Vastu-shastra (1): Canons of Architecture

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

This page describes (iv.a) Aparajitapriccha (Introduction) 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.

(iv.a) Aparājitapṛcchā (Introduction)


Aparājitapṛcchā is another manual on the science of architecture which may be regarded as one of the most representative texts of Indian architecture, sculpture and painting, fully representing the wide scope of Vāstuśāstra. Its dissertations on practically all the branches of Vāstuśāstra are not only copious and full but also unique in some respects as they add to our knowledge on many new topics like Prosody, Astrology and Music etc. intimately connected with the broader scope of Indian architecture and the fundamental elements of Art, where rhythm (Prosody and Music) and mystic ideas of Hindus (Astrology) are fullest of significance and perfectest of implication. The title is significant. It literally means the questionair framed by Aparājita, the youngest of the four mānasa sons (the other 3 being Jaya, Vijaya and Siddhārtha) of Viśvakarmā. And where there is a questionair there must be a reply. Questions and their answers formed the traditional exposition of the Śāstras in Indian lore and learning. The questions are worthy of a great son and the answers coming from the mouth of the greatest of the architects, Viśvakarmā, himself must be simply sublime and superb in their fullest of connotation and denotation. This is the significance of the first title. This work is also known as ‘Sūtra-santāna-guṇa-kīrti-prakāśa’ or succinctly as Sūtrasantāna. At the end of every chapter or Sūtra is an epilogue—“iti sūtrasantānaguṇakīrtiprakāśaproktṛśrībhuvanadevācāryoktāparājitapṛcchāyāṃ” which supports this second title of this book and incidently hints at the founder of the Śāstra, Sri Bhuvanadevacharya, who appears to be none else than Viśvakarmā.

Sri P. A. Mankad, who has laboured hard to edit this text and write out an interesting introduction, however, attempts not a happy interpretation of this phrase—‘Sūtrasantāna-guṇa-kīrtiprakāśa’.

He says,

‘The very nature of composition of [aparājitapṛcchā] goes to show that the [guṇa] (characteristics) and [kīrti] (functions) of the [santāna] (progeny) of [sūtra] (lay out of structures by means of a string or in clear terms, a variety of structural arrangements having different essential features and functions) necessarily imply that the matter contained in the work has been so compressed that it forms “succinct and scrappy indications” (and not clear and trustworthy definitions) of structures of innumerable kinds.’

In my interpretation Sūtra here means string, the first pre-requisite in any architectural planning and construction and by its constant application (continuity) in each and every architectural function, an architect must invariably get name (for craftsmanship) and fame and therefore the title under this heading is also very significant—

sūtrāṇāṃ santānena yo guṇo yaśca kīrtiprakāśaḥ (labhyete) tau sto yasmin granthe saḥ athavā sūtrāṇāṃ yaḥ santānaḥ (vistāraḥ) yaśca guṇastābhyāṃ yaḥ kīrtiprakāśaḥ so'sti yasmin granthe saḥ

Hence its interpretation implying, ‘succinct and scrappy indications’ in the opinion of Sri Mankad does not hold good. The case is quite otherwise. The treatment of every topic is more elaborate than required as chapterwise notice (which follows soon) will convince us.

Now as regards its age, it may be said that unlike Viśvakarmā’s works—Vāstuśāstra or Śilpaśāstra, it is a datable treatise. It is definitely post-Samarāṅgaṇa as many of its verses may be regarded as verbatim reproductions from the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra, as majority of verses in Sūtradhāra-maṇḍana’s works are verbatim reproductions from the Aparājitapṛcchā. Śilparatna also falls in this category which has copiously borrowed from the Mayamata [Mayamatam]. A perusal of the Vāstulakṣaṇas appended with this work will support this conclusion. The name of the treatise and its author are a bit mystical and punny [? funny/puny?] in the sense that Aparājita may also stand for some ruling Indian chief on whose behest this treatise was compiled and Bhuvanadevācārya [Bhuvanadevacharya], the great Viśvakarman, may also signify the author of that name. Let us take up the former point. Four kings with the names of Aparājita appear to have flourished between 661 and 1161 A. D in different parts of India. They were, the Guhila king Aparājita (vide Epi. Indica IV. 29); Aparājita as one of the contemporaries of Rājaśekhara (cir A. D. 900), who mentions him as the author of a story called Mṛgāṅkalekhā (cf. Kāvyamālā of 1900 p. 9);Aparājita, the Silahara king of Northern India (Epi Indi. Vol. III. 267)—vide the copper plate of 997 A.D. and Aparājita (whose another name is Devapāla) as the son of Mūladeva of 1161 (vide Indian Antiquary Vol. XV p. 202). Thus it seems probable that this treatise might have been compiled at the behest of some one of these four kings. This is an external evidence. Now if we take the internal evidence into our consideration the upper limit of Aparājita can be dated after 200 A.D. as the author quotes Bharata, the celebrated writer of Nāṭyaśāstra vide Sutra 34 14) and scholars have fixed Bharata’s date 200 A. P. We know Bharata describes only eight Rasas while this work, as is usual with other later works, describes nine. This work is also post-Kalidasa as it imitates the renowned poet—vide Sutra 38 v. 19, in the style of his famous poem Kumārasambhava—“pūrvāparau toyanidhī” etc. Thus its upper limit comes down to the 6th century A.D. Further again there are copious quotations and reproductions from the later Purāṇas like Skanda, Vāyu, Śrīmadbhāgavata [Śrīmadbhāgavatam] and Viṣṇu etc. etc. Still further the author has reproduced verses composed by Śaṅkarācārya on Gaṅgā and Śiva—vide Sutras 1. v, 12 and 204 cf. ‘Pañcavaktra-dhyāna [dhyānam]’ respectively. Thus the upper limit comps down tp the 9th Century A. D.

A critical comparison with the Samarāṅgaṇa-Sūtradhāra (to be attempted soon) may convince us that the book in purview is definitely post-Samaraṅgaṇa. And the date of the author of the Samarāṅgaṇā, king Bhojadeva of Dhārā is practically settled—11th century A.D. Thus the Aparājitapṛcchā may safely be placed in 12th century A.D. and may be associated with the fourth king Aparājita; the son of Mūladeva (1161 A. D.)

P. A. Mankad has attempted a comparative estimate of both these treatises, the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra and the A.P. He has come to the same conclusion that the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra is decidedly anterior in its compilation to the A.P. A pertinent point in support of this estimation is that while Jainism and Jain deities are completely ignored in the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra, A.P. shows equal adoration to the Jain deities and to the foundation and dedication of these deities in temples and construction of their images. The Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra on the other hand envinces a rather unpleasant tendency towards Jainism and Buddhism as is apparent from his appellation for these sects (pākhaṇḍin). In the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra their divinities have not obtained an honourable seat in the various types of temples dealt with.

P. A. Mankad, accordingly observes:

“It is evident the preachings of Śaṅkarācārya had secured a firm foothold in the country and though Jainism was trying its level best to achieve ascendency in the State, it had not succeeded in its object upto to latter half of the 11th century in Dhārā, Mālavā etc. It was in the time of Kumārapāla Solanki (1143-1174 A.D.) that Jain preachers secured their objective and one finds that the A P. depicts a picture of this sect in a far more tolerant spirit as a result of a pious attitude towards Jainism; its divinities are found raised to a level as high as, though not higher than the Trimīrti of the Hindu Pantheon. In the temples of different types they have come to occupy a position as exalted as Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Maheśa, Sūrya etc; they were admitted in temples of superior types and are assigned seats along with Brahmā, Viṣṇu, etc. The Vesara style of Architecture had completely lost its ground when the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra came to be composed. Even its academic significance was ignored as it were, by Bhojadeva. The A. P. on the other hand has not discarded the past history of Architecture as revealed in works gone before. It has enumerated in detail the several constituent features of different styles. It has shown in this comparative classification that Vesara had an individuality of its own upto a certain stage in the history of Architecture, and it was about, say between the 8th and 11th centuries that it merged into the other styles with the result that new styles or sub-styles came into existence. Bommaji, a Dravidian architect, who flourished in the 9th century A. D. had acquired a mastery in four, instead of three main divisions of Architecture,

The Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra has got a classification wherein Vesara has, it is evident, split itself into different new styles not known before. The A. P. on the contrary has maintained the traditional knowledge of the Vāstuśāstra and enriched the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra by an intense study of comparative essentials of styles. King Bhojadeva of Dhārānagarī had not analysed his subject by comparisons so valuably attempted by the A.P. It may, however, be emphasized that the author of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra has tried to describe very vividly and in detail the details of Prāsādas in their general plan as well as in their elevation. Nighaṇṭu of Vāstupada-devatās is laid down by him alone; neither the Mayamata [Mayamatam] nor the Śilparatnam has touched this question of Nighaṇṭu at all. A close study of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra and the A. P. with respect to the subject matter in its manifold aspects leads me to conclude that the S. S. is decidedly anterior in its composition to the A. P. which may safely be taken to the 12th century A. D”.

With this general introduction to the work let us tabulate its contents in a very brief summary to bring home to the readers its unique place among the Śilpa-treatises conveniently to be styled as an Encyclopaedia of Mythology, Philosophy and Science of the arts of architecture, sculpture arid painting along with a peep into ancient Indian Engineering and overseeing.

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