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The study of traditional Indian architectural systems: Vastu Shastra

In Sanskrit, the word ‘vastu’ denotes a place of dwelling or a house. The vrddhi, Vastu takes on the meaning of the plot of land or foundation on which a house is built. Shastra, in Sanskrit, means doctrines or teachings. Therefore, Vastu Shastra, when translated, means the science of architecture. The Vastu Shastra is an ancient Sanskrit textual matter that explores the nuances of the Indian traditional system of architecture. The Vastu Shastra texts contain information on the fundamentals of design, layout, measurements, ground preparation and spatial geometry. It aims to reiterate the connection between architecture and nature and draws on the ancient ideologies using geometric patterns (yantra), symmetry and directional alignments. 

Vastu Shastra is a part of Vastu Vidya that deals with textual matters on ancient Indian architectural and design theories. Vastu Vidya is a compilation of ideologies and concepts that serve as prototypes for the organisation of space and form of buildings. Traditional Vastu Shastra doctrines comprise the design of Mandirs (Hindu temples), as well as, the design and layout of houses, towns, cities, parks, road networks, shops and other common areas used by the general public. 

Vastu Shastra is commonly associated with the divine Hindu god of architecture, Vishwakarma. There are many debates regarding the origin of the Vastu Shastra. Some say that the Vastu Shastra derives its theories from the Indus Valley civilization, while others claim that it is as old as Vedic literature and associate it with ritual architecture. The earliest record of literature on architecture is the Brihat Samhita written by Varahamihira, which has chapters dedicated to architectural principles. 

Concepts of Vastu Shastra

Vastu Shatra believes that the world consists of five elements, known as, ‘Pancha Mahabhuta.’ The Pandits who studied the Vastu Shastra were of the opinion that life on earth is a result of the balance of these five elements, which are - Bhumi (Earth), Jala (Water), Vayu (Air), Agni (Fire) and Akasha (Space). These five elements are all interlinked and they can be directly attributed to design and architecture as well. By taking into consideration these five natural forces during construction and building, many different human conditions can be improved. Using the benefits of nature’s gifts to us, pleasant living and working conditions can be built, thereby, encouraging spiritual well-being and enhancing good health and wealth. 

Another important concept touched upon by the Vastu Shastra are the eight cardinal directions - North, South, East, West, North-East, North-West, South-East and South-West. These directions are found through an instrument known as the ‘Vastu Compass.’ Plots of land are examined with the help of this tool before the commencement of construction and building. Thus, the Vastu Shastra, helps individuals stay in rhythm with nature by respecting the five basic elements as well as the eight cardinal directions during the architectural process. 


Q1. Is Vastu practised in other parts of the world as well? 

Certain aspects of Vastu hold scientific value, making these aspects universal irrespective of the region one lives in. For instance, the availability of sunlight, climate and other geographical aspects are universal in nature, while there may be a few distinctions with respect to the hemispheres and time differences, the fundamental principles remain the same throughout the world.

Q2. Does Vastu really work? 

Vastu is commonly misconstrued with religion and spirituality when in reality, it is the importance and manifestation of a holistic home that provides peace and clarity. Therefore, by keeping the energy in your home positive, you're bound to live a happy, healthy life. This is the main purpose of Vastu, to help you find good energy and manifest it in your life. 

Q3. Does Vastu impact one’s life? 

There have been scientific studies that show that Vastu can help improve the health and well-being of an individual. Thus, Vastu does play an important role in an individual’s life.