Vastu-shastra (3): House Architecture

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

This page describes The Construction of the Shalas which is chapter 6 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.

Chapter 6 - The Construction of the Śālās

The Masonry and the Material

In its 41st. Chapter entitled “Caya-vidhi” the technique of masonry—a most scientific code of brick laying is propounded.

I think the proper word was Ceya and not Caya. Ceya is used in 41.4. (“ceyasya guṇāḥ”). Caya seems to be either an alternative form or scribal error for Ceya. In Hindi it is called ‘Cejā’, which word can be derived only from Ceya and not Caya. Cejā is brick-laying i.e., the Raddā.

The following twenty good qualities of the masonry are enumerated:—

  1. Suvibhakta,
  2. Sama,
  3. Cāru,
  4. Caturaśra,
  5. Asambhrānta,
  6. Asandigdha,
  7. Avināśī,
  8. Anyavarjita,
  9. Anuttama,
  10. Anudvṛtta,
  11. Akubja,
  12. Apihita,
  13. Samānakhaṇḍa,
  14. Ṛjvanta,
  15. Antaraṅga,
  16. Supārśva,
  17. Sandhi-suśliṣṭa,
  18. Supratiṣṭha,
  19. Susandhi and
  20. Ajihma.

The presence or absence of which make the masonry good or bad accordingly. The purport of all these qualities is that the masonry work should be in the perfectest order, beauty, measurements and strength (cf. Suvibhakta, Sama, Cāru, Avināśī etc, etc)

It may be noted that the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra has the singular credit of giving such a Urge number of good qualities of Masonry. Nowhere in any extant Śilpa-work, both ancient and modern, may be found this mention of good qualities of the masonry. They represent the highest water mark in the masonry work, the real ability of a mason.

If these attributes in masonry are not well brought out, they result in an equal number of defects. Our text (41.4) says:—

“If these qualities of masonry are not adhered to, they result in the defects of the same number.”

These defects in the masonry in their turn bring about miseries; misfortunes, incalculable calamities, e.g., if the southern wall goes out of its direction, it is indicative of some physical diseases to break up and it may also indicate capital punishment to the house-owner. Similarly, a western wall going off its directions while the masonry is going on, brings loss of wealth and fear from dacoits, and so on.

Not only is a disproportionate masonry work inauspicious, but a weak one also. It brings bad results. The wrong mouldings in it brings similar evil consequences. A similar fate befalls on one if the wall falls down or breaks down on account of defective bricklaying.

Defective masonry has got some technical denominations and they are a bit more interesting as they give us an ind cation as to how advanced the masonry work in those times was

  1. Mallikākṛti (Karṇikāsamasthāna) i.e., Viśāla while operating upon all the vāhus i.e.—the corners,
  2. Brāhma. i.e. too thin a masonry
  3. Tanumadhya. i.e. haphazard
  4. Nirṇata. i.e. wrong on the corners
  5. Kūrmonnata. i.e. raised in the middle

These are all defective constructions and must be avoided, otherwise evil consequences may follow. Hence the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra rightly advises—Vide 41.21-26 see V. L.

So far only general guidance in the art of brick-laying and wall making is given. Now an interesting code of instructions is offered to the masons in the handling of the Sūtra and the bricks in order to reach the desired end of good and proportionate masonry.

The following verses (41.27-32) simply portray the picture of the brick work indicative of the most scientific and advanced masonry of the day in its different stages from plinth to the high wall.

bhūri nācchādanaṃ dadyānna bhindyāttatra ceṣṭakāḥ |
viṣamasthāḥ kuṭhāreṇa cchittvā tāḥ kalpayetsamāḥ || 27 ||
yathā na ca spṛśetsūtraṃ vicinvīta tathā budhaḥ |
kuḍye ca sādimadhyānte dṛṣṭimekāṃ nipātayet || 28 ||
yadā sarvaparikrāntaṃ talaṃ codghāṭitaṃ bhavet |
tadā naikatra kurvīta paryāyeṇa vicakṣaṇaḥ || 29 ||
udghāṭanaṃ starāṇāṃ tu yadīcchetsiddhimātmanaḥ |
tatra tatra cayaṃ kuryādyadi saṃviddhakaṃ hitam || 30 ||
durvahaṃ hi bhavettena tasmāttatparivarjayet |
upariṣṭātsamaṃ pārśve bhujaṃ kuryādvicakṣaṇaḥ || 31 ||
samantādrucakacchinnaścayo bhittiṣu pūjitaḥ |
tasmātprayatnaḥ kartavyaścayakarmaṇi nityaśaḥ || 32 ||

“Let there be neither too much of Ācchādana, the mortar i.e. (gārā) nor the bricks be laid loose or remain open. Those uneven should be made even by cutting them and thus levelling them by the Kuṭhāra, the axe and, the Basūlī. The mansonry should be such as when examined through the Avalambaka (i.e Sāhula, these days) one of the eightfold Sūtras (the full list of the Sūtrāṣṭaka being dṛṣṭi, kara, mauñja, kārpāsa, avalambaka, kāṣṭhasṛṣṭi and vilekhya) it should be found correct. After some progress is obtained it should be examined in all its levels beginning, middle and the extremity by the Dṛṣṭisūtra—‘Kuḍye ca sādimadhyānte dṛṣṭimekām nipātayet’. Now after all the four walls have reached an appreciable level, say man’s shoulder, the masonry on all sides should be abandoned and they should be taken up, one by one, otherwise the masonry may be very difficult—‘Darvaham hi bhavet’. We know: higher the masonry, larger its paraphernalia—the Pāḍha etc. In order that all the walls are set in together all round leaving the Dāḍhā—cf. Rucakacchinna [rucakacchinnaḥ]—which is an essential code.”

Material the wood.

There is only one chapter regarding the material, namely The Vanapraveśādhyāya [vanapraveśa-adhyāya], the 16th. In it are laid down the rules for bringing wood from the forest at an auspicious time from auspicious trees in an auspicious manner together with other allied matters of examination of trees, their selection of trees, their selection with certain rites and devices, the mode of cutting and suitability of particular trees to particular castes and for specific operations.

Practically all important ancient treatises of architecture have treated this topic of bringing timber from the forest for the use of house construction. This they call ‘collection of wood’ Dāru-āharaṇa vide Viśvakarma-Prakāśa XXIX; Matsya-Purāṇa 257; Bṛhat Saṃhitā 59).

For Entry into the forest for collection of the wood for construction of the building. The first thing to be considered is the auspicious date on which the operation of this kind is to be made. For this an auspicious constellation of stars is recommended.

Having entered into the forest, the trees should be offered food and drink and the cutter is to keep fast. Thus, after the tree has been offered the draught and food and a night has passed, the cutter having laid down his are examines the trees from the point of their age and those which are Bāla or Vṛddha i.e., young and old should be abandoned and the criteria of examination are (a) colour (b) taste and (c) bark, and as with advance in age people become weak, powerless and impotent, similarly the trees become shorn of lives with signs of decay in colour and oil-juice as well as in the bark. According to the text, the Śāla tree’s age is 300 years and it is fit only after it has crossed the age of C6.

The following kinds of trees are deemed unfit for the collection of wood or timber for the required purposes:—

1. Grown on the cemeteries of the town, the roads of the village, on the bank of a tank, in the vicinity of a shrine or temple or grown on soils not fit for the selection of any planning (vide T.P.).

2. Decayed, dried up, having holes, sharp-barked, crooked, burnt up, shorn of branches, presided over by spirits, damaged by the fall of lightening, inhabited by bees, snakes, or by meat-eating birds, covered by the spiders’ nests (Lūtā-tantu) scratched by forest beasts or wounded by elephants.

3. Those placed as land-marks on the ways and having a very thick trunk.

4. Giving flowers and fruits out of season and those diseased.

5. Thorny trees, those giving delicious fruits, milky trees, fragrant ones, trees like Karṇikāra, Dhava, Plakṣa, Kapittha, Viṣamacchada, Śirīṣa, Udumbara, Aśvattha, Śelu, Nyagrodha, Campaka, Nimba, Āmra, Kovidāra, Akṣa, etc.

The general criterion in the selection of fit trees is that only those trees should be selected which have the potentiality for bearing the load of the structures and the superstructures of the buildings as most of the wooden architecture in those days was related to pillars, beams and lintels. Door frames and roofing too, were done by wood (cf. Saḍdāruka—so common in the Śālā houses).

The following common trees on the basis of this criterion are recommended:—

  1. Khadira,
  2. Bījaka,
  3. Śālā,
  4. Madhūka,
  5. Śāka,
  6. Śiṃśipā,
  7. Sarja,
  8. Arjuna,
  9. Añjana,
  10. Āśoka,
  11. Kedāra,
  12. Rohiṇī,
  13. Vikaṅkata,
  14. Devadāru,
  15. Śrīparṇī.

Now after these two preliminaries, i.e. starting in an auspicious constellation of stars and the examination of stars and the examination of the trees for selection and collection thereof, the actual operation of cutting them down should be attended to with Baij [=Bali?] offerings with Svastika-pāṭha in the early hours of the morning.

Particular attention to be bestowed upon this operation is that during the cutting operation if the following are observed, the tree should be abandoned:—

  1. The coming out of blood.
  2. Shaking or sounds made by the trees.
  3. Fall of curd, honey, milk or butter.

On the other hand, if the following are observed, the tree should be deemed fit:—

  1. Black liquid spouts from the tree.
  2. Falls at a distance after the roots are cut.
  3. Makes excessive sound.
  4. Produces excessive wind.
  5. Falls in the East or in the North.

If however, it falls either in the South or in the West, the Śāntika having performed, it should be abandoned and deemed unfit for employment. Similarly, several other procedures both ritualistic and non-ritualistic are prescribed and the import of all this is to select the best wood to secure the best result. This only indicates how meticulous our forefathers were even in matters mundane. They could never have suffered the slightest departure from the ideal.

A very interesting procedure to find out the maṇḍala, if the tree is bored by insects is given in the text. While cutting the tree, the colour of the tree should be observed—these are called the Maṇḍalas. Maṇḍalas are animal rings in the pith of the trees and they are tabulated hereunder:—

  Circle Animal
1. Mañjiṣṭhābha Bheka
2. Kapilābha Rat
3. Pītābhāsa (Yellowish) Godhā
4. Dīrgha-sitāyata (whitish) Serpent
5. Guḍacchāya Bees
6. Aruṇa Kṛkalāsa
7. Kapotābha Gṛhagodhā
8. Ghṛta-maṇḍābha Gaudheya
9. Rasāñjanābha Water
10. Śastrābha "
11. Kamalotpalābha "
12. Dhautāsi-yaṣṭivarṇa "
Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: