Vastu-shastra (4): Palace Architecture

by D. N. Shukla | 1960 | 13,158 words | ISBN-10: 8121506115 | ISBN-13: 9788121506113

This page describes Yantra and its Elements (Yantra-bijas) which is chapter 3b of the study on Vastu-Shastra (Indian architecture) fourth part (Palace architecture). This part deals with (1) the construction of Royal establishments, (2) Accessory Buildings, (3) Palace pleasure-devices such as yantras (mechanical devices), etc. and (4) Other public buildings.

Chapter 3b - Yantra and its Elements (Yantra-bījas)

What is a Yantra? The Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra opens with the definition of Yantra, that it is so called, because it controls and directs, according to a plan, the motions of things that act upon each other according to its own nature. That is a Yantra or machine is one which controls the Bhūtas and makes them serve a specific purpose. The Mahābhūtas, like the Earth, the Water, the Fire, the Wind and the Ether, though independent in their operations and movements, when brought to act in a particular way, that way may be called a Yantra (vs. 3. 4).

Elements, the essential factors of a Yantra according to the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra are only four:—

tasya bījaṃ caturdhā syāt kṣitirāpo'nalo'nilaḥ |
āśrayatvena caiteṣāṃ vijayadapyupayujyate || 315 ||

The Earth, the Water, the Fire and the Wind, these are the Bijas of a Yantra, but all these are dependent for their movement and operation only on the Ether—this Ether or the sky, therefore, by virtue of being the substratum i e. the basis and medium of action becomes an element itself. Hence there are five Bījas of a Yantra. Among them the Earth is the main constituent. It is the ground of operation and, therefore, the earthly constituent in a Yantra naturally becomes more pronounced and more in quantity also and having earth as the basis, all the other Bījas namely the water, the fire and the wind arc operated upon.

The Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra then discusses whether Sūta or mercury, which is an indispensable ingredient in some Yantras like Vimāna-Yantra is to be held as one of the primary Bījas along with Earth, Water, etc. or not. The Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra hints at some earlier writers who have taken Mercury as an independent primary Bīja. In the opinion of the author of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra, however, the case is otherwise.

He says that mercury is essentially Pārthiva, and it is to be brought under Earth:—

bhinnaḥ sūtaścakairuktaste ca samyaṅ na jānate |
prakṛtyā pārthivaḥ sūtasnāyāt tatra kriyā bhavet || 31.6 ||

Now if it is said that mercury being Pārthiva, it is a substance and is also generator of fire, it docs not even then lead opposition to Fire, because even though fragrance—Gandha, the essence of Earth and fire are opposite to each other, the dominant quality of the Earth does remain the same.

dravyatvādagnijatvaṃ hi yadyasya parikalpyate ||
tadā virodho naivāsya pāvakenopapadyate |
gandhād vahnervirodhācca sthitā pārthivatā balāt || 31.7b-8 ||

In order to avoid this controversial point raised regarding the true nature of all these elements both as independent of one another and also as dependent on one another, the author of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra says:

The import of this statement is that the Yantra and its Bījas are an inseparable entity. What is a Bīja in one place becomes a Bījī in another and vice versa? And when the combined conglomeration is in operation, it gives an innumerable variety of the Bīja.

Thus so far the principal elements of the Yantras in their cosmic aspect were taken into consideration, but these themselves which are independent of each other must pre-suppose their own Bījas, otherwise the material production can not take place. The primary Bījas, therefore, in my opinion, are the Nimitta-kāraṇa i.e. the instrumental cause as well as the Upādāna-kāraṇa the efficient cause both. This statement holds good only in relation to the five primary Bījas.

The text further describes the general characteristics of the Yantras (10-15). The following are four general characteristics of the Yantras:—

  1. Svayaṃvāhaka [svayam-vāhaka]—Automatic
  2. Sakṛtprerya—Requiring propelling only once.
  3. Antaritavāhya—Operation of which is concealed i.e. the principle of its action and its motor-mechanism are hidden from public view.
  4. Adūravāhya—The apparatus of which is placed quite distant.

The meaning is that these Yantras are operated without any other help, or helped only once or helped in the middle or helped in season or out of season respectively. The first is the best. The most notable characteristics of a Yantra being invisibleness (Alakṣyaṭā) and wonder (Vicitratva) and they are produced only when it is Svayaṃvāhya. But as the vast majority is the result of the combination of one another, both in their totality and partiality, they give rise to innumerable varieties.

Thus so far we have been busy with the five-fold primary Bījas and the general characteristics of the Yantras. It has also been pointed out that they do not function independently. Naturally all these principal Bījas for the production of their characteristic objects, the materials (Padārtha) take the other Bījas also in addition to their own, viz. the earthly Bīja, the Pārthiva has:—

  1. Pārthiva,
  2. Āpya,
  3. Ānala and
  4. Ānila.

The similar is the case with other three Bījas—

  1. Āpya,
  2. Ānala and
  3. Ānila.

Again while all the elements may be used in a single Yantra, it is to be named after the dominant constituent.

For a Pārthiva Yantra, the materials i.e. the secondary Bījas which are mentioned (25-27) are the following:

1. The Earthly.

(a) Metals—Tin, iron, copper and silver etc. (“ayastāmram ca tāram ca trapuṣ”),

(b) Other mateRials—Wood (kāṣṭha) hide (carma) textile (vastra).

(c) The parts and principles—The wheels and the rotation (“cakram bhramarakāstathā”); the suspenders and the hangings; the rods, the shafts and the caps; the tools. “lambanam lambakāre ca cakrāṇi vividhānyapi” “urdakaḥ kartaro yaṣṭiś.................................”

(d) The cutting etc. (samvitpramardana).

2. The Allies.

(a) Fiery ones—The application of the fire-Bījas on earthly machines comprise of heating and boiling (Tāpa and Uttejana).

(b) Watery ones—Mixing and dissolving, pouring of and filling with water and providing a belt of water—(“dhārā ca jala-bhāraśca payaso bhramaṇam tathā).

(c) Spacial ones—Height, size, closeness and motion towards a higher plane are special features in a Pārthiva-Yantra. (Ucchrāya, Ādhikya, Nīrandhratā ūrdhvagāmitva).

(d) Airy ones—As regards the airy elements in a P. Yantra, they may be applied through bellows, fans, and flaps. (Dṛti, Vījana and Gajakarṇa).

Similarly in Jala-Yantras, Āgneya-Yantras and Vāyu-yantras, the secondary Bījas are enumerated (33-41). But it may be remarked, as all these yantras have to take some shape and possess a body, the Pārthiva is an important constituent.

The text says:

niṣkriyā bhūḥ kriyā tvaṃśe śeṣeṣu sahajā triṣu ||
ataḥ prāyeṇa sā janyā kṣitāveva jayatnataḥ |
sādhyasya rūpavaśataḥ sanniveśo yatkṣe bhavet ||
yantrāṇāmākṛtistena nirṇetuṃ naiva śakyate | 31.43b-45a

For a jala-yantra, the use of timber, hide and metals like iron etc. form the Pārthiva elements; other water and its own water, the watery elements; heating etc. the fiery elements; and the air conditioning like saṅgṛhīta, datta, pūrita and pratinodita etc. form the airy elements.

Again for an Āgneya-yantra the use of earth, metals like copper, iron, gold etc, form the Pārthiva clement. Similarly the fire itself and the water as well in their different conditionings form the Fiery and Airy elements respectively. Similar equipments are laid down for a Vāyu-yantra and details may not be attended; because most of it is a common paraphernalia.

With this delineation on the more important and tangible varieties of the secondary Bījas as I have called them, the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra is very apt in saying that no hard and fast enumeration of these multiples of Bijas is possible. In some cases a particular Bīja is said to be of greater proportion and in some case otherwise. Hence the same Bīja can be applied in so many degrees resulting in the corresponding varieties of them. Thus there innumerable varieties are possible and who can completely innumerate them?

The text in this connection brings in a very fundamental principle of physics. The Earth is regarded as Niṣkriya—actionlcss. The action takes place in the three others on Earth as the earth possesses the quality of Rūpa, the form. Thus if it is said that Earth and ether elements have Janya-Janakabhāva—generated and generator—it would not be far from the truth. Any production, the Sādhya, requiring as it does, the form, the Rūpa for its tangible manifestation must take Earth as its secondary substratum, the primary of course, the Ether is always there (cf. Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra 31. 44-45). Hence as the varieties of Yantras are incalculable, so are its forms.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: