Manasara (English translation)

by Prasanna Kumar Acharya | 1933 | 201,051 words

This page describes “the ornamental tree (kalpavriksha)” which is Chapter 48 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 48 - The ornamental tree (kalpavṛkṣa)

1-2. The features and measurement of the length, etc., of the ornamental (kalpa, lit., all productive) trees [viz., kalpavṛkṣa][1] fit (for the thrones, etc.) of the gods and the Cakravartin and other kings will be described now[2].

3-4. The height of such a tree constructed in the upper part of a throne should be equal to, or greater than the height of the pillar of the arch by one-fourth or one-half.

5. It should be constructed over the arch erected from the middle of the length of a throne.

6-8. The width at the bottom of the ornamental (kalpa) tree is said to be six, seven, or eight aṅgulas, the measurement being taken in the finger of the deity or the king (for whose throne it is made); (than at the bottom) the width at the top of the tree should one or a half an aṅgula less.

9. Thus is described the trunk (pāda, foot) of the tree, which should be adorned with leaves and creepers, etc.

10. In other words, that (the tree) should be carved in a straight posture with its width decreasing from the bottom towards the top.

11-12. The foot (trunk) of the tree should be coiled with serpents with five hoods spreading at the top: they (the serpents) should be made with all their hoods quite expanded and the tongues trembling and the eyes glittering.

13-17. The nine kinds of (measure for the) hoods should be six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen aṅgulas (in breadth): the width at the middle should be equal to that, the width at the top a little less, and at the bottom one-half of that; and the tip of the tail should be one aṅgula.

18. It should be made tapering from bottom to top, but it may be discreetly made of all other shapes.

19. Its face in look (lit., emotion) may be optionally like that of the leograph, and the rest should be made at one’s discretion.

20-22. The branches of the tree above that (the trunk) should be carved in nine rows; the nine varieties should consist of eleven to twenty-three branches (the increment being by two and) consisting of three kinds in the smallest, and the other (i.e., the intermediate and the largest) types.

23. These should be constructed for the Narendra, the Adhirāja, and the Sārvabhauma (classes of kings).

24-25. The nine varieties in case of the gods should begin from nine branches and end at twenty-five branches, the increment being by two.

26-28. In case of the kings, the nine kinds of length of the branches, consisting of three in each of the smallest and the other types, are said to begin from eleven aṅgulas and end at twenty-nine aṅgulas, the increment being by two aṅgulas.

29-81. In case of the gods, the nine kinds of length of the branches, consisting of the smallest (and the intermediate) up to the largest types, should begin from thirteen aṅgulas, and end at thirty-one aṅgulas, the increment being by two aṅgulas.

32-34. In case of the kings, the (corresponding) width of the branches, consisting as before of the smallest and the other types, should be three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven aṅgulas in order.

35-37. In case of the gods, the nine kinds of the width of the branches are said to begin from five aṅgulas and end at thirteen aṅgulas, the increment being by one aṅgula.

38. The projection (bahala) of those branches should be equal to or a half (of their width).

39. The root of all branches should be attached to the top of the trunk.

40-42. The width at the bottom of the tree should be equal to, or greater by two aṅgulas and a half, one-and-three-fourths, or twice the width at the bottom of the branches which should be symmetrically attached to those parts (i.e., at the top of the trunk).

43. The branches should be their root with creepers and leaves growing from the bottom (of the tree).

44. The great creepers (mahāvallī) should be at the top (cūlana) and the broken creepers, etc., on the two sides.

45. The surrounding branches spreading from the top should form a disc (i.e., look like the disc).

46. The front creeper should be adorned all over up to the foremost crest (end) with leaves and flowers,

47. The interspaces of one or many branches should be furnished with flowers.

48-60. The branches should be furnished with leaves, creepers growing from the root, the root of the creepers, the two creepers, and many creepers, leaves, flowers, and fruits; they may also be without fruits.

51. They should be also furnished with new creepers and leaves, etc., and with the buds of the divine flowers.

52-63. All the creepers should be made greenish in colour; but the forepart of all (the creepers) should be adorned with red colour.

54. The characteristic mark of all the loaves is that they should be adorned with gold colour.

55. The tip of the leaves and all the small (new) creepers should be greenish in colour.

66. All the recesses (niretana, for niketana, a house) of the branch should be inhabited by bees.

57. It (the kalpa tree) should be furnished with various leaves, flowers, and creepers.

58. Like garlands of jewels various birds should be carved playing thereon.

59. There should be carved various monkeys and many goddesses in a playing mood.

60. There should also be carved the Siddhas, Vidyādharas, and other demi-gods on all the branches and at their interspaces.

61. All these may be carved in the interior and exterior, and all over the all (trees).

62. Leaves, etc., should be gracefully carved all over the trees from the bottom to the top.

63. The small joints (parvan) should be all over it (the tree), and the offshoots (nirgama) of leaves and creepers should grow therefrom.

64. The boss (maulimuṇḍa) should be attached to the joint at the root of a branch.

65. It (the tree) should be furnished with leaves, flowers, and shoots with drooping heads, etc.

66. The bee-like figures should be represented all over the leaves and creepers.

67. The rest should be discreetly made: such should be the ornamental (kalpa) tree.

68-70. The ornamental (kalpa) trees should be carved in front of and beyond the courtyards, the open sheds, in the middle of the pavilions, and for the thrones marked with the crocodile-shaped arches.

71. The Lord of the disc (i.e., the god Viṣṇu) moves about and resides thereon (on the trees) with pleasure.

72-75. His (Viṣṇu’s) lotus-like feet are worshipped by the great kings, their sons of full moon-like face, the royal court ladies (queens), the beautiful courtesans of the capital city, the learned men, as well as the chief of the sons of the bards (vandin)[3].

Thus in the Mānasāra, the science of architecture, the forty-eighth chapter, entitled: “The description of the ornamental tree.”

Footnotes and references:


A mythical tree supposed to yield whatever is wanted of it.


See lines 68-70 where the places of the employment of the ornamental trees are mentioned.


A class of people who compose verses, etc., in praise of a great man.

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