Vastu-shastra (3): House Architecture

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

This page describes House-decorations and other Equipments which is chapter 9 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 9 - House-decorations and other Equipments

A. House-Decorations.—Without going into the details of this subject which is really the most conspicuous element of our ancient architecture, let me tabulate the objects as are prescribed by our principal text, the Samarāṅgaṇa-Sūtradhāra

(i) Objects of Decorations—

  1. Rājabhavana,
  2. Vāstukakṣā,
  3. Sabhā,
  4. Devakula,
  5. Śayana,
  6. Āsana,
  7. Bhājana,
  8. Ābharaṇa,
  9. Chatra,
  10. Patākā,
  11. Dhvaja and
  12. Other Upakaraṇas.

(ii) Decorative motifs prohibited in secular architecture.

  1. All the gods (i.e., only some gods can form decorations here),
  2. Daityas,
  3. Grahas,
  4. Tārās,
  5. Yakṣas,
  6. Gandharvas,
  7. Rākṣasas,
  8. Piśācas,
  9. Pitṛs,
  10. Pretas,
  11. Siddhas,
  12. Vidyādharas,
  13. Nāgas,
  14. Cāraṇas,
  15. Bhūta-Saṅghas (with their females & sons),
  16. 16, Pratīhāras, Pratīhārīs and their Adhikṛts and their weapons,
  17. All the nymphs, the Apsaras-gaṇas,
  18. Dīkṣitas,
  19. Vratīs,
  20. Pāṣaṇḍīs,
  21. Nāstikas,
  22. Hungry persons,
  23. Sick with ailments,
  24. The captives and sufferers of pains (colic, etc.),
  25. The wounded,
  26. The burnt,
  27. Besmeared with oil, blood & dust,
  28. Mads,
  29. Intoxicated ones,
  30. Impotents,
  31. Idiots,
  32. Nudes,
  33. The blinds,
  34. The dwarfs,
  35. Swing-sports—Dolākrīḍās,
  36. Elephant-captures,
  37. Fights between the gods and demons,
  38. The quarrels of the kings,
  39. Animal fights and their crushing or destruction,
  40. Hunting,
  41. The Rasas like Raudra, Dīna, Adbhuta, Vībhatsa and Karuṇa,
  42. Gajayāna, Aśvayāna and the Rathayāna,
  43. Vimānas,
  44. Āyatanas,
  45. Houses on fire,
  46. Forest fires,
  47. Trees devoid of flowers and fruits; those contaminated with bad birds as well as those having one branch or two branches; those dried up, broken down, rough and full of holes and those inhabited by the spirits, such as Kadamba, Śālmalī, Śelu, Tāra, Kṣāra and Lūkā and those which are full of thorns and are bitter in taste,
  48. Birds like vultures, owls, doves, hawks, crows and herons, those moving in the night and those eating flesh,
  49. Animals like elephants, horses, buffaloes, camels, cats, donkeys, monkeys, lions, tigers, hyenas, hogs, deers, jackals and other meat-eaters (both beasts and birds) as well as those living on mountains and in the forests,

(iii) Decorative motifs allowed in secular architecture.

  1. Kuladevatā,
  2. Two well-decoratcd Pratīhāras,
  3. Crooked Dhātrī along with her companions,
  4. The Pratīharīs [Pratīhārī?] (females) on both the doors accompanied by the jesters and Kañcukīs,
  5. Treasures—Nidhis with Śaṅkha, lotus etc., pouring from mouths the heaps of jems and jewels,
  6. Lakṣmī and Vaiśravaṇa,
  7. Śrī,
  8. The Bull,
  9. Cow with her calf,
  10. Patralatā: leaves and creepers bending with fruits and flowers both in the internal and external [wa???],
  11. The birds like swans, Karaṇḍa, Cakra moving on the lotus beds and playing with the children,
  12. Well-dressed in variegated garments, the women in amorous sports,
  13. The gardens—Udyāna-bhūmis—blooming anḍ glowing with the beautiful trees like Campaka, Aśoka, Punnāga, mango, Tilaka etc. where the cuckoos are singing,
  14. The seasons with their characteristics and respective signs and manifestations,
  15. Long lakes (Dīrghikās) girdled by the water, birds like Kadamba, Kurura, Krauñca, Haṃsa, Sārasa; shining with the arbours of Ketakī flowers in midst of the cane thickets grown on its banks; and covered with the lotus beds hiding the fishes in the water,
  16. Caverns (Pānabhūmis)—where beverages of Ikṣu etc. are kept in golden pots and those made of precious stones, placed on the leaves of the lotuses,
  17. Singing, dancing ladies shown on the stages of theatres and music chambers,
  18. Domesticated birds like Cakora, Śuka (parrot) and Sārikā in cages,
  19. Jolly cuckoos, peacocks and hens etc,

B. Other equipments.—These mean house-hold furniture like couches, cots, and so many other articles of furniture. We have already taken into our account the evidence of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra, on this score—vide Pt. 1 Chapter V—cf Śayanāsana. Now without going into details a brief notice of the evidence as furnished by the Mānasāra—vide Dr. Acharya’s notice—H. A. I. and A.—may be taken.

It may be pointed out at the very out-set that the Mānasāra has devoted a good many chapters to this side-branch of house-architecture. Apart from couches (Śayana-vidhāna) it also deals with cars and chariots, the latter belonging more to temple-decorations than to the house-decorations. Similar is the case with Thrones (Siṃhāsana-lakṣaṇa), Arches (Toraṇa). Theatre (Madhyaraṅga) etc., etc. Here we are more concerned with the articles of household furniture which are treated, as already referred to (cf. Pt. 1 Gii; V), in its 50th chapter, the “Bhūṣaṇa-lakṣaṇa-vidhāna”—The Ornaments of the Body and Articles of Furniture, especially in the latter part.

These articles in the terminology of the Mānasāra are called ‘vahirbhūṣaṇa [bahirbhūṣaṇa?]’ and they include as many as the following eight articles.

  1. Dīpa-daṇḍa (lamp-post) . Dolā (swing or palanquin),
  2. Vyajana (fan) Tulā (balance),
  3. Darpaṇa (mirror) Pañjara (cage) and,
  4. Mañjūṣā (basket chest or box) 8. Niḍa (nest),

The lamp-posts are of two kinds, the stationary, placed in front of the house and the moveable. The former are made of wood, iron or stone, the latter of wood or iron. They may be square, octagonal or circular in shape. The Vedikā (platform) or the pedestal at the bottom of these is generally shaped like a lotus.’

‘The fan-post, as well as the fan itself, is described in like manner. These posts are made of timber or iron, but the fans appear to be made of leather

‘Nine alternative measurements are prescribed for the mirror, namely, from 5 (or 6) aṅgulas upto 21 (or 22) aṅgulas. The mirror should be quite circular (suvṛtta) with the edge a little raised. The surface must be perfectly bright, the rim being decorated with linear ornaments (rekhā) and on the reverse with the figures of Lakṣmī and others.’

‘Three kinds of mañjūṣā are described in detail. They are made of either timber or iron and are square, rectangular, or circular in shape. They generally consist of one, two or three compartments or chambers (koṣṭha). The Parṇa-mañjūṣā looks like a box or trunk. The taila (oil) mañjūṣa is apparently a receptacle for oil. It does not differ from the other, except in its greater height. The third kind is called Vastra-mañjūṣā and is easily identified with a ward-robe or linen-chest. Its breadth is said to vary from one to three cubits, the height and length being proportionate to the breadth. As regards dolā, it is a swing and palanquin both. Its phalaka may be taken to mean the swing board.

‘The balance consists of the horizontal balancing rod or beam, the strings by which the scale pans are suspended, and the scale pans themselves.’

Lastly as regards pañjara and nīḍa, the text has bestowed a greater attention to Pañjara. ‘A number of birds and other animals are enumerated and the size of the cage in which they are kept, the measurements admitting in each instance of nine different varieties.’

The following is a complete list of the birds and animals for whom pañjaras are prescribed (see the measurements etc,, in H. A, I. and Ab. p. 137):

  1. Mṛganābhi-biḍāla (Musk cat),
  2. Śuka (parrot),
  3. Chātaka (rains-cuckoo or cuculus melanoleucus),
  4. Chakora (partridge or perdix rufa),
  5. Marāla (a crow-pheasant, a goose or duck),
  6. Pārāvata (turtledove),
  7. Nīlakaṇṭha (roller),
  8. Kuñjarīya (ground-man),
  9. Khañjarīṭa (wag-tail),
  10. Kukkuṭa (cock),
  11. Kulāla (phasianus gallus),
  12. Nakula (mongoose, viverra ichneumon),
  13. Tittiri (froncolin partridge),
  14. Godha (Godhara) (alligator),
  15. Vyāghra (tiger),
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