Manasara (English translation)

by Prasanna Kumar Acharya | 1933

This page describes “the foundational (garbha-vinyasa)” which is Chapter 12 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.

Chapter 12 - The Foundational (garbha-vinyāsa)

1-2. Herein is described the foundation [garbha-vinyāsa] of the temples of gods and (the dwellings) of the twice-born and others, and of all other buildings and villages, etc.

3-5. The foundation is auspicious in all respects when it is completely filled with various things but the foundation is unprosperous and inauspicious when (it is filled) with a lesser number of things; the foundation should, therefore, be perfectly laid as stated (below).

6-8. The depth of the excavation (lit. foundation-cave) should be as high as the basement of the building; the four sides (lit. corners or walls) made of brick or stone should be equal; from its bottom should be removed water (if there comes out any), and all (kinds of) earth should be deposited therein.

9-12. The floor of the excavation should be consolidated with seven kinds of earth, namely, from rivers, and mountains, from ant-hills, crab-holes, sea-shores, from tops of trees (? hills), and from near a cow-shed (lit. from the foreparts of cows’ hoofs).

13-15. Upon this (earth deposit) should be (further) deposited the root of the (white) lotus at the central part (of the excavation), to the east the root of the blue lotus, to the south the root of water-lily, to the west saugandhi (grass), and to the north the kākali (gunja) plant.

16-20. Upon this should be placed, in order, the (following) eight sorts of corn: śāli (com) should be placed to the north-east and vrīhi (grains) to the east, kodrava, (Paspalum scorbiculatum) to the south-east, kaṅgu (Panic seed) to the south, mudga (Phaseolus mungo) to the south-west, māṣa (bean, Phaseolus radiatus) to the west, kulatthā (Dolichos uniflorus) to the north-west and tila (Sesamum indicum) to the north.

21. Upon this (finally) depositing (the other usual materials e.g. concrete) the foundation should he raised up to the (upper) surface of the excavation.

22-23. As regards the measurement and the shape it (the foundation) should be in conformity with buildings of one to twelve storeys.

24-25. The twelve varieties of dimensions (of breadth and length) should begin respectively with three and four parts (mātras, i.e. aṅgulas) and end at twenty-five and twenty-six, the increment being by two[1].

26-28. The depth of the excavation, should be equal to its breadth and less by one-eighth or one-fifth, or similarly less by one-fourth.

28. All these (measures) are stated to be (taken) in rods (of four cubits).

29-30. The breadth of the excavation should be equal to the width of the (main) pillar of the building, or it may be made less by one-eighth, or be three-fourths of the breadth.

31-33. The depth (of the excavation) should be made as aforesaid; the width of (its) wall is stated hero: the width of all the (four) walls should be one, two, or three parts out of the three parts into which the depth is divided.

34-35. The depth of the excavation being divided into four parts one part is given to its base, two parts to its pillar and one part to the entablature.

36. It (the excavation) should be shaped like a three-fold square pavilion at its entrance into the watery part (i.e. the bottom)[2].

37. It (the roof of the excavation) should be divided into (plans of) twenty-five (i.e. Upapīṭha) or eighty-one (i.e. Paramaśāyika) plots.

38. The height of the wall of these plots is one part and the thickness should be as aforesaid (i.e. one part).

39. In the Upapīṭha plan (of twenty-five plots) the deities should be assigned in the order as stated before[3].

40-41. Thereafter, on a forenoon, the preliminary purification adhivāsana) ceremonies should be performed and he (the priest) should worship (the Spirit of the house) with perfumes, unhusked rice, flowers, burning of incense and lamp.

42. (Thereafter) a joint offering of all things (sakalikaraṇa)[4] should be made and then benediction (lit. auspicious day) should be pronounced

43. Thereafter the stationary structure should be reached at its entablature by way of the (twenty-five) plots (into which the roof is divided).

44. The Mantra (incantation, should be) ‘Oh,’ Vāstu (the Spirit of the house) let the foundation grow, I bow to Thee’.

45-46. Brahmā and other Vāstu (house) deities who are addressed with (the mystic syllable) Om at the beginning and bid good-bye with Namaḥ at the end should be worshipped with their own mantras (incantations).

47. The wise architect should wash the excavation with the five products of the cow (pañcagavya).

48-49. Upon this a pot filled up with perfumed water and covered with strings should be placed.

50-51. Around this (main pot) should be placed twenty-five (other) pots filled with water, and covered with strings, cloths, and bunches of leaves.

52-53. The architect should put on his best clothes and outer garment, and worship the Lord of the Universe with perfumes and flowers, and then meditate on Him.

54. At its (i.e. Upapīṭha plan) right side the Sthaṇḍila figure[5] should be marked with unhusked rice.

55. The ordinary offerings should be made to Brahmā and other deities.

56-60. Towards the east and north on the occasion of building a house should be offered as sacrifice to the fire, the samid plant, clarified butter, sesame seed and boiled rice each twenty-five times, to Brahmā, Ārya, Vivasvat, Mitra and Bhūdhara deities, with proper incantation and mentioning their names amidst the uttering of Vedic hymns and (other) auspicious sounds.

61-64. There aft or the Sthaṇḍila figure (of forty-nine plots) should be marked preferably with śāli (corn) and unhusked rice, or the Maṇḍūka or the Parama-śāyika figure (i.e. of sixty-four or eighty-one plots) ‘should be marked with unhusked rice; a bed of kuśa grass should be made theroon by spreading the same grass; and the wise (architect) should (also) mark the figure named Sakala[6] and spread over it water and flowers.

65-69. After the conclusion of the sacrifice to the fire with the mystic words[7], the chief architect should leave the place of sacrifice, and put on (his forehead) a mark (known as tilaka) with (tho ashes of) com (śāli); thereafter (he should go) towards the north of the tillage, only drink milk and water at night; and go (thereon) to bed (for rest) when (his assistants) Sūtragrāhi, Takṣaka and Vardhaki should remain awake and, with, various things, serve the chief architect lying in bed.

70-78. Thereafter (i.e. at day-break) when the chief architect has finished bathing or washing he should put on his best garments and being accompanied by the Brahmins who keep on pronouncing the Vedic hymns should go round (the place) and then make a joint offering of all things (sakalīkaraṇa)[8] on an auspicious moment and conjunction offering as aforesaid (all the things) from (i.e. collected in) the vessel amidst auspicious sounds. (The figures known as) Svasti (mystic cross), Vṛṣabha (sacred bull), Lakṣmī (goddess of wealth) and Darpaṇa (auspicious mirror) should be made: Svasti is made with gold, Vriṣabha with, iron, Lakṣmī with copper and Darpaṇa with silver; the Svastika figure is marked in the east (Indra part), arranging the four (figures) in order.

79. Jātihiṅgula (vermilion) should be deposited in the Jayanta plot (marked on the roof of the excavation).

80. Haritāla (yellow orpiment columba Harriyala) is deposited in the Bhṛśa plot and Manaḥśilā (red arsenic) in the Vitatha plot.

81. In the Bhṛṅgarāja plot mākṣi (a honey-like mineral) should be deposited.

82. Rājāvarta (? a mineral) should be deposited in the Sugrīva plot.

83. In the Śoṣa plot is deposited gairika (red chalk) and in the Mukhya plot añjana (collyrium).

84. Gandhuka, (sulpher Hyperasethera Moringa) is deposited in the Aditi plot and Padmarāga (ruby) in the middle (i.e. central Brahmā plot).

85. Thereafter Pravāla (ooral) is deposited in the Ārya plot, and Puṣparāga (topaz) in the plot of Sāvitra (and Savitra).[9]

86. Vaidūrya (oat’s eye gem) is deposited in th,e Vivasvat plot and Vajra (diamond) in the plot of Indra (and Indrarāja).[9]

87-88. Indranila (sapphire) is deposited in the Mitra plot, Mahānīla (verbesina scandens) in the plot of Rudra (and Rudrarāja)[9] and Marakata (emerald) in the Bhūdara plot.

89. Muktā (pearl) should be deposited in order in the plots of Apavatsya (and Āpavatsa).[9]

90-91. Viṣṇu-cakra (disc of Viṣṇu) is deposited in the Īśa plot and Triśula (trident of Śiva) in the east Śrīdevī is deposited in the Agni plot and Śrayanta, in the Yama plot.[10]

92. Dūrvā (Panicum dactylon) is deposited in the Nairṛti plot (south-west) and Bhṛṅgī (Indian fig tree) in the Varuṇa plot (west).

93. Apamārga (Achyranthes Aspera) is deposited in the Vāyu plot (north-west), and one-leaf-lotus in the north.

94. Then should be deposited the eight herbs in order is the (eight) plots (of eight deities) beginning with Mahendra[11].

95. Sandal (Sirium myrtifolium) should be deposited in the Parjanya plot and aguru (Aquilaria agallocha) in the Autarikṣa plot.

96. Camphor should be deposited in the plot of Pūṣan and śaila (bitumen) is the Mṛśa plot.

97. Lavaṅga (cloves) should be deposited in the Dauvārika plot and Elā creeper (cardamom plant) should be deposited in the Roga plot.

98. Jātiphala (nut meg) should be deposited in the Nāga plot and Kolaka (Black pepper alangium hexapetalum) in the Udita plot.

99-102. Kapāla, (skull), triśulā (trident), khaṭvāṅga (part of a bedstead), paraśu (axe), Vṛṣabha (bull), pināka (bow or staff), hariṇa (antilope) and śārṅga (horn): the figures of these eight objects should be marked in their own colours in the (eight) plots of Indra (east) and others (i.e., south-east, south, south-west, west, northwest, north and north-east respectively).

103-104. The (floor of the) excavation should be covered (with these figures) is accordance with the rule: (otherwise) there would be unsuccess; therefore, the floor (should be finally covered) with copper.

104-107. The wise architect clad in his best garment and accompanied by the preceptor should circumambulate the excavation and place thereupon water pots and jars and bathe it with water therefrom amidst the chanting of Vedic hymns and all auspicious sounds.

108-109. That whole excavation should, be meditated upon as being supported by the (eight) mountains and (the eight quarter lords, namely) Vivasvat (and others), and connected with the earth, and the seas, and placed upon the great serpent (Ananta Vāsuki)[12].

110-111. He (the architect) should particularly worship the eight (? seven) mountains, the great serpent, and the eight quarter-lords in order, all the names being separately mentioned with their respective incantations (mantras).

112-114. The Creator, Viśvakarman (i.e. Rudra or Śiva),[13] should be worshipped otherwise by reciting His description (dhyāna); He is the Lord of the universe, and the cause of creation, preservation and destruction; He should be worshipped mainly with perfumes, flowers, incense and dishes (naividya) and other things.

115-119. (For the purpose of making the image of this deity) a bolt should be made with essential wood or stone, (underneath) a svastika (mystic cross) figure (should be made) of which the breadth should be three, four or five aṅgulas, and the length twice this; its bottom should be square but the top circular; the height of the image made of iron should be two or three aṅgulas.

120-121. The image should be in the erect or sitting posture, be adorned with clotted hair and diadem, and be furnished with three eyes and four hands (the two) being in the boon-giving and refuge-offering poses, and (the other two) holding the kṛṣṇā (antelope) and the paraśu (axe).

122-125. The board (on which the image is made) should be (in length) equal to, one-and-a-half times or twice the length of the post which is made square in shape (lit. of lour equal angles) with essential wood or stone; this board is placed upon the excavation and on it (board) is fixed the bolt; and around this (bolt) the wise architect should carve the image.

126-127. It (the image) should be decorated with flowers and cloths when it has strongly been fixed upon all sides by means of a thousand bricks and the (aforesaid eight) herbs.

128-181. The foundations of buildings (a part from those of villages and towns) should be laid by the wise (architect) just at the bottom of the wall-pillars and house-pillars, or (a little away from it) towards the right side, or extending about the region of the bottom of the pillar or of the plinth, or at the fore or neck part of the base (kumuda),[14] or extending (far away) up to the boundary wall.

132. If the depth (of the foundation) be otherwise than (what has been prescribed) it (the foundation) would be a source of all dangers.

133. Such should be the foundation for the temple of Śiva; other foundations, are described here.

134-139. In the floor of the excavation of the Viṣṇu-temple the attribute of Śiva should not be made, but (in its place) the attributes of Viṣṇu along with the aforesaid materials should be set up in the centre (of the floor) the disc (of Viṣṇu) made of gold should be marked, and to the left (of it) (should be marked) His conch made of silver, to the north-west His bow made of copper, to the rights His sword made of thin lead plate (lit. creeper) and to the east the image of (His riding animal) Garuḍa.

140. Such should be the foundation of the Viṣṇu (temple), the foundation of the Brahmā (temple) is described here.

141-147. The foundation, of the Brahmā temple: in this foundation the various things (as aforesaid) should in particular be deposited in the central portion (of the floor of the excavation); when the foundation of (the temple of) Brahmā is laid His attributes should be set up (as before): the Om figure (ओम्) should be marked on the central plot with gold; upon the Om figure the sacred thread mads of gold should be placed; the Svastika (mystic cross) and other figures made (also) of gold should be marked on the four cardinal points; thereon should also be marked His water-pot made of copper; and on the left should be marked His rosary made of copper and His black antelope made (of copper).

148. Thus is described the foundation of (the temple of) Brahmā, therein should be (cast) the image representing His own self.

149-151. In the (foundations of the) temples of all other Gods and Goddesses their own images made of gold or iron should be set up, and all the aforesaid things being deposited (as before) these foundations should be laid.

152. The foundations of the residential buildings: the foundations of temples have been thus described, the foundations of the residential buildings are stated here.

153-154. The foundations of the houses for the twice-born and the other (lower) castes (are described) in order: all the materials as before and also those attributes should be set up (in these foundations too).

155-157. The disc (of Viṣṇu), the water-pot (of Brahmā), the staff (of Śiva) and the sacred thread, (all) made of gold, should be fixed on the four cardinal points (beginning with the east); and the mystic figure Om (?) (also) made of gold should be in the centre: such should be the foundations of (the houses for) the Brahmins.

157-159. (The foundation of the houses) for the Kṣatriyas (lit. Kings) are now described: the elephant, the sword, the umbrella, the chowries: these four (attributes), all made of gold, should be fixed on the four cardinal points.

160-161. The balance made of gold is fixed on the central plot: such should be the foundations of the houses for the Vaiśyas: what is nob specified here being in accordance with the practice of the science (of architecture).

162. The plough and yoke made (also) of gold should be fixed in the central plot of (the excavations of) the Śūdras

163-165. On the floor of the excavation arc stated to be marked the images of Brahmā in case of the Brahmins (lit. twice-born), of Indra in case of the Kṣatriyas (lib. Kings), of Kubera (god of wealth) in case of the Vaiśyas, and of man in case of the Śūdras.

166. Thus are described the foundations of houses (i.e. temples and residential buildings); the foundations of villages (and towns) will be described here (below).

167-170. The foundations of the villages (and towns): under this (heading) is described the situation of the foundations of all villages, towns, Pura (city), Pattana (sea side commercial city), Kharvaṭa (fortress), Koṣṭa (granary) and Kola (fortified city),[15] etc.: the excavation may be made in the interior of the stationary or moving (?) part of villages, or at the junction of the village gate.

171-172. The width of the excavation should be as deep as the joint palm of man, (wherein) should be deposited the aforesaid earth, roots, water and corn, etc. (as before).

173-174. This extension of the excavation should be of five kinds, as it begins with five aṅgulas (of three-fourths inch each) and ends at thirteen aṅgulas, the increment being by two aṅgulas.

175-176. There (i.e. on the floor of the excavation) should be made (the plan of) twenty-five plots (i.e. Upapīṭha) or eighty-one plots (i.e. Paramaśāyika); the rest should be made as before and the materials, etc., also should be deposted as before.

177-181. In the east should be marked the figure of the royal elephant made of silver and in the south-east the figure of sheep made of iron, in the south should be the male buffalo made of earth, and human figure made of sand should be marked on the south-west, the hippopotamus made of silver is marked on the west and an antelope made of iron, on the north-west, the mythical elephant (of Indra) made of silver on the north and the bull made of silver should be marked on the north-east: thus (the mystic figures) being made (the excavation should be filled) with the aforesaid fellings (as in case of the foundation of houses).

182. The village foundation is thus stated, the water-foundation will be described here (below).

183. The water-foundation: (the width of) the foundation of tanks, wells and ponds is said to be, in the central part, as deep as the human palm.

184-186. (In these foundations) the figures of frog, conch-shall, fish and tortoise, made of silver, should be marked respectively on the four cardinal points beginning with the east, and at the centre should be the figure of a crab made of gold, and the rest should be made as aforesaid.

1871-88. I shall (now) describe the construction of buildings of one to twelve storeys which are made of bricks; first (I shall give) the description of bricks.

189-193. The breadth of the brick begins with seven aṅgulas (i.e. five-and-a-quarter inches) and ends with twenty-nine or thirty aṅgulas (i.e, twenty-two-and-a-half inches), the increment being by two aṅgulas; the length of the brick is desired to be greater by one-fourth, one-half, three-fourths, or by its own dimension (i.e. twice); and the thickness (of the brick) should be made half or equal to its breadth, and it should be quadrangular in shape.

194-195. When the brick is made of stone it is called stony brick and when made of brick it is called (simply) brick; the stony bricks and the pure brick both (varieties) are distinguished as male, female and neuter.

196-200. On. an auspicious moment the first brick should be laid in the excavation towards the regien of the east, or (any of the) five (directions) namely,.east, north-east, south-west, north-west or south: thus (should be laid the first brick) in all buildings, but especially in case of (the excavation of) the temple of Śiva (it should be laid) either in the aforesaid quarters or in the centre.

201-202. The first brick should be laid (more particularly) at the end of the plinth, or the boundary[16], or at the fore or neck part of the base (of the columa),[17] or at the end of the fillet of the base (pattikā).[18]

203. As before the herbs and roots should be deposited (when the excavation is filled) with bricks.

204. In case of residential buildings the first brick should be laid in accordance with one’s own desirable (i.e. customary) rules.

205-207. It is stated that the figures of (the following) letters should be marked in order (namely) of sibilant Ś (श) on the eastern brick, of palatal Ṣ (ष) on the southern brick, of dental S (स) on the western brick, of the letter H (ह) on the northern brick, and of the mystic sign. Om (ओं) on the central brick.

208-209. The eastern brick should extend towards the south, the southern brick towards the west, the western brick towards the north, and the northern brick towards the east.

210-211. The wise (architect) should lay at the centre the herbs and the roots as stated before; both the chief architect and the master should do this work by burn.

212-213. The chief architect should distinguish the (two varieties of bricks, namely) stony brick and pure brick and their three genders, arid should fix the male bricks in the temples of male deities.

214. The excavation should be made at night and the bricks should be laid in the day time.

215. The foundations of houses should project towards the interior and that of villages towards the exterior.[19]

216. The rules for laying the foundations as well as for laying the first brick are thus fully described.

217. If there be any thing not specified here, that should be carried out in accordance with the customs stated to pertain to one’s family.

Thus in the Mānasāra, the science of architecture, the twelfth chapter, entitled: “The laying of foundations.”

Footnotes and references:


These measures seem to be is rods of four cubits or two yards (see line 28); if it be taken. literally to imply the aṅgula of ¾ inch, the dimensions would be too small for the foundation of any building.


See lines 6-8.


See the chapter VII (lines 69-70).


See details on 60, note 1.


See chapter VII.


For the details of these figures see chapter VII.


Om bhuḥ, om bhuvaḥ, om svaḥ, etc.


See page 60 note 1.


Each of these quarters is shared generally by two deities; Sāvitra, Indra, Rudra, and Āpavatsya also include their partner deities: this fact is made plain by the rise of plot (koṣṭha) is the plural in line 89. The restoration of these four partner deities is necessitated by the fact that as in the ground plans (see note under chap. VII, 154) so also in this foundation too, the whole ground is divided into plots (of the Upapīṭha and the Paramaśāyika plans) designated by forty-five deities assigned to them: and to make up the number forty-five the inclusion of these four deities is necessary.


The trident of Śiva should be better suited to the quarter of Īśa (Śiva) and the disc of Viṣṇu to the quarter of Indra (see lines 155—156]; on this analogy Śrīdevī is apparently meant be be an. attribute of Agni, but usually Svāhā is associated as consort; similarly Śrayanta seems to be an attribute of Yama, but the club is his well known attribute and Yamī his consort (see lines 99-102, 75-78).


That is, Mahendra, Satyaka, Gṛhakṣata, Gandarva, Puṣpadanta, Asura, Bhallāṭa and Mṛga (see note under line 85, and plates under chapter VII); besides, the eight herbs mentioned in the first part of the line must be deposited is the eight quarters intended to be implied in the second part, because herbs are referred to neither in the preceding lines (92 and 93) nor in the succeeding lines (95 to 98).


According to the mythological account the earth is stated to be held by the great serpent, great mountains and great seas, and protected by the quartermasters.


That this deity is not Brahmā but: Śiva is clear partly from his description as contained in line 120, and partly from the assertion (in line 134) that the whole description (lines 112-133) refers to the foundation of the Śiva-temple.


Kumuda is a large convex moulding used principally in the bases of columns (see the writer’s Dictionary, page 141).


For details see chapter X, 39 foll.


Prānta is referred to as prākāra in line 130.


See note under lines 128-131.


This refers to an upper moulding of the base (see the writer’s Dictionary, page 330).


Mayamata is not different on this point (XII-97);

abhyantaramukhaṃ garbhaṃ vastumadhyaṃ bahirmukham |

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: