Vastu-shastra (3): House Architecture

by D. N. Shukla | 1960 | 17,057 words | ISBN-10: 8121506115 | ISBN-13: 9788121506113

This page describes Introductory of the study on Vastu-Shastra (Indian architecture) third part (Civil architecture). This part deals with four divisions of the tradition of ancient Indian house-architecture: 1) residential houses, 2) royal mansions, 3) abodes of the Gods and 4) public buildings.


House-architecture really has four distinct branches according to ancient Indian tradition. Houses principally may be classified firstly into residential houses for middle class people—vide the folk-planning in which houses in ancient India in a village or town were planned according to the castes and professions; secondly into those gorgeous mansions suited to the nobles and princes—the palaces, the Harmyas and the Rāja-prāsādas; thirdly into what are called abodes of gods, the temples, the Prāsādas and Vimānas and fourthly into the public buildings which are planned and constructed for the common use, like the Viśrāmaśālās, the libraries, the theatres, the picture gallaries etc, The common public pools, ponds, tanks, Vāpīs and wells, etc., will also fall in this last category.

Now as the genius of architecture in relation to these four classes of buildings has been distinct in nature and definite in its contributions especially in case of the secular architecture, the aristocratic architecture and the devotional architecture, the Janabhavanas, the Rāja-bhavanas and the Deva-bhavanas, it is, therefore, necessary to treat these three classes of buildings separately. Accordingly these three parts are devoted to the exposition of this genius of the Hindu architect. Public buildings being the concern of the state will be included in the part devoted to palace-architecture.

It has been wrongly surmized and commented upon that India did not evolve secular planning or the civil architecture. A study of the Samarāṅgaṇa-Sūtradhāra; a medieval treatise on the science and art of architecture is a definite repudiation of this misconceived opinion. This text though written by a king in the atmosphere of palace-court is really the landmark in the civic-planning in India and harbinger of the residential houses most suited to the middle class people what are designated as Śāla-bhavanas? The story of the śālās is fascinating indeed and their antiquity goes to the so-called primitive age when man evolved the first house on earth.

Accordingly this part is devoted to the exposition of the Śāla-bhavanas, the residential houses suited to the bulk of the population or the middle class people. It is, therefore, required to briefly indicate the treatment of this part. In the first place it may be remarked that any building operation whether secular or religious was preceeded by some important preliminaries like the examination and selection of the site, its plotting, etc. what is called Vāstupada-vinyāsa, the determining of the sites, the Vāstu-pūjana, the foundation ceremony the formal digging, the Balidāna, Halakarṣaṇa, Aṅkurāropaṇādi and the placing the Kīlakas and the Sūtrapāta-vidhi etc,, along with the festive celebration to honour the architect-mason and the labourers etc., etc., though may be deemed as non-architectural matters in these days, are really having the fullest of architectural import as the human destinies are always guided by the superhuman agencies and naturally this truth was never lost sight of by architects of old. All these matters will find some treatment in the first chapter of this part entitle ‘Preliminaries’. The second chapter will deal with buildings in general, their different categories etc., and from the 3rd chapter the proper subject matter of this part namely the Śālā-buildings will be taken up which may again be viewed as the exposition of the four principal topics namely the origin and development of the houses of manifold varieties and the general characteristics of the residential houses for the common people the śālas—meaning classification and Gṛhasaṃyojana etc. (Chap. III and IV); the planning of the houses along with the house-plans and building bye-laws and its construction—the material and masonry etc., (Chap. V, and VI); the principal architectural components like the door, the pillar, the roof and so many other accessories like Alindas, Bhadras, Mūṣas, etc., et.c., (Chap. VII, VIII), the decorations and the equipment, the bhavana-bhūṣā and bhavana-sajjā. (IX) and lastly the deflects of the houses, the bhvana-doṣas (X).

This is the broad indication of the subject-matter to be attempted on this part; in the end however we may conclude with a purposeful motive namely how far these Śālas can be accomodated in our National-house-planning in India today and how far the ancient Indian contributions in the realm of this most vital field of our life can be appreciated by us even now.

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