Samarangana-sutradhara (Summary)

by D. N. Shukla | 1960 | 15,592 words | ISBN-10: 8121506115 | ISBN-13: 9788121506113

This page describes Introduction to the Samarangana-Sutradhara English summary of the Samarangana-Sutradhara by Bhoja. This work in Sanskrit representing a voluminous treatise on Vastu-Shastra (the science of Architecture), encompassing a broad range of subjects, such as Architecture, Shilpa-shastra (Iconography, Arts and Crafts) but also deals with Creation-theory, Geography, Philosophu, etc.

Introduction to the Samarāṅgaṇa-Sūtradhāra

[Note: This introduction is taken from the book ‘Vashtu-Shastra Vol (1)’ by D. N. Shukla]

Though the subject originally chosen was ‘Life and Works of Rājā Bhoja’ as time passed and I glanced over the material and the extensiveness of the subject-matter, I found the topic worth several theses. Dr. Raghvan of the University of Madras had already written his dissertation on Śṛṅgāra-prakāśa. I was, therefore, allowed to concentrate on one single text of that voluminous literature ascribed to Bhoja, the Samarāṅgaṇa-Sūtradhāra, a treatise on the science of Architecture. I was expected to elucidate its contents and give a factual presentation. I have spent several years on this{GL_NOTE::} work (writing its summary, translation, study, glossary and still grappling with the illustrations of the architectural and sculptural objects) and I am now happy to present a part of the results of my study in the following pages.

The Samarāṅgaṇa-sūtradhāra is a remarkable legacy of Bhoja whose rule was noted for splendour and grandeur together with liberality and catholocity. It is also a brilliant testimony to his grand and eloquent style not only in the field of the literature he produced but in every walk of life, the life of a benevolent king—his court, his administration, his patronage of art and literature, his ideal of social conduct and religious dedication.

We are familiar with the treatment of this subject of architecture, the Śilpa-śāstra or Vāstu-śāstra in the pre-Samarāṅgaṇa-works both architectural-proper like Mayamata, Mānasāra, etc. and non-architectural class of works like Bṛhatsaṃhitā, Matsya-purāṇa, Agni-purāṇa and so many other Purāṇas as well and Āgamas like Kāmika, Suprabheda and a host of others together with so many other miscellaneous treatises like Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya, Śukra-nītisāra and a good number of religious treatises as well. Their scope of treatment is limited to what may be termed as architectural and sculptural topics. Take for instance the Mānasāra and it will be noticed that of the seventy chapters of the book the first eight arc introductory, the next forty-two deal with architectural matters, and the last twenty are devoted to sculpture (see for details H. A. I. A. pp. 157-8)

A brief notice of the contents of the chapters of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra (vide the tabulations of the re-arranged chapters subject-wise in a chapter ahead) however, will give us an impression that it docs not only treat the architectural subjects like Town-Planning, House-architecture, Temple-architecture, and sculptural subjects like Pratimā-lakṣaṇas iconography iconometry and iconoplastic art together with the Mudrās, the different hand poses, the poses of the body as well as the postures of legs, but it also deals with the canons of Painting and devotes a big chapter to the art of mechanical construction, the Yantras. Yantras and Citras are the two special features which it has introduced in the body of Śilpa-śāstra consistent with its very broad scope of architecture (cf. the chapter ahead).

Thus it suffices here to say in this general introduction to the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra that out of its eighty- three chapters, in its first forty-eight chapters, it treats three principal subjects. Firstly in the first seven chapters together with the fortyfourth and forty-fifth, the introductory subjects like need, origin, schools, scope and subject-matter of architecture and qualifications of an architect are dealt with. Next follow the regional planning, the surveying of the land, the examination of the soil-conditions (Bhūparīkṣā 8) and the system of measurements (Hasta-Lakṣaṇa 9) and the detailed canons of town-planning (Puraniveśa 10) together with the site-plans (II to 14 as well as 38), of the different categories of the Vāstu-padas fit to be employed in towns and temples as well as the houses residential and the palaces of kings. Thirdly, it deals with the house-architecture (civil architecture or popular architecture or more appropriately the secular architecture as opposed to religious or devotional architecture, the temple-architecture) in the subsequent thirty chapters.

This house-architecture can be conveniently split up in two broad divisions of popular residential houses suited to the middleclass people both high and low according to the castes and professions (jātivarṇādhivāsa) and the Royal palaces best suited to the nobles and kings. To the former are devoted about twenty chapters in details of preliminaries like Āyādinirṇaya, Kīlaka-sūtrapāta, the first operations, foundation-laying ceremony (Śilānyāsa-vidhi) and offerings etc. (see for the detailed designations in the tabulation referred to, above); the categories and classifications of the residential houses, the Śāla-houses; the architectural details of planning and constructions, like the material, the masonry, the door, the pillar and decorations etc., and lastly, the mystic ideas associated with Hindu architecture like Vedha, Bhaṅga and defects (ibid).

To the latter it devotes six chapters, out of which the fifteenth (Rājaniveśa) and thirtieth (Rājagṛha), all exclusively are devoted to the exposition- of Palace-architecture, the planning of the Royal Palace (15) and different varieties of the palaces (30), both residential palaces (Nivāsa-bhavanāni) and pleasure-palaces (vilāsa-bhavanāni) together with their characteristics of architectural details of floors, pillars, storeys and ornamentation.

The other remaining chapters may be taken to deal with the accessory buildings and the establishments of the royal palace, the Aśva-śālā (33), the gaja-śālā (32), the Sabhā (27), the assembly hall or council-chamber as well as the princely shrines and the palaces of the royal relatives and the other dignitories [dignitaries?] like commanders, priests and ministers, the Āyatana-niveśa (51).

It gives an honoured place to the topic of Yantra-ghaṭanā, the art of mechanical construction (cf. the 31st chap.) delineating upon the definition of the yantra, its elements, qualities and manifold varieties of pleasure-machines, toy-machines, the machines of warfare as well as the domestic machines like Dvārapāla-yantra, the door-keepermachine, Yodha-yantra, the soldier-machine, etc. and Vimāna-yantras (the aeroplanes) like Vyoma-cāri-vihaṅgama-yantra, wooden-bird-machine travelling in the sky and Ākāśagāmi-dārumayavimāna-yantra, wooden-vimāna, machine flying in the air together with a good many varieties of Vāri-yantra, water-machines, Dhārā-yantras the shower machines and the Ratha-dolā-yantras—the swinging machines.

Further next it has also devoted a full chapter to the art of the construction of the articles of household furniture like cots and couches (Śayanāsana 29).

Thus closes the general introduction to the subject-matter of architecture as treated in the first forty-eight (and 51st) chapters, in which canons of three principal topics of architecture namely, townplanning, house-architecture and construction of machines and articles of household furniture are delineated upon.

In the next twenty chapters, it deals with temple-architecture, the most favourite theme of the author of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra devoting about half of the work to the exposition of this most fascinating topic, the crown of Indian architecture, both in the monuments and the manuals alike, in all the details of the origin and development of the Prāsīdas, the Hindu Temples, their manifold classifications, lay-outs, measurements, superstructure and the finial as well as the decorative motifs both of the central shrine, the Prāsāda, and the accessory buildings like Maṇḍapas, the pavilions, the places of piety and religious rites together with the Jagatīs, the raised platforms for congregational gatherings and social festivities, the basements of the temples, (cf. ahead for the detailed division of the subject chapter-wise—wide the tabulation of the re-arranged chapters).

As regards the different styles of temple architecture, it has added two more to the ternary of Nāgara, Drāviḍa and Vāvāṭa (or Vairāṭa, Vesara, being conspicious by its absence in this manual) the Bhūmija and Lāṭa (though it does not use this last term), besides dwelling upon at length on the manifold temple-types, the jātis of the Prāsādas. All this will be dealt with in detail in its proper place (Pt. V.).

In the last fourteen chapters (70 to 83) is treated Iconography both sculptural and pictorial. To the sculpture proper are devoted as many as eight chapters in details of the Pratimā-lakṣaṇa of the Liṅgas and their pedestals as well as of other principal gods and goddesses together with the standard measurements, mudras and defects of the icons sculptured or painted.

To the Canons of Painting this text devotes six chapters (71 to 75 and 82 cf. the tabulation ahead). As already pointed out, the treatment of painting in this manual is its special feature and a full notice of its contributions critically examined in the writer’s independent work ‘Hindu Canons of Painting or Citralakṣaṇa’.

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