Vastu-shastra (2): Town Planning

by D. N. Shukla | 1960 | 29,408 words | ISBN-10: 8121506115 | ISBN-13: 9788121506113

This page describes Introduction of the study on Vastu-Shastra (Indian architecture) second part (Town planning). It discusses the construction and planning of various types of villages, roads, forts and towns in ancient India. References to Vastu-shastra include the Samarangana-sutradhara.


About Forty years ago when Sri B. B. Datta wrote his masterly treatise ‘Town Planning in Ancient India’ he hid practically exhausted all the evidence on the canons of town-planning as was available in the ancient texts of Purāṇas and Vāstu-śāstra texts like Mānasāra and Mayamata as well as treatises like Artha-Śāstra of Kauṭilya and Śukra’s Nītisāra. It is proposed to correlate here on the new evidence furnished principally by the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra and secondarily by so many other treatises of Vāstuśāstra. These have provided some vistas of additional value, the opening of which will illuminate the development of their civic art by the time of Raja Bhoja, the 1st part of the Eleventh century A, D.

Accordingly after we have sufficiently covered the background of our subject matter, let us now expound the Śāstra in a bit more technical and practical manner. Hindu science of architecture, as we have seen, not only formulates fundamental canons of the planning what may be termed as the engineering of architecture, but also exhaustively deals with the principal types of architectural planning—the towns, the temples and the residential houses. This part is reserved for the exposition of town-planning in ancient India, Naturally, therefore, we have to pen this subject in its manifold aspects, the region or country, the sites and soils, thus determining the selection of the site for the planning of the various and manifold types of towns, villages and forts. Towns in ancient times rose not in haphazard manner. Every town bad its own history. Accordingly towns grew with a distinct and definite socio-political and religio-cultural need. There were capital cities, the Rājadhānī towns and there were the commercial towns, harbours, the ports etc., the Pattana. Similarly the temple-cities, garden-cities, health-resorts, riparine towns etc, etc. also came to their existence as per the above dictum. But before we proceed with this pre-requiste of the site-planning or its selection we have to give an account, not only of the rise and development of manifold types of towns and their special categories, the different and manifold varieties of villages and forts, but also of some of the basic factors which contributed towards this evolution and which, in the context of human civilization and the humanity at large are really most fundamental. Thus this forms the subject matter of the first two chapters.

The 3rd chapter will be devoted to the subject, as already hinted above; where we will proceed with the region, the Deśa and the Deśa-Bhūmis i.e. the regional planning and the selection of the site along with so many architectural matters like the orientation, the Vāstu-Pada-vinyāsa (already dealt with in the 1st part) and Kīlaka-Sūtra-pāta etc., etc. and non-architectural ones like the Śodhana, Karṣaṇa, Balis etc., etc. In the 4th chapter we may take up the subject of Road-Planning and the 5th may be devoted to the Folk-planning. The sixth Chapter would be devoted to the planning of the sites of Nagara-devatās, the deification of the town and laying out of the temples therein along with its most intimate planning of public parks, gardens, orchards, ponds, Vāpīs, Kūpas—the natural reservoirs not only for the beautification of the towns but also supplying the need of the temples, the flowers for worship. In the seventh chapter we may take up the fortification of the towns so meticulously adhered to, both by practice and precepts. In the eighth chapter we would be competent enough to dwell at some length on the defective towns, the inauspicious ones, after we have grasped a little the norms of good town-planning. In the last chapter we have to philosophise the system in the broader context of Indian culture and the culture of the humanity at large, where the city no more remains a static structure but a dynamo of citizenship which in its turn, in the opinion of the ancient writers like Vātsyāyana, is the fittest place for the cultivation of arts. This is one concluding aspect of our estimate. Yet another very important aspect being the review of the ancient ideals in the context of the modern system and to evaluate how far the ancients can still help us in our present day National Reconstruction especially in our town-planning policy. What are our present requirements? What are the gifts of our heritage? How can we so combine them, so synthesise them that our living gets evolved good, beautiful and benevolent so that the mission of the art can be fully obtained and perfectly cherished.

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