Vastu-shastra (4): Palace Architecture

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

This page describes Dharagriha and Dolagriha (or Rathadola) which is chapter 3e 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 3e - Dhārāgṛha and Dolāgṛha (or Rathadolā)


Five varieties of Dhārāgṛhas are:—

  1. Dhārāgṛha,
  2. Pravarṣaṇa,
  3. Praṇāla,
  4. Jalamagna and
  5. Nandyāvarta.

Dhārāgṛha is a shower-bower in a garden. It was very popular in medieval times both in the East and West and formed an essential constituent of a vast palace equipment.

Regarding their construction, the Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra, lays down that firstly, they are to be in the proximity of big reservoirs; secondly, they should occupy a site with beautiful surroundings and thirdly, Pipes have to be prepared to double and triple the height and other requirements, of the fountains. Again the pipes are said to be able to carry water, free from pores and smooth inside (vss. 110-20).

The text gives an impression that they were the characteristic of the age and were high super-structures with several storeys and the water mechanism attached to them for Jala-krīḍā in connection with the amorous sports of the kings and their queens, the most talked of in the Kāvyas (cf. Bhāravī, Māgha, and other early medieval poets). These Dhārāgṛhas were the most beautiful baths, well furnished, well decorated and with the finest of flooring and plaster and were specimens of pillar architecture. Here not only showers, Uchārya-yantras were laid on, but a good many paintings of elephantcouples, doll-women pouring out showers from their breasts and navels etc. were also to be seen.

The text is full of such beautiful and poetic descriptions, a brief notice is called for.

In the Wood work of these structures (i.e., carved pillars, platforms, projections, windows, cornices etc.) fine and fragrant timber, e.g., Dcvadāru, sandal, Śāla arc to be used. The manifold motifs of decorations as already pointed out are:—female-figures, and models of birds, animals like monkeys, manifold forms with gaping mouths, Nāgas and Kinnaras, etc., dancing peacocks, Kalpavṛkṣas, creepers and bowers, cuckoos, bees and swans. The main pipe is to be laid in the centre of the fountain with its exterior made charming. To the top of it is fitted the mechanism for taking up water, scattering and throwing it in a variety of ways. The king’s seat is right in the centre and he enjoys the bath and the play of water both. The text is emphatic that these Dhārāgṛhas are not fit to be used by the ordinary run of men. They are only for the kings (Samarāṅgaṇasūtradhāra 31-118).

More specific descriptions of the four types of Dhārāgṛhas now follow.

The main speciality of the first, the Pravarṣaṇa the shower, is that it pours down water. Strong figures of three, four or seven men should be set up, with curved tubes; the whole mechanism is fitted with water which is poured out in different ways by these figures (142-46). “Bhoja calls this shower-house a pseudo-cloud, ‘anukaraṇam ekam jalamucām’ (148)—(Somadeva Sūri’s commentator gives it the name Kṛtima-megha-mandira)—a boon in summer and a feast to the eyes. Kālidāsa’s reference to the Yantra-dhārāgṛha has already been noted but when he says in his Meghadūta—1.61 (neṣyanti tvām sura-yuvatayo yantra-dhārā-gṛhatvam), that the celestial damsels on the Himalayas would scratch the cloud with their bangles and convert it into a Yantra-dhārāgṛha, he seems to know the name of this type called after the cloud.”

The next variety called Praṇāla is two-storeyed structure with a single pillar or four, eight or sixteen, built like a Puṣpaka-vimāna with decorative designs. At the centre below is a water-tank with a big lotus, its pericarp fashioned as the seat of the King; all-round are female figures looking at the lotus; when the overhead tank is filled and closed, water is poured by the figures on the King sitting on the lotus seat.

“The third, Jalamagna, is a chamber under water, the idea being that of the submarine abode of Varuṇa or Nāgarāja. A square chamber is built at the bottom of a big and deep water-reservoir, the approach to it being through a subterranean passage. A continuous flow of water above, keeps the chamber completely cool and the whole reservoir is full of mechanical lotuses, fishes, birds, etc. When resting in this chamber alone or in private company, the King can be seen only by selected personal friends and urgent visitors of ranks, like other Princes or Ambassadors. (157-66).”

“The last type, Nandyāvarta, has, in mid-tank, a big flower-like structure; all around the central floral design, in mid-water, are placed low walls in Svastika-designs, providing a sufficient screen as well as a passage, the purpose being to permit playing in the water the game of hide-and-seek (167-72).”

Dolāgṛha (or Rathadolā).

It is also called Rathadolā and it has five main varieties called:—

  1. Vasanta.
  2. Madanotsava.
  3. Vasantatilaka
  4. Vibhramaka and
  5. Tripura.

Rathadolā—is a swing or merry-go-round in which people ride in seats and enjoy the pleasure of wheeling round. But in the descriptions that follow, we find the same features and characteristic designs of its ornamentation as noticed in Dhārāgṛhas are a common property of these as well.

In the Vasanta type, the yantra is planted in a dugout, 8 cubits square and 4 cubits deep; both metal and wood-work are mentioned at the base of the yantra, where the rotation mechanism is fitted to a platform. A storey is to be raised on twelve posts and on the whole five machines are to be employed for the rotation, wheel acting upon wheel and the whole moving the storey, designed like a lotus and accommodating the whirling riders (175-87).

In the second, the Madanotsava, there is no dugout or underground construction; the storey on the main post provides only for four seats and a man standing below operates the machine (188-94).

In the third, the Vasantatilaka, two storeys are to be constructed, the second one with much decoration; the mechanism is fitted in the first floor and by the action of wheel upon wheel the top floor revolves (195-200).

The fourth, Vibhramaka, provides for increased accommodation and the variety of motion. At the base here, is a solid platform and a square structure with mechanism; over these is a floor with eight seats, and above these another round of seats; spoked wheels link up the whole erection; the speciality here is that each floor has its own different movements, creating, as the name implies, a complex of circular movements (201-8).

The last, Tripura, increases the tiers by one, justifying its name of three cities in air, each higher floor being of smaller dimension; a large number of connecting links, small wheels and steps leading from one tier to the other are mentioned (209-18).

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