Vastu-shastra (3): House Architecture

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

This page describes The Pillar and other Members which is chapter 8 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 8 - The Pillar and other Members

The Pillar

The evidence on Pillar in the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra is confined to the 28th Chapter entitled “Gṛhadravya Pramāṇa”. The Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra has described the four kinds of columns;

  1. the Padmaka,
  2. the Ghaṭa-pallaraka,
  3. the Kubera and
  4. the Śrīdhara.

The chief distinguishing features of each of these are that the first two, though resemble in shape, take the different motifs, the former of a lotus and the latter of the leaves and garlands (cf. “the pot and foliage” motif of Indian columns). And but for the shape, the other two take the model of the Padmaka. This designation of the pillars does not correspond to those of the works like Mānasāra and others for the simple reason that basically these pillars are not temple pillars, and therefore, in house architecture, their innovation is fully justified.

The five-fold division of Mānasāra pillars into:

  1. Brahma-kānta,
  2. Viṣṇu-kānta,
  3. Rudra-kānta,
  4. Śiva-kānta and
  5. Skanda-kānta.

[Is based on the general shapes of the columns.]

With respect to dimensions and ornaments, the five orders are called:

  1. Citrakarṇa,
  2. Padmakānta,
  3. Citra-Skambha,
  4. Pālika-Skambha, and
  5. Kumbha-Stambha.

[—Vide “Hindu Architecture India and abroad, page 201”.]

In this latter classification, the two designations Padmakānta and Kumbha-Stambha are nearer to Samarāṅgaṇa’s Padmaka and Ghaṭa-Pallavaka.

Matsya-purāṇa, designates its pillars by the names of:

  1. Rucaka,
  2. Vajra,
  3. Dvivajra,
  4. Pralīnaka and
  5. Vṛtta.

Regarding the shape, the first two varieties i.e., Padmaka, and Ghaṭa-pallavaka resemble each other—both of them take the famous octagonal shape. Kubera is sixteen sided and the Śrīdhara is oval.

Now coming to the different component parts of a column in the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra) we find as many as ten of them. These are:

  1. Stambhakoṭi,
  2. Praṇālinī,
  3. Pratipālana,
  4. Stambhamūla,
  5. Masūraka,
  6. Utkālaka,
  7. Kumbhikā,
  8. Stambhapiṇḍa,
  9. Patra,
  10. Rasanā and Jaṅghā.

All these are innovations, as the component parts of a column, as described in works like Matsya, Bṛhat-saṃhitā and Kiraṇa Tantra are:

  1. Vāhana,
  2. Ghaṭa,
  3. Padma,
  4. Uttaroṣṭha,
  5. Bāhulya,
  6. Bhāra,
  7. Tulā,
  8. Upatulā.

The Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra further describes a large number of component projections, entablatures and mouldings as follows:—

  1. Talapaṭṭa,
  2. Bāhulya,
  3. Hīragṛha,
  4. Pravasana,
  5. Trikaṇṭa,
  6. Lambita,
  7. Ardhacandra,
  8. Khalva,
  9. Tumbikā,
  10. Lambikā,
  11. Kaṇṭaka,
  12. Patrajāti,
  13. Padmapatrī,
  14. Pedra,
  15. Tulā,
  16. Jayantī,
  17. Sandhipāla,
  18. Jayantikā,
  19. Pratimoka,
  20. Niryūha,
  21. Vedikā,
  22. Jāla,
  23. Rūpa,
  24. Kaṇṭha.

As regards the relative dimensions of the component parts and mouldings of the pillar as well as the different and manifold allied structures—the entablatures, the projections, the beams and the side decorations as tabulated above, a few may be indicated here.

Out of a dozen parts and mouldings of a typical pillar—Padmaka-stambha (Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra 28. 20-27) the text says that the dimension of the Stambha-koṭi should conform to the volume, the width of the door, i.e. it should be a quarter of it. Similarly other dimensions can be worked out.

The exposition of the Pillar-architecture in texts like Mānasāra, Tantra-samuccaya, Īśānaśivagurudeva-paddhati etc. is very rich, but I have refrained from a comparative estimatimation [estimation?] for the simple reason that these pillars of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra are characteristic of House Architecture (the Secular one) rather than of the Temple Architecture which these texts deal with.

The other Component Parts and Mouldings of the House

In its chapter entitled ‘Nagarādi-saṃjñā, the 18th—the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra has described some of the component parts and the mouldings of the house in a laxicographical manner and they should be noticed here. But as they throw a good deal of light on the development of the house architecture, some of them along with the other scattered material regarding these component parts of the house, may be briefly dealt with here

The first point to note in this connection is the hint which the S,S. provides to the development of the secular and religious architecture. While dividing the whole country into Janapada and the Nagara and giving the various sub-divisions of the towns and villages, it gives a list of twenty-three synonyms of the house (see Part V. ‘Temple Architecture’).

The principal parts of a house were the Śālā (1 to 10), the Alinda, the Garbhagṛha, the entrance, the porch—all these had assumed enormous side-developments in the evolution of a full-fledged house. Śālā, the modern room or hall (receiving-hall, sitting-hall, the bed room, the study-room etc) was the chief unit of the house. Though the text, as we have seen, describes the Śālā houses of one to ten rooms, the principal varieties however, were only four, Catuśśāla, Triśāla, Dviśāla and Ekaśāla.

Alinda, the frontal modern lawn with verandah was one of the essential components of a house. The Garbhagṛha, the interior chamber, though the sacred-most in a temple, was the central compound with a Vāpī or Puṣkariṇī—the reservoir of water and laid with a cover over it (vide S.S, 18-20) in the residential house. In a house plot whatever was left after the planning of the corridor, the Alinda and the śālās was called Garbhagṛha (Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra 19. 27). The entrance was a bit more complicated structure, necessitated, by the defensive considerations. The main door was placed on the dehalī and two big planks called the dvāra-pakṣa or Kapāṭapūṭa, Vāraṇa, Pidhāna etc, had an Argalā also called Kālikā, the door bolt. The main doors the gates of a fortified town had assumed an enormous structure, an edifice by itself, the gopuras with towers and turrets and even they invariably possessed the doorbolt called in that case a Parigha, Phaliha or Gajavāraṇa.

Again one of the characteristic features of the door-decoration in those days Was the architectural accomplishment of a very high order—the Toraṇa—the arch. The Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra (vide 18. 37-39) distinguishes three classes of arches, the golden, one made of jewel (maṇi-toraṇa), and the flowery (puṣpa-toraṇa) and a moulding of these arches was called Siṃhakarṇa—a shape of Nāgarī ‘Ṭhakāra.’

So far the principal parts of the house in modern terminology, the room, the interior and the entrance, have been token into account. Another very important member of every śālā-house was the Mūṣās (the application of which ranged from one to twenty in number), the Bhadrās, the Parisaras, all may be rendered as porches or porticos. The portico is described, as Mūṣā, the intermediatory porch between a Śālā and Alinda vide Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra 19-29). The interpretation of the term Mūṣā has already been attempted (Ch. V).

According to V.S. (Page 38), the principal component parts of a residential house are the Śālā, Alinda, the verandah or the corridor, the wall, Paṭṭa, the beam, the pillars, the windows or shutters and the Maṇḍapa, the pavilions different modes of applications of which produce different varieties of houses.

Pleasures of a house are its different establishments. A glimpse of all this is obtained by the following side-establishments in a house.

  1. Mahānasa,
  2. Dvāra-Koṣṭha,
  3. Darpaṇa-gṛha,
  4. Dhārāgṛha,
  5. Udyāna,
  6. Jalodyāna,
  7. Krīḍāgāra,
  8. Vihārabhūmi,
  9. Amedhyabhūmi etc. etc. (vide ibid Ch. 18).

Apart from these few principal parts of a house-structure, there were so many structures lending it beauty and making it comfortable and providing it light and a free passage for the air. Every house had stairs, which if made in brick work, were called Sopāna, and if wooden structure, it was called Niśreṇī [Niśreṇi?]. The windows in the walls were called Vātāyana, Avalokanaka—literally the passage for light. A special characteristic of the houses those days was that every roof of every room was provided with a hole (chidra) and it was called Ulūka. There were balconies made of timber called Viṭaṅka and there were so many side-projections as Vitardikā, Nirgūha, Valīka etc. etc Again every house was provided with a drain passage of water called Jala-nirgama or Udakabhrama. This in brief is a very modest enumeration of the component parts of the house. The other details regarding the door, the pillar and the roof have already been dealt with in their respective chapters and the remaining details arc gathered together in the Glossary below.

Lastly, the mouldings have to be attended to. As a matter of fact, they are specially associated with such parts of the House-Structure as the Pillar, the door frames, the walls and the crowning part, the finial, the towers, and the turrets together with the different shapes of the houses in general and their principal parts in particular.

The Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra, as I have pointed out several times, draws a line of demarcation between domestic, popular residential houses and the temple, the Prāsādas. This distinction has been maintained also in the allied respective architecture too. We have already noticed mūṣās and śālās as characteristic of these residential houses. But they are conspicuous by their absence in temples. Similarly, so many mouldings like Siṃhakarṇa, Kapotāli, Ghaṇṭā, Karṇa, Ardha-pakṣa, Dhvaja, Chatra, Cāmara, Pakṣirāji, Samarālapallī, Patras, etc. together with a very big list (see Glossary) so commonly employed in the Prāsādas, the temples are a taboo in the residential houses (S, S. 28.55-6).

For the completeness’ sake, the following component parts and mouldings are tabulated (vide the 18th Chap. Nagarādi-Saṃjñā)


Bhavānāṅga—the parts—the component and the auxiliary, together with so many other buildings and mouldings:

  1. Harmya—Roof;
  2. Sopāna—Stairs;
  3. Niśreṇi—Wooden stairs (the ladder);
  4. Kāṣṭhaviṭaṅka—Wooden structure (houses);
  5. Saudha—Sudhālipta (Harmya) and that should have a basement too (Kuṭṭima);
  6. Kuṭṭima;
  7. Abhigupti—A shed on the roof;
  8. Vātāyana—Window shutters;
  9. Avalokana—Ventilators in walls;
  10. Avalokanaka—Ditto (smaller);
  11. Uloka—Hole in the roof for the passage of air and light;
  12. Harmyaprākāraka—It is defined as harmyatalakaṇṭha. Is it what we call muḍera or chajjā allround the roof?;
  13. Vitardikā—Aṣṭamāla—a row of pillars.;
  14. Īhāmṛga—Moulding in shape of a deer on pillars of vitardikā.;
  15. Niryūha—Cross circle, a small tower (Ency. H.A).;
  16. Valita;
  17. Catuśśāla—A quadrangle having buildings on four sides;
  18. Triśāla—A quadrangle having buildings on three sides;
  19. Dviśāla—A quadrangle having buildings on two sides;
  20. Ekaśāla—A quadrangle having buildings on one side;
  21. Śāla—One unit building;
  22. Vāpī or Puṣkariṇī—The middle compound of the Śāla structure.;
  23. Garbhagṛha—The middle compound of the Śāla structure. (when covered);
  24. Trikuḍya or Upasthāna or Upasthānaka—Mahājanasthāna;
  25. Prāsādikā—Balcony (see Ency. H. arch.);
  26. Dīrghaprāsādikā or Valabhī—Balcony (see Ency. H. arch.);
  27. Alinda—Nalabhī in front of the Śāla;
  28. Valabhā—Balabhī without a śāla;
  29. Apavaraka or Catuṣkuḍya—Small structure i.e. catuṣkuḍya;
  30. Śuddhānta—Inner chamber;
  31. Pratolī—Building structure like that of a suraṅgā;
  32. Kakṣā—Courts;
  33. Upasthānaka or Apavaraka—Koṣṭhaka;
  34. Kaṇṭhā, Kuḍyā—Wall plinth etc.;
    Bhitti and Caya—Wall and Wall-Masonry;
  35. Bhaktaśāla or Mahānasa—Kitchen;
  36. Dvārakoṣṭhaka, Praveśana, Dvāranirgamana—Entrances;
  37. Udakabhrama—Water channel;
  38. Bhavanājira—Courtyard or compound in House;
  39. Vanājira—Courtyard or compound in Forest;
  40. Āśramājira—Courtyard or compound in Hermitage;
  41. Dehalī;
  42. [or] Kapāṭāśraya;
  43. Kapāṭa or Dvārapakṣa or Kapāṭapūṭa or Pakṣa or Pidhāna or Varaṇa or Dvārasaṃvaraṇa—Door;
  44. Kapāṭasaṃpuṭa or Kapāṭayugala—Both the doors;
  45. Kalikā or Argalā—Door bolt;
  46. Argalāsūcī—Door bolt, bigger in size;
  47. Parigha or Phaliha or Gajavāraṇa—Door bolts in the lofty gates of the towns;
  48. Phalaka or Jāla—Ventilators;
  49. Toraṇa—Arch;
    Suvarṇatoraṇa—Golden arch;
    Maṇitoraṇa—Jewelled arch;
    Puṣpatoraṇa—Flowery arch;
  50. Siṃhakarṇa—Moulding in shape of Nāgarī ṭhakāra;
  51. Saṃyamana—Open space for lawns, etc.;
  52. Marālapālī—Wooden moulding;
  53. Praṇālī—Water channel from the roofs;
  54. Prākāra—Kaṇṭhā of the court-yard;
  55. Pradvāra—Vicinity of the entrance;
  56. Sthala or Sthālaka—Pavement of the entrance;
  57. Mūtrabhūmi or Amedhya or Varcaska or Avaskara—Urinal;
  58. Parisara;
  59. Aṭṭa—Towers;
  60. Aṭṭālaka—Towers;
  61. Aṭṭālī or Aṭṭālikā—Towers;
  62. Dhārāgṛha—(Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra 18.47-50, see also V. L. and Part IV);
  63. Darpaṇagṛha—(Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra 18.51, see also V. L. and Part IV);
  64. Gopura—Lofty gate in Prākāra;
  65. Mahādvāra—Main gate;
  66. Pakṣadvāra—Side gate;
  67. Upakāryā;
  68. Kṣauma—Aṭṭālaka;
  69. Jalodyāna or Jalaveśma—Water park;
  70. Krīḍāgṛha or Krīḍāgāra or Vihārabhūmi—Play-ground;
  71. Devadhiṣṇyā, Surasthāna, Caitya, Arcāgṛha, Devatāyatana, Vivudhāgārā—Temples and shrines;
  72. Sabhā—Council Hall.;
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