Manasara (English translation)

by Prasanna Kumar Acharya | 1933 | 201,051 words

This page describes “relation with other works” which is Preface 6 of the Manasara (English translation): an encyclopedic work dealing with the science of Indian architecture and sculptures. The Manasara was originaly written in Sanskrit (in roughly 10,000 verses) and dates to the 5th century A.D. or earlier.

Part 6 - Relation with other works

The other existing texts, mostly in manuscripts, numbering some three hundred, of which an account has been given in Appendix I of the writer’s Dictionary of Hindu Architecture, deal with some of those subjects outlined in the preceding section practically in the same manner as in the Mānasāra. Some of these texts hare beeṇ compared rather elaborately in the writer’s Indian Architecture and the discussion need not be repeated here. It will be perhaps enough to refer to the conclusions only.

The Mayamata-śilpaśāstra attributed to one Gannamācārya is the most well-known text next to the Mānasāra. It has been shown that in respect of the titles of chapters, their sequence and contents the Mayamata and the Mānasāra are identical. A portion of the manuscript of the Mayamata contains the title Mānasāra and this fact has led to the assumption that the Mayamata is based on and is an abridgement of the Mānasāra. The fact that one Mayamata is included in the list of thirty-two authorities mentioned in the Mānasāra itself does not present much, difficulty in accepting this view, because Mayamata like Manu or Mānasāra is apparently a generic name and the treatise catalogued under the title Mayamata-śilpa-śāśtra, need not necessarily be ascribed to the authority mentioned in the Mānasāra.

The Aṃśumadbheda of Kāśyapa contains eighty-six chapters of which forty-seven are devoted to sculpture and are similar to the first fifty chapters of the Mānasāra. The remaining thirty-nine chapters of the former appear to be an. elaboration of the remaining twenty chapters of the latter.

The treatise which is intended by its authors to be the most authentic is naturally the one attributed to Viśvakarman (the creator of the universe), the heavenly architect. There appear, however, to have been more than one treatise bearing the name of Viśvakarman: one being called Viśvakarma-prakāśa, or Viśvakarma-vūātuśāstra, and another Viśvakarmīya-śilpa or Viśvakarmīya-śilpasāstra. The first deals in thirteen chapters with directions on the building of houses, the making of roads, tanks, etc., similar to those given in the Mānasāra. The second deals with sculptural objects in a similar manner, but in an abridged form, and appears to have been influenced by the Mānasāra through, the Mayamata.

Treatises like the Śilpa-śāstra of Maṇḍana and the Samarāṅgaṇa-Sūtradhāra are comparatively modern texts, some of which treat the subjects of their requirement in an abridged form while others in an enlarged form. Although they do not expressly say so, yet there is convincing reason to believe that they are but compilations. One such text is actually named Saṃgraha (compilation) and expressly acknowledges its indebtedness to twenty-one authorities including the Mānasāra, the Mayamata and others. It specifically states that such and such chapters have been compiled from such and such authorities.

Thus it has been concluded in the writer’s Indian Architecture that “most of the architectural treatises, whether or not ascribed to an author, historical or mythical, are but compilations. Some of these have actually acknowledged the sources drawn upon, while others have not.” The Mānasāra itself is a compilation but it is the standard work on the subject because it is the most complete, scientific and probably the oldest extant record. It has thus influenced all others directly or indirectly.[1]

The treatment of architectural and sculptural objects is of historical character rather than of practical nature in the non-architectural treatises. Thus in the Vedas, the Buddhist scripture, the epics, the classical poetical works, the astronomical, medical and historical treatises and in the Purāṇas and the Āgamas the treatment of the subject varies from mere mention of certain architectural terms to the elaborate descriptions of town-planning, temples, palaces, residential houses, classification, etc., of pillars and their mouldings. But nowhere is to be found actual measurement and such other constructional details.

In regard to the Vedic literature, after examining the frequent references it has been shewn in the writer’s Indian Architecture that tho Vedic Indians “were not ignorant of stone forts, walled cities, stone houses, carved stones, and brick edifices.”

The canonical books of the Buddhists more elaborately refer to the arrangement of villages, towns, forts, buildings of various types and articles of furniture. Thus in the Vinaya texts, Mahāvagga (I 30, 4), Chullavagga (VI 1, 2), the Blessed one (Buddha) himself says “I allow you O Bhikkhus, five kinds of abodes—Vihāra (monastery), Ardha-yoga (bungalow), Prāsāda (storied mansion), harmya (palace), and Guhā (care temples).” Interesting details follow. Houses were built comprising dwelling-rooms, retiring rooms, store-rooms, service-halls, fire places, closets and cloisters, wells, bath rooms and a bathing place for hot sitting baths, kitchens, etc. Articles of furniture include bedsteads, couches covered with canopies, chairs of various kinds, sofa, arm-chair, cushioned chair, etc., carpets, rugs, floor cloth, curtains, pillows of various sizes, stapes and materials, mosquito curtains, handkerchiefs, and not even, excluding the spitoon.[2]

The Epics, the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata, furnish copious descriptions, but no constructional details, of cities, storied buildings, balconies, porticos, arches, enclosing walls, flights of stone masonry, steps for tanks, and a variety of other structures.

The foregoing works, namely the Vedic literature, the Buddhistic scripture, and the Epics have obviously supplied the basis of Mānasāra’s compilation which has been certainly put into a scientific form by the personal observation and actual measurements of the then objects by its author. Thus standardised, the Mānasāra has influenced directly or indirectly the subsequent works where the subjects were casually treated.

The Purāṇas and the Āgamas are huge compilations gathered together from various sources dealing with heterogenous subjects including architecture and sculpture. Although casual references are met with in all the Purāṇas, nine of them have treated the subject more systematically, and have materially contributed to the later Śilpa-śāstra texts and other works. The Matsya-purāṇa, for instance, has eight comprehensive chapters dealing in great detail with, architecture and sculpture. In one of these chapters accounts are given of eighteen ancient architects. One chapter is devoted to the columns, which are divided into five classes as in the western system, and their component parts into eight mouldings exactly like those of the Graeco-Roman orders. Buildings are classified under three heads and twenty types, of which, plans, general measures, pavilions, halls, storeys, steeples and cupolas are referred to. Building materials are discussed in a separate chapter. Three chapters are devoted to the description of images, which, includes a reference to the tālamāna also. In the other two chapters the Phalli and Altars are described.[3]

The Skanda-purāṇa has devoted three chapters to the subject. One of these refers to the laying out of a large city. In another mention is made of the construction of a golden hall and three chariots and the names of the architects. In another chapter the details of a special pavilion for the wedding of a royal princess are described.

One of the four chapters of the Garuḍa-purāṇa, devoted to the subject of architecture and sculpture, deals systematically with all the three classes of the buildings, namely, residential, military, and religious, as well as the laying out of pleasure-gardens and pavilions therein. In one chapter are described the dwelling-houses, forts and fortified towns, temples and monasteries together with garden-houses. Another deals exclusively with religious buildings. Two others are devoted to sculpture, one dealing with rules relating to the construction of an image, and the other with installation of images in temples.

There are sixteen chapters in the Agni-purāṇa, three dealing with architecture and thirteen with, sculpture. One chapter deals with town-planning, two with temples and residential buildings. Of the remaining thirteen chapters one is devoted to the description of the sun-god, one to the ten incarnations of Viṣṇu, two others also to Viṣṇu under the name of Vasudeva [Vāsudeva?], one to the guardian angel of the house, one to the goddess of prosperity, two to the female deities in general, four to the Phallus and Altars, and the remaining one to the stone god (Śālagrāma) and others.

The Nārada-purāṇa practically completes the Purāṇas’ contribution to architecture by describing in a single chapter the construction of pools, wells and tanks, as well as temples. The Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa also describes in a single chapter the construction of temples and residential buildings. The Vāyu-purāṇa also in a single chapter describes the construction of various temples upon mountain-tops many of which still exist on several peaks of the Himalaya and the Vindhya ranges.

Of the four chapters of the Bhaviṣya-purāṇa devoted to the subject, three deal with sculpture and one with architecture proper comprising the construction of temples. The most striking feature of this Purāṇa is that the number, names and other details of the buildings described in it are identical with the twenty types found in the Matsya-purāṇa and in the Bṛhat-saṃhitā of Varahamihira.[4]

The Bṛhat-saṃhitā, usually classed under astronomical works, is but a semi- Purāṇa, dealing as it does, with heterogenous subjects like the Purāṇas themselves. In this treatise there are five chapters wherein both, architecture and sculpture are treated with a master hand. The chapters open with a definition of architecture and the author goes on describing briefly, but succinctly and to the point, the suitable building-sites, testing of soil, general plan, comparative measures of storeys and doors, and carvings thereon, and other important parts of a building. Twenty types of buildings referred to above are next described. Preparation of cement and paste is described in a separate chapter. The house-furniture, including bedsteads, couches and seats, are described in another chapter. In a single chapter important sculptural matters and images axe described. By a detailed comparison it has been shewn that the architectural and sculptural portions of this treatise must have been based on the Mānasarā.[5]

The Āgamas like the Purāṇas are encyclopaedic works dealing with heterogenous subjects, the ultimate object in both cases being the worship of the Triad. The twenty-eight chief Āgamas, like the eighteen great Purāṇas deal incidentally with architectural and sculptural objects. But the contribution of the former is much more extensive and valuable to these subjects.

Some of the Āgamas to all intents and purposes are but architectural treatises. The Kāmikāgama, for instance, devotes sixty chapters out of a total of seventy-five to architecture and sculpture, and its treatment of the subjects can hardly be surpassed; by that of an ordinary architectural treatise. Just like a Śilpa-śāstra, it begins systematically with the preliminary matters, such as the testing and preparation of soil, selection of sites, scheme of measurement, finding out of the cardinal points by means of gnomons for the orientation of buildings, and the site plans. Buildings proper are described under twenty types, just as in the Matsya and Bhaviṣya Purūṇas and the Bṛhat-saṃhitā. But unlike the Purūṇas, there is in the Kāmikāgama a discussion of architectural matters under certain highly technical classifications, such as the styles Nāgara, Vesara and Drāviḍa; shapes, masculine, feminine and neuter; pure, mixed and amalgamated as based on one, two or more materials; Saṃcita, Asaṃcita and Apasaṃcita otherwise known as Sthānaka, Āsana and Śayana, which, in case of temples, depend on the erect, sitting, and reclining postures of the image. Another very technical matter referred to is the āyādi formula used in selecting the right proportions. By an elaborate comparison it has been shewn that this and tho other Āgamas must have been based for these subjects on the Mānasāra.[6]

There are thirty-seven chapters in the Karaṇāgama which deals with, architecture and sculpture exhaustively. It makes a distinct addition to the Āgamas’ contribution to the later Śilpa-śāsta texts. It contributes two valuable chapters dealing in detail with the nine and ten tāla systems. This also closely follows the Mānasāra.[7]

The Śuprabhedāgama has devoted only fifteen chapters to architecture and sculpture. But its uniqueness consists in the fact that it has quite successfully summarised all important matters in a comparatively small space, and in respect of brevity, explicitness and precision it surpasses even the Bṛhat-saṃhitā of Varāhamihira. Its similarities with the Mānasāra has shewn that it must have drawn upon a text on Śilpa-śāstra.[8]

So far as the lists of buildings are concerned it will be noticed that the Mānasāra contains in twelve classes ninety-eight types of buildings, the Agni-purāṇa has in five classes forty-five types, the Garuḍa-purāṇa also has in the same five classes the same forty-five types, the Matsya-purāṇa has in three divisions twenty types, the Bhaviṣya-purāṇa and the Bṛhat-saṃhitā have left out the broader divisions but retained the same twenty types as in the Matsya-purāṇa, The Kāmikāgama also contains in three divisions of various kinds twenty types, and the Suprabhedāgama having left out all the minor divisions refers to the three styles (Nāgara, Vesara and Drāviḍa) which comprise ten types of buildings. It will be further noticed that the various broader divisions, such as Śuddha (of one material) Saṃcita, Sthānaka, Jāti, Puṃliṅga (masculine), etc., of the Mānasāra are repeated in the same terms and in the same senses in the Āgamas. The most important division into the three styles is also preserved intact in the latter works. These are purely architectural classifications, and they are not taken into consideration in the non-architectural treatises like the Purāṇas and the Bṛhat-saṃhitā. Even the broadest division into storeys under which the Mānasāra describes the buildings in twelve or thirteen chapters has lost its prominence in. the latter works.

After the styles, columns or orders are the most important matter for consideration. Like the five Graeco-Romau orders, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite, columns in ancient India also were divided into five main orders or classes. In the Mānasāra they are called Brahmakānta, Viṣṇukānta, Rudrakānta, Śivakānta, and Skandakānta. These divisions are based on the general shapes. With respect to dimensions and ornaments the five orders are called Citrakarṇa, Padmakānta, Citra-skambha, Pālikā-stambha, and Kumbha-stambha.

Among the Purāṇas only the Matsya refers to the subject, wherein as well as in the Bṛhat-saṃhitā the five orders are called Rucaka, Vajjra, Dvivajra, Praliṇaka, and Vṛtta. Of the Āgamas, the Suprabhedāgama contains the essential details, according to which the five orders are Śrīkara, Candrakānta, Saumukhya, Priyadarśana, and Subhaukarī; the last is stated to be the Indian Composite order, being a compound of Saumukhya and Priyadarśana, just as the Graeco-Roman. composite order is a compound of Corinthian, and Ionic.

The component parts of the column, which are common to all orders, vary in number. Thus in the Mānasāra, which of almost all the treatises deals separately with, the pedestal, the base, and the entablature, mention is made in connection with the pillar proper or the shaft of five mouldings. The Suprabhedāgama describes two sets of seven mouldings. The increasing number of mouldings reached the significant figure of eight in the Matsya-purāṇa, the Bṛhat-saṃhitā and the Kiraṇa-tantra, and bears the very same eight names. It will be noticed that the component parts of the Graeco-Roman orders are also eight in number, most of which are, however, given more than one name. It will be further noticed that mention is made in the Mānasāra in connection with the pedestal, the base and the entablature, of some forty-seven mouldings, and that such comparative measure of the pedestal, the base, and the entablature and such elaborate classification and description of them as are given in the Mānasāra are to be found neither in the Purāṇas nor in the Āgamas. Thus in respect of the names of the columns, the number of their subservient parts called mouldings, also the pedestal, the base and the entablature, as well as their comparative measure, the Mānasāra will occupy the first place among the avowedly architectural treatises and the architectural portions of the Purāṇas and the Āgamas.

Of the other non-architectural works tho Arthāśāstra [Arthaśāstra?] of Kauṭilya devotes some seven chapters to the subject, containing interesting descriptions of forts, fortified cities, town-planning, and military and residential buildings. The Śukra-nīti deals with both architectural and sculptural objects, wherein are also found certain rules and structural details along with, descriptions of forts and fortified cities, of temples and other kinds of buildings, and of various kinds of images including a reference to the seven tāla measure and the direction regarding the repair of broken images.[9]

[? footnote at unkown location] For details see the writer’s Indian Architecture, pp. 125-129, 121-124, 89-120.

In the Harsha-carita of Bāṇa it is stated that ‘the palace had besides the harem always more than three courtyards, the outer one being for people and for state reception, the next inner one for chiefs and nobles and the third one for intimate persons only. The palaces were stately buildings. The columns and walls were ornamented with gold and precious stones. There was usually a several storeyed building with inner gardens of flower-beds and large fruit trees.’[10] The Rājataraṅgiṇī of Kalhana [Kalhaṇa?] refers frequently to architectural objects like castles, monumental buildings and monasteries.[10]

The Gārga-saṃhitā deals with a large number of purely architectural subjects, namely courts, compounds, compartments, rooms, and dimensions and situation of doors in houses. The Sūrya-siddhānta, the Siddhānta-śiromaṇi and the Lilāvatī [Līlāvatī?] deal in detail with a technical matter, namely the gnomons which are used for finding out cardinal points in connection, with the orientation of buildings.[11]

The poetical works of Kālidāsa, Bhavabhuti and others refer occasionally to architectural matters. In the Vikramorvasī, for instance, mention is made of a flight of stairs made like the waves of the Ganges. The Uttara-Rāmacarita refers to the preparation of cement, and to Nala, son of the heavenly architect Visvakarman [Viśvakarman?], who built the bridge joining India with Ceylon. The Mṛcchakaṭika describes in detail the gatehouses, the courts and compounds of the heroine’s palace, and refers to many other architectural matters.2

The Nirukta of Yāska refers to masonry houses. In the grammar of Pāṇini reference is made to edifices, pillars, brick, sculpture, etc. In the Amarakoṣa and other lexicons lists of several architectural terms are met with.2

These minor non-architectural treatises have certainly drawn upon the standard, architectural treatises, the Purāṇas, the Āgamas, the Epics, the Buddhist scripture or even upon the Vedic literature.

In the light of all these facts, merely to deal with the question in its aspects as they concern the Mānasāra, it seems impossible to resist the conclusion that there was a relation of indebtedness between the Mānasāra and the other works, both architectural and non-architectural. Except in a few instances, it is, however, difficult to state definitely that the Mānasāra is the debtor or creditor to this or that work in respect of this or that matter.

Similar difficulties arise in regard to the exact relation between the architectural work of the Roman architect Vitruvius and the Mānasāra, although scholars and critics have admitted the writer’s conclusion, after an elaborate examination and minute comparison, that there exist striking similarities between these two standard works.[12]

Footnotes and references:


See the writer’s Indian Architecture, pages 109, 89-132.


For details see the writer’s Indian Architecture, pp. 9-16.


Ibid., pp. 17, 114-6.


For references and details see the writer’s Hindu Architecture, pp. 19-22, 114-120.


Ibid., pp. 22, 117-118, 161-164.


See the writer’s Indian Architecture, pp. 23-28, 118-133.


Ibid., pp. 26-27, 119-133.


Ibid., pp. 27-28, 110, 113, 117-119.


pp. 29-30.


Indian Architecture, pp. 30-31.


Ibid., pp. 32-34.


For details see the writer’s Indian Architecture, pp. 134-159, and Opinions and Reviews quoted at the end of this volume.

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