Vastu-shastra (4): Palace Architecture

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

This page describes The Qualities of a Yantra and its Functions which is chapter 3c 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 3c - The Qualities of a Yantra and its Functions

The most important qualities of a Yantra in the eyes of the author of the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra are Suśliṣṭa-perfection [=suśliṣṭatva?] and Alakṣyattva [=alakṣa/alakṣatva?] invisibleness and these I shall try to explain. But let us first see what the other qualities are:—

(A) Qualities (Yantra-guṇas).

  1. Proper combination of Bījas in proportion (yathāvad-bīja-saṃyoga).
  2. Attribute of being well-knit construction (Sauśliṣṭya).
  3. Smoothness and fineness of appearance (ślakṣṇatā).
  4. Invisibleness or inscrutability (alakṣyatā).
  5. Functional efficiency (Nirvahaṇa).
  6. Lightness (Laghutva)
  7. Absence of noise where not so desired (Śabdahīnatā).
  8. Loud noise if the production aimed at is sound.
  9. Absence of looseness (Aśaithilya).
  10. Absence of stiffness (Agāḍhatā).
  11. Smooth and unhampered motion in all conveyances.
  12. Fulfilling the desired end, i.e. production of the intended effects (in cases where the ware is of the category of curos)—(“yathābhīṣṭārtha kāritvaṃ”).
  13. ollowing the beating in time, the rhythmic attribute in motion (particularly in entertainment wares). It is called Layatāla-anugāmitva.
  14. Going into action when required (Iṣṭakālārtha-darśitva [=iṣṭakāle'rdhadarśitvaṃ?]).
  15. Resumption of the still state when so required (Punaḥ-samyaktva-saṃvṛti)
  16. Beauty i.e. absence of an uncouth appearance (Anulvaṇatva [=Anulbaṇatva?]).
  17. Verisimilitude (in the case of bodies intended to represent birds and animals)—Tādrūpya.
  18. Firmness—Dārḍhya
  19. Softness—Masṛṇatā.
  20. Endurance—Cirakālasahatva.

These are the twenty qualities spoken of a good machine. Some of (hem I suppose are not general qualities but special ones best-suited to a particular machine.

Now, what does the writer mean when he says that invisibility is the best quality? We know that a Yantra, is an unnatural and abnormal object and entity. Naturally, therefore, if its unnaturality and abnormality are visualised by the spectators or onlookers, it loses all its charm. And what are the Yantras descsibed[described?]? They are the elephant-machine (Gaja-yantra), wooden bird machine travelling in the sky, wooden Vimāna flying in the air, doorkeeper machine, soldier machine, etc. etc. In a machine like a doorkeeper machine in which the doorkeeper is not real and is made of wood, if it looks like a real door-keeper and not an unreal one—this constitutes the Alakṣyatā, imperceptibility of the Yantra and its composition—construction there of in every part is so to the point and so proportionate that it becomes a real object worthy of high craftsmanship. Thus the Alakṣyatā here does not mean in the object, but it aims at the subjective perception of its admirers.

The second attribute, the Suśliṣṭatva follows from the first or vice versa. Unless the joinery of the different parts of a machine is in perfect order and the minutest of its details are well laid the high accomplishment desired can not follow.

B. Functions (The Karmas).

(i) Some are operative yantras in which some action or Kriyā is meant to be accomplished. These actions are:—

a. Going (Gamana)—in all directions—upward, downward backward, forward, on either side;
b. Movement i.e., Speeding (Saraṇa)—Ditto.
c. Fall i.e., Crawling—Ditto.

(ii) Some yantras aim at the indication of time, such as clocks and watches (cf. water-clocks and timber-clocks).

(iii) Some yantras aim at the production of the sound and its qualities or factors as enumerated in the text are the variety, the quality of pleasing or the capacity to terrify, but I surmise that one of their varieties should be the musical instruments, others are those which produce terrible sounds, others again may be those which produce a queer sound.

A very important notice of this category or of this variety of yantra is one acclaimed of the musical ternary the VāditraGīta (the vocal music—songs), Vādya (the instrumental music) and Nṛtya, the dancing along with their sub-varieties (like Paṭaha, Vaṃśa, Vīṇā, Kāṃsyatāla, Tṛmilā; Karaṭā in musical instruments and Nāṭaka, Tāṇḍava Lāsya, Rājamārga and Deśī both in dance, the Nṛtya and Gīta. Is it a modern Radio?

(iv) Some yantras aim at the Uchrāya. This is in relation to water and there are so many Vāri-yantras and Dhārā-yantras, a notice of which will be made later on.

(v) Some yantras aim at the Rūpa and Sparśa. As regards Rūpa, they are innumerable and in this class for production of whole themes in machinery, the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra instances the fight between the Devas and Asuras, the Churning of the Ocean, Nṛsiṃha killing Hiraṇyākṣa, elephant-fights, a mock army, the swing pastimes and pleasures, i.e. the Dolā-kelis, the swing chambers, i.e. the Rati-gṛhas and the different varieties of the assemblies, the sabhās etc.

In a nut-shell, the principal varietes of this category of the functions of the Yantras are those illustrated in movitones, pantomines the machines like aeroplanes or the wooden bird-flying-machine, the Dhārā-yantra the swinging machines, the Dolā, servant machine, etc. etc.

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