wise men of yesteryears infused religion in Vastu so that people will implement it and practise it in the fear of the supernatural but today it has been misjudged and wrongly accused in the name of religion and occultism. Indian mythology tells stories of the deity of Foundation ‘Vastu Purusha’.(refer to fig.1.1)
The stories in the Vedas also have a important role to play in the misconception of Vastu Shastra. There is a Fascinating story about the ‘Vastu Purusha’ in the Matsya Purana. According to the Vedas, Vastu Purusha is omnipresent in the entire plot irrelevant to its size. It lies on the plot with its head down and his body folded in a peculiar fashion in order to cover the length and the width of the plot.
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During his battle with the demons, Lord Shiva got tired and started sweating too much and out of his drops of sweat a cruel looking hungry man was born who began to make penance to appease the deity. Lord Shiva finally was pleased with him and granted him his wish to be the strongest and largest being on Earth. He then stood between the Earth and the heavens. Terrified by this devotee the deities and the demons together pinned him down to the earth. Pitying his state Lord Shiva blessed him and made him the God of Vastu and called him the Vastu Purusha. Since then it is believed that the being is present in every plot with the deities and the demons acquiring and ruling different positions on his body.
People listen and believe in such stories and overlook the science of Vastu .They do not probe into the details of Vastu science and term it as a ‘myth’. Moreover since the knowledge of Vastu was passed down from generation to generation, it has been modified and more and more stories are weaved around it to make it sound more mythological.
However ancient Indian scholars were great mathematicians and also had the knowledge of geology this is shown in the next chapter, which explains the rational and practical aspect of Vastu.
3. Commercial aspect of Vastu
Today new flats and apartments in newly constructed buildings are rejected if they are not built according to the Vastu concepts. In fact if your building is designed with the help of a Vastu Consultant then it becomes a USP to sell the Flats in certain parts of India!
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Amusingly some buyers come with a Vastu Consultant to check if it suits their personal needs before making the decision of buying the house of their dreams.
This forces the builders to employ Vastu consultants without checking the depth of your knowledge and use them as an added tag to sell their Flats who in turn mislead the customers into buying the flats.
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Chapter 3. Environmental relevance and scientific approach to Vastu.
In this chapter I will try to delineate the traditional narrations in terms of basic laws, logic and approach of particle physics, biochemistry and energy dynamics. For correlating the significance of directions and forces in Vastu the following topics are very significant: flow characteristics of solar energy, geomagnetic, flux and thermal variations.
1. Solar radiation and its effects
Whenever a structure is created it is exposed to the effects of the suns radiations. In tropical countries the south side suffers harsh heat while the north side remains in the shadow area this result in the formation of thermocouple in the space and around the house. In the tropical countries South, South East and Southwest suffer scorching heat while the North .North east and North West remain in the cool shadow section. It can be summarised that disturbance is created due to the high imbalance in the natural order of the geometric flux lines, (flux is defined as the amount of electromagnetic energy that flows through a unit area per unit time) forming nodes at the intersection of the flux lines. These nodes are points of distorted energy potential. Such dislocations trap the sub atomic particles travelling along the flux lines. These particles start resonating under specific conditions and off hazardous micro level radiation. (Mahatme,2003) These emissions have a tendency of working against the existence of life forms. Vastu-Purush-Mandal represents this phenomenon as ‘Yama’ (Lord of Death).
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The thermal imbalance is the main cause in creating obstacles in smooth energy flow through and around the building. The comprehensive remedial measures available in Vastu Shastra try to equalise the thermal difference and provide harmonious and blissful conditions for the dweller.
The wise men of the past understood this and tried to derive a solution to offset the disturbance in the south direction by the following measures.
1. Thick heavy wall on the south side
2. Blocking of the openings in the south side
3. Avoiding any slopes towards the south
4. Orienting the house in such a manner that more open spaces are available in the North and East directions
5. By planting some trees in the South for availing of humid atmosphere.
7. Raising of plinth and compound height in the south direction.
If adhered to these rules one can try to create equalise the thermal differentials and create harmonious and balanced living conditions within the structure.
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2. Directions and Deities
The four main directions namely North, South, East and West represent streams of positive and negative energies .These directions act as either the source or the sink for energies. (refer to fig 1.3)Hence the orientation and alignment of these forces are prearranged in their zones of impact.
Whereas the sub directions vis-a-vis North East, South East, North West and South West represent zones of confluence of two different (positive and negative) energy streams which are at right angles to each other. Any disturbance in the flow of these energies triggers turbulence in the flow of the energy which is aligned to the primary direction.
The Vastu Pundits combined the positive north and east directions with the negative south and West to determine the effects of the sub directions.
These directions were then associated with the positions of the deities depending on the results of the effects of the energies.
North East – + + – residence of God
North West – + – desirable direction
South East – + – Not desirable direction
South West – – residence of Demon
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3. Scientific Approach to Vastu
Below we will examine several examples which strongly stand for the fact that Vastu Shastra is based on solid scientific evidence and can be beneficial to the human race.
The following Vastu Shastra rules can be easily misunderstood without a rational explanation.
Rule 1. ‘Each direction has a Presiding deity .Since Wealth God rules the North and the Sun God Aditya rules East direction, the window openings of the house and also the placement of the water tank should be in the North East direction to welcome the lord, who will then be pleased and will bless you with the healthy and prosperous life’
The scientific explanation to the above statement is as follows.
The sun rises in the East and hence the sun’s rays emit more light and less heat .Sun rays in the morning are a rich source of vitamin ‘D’, which are A vital component in formation of healthy bone. Water is disinfected by UV rays, as the genetic material is altered in bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, which destroys the harmful micro organism’s example E. Coli. (Hwaa irfan, 2001). If UV exposure is dozed carefully, it has protective effects against cancer (Severn,2001 p.1). Various diseases are cured using the UV radiations, for example rickets, psoriasis, eczema and jaundice.
So when one has openings in their house towards the East direction, it allows the early morning sun rays to enter the house and these are the ultra violet rays which when penetrate in the house and bestow their benefits keeping the inmates healthy and fit.
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A healthy and fit person can think and work more efficiently leading to a higher earning and a prosperous life. Now if the openings are created in the opposite direction, then it could be detrimental to the health, as the afternoon rays are the infra red rays, which are strong and harmful.
Rule 2.The beds should be placed in such a way so as the head of the person should be in the south direction. The deity of death resides in the South, so one should not face this direction while sleeping, as it invites death.
The explanation to the above statement can be found in the earth magnetism. The earth’s magnetic field runs from South Pole to north pole, so if you sleep in the same fashion then you are aligned with the magnetic flow .Now studies show that Human head and north are both positive poles (Ritu 1999) due to which they repel each other hence it is favourable to sleep with the head in the south for a sound sleep. Sleep disorder leads to a lot of health problems
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Chapter 4.Contemporary Indian Architecture and Design
1. Ideal Vastu House
In India a home is not just a shelter for human beings, it is called as ‘Manushyalaya’which means ‘human temple’. As per Vastu both house and temple are sacred spaces so a house should be designed with the same concept as the temple.
A house design with an “open courtyard system” was a national pattern of India before the introduction of the western concepts. The arrangement of the built spaces is the basis of creating a spiritual environment needed for the well being and prosperity. Figure— shows an ideal layout of a perfectly square building with a superimposed modular Vastu grid of 9 x 9 forming 81 squares meant for a family. The centre space ‘Brahmasthan’ is supposed to be the nuclear energy field which should be unbuilt and kept open to the sky to connect with the outer space ‘Akasha’. The central courtyard is not for the living purpose it can be used for cultural and religious rituals. The next rows of squares which are adjacent to the centre space are to be used for a walkway and the corner squares are to used for the specific rooms.
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Following are the directions with the deity that presides them and the specific rooms to be built respectively. (refer to fig 1.2)
Direction Deity presiding the direction Suggested rooms
North East Dharma(God of righteousness) Prayer room
North Kubera (God of wealth) Living room
North West Vayu (God of wind) Guest Bedroom, Toilet
East Indra (God of Gods) Bathroom
West Varuna (God of water) Children’s bedroom
South Yama (God of Death) Store room
South East Agni (God of Fire) Kitchen and dining room
South West Niruthi (Goddess of demons) Master bedroom
2. Case study of a contemporary Vastu House
Vastu House By Khosla Associates in Bangalore, India
The space planning in this house was designed in harmony with the Vastu orientation and placement concept called Vastu Purusha Mandala .
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To design within dictated predetermined rigid locations specified as per Vastu yet to arrive at a visually stunning and aesthetic architecture was the biggest challenge of this project. Rising lazily from the North East which was the lowest point to South East which was the highest point of the house, it was built on soft split levels.
The trees in the open courtyard are beautifully weaved in its linear horizontal and cantilevered roof .The massive stretch of glass blur the spatial boundaries between enclosed space of the house and the open space of the garden.As one strolls down the open living spaces one can experience a sense of infinity, these spaces are divided with sliding bifold doors and certain spaces do not have any barrier at all.
All the main areas were positioned as per Vastu Shastra. The Master bedroom is located in the Earth Zone (South West), the location of the kitchen is in the fire zone (South East) and in the zone of water and air (North and North East) was placed the swimming pool. The main door was in the North East and the Children’s bedroom was in the West. Even the position the staircase, the orientation of the bed, study table and wardrobe and position in the bathroom lavatories were designed in accordance of Vastu principles and the flow of the energy.
The location of this house is strategically placed near a busy street; a small in-house office for the Master of the house is positioned near the main road.
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The entrance to the office is covered by the canopy of some old trees one makes a way paving through them. These trees act as a visual barrier to the rushing traffic on the main road.
The black steps which are carved from a local granite leads one from the spacious living room into the courtyard which is open to sky, perched in the centre are some ornamental trees .The roof is cladded with local Mangalore tiles. The support for the roof is hand carved stone columns which are innovative and functional and carry the load of the roof through the diagonal steel struts. Taking advantage of the beautiful climate the dining table is placed in a semi-outdoor space.
The first floor which is accessed through a wooden staircase has a large sitting area with a fitness centre. The bathroom has huge glass windows with lots of natural light leading to a massive walk in closet. There is an interesting amalgamation of luxury and Vastu exposed concrete ceiling with rough stone steps and court gravel with polished concrete floors contrast well with fine teak furniture, italian marble and silk and satin furnishings. The park looks interesting with the lap pool on side and on the other side a large rough cut log forming an outdoor dining table to dine under the shades of the giant banyan tree!
This is a classic example to show that a house built with Vastu rules does not restrict the creativity of a designer instead presents a challenge to achieve the spiritual atmosphere within a concrete beauty!
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To sum up the argument of this dissertation, “Vastu Shastra has fascinated some and irritated others but it has intrigued everybody” (Gandhi 2006)
The first chapter explains the laws of Indian architecture and clarifies its fundamental concepts. The second chapter explains the misconception of terming Vastu an occult by rational and scientific method. The third chapter throws light on the metaphysical aspect of Vastu Shastra. The fourth chapter explains an ideal Vastu layout with the help of a case study.
The dissertation with the help of scientific proven facts clarifies the wrong image of Vastu Shastra and encourages the Architects and Interior Designers to have an open mind and look at the insights of Vastu Shastra instead to writing it off in the name of occult practise.
Today’s Architects and Designers can take the responsibility to educate this science to the common man (Sarkar 2007)
The building science has its presence all over the world in different forms and they all have their own principles. From Vitruvius theory to Feng Shui to Vastu Shastra all these sciences are from different parts of the world but they all have the same message. The main purpose of building science is to lay down some guidelines for the architects to design building in harmony with the nature and taking advantage of the prevailing natural gifts of sunlight, wind, cosmic energy and to make a habitat which is beneficial to the inhabitants and make their life happy and prosperous.
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5. PATRA, R., 2006. A comparative study on vastu shastra and Heidegger’s, “building dwelling and thinking”. Asian philosophy, 16(3), 199-218.
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