Vastu-shastra (1): Canons of Architecture

by D. N. Shukla | 1960 | 63,284 words | ISBN-10: 8121506115 | ISBN-13: 9788121506113

This page describes Subject-matter of Architecture (Vastu) of the study on Vastu-Shastra (Indian architecture) first part (Fundamental Canons/Literature). It discusses basic concepts such as the philosophy, astronomy, geography and history of Hindu Architecture. Vastushastra can be traced to ancient literature while this thesis also reveals details regarding some of the prime canonical works.

(ii) Subject-matter of Architecture (Vāstu)

According to Mayamata, Bhūmi, Prāsādas, Yana and Śayana constitute the Vāstu and these form the principal topics of the contents of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra Yana, in the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra is aeroplane (cf. Chapter 31).

However this is not enough. Architecture is both a science and an art. Therefore, the business of the architecture is not only to lay down the norms for the guidance of architectural creations but also to evolve these creations in such a manner as to give an aesthetic experience, the apperception of which makes an individual forget himself and experience such a blissful state as to plunge himself into another world—the world of Beauty. When we see Kailash at Ellora, the monumental caves, the painting of Ajantā, and the like, the sublime architectural remains in our land, we feel we have seen not the work of man but of an angel. The Creator Brahmā had created this world. It was left to Viśvakarmā, the first architect of the world to plan it, and to plan it beautifully. The story goes that after creation Brahmā entrusted the work of maintenance to Pṛthu, the first king on earth from whom the earth, among other names, is called Pṛthivī. A warrior king could not accomplish the task of an artist. A Bhūpati and Sthāpati are two different men. Naturally Pṛthu failed and so he went to Brahmā to relate his woeful story. The goddess Earth too straight away went to Brahmā. The king and the mother Earth when both approached Brahmā, He called in Viśvakarmā and entrusted the task of this planning to him. Viśvakarmā took counsels from his four sons who were as skilled as the father and narrated his mission and asked them to cooperate in the great mission of the planning of the world.

This brings us to the subject matter proper. From high heavens we come down on earth. In the Third Chapter (Praśna, The Query), Jaya, the eldest son of Viśvakarmā, assumes the role of the spokesman of his brothers and put the questions to his father relating to the different subjectmatters of the science. This is the traditional way of Pūrva and Uttara Pakṣas, the literary technique of the śāstras. The whole book is nothing but an exposition of these different questions as architectural canons relating to the different matters, forming the very structure of the whole science. These questions relate to the following subject-matters of the science and art of Architecture and arranged on selfsame procedure of preliminary, town-planning, house-architecture, mechanical construction, temple-architecture and iconography (see also V. L.)

I. Preliminary;

A. Cosmological (4, 7 & 8):

(i) Creation—Mahābhūtas, Amarapurī and the luminaries;

(ii) The movements of the planets—solar-system and other constellations and the relative distances among each other, together with their Substratum and the Instrumental cause;

(iii) The existence above the earth, above and below the Mahā ūtas.’

B. Cultural (9):

The land-marks in the human culture in the different phases of its existence the Yuga and its Dharma—the first species of creation, the first king, the first planet, the first Varṇa.

C. Geographical (5 & 9):

(i) Earth, its shape, size, base, measure—length, breadth, circumference, diametre and area;

(ii) Mountains, their height and length and breadth;

(iii) Continents and varṣas (countries) with their rivers, oceans and peoples and other characteristics.

D. Geological (10, 11 & 38):

Re-surveying of the land, the Deśa and the examination of the manifold varieties of the Deśa-bhūmis as well as the different soils having variety in sound, touch, smell, colour and taste and their examinations to ascertain their suitability in planning of the different classes of habitations in accordance to castes and professions.

E. Architectural (34, 39 and 40 etc).

Scope, subject-matter and the schools of architecture, the architect and architecture, the preliminaries like offerings and foundations, Sūtraṇa, Adhivāsana, Orientation by means of a gnoman, the Śalyodhāravidhi, the Iṣṭikā-karma, the brick-work and the process of their finish.

II. Town-planning (11-18 and 29-31).

(i) The land-survey in connection with plannig of towns in all their categories like capital cities, forts, villages, kheṭas, etc. with approaches, frontiers and boundaries, fortification consisting of the ramparts, parapets, as well as doors (gates and gopuras) together with towers and turests [turrets?], etc. and other devices to make it look more beautiful;

(ii) Street-planning;

(iii) Site-planning;

(iv) The installation of the Indra’s Flag and foundation and dedication of temples and shrines etc;

(v) The folk-planning, castewise and profession-wise (jātivarṇādhi-vāsa).

III. House-Architecture (21-28, 32, 33, 35-37 and 41-59).

(i) The palace-architecture—the palace with all its appurtenances and other establishments, viz. pleasure-gardens, kitchens, treasury, arsenals, stores, gymnasium, dancing and music halls, bath-rooms with showers and fountains, bed-chambers, theatre, glass-rooms, queens’ chambers with swing-rooms and lying-in-chamber, the Aśoka-lines, creeper-sheds, orchards, pavillions, all well decorated; Vāpis, wooden hills, flower-beds, as well as the residences of princes, priests, prime minister, commander and other royal personages.

(ii) The House-Architecture—the varieties of the houses in general, their component parts like śālās and alindas, with their mouldings, the special varieties of houses, the material, the masonry, the decorations as well as other architectural details of the timber-work, brick-work, door-work, pillar-work, the roofing (the canopies etc.), and so on so forth;

(iii) Measurements, the site-planning of nine plots, sixty four plots, eighty one ones etc. as well as Bhaṅgas and Vedhas etc;

IV. Yantras etc.

Mechanical construction and the construction of the articles of furniture inferred from (cf. Dārukriyā 55), though not specially mentioned.

V. Temple Architecture (ibid).

Prasādas, their proportions of measurements, layouts, storeys, śikharas and other elements of structure and superstructure and the finial together with mouldings, etc. etc.

VI. Iconography (Sculpture) (20)

Gods and goddesses in their conveyances, seats, in accompaniment of the Parivāra Devatās, colours, forms, ornaments, drapery, decorations, weapons, the age and other emblems.

VII. The Painting (55).

Chitra-kriyā and Lepya-kriyā.

Dr. Acharya in his ‘Indian Architecture according to Mānsāra Śilpa-Śāstra’ has very ably and aptly brought out an all-pervading and all-embracing scope of the science of Architecture. We know that many treatises on the science of architecture in India have been titled as Śilpa-śāstras. “The term Śilpa” Dr. Archarya says “means an art, fine and mechanical. It covers some sixty four such arts”. But the Śilpa-śāstra in these treatises is used in the sense of the Vāstuśāstra and the Vāstu-vidyā is enumerated as one of the sixty four kalās or śilpas. This in my opinion must be an old tradition when Vāstu-vidyā had not come to its own. In the First Century A. D. however (the age of Śukra) the scope of Vāstu-vidyā had assumed such an enormous, all-absorbing and all-embracing character that it became synonymous with all arts. It is why as per Dr. Acharya’s treatment referred to, above, the literal meaning of Vāstu-śāstra would be science of architecture. But a complete Vāstu-śāstra deals with more than what is generally understood by architecture. In the Vāstu-śāstra, as we have seen in the preceding pages of the study together with the broad scope of architecture as just hinted by the Samarāṅgaṇa itself, the term architecture is taken in its broadest sense and implies what is built or constructed. “Thus in the first place it denotes all kinds of buildings, religious, residential, military and auxiliary members and component mouldings. Secondly, it covers town-planning, laying out gardens, constructing market places including ports and harbours; making roads, bridges, gateways, triumphal arches; digging wells, tanks, trenches, drains, towers, moats; building enclosure-walls, embankments, railings, landing places, flight of steps for hill and bathing ghats and ladders. Thirdly it covers articles of furniture such as bedstead, ward-robes, baskets, cages, nests, mats, conveyances, lamps and lamp-posts for streets. It also includes the making of dresses and ornaments, such as chains, crowns, headgear and footwear and arm-wear. Architecture also includes sculpture and deals with carving of phalli, idols of deities, statues of great personages, images of animals and birds. It is also concerned with such preliminary matters as the selection of site, testing of soil, planning, designing, and finding out cardinal points by means of a gnoman, dialling and astronomical and astrological calculations”—(vide “Indian Architecture acc. to Mānasāra Śilpa-śāstra” page 1-2).

This is a bird’s eye-view of the treatment of the scope of Vāstu-śāstra as given in the two most representative texts of Indian Art, the Samarāṅgaṇa-sūtradhāra (Nāgara School) and the Mānasāra (Dravida School); as regards the treatment by other texts like the Aparājita-pṛcchā, Mayamata etc., it should be studied in the Vāstu-lakṣaṇa.

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