Kashyapa Shilpa-shastra (study)

by K. Vidyuta | 2019 | 33,520 words

This page relates ‘Technicalities (a): Manangula Measurements’ of the study on the Kashyapa Shilpa-shastra (in English) with special reference to the characteristics of Prakara (temple-components), Mandapa (pavilions) and Gopura (gate-house). The Silpa-Sastras refers to the ancient Indian science of arts and crafts, such as sculpture, architecture and iconography. This study demonstrates the correlatation between ancient Indian monuments (such as temples and sculptures) and the variety of Sanskrit scriptures dealing with their construction.

4. Technicalities (a): Mānāṅgula Measurements

The Devaprāsāda or the temple constitutes the following parts, viz., (i) Mūla Harmya (Main temple), (ii) Gopuras, (iii) Prākāras, (iv) Various types of Maṇḍapas, (v) Upapīṭha, (vi) Adhiṣṭhāṇa, (vii) Dhvajasthambha and (viii) Various Śālās.

In order to construct the above structures with great perfection and precision a set of measurement is needed. All the texts on architecture dedicate a chapter to this subject. Similarly, Kāśyapa Śilpaśāstra also talks in detail about different types of measurement that are followed to construct the buildings for which rules are laid therein. So, anyone trying to understand the rules for building the various parts of the temple like the Prākāra, Maṇḍapas and Gopuras, must first familiarize themselves with this system of measurement.

Another important factor that helps in understanding the knowledge of the ancients on architecture is by knowing the varied terminologies used to depict the several components of a building like a temple, etc. These, the names that the texts assign to the different parts of a structure, are not definitively explained and this makes it difficult to translate the terms and their varied synonyms. Therefore, there arises the need to familiarize with the terms that are used in this text for easy understanding of the characteristic features of structures dealt with in this thesis.

Mānāṅgula measurements

This system of measurements which is obtained by gradual increase of the measure from the paramāṇu[1] is considered as the mānāṅgula measurements and this paramāṇu is perceivable only to the eyes of the yogis, says the Kāmikāgama (I. 16. 1cd-2ab):

paramāṇukramād vṛdhyā mānāṅgulaṃ iti smṛtam ||
paramāṇuriti khyāto yogināṃ dṛṣṭigocaram |

From this paramāṇu[2] all the other measures are obtained, says the Kāmikāgama (I. 16. 2cd-3a):

rathareṇuścavālāgraṃ līkṣā yūko yavastathā ||
kramaśo'ṣṭa guṇāḥ proktā |

They are as follows:

8 paramāṇus = 1 rathareṇu
8 rathareṇu2 8 = 1 vālāgra2 9
8 vālāgra = 1 līkṣā
8 līkṣā = 1 yūka
8 yūka = 1 yava
8 yava = 1 aṅgula

Further the Kāmikāgama says that the aṅgula measure is of three kinds if 6 yavas constitute 1 aṅgula it is considered as adhama; if 7 yavas = 1 aṅgula then it is madhyama and 8 yavas constitute 1 aṅgula is the uttamāṅgula (I. 16. 3d-4ab):

......... yavaiṣṣaḍbhiśca saptabhiḥ |
aṣṭābhiśca krameṇaiva kanyasādi vibhedataḥ ||
aṅgulyastrividhāḥ proktāyāvatyaśśivaśāsane |

Further both the Kāmikāgama (I. 16. 4cd-5ab) and the Kāśyapa Śilpaśāstra give an alternative type of aṅgula measure, which is also of three kinds. An aṅgula that measure 4 śāli is considered as uttama; that aṅgula that equals the length of 3Ṣ śāli is madhyama and the aṅgula that is equal to 3 śālis length is adhama.

In addition to this the Kāśyapa Śilpaśāstra also enlists five varieties of śāli (paddy grains) as śveta, mahā, rakta, saugandhī and hema śālis; the length of the raktaśāli constitutes to half an aṅgula measure (Kāśyapa Śilpaśāstra., XXII. 8-10):

śālyāyāmacatuṣkaṃtu uttamāṃgulisaṃjñitam |
trisārdhāśālidīrghaṃ tu madhyamā iti saṃjñitāḥ ||
śālyā ca dīrghaṃ triguṇaṃ adhamaṃ tadudāhṛtam |
śvetaśālī mahāśālī raktaśālī tathaiva ca ||
saugandhī hemaśālī ca śālayaḥ pañcadhā smṛtāḥ |
raktaśālyāyataṃ teṣu aṅgulārdhaṃ tu saṃgṛhet ||

The Kāmikāgama (I. 16. 9) then states that 12 aṅgulas constitute 1 vitasti and 2 vitastis constitute 1 hasta and the type of hasta that is made up of 24 aṅgulas is termed as kiṣku hasta[3]

aṅgulaissūryasaṅkhyātaiḥ vitastiriha kathyate |
taddvayaṃ hastamuddiṣṭaṃ sa kiṣkuriha sammataḥ ||

The Kāśyapa Śilpaśāstra then lists out 7 more kinds of hasta māna as follows, totalling 8 hasta mānas (XXII. 27cd-29):

24 aṅgulas = 1 kiṣku hasta (as stated by Kāmikāgama, I. 16. 9)
25 aṅgulas = 1 prājāpatya hasta
26 aṅgulas = 1 dhanurmuṣṭi
27 aṅgulas = 1 dhanurgraha
28 aṅgulas = 1 prācya
29 aṅgulas = 1 vaideha
30 aṅgulas = 1 vaipulya
31 aṅgulas = 1 prakīrṇa 31

paṃcaviṃśati mātraṃ syāt prājāpatyaṃ karaṃ budhaḥ ||
ṣaḍviṃśati dhanurmuṣṭiḥ saptaviṃśaddhanurgraham |
aṣṭāviṃśāṃgulaṃ prācyaṃ vaidehaṃ navaviṃśatiḥ ||
vaipulyaṃ triṃśadaṃgulyaṃ ekatriṃśatprakīrṇakam |
evamaṣṭavidhaṃ hastaṃ pratyekaṃ dvijasattama ||

Thus, these measures are to be understood by the Sthapatis, since the constituent parts of the temple are constructed using these measures.

Footnotes and references:


Kāraṇāgama, (I. 7. 4) describes paramāṇu as:
jālāntaragataṃ raśmeḥ dṛśyādṛśyaṃ tu yadrajaḥ |
paramāṇustadākhyātaṃ reṇuromakalīkṣukā ||


In Kāmikāgama, p. 299, Dr. S.P. Sabharathnam Sivacharyar notes that 1 paramāṇu = 1 part of 1,90,650 of an English inch.


Aṃśumatkāśyapā gama, similarly defines the kiṣku hasta which is the most commonly used hasta measure (22. 26ab):
bhānudvayāṅgulaṃ kiṣkuhastamityucyate dvija |
Dr. Sabharatnam, in Kāmikāgama, p. 299, records that the kiṣku hasta = 33 inches or 2 feet 9 inches in modern English system. 1 aṅgula = 1⅛ inches. In the Sthapati tradition kiṣku is commonly known as “Thanjai Muzham” as the famous Bṛhadīśvara temple had been built with this basic unit.

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