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Vastu In Puranas – Science Of Architecture In Puranas

In all the nineteen Puranas, Vastu is discussed generally, but in nine of them, it is treated systematically.

Matsya Purana has eight comprehensive chapters dealing in great detail with architecture and sculpture. Eighteen ancient architects find mention in it. Buildings are described in two chapters together with their architectural details, such as plans, measurements, classifications, pavilions, halls, storeys, steeples and cupolas. Three chapters are devoted exclusively to sculpture; one of these to a technical subject of talamana or proportionate measures of an image. Another chapter describes some of the building materials. The columns which regulate the whole composition of a building are divided into five classes, as in the Western system with their component parts divided into eight moldings, exactly like those of Greco-Roman orders.

Skanda Purana has three chapters on the subject of Vastu. One of these refers to the laying out a large city. In another, mention is made of the construction of a golden hall and three chariots in accordance with the description supplied. The detailed construction of a special pavilion for the wedding of a royal princess is described in another chapter, wherein reference is made to painting as well.

Garuda Purana has four chapters on the subject, one of which deals systematically with all the three classes of buildings, namely, residential, military and religious, along with the laying out of pleasure gardens and pavilions therein. It is followed by an exclusive chapters on religious buildings. The remaining two chapters are devoted to sculpture, one dealing with the rules regarding the construction of an image and the other with the installation of images in temples.

Agni Purana dilates on the subject of Vastu at great length. There are sixteen chapters, of which one deals with town planning, two with residential buildings, and the remaining thirteen with sculpture. Agni Purana deals with almost all classes of religious images, both of male and female deities, as well as of those not falling under either of these categories. There are thirteen chapters on sculpture one each is devoted to the description of the Sun God and his attendants, to the guardian angel of the house, to the ten incarnations of Vishnu, to the Goddess of fortune and to the stone gods (saligrama and others). Two chapters each are devoted to Vishnu named as Vasudeva, and to the female deities in general, and four to the linga and its pedestal. Reference to Manasara, a brilliant treatise on architecture of remote antiquity in Agni Purana, is significant.

Narada Purana has a chapter dealing with the construction of pools, tanks, wells and temples. Linga Purana supplements the contributions to Vastu by dilating on the construction of ritual pits, together with a description of temples and the installation of deities therein. Vayu Purana is one of the earliest texts to deal with the construction of various temple built upon mountaintops. Brahmanda Purana has also a chapter describing the construction of temples and residential buildings.

Bhavishya Purana has three chapters devoted to sculpture. Architecture proper, comprising the description of temples, is treated in a single chapter. The most striking feature of this Purana is that the number, name, and other architectural details of the buildings described in it are identical with the twenty types found in Matsya Purana and Brihat Samhita of Varahamihira.

Brahma Vaivarta Purana has referred to the subject of Vastu in eleven chapters. The cities of Dwarka, Mathura, Vrindavana, and Goloka are described in five chapters. The residential houses of Radha, Kubja, and Nanda are referred to in three chapters and the dancing court in the remaining five chapters.