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Vastu Vedam In Hinduism – Science Of Habitation

Vastu Vedam or Vastu Shastra is a science on dwelling places in Hinduism. The term ‘vastu’ is derived from the Sanskrit verb ‘vas’ (to dwell) and also means a residence. Vastu is defined as any place where ‘immortals and mortals live’ and as such deals with houses for human beings and temples that house deities. Hindu architecture has profound philosophical ground called Vastu-Brahma Veda or Vastu-Purusha Veda.

The concept of dwelling in Vastushastra encompasses a wide field, including every aspect from selection aspect from selection of a site for construction of the building to interior decoration. The subjects covered are of four categories, namely, dhara (earth), harmya (buildings), yana (vehicles) and paryanka (furniture).

Vastu Veda deals with construction common houses, mansions, palaces, and temples. It takes into account the purposes of the dwellings, the varied needs and roles of the occupants and lays down comprehensive plans.

Considered as a manual of architecture and a guidebook for all, it is attributed to the Pippalada Kalpa of Atharva Veda. Manasara, a treatise on architecture, refers to the origins of four divine architects – Vishwakarma, Maya, Tvastri and Manu – from Brahma, the Creator. Matsya Purana mentions that Ganga expounded Vastu Shastra of Parasara and gives the names of eighteen teachers of this science which includes Vishwakarma.

Vastu Shastra is also called Shilpa Shastra, the science of sculpture. Great exponents of Shilpa Shastra in the legends include Vishwakarma, Vishnu, Sanatkumara, Kashyapa and Maya. There are many treatises on Vastushastra, among which the most famous are Vishwakarma Vastu Shastra, Mayamata and Vastu Vidya. Vishwakarma, the first architect, was said to be the architect of the devas (gods), and Maya of asuras and these treatises represent two schools of ancient Hindu architecture.

The treatise starts from the selection of an auspicious day and deals with the plan for the dwelling, choice of building materials, details regarding foundations, dimensions of pillars, number of storeys, elevation, the entrance, doors and windows, open space, etc., as well as the technique of construction. With regard to temples, they provide the plan for housing of the main deity and of all other deities to be accommodated, the place required to keep the articles for daily worship and the materials used in temple festivals, the temple kitchen, etc.

Vastushastra deals with the construction of different types of villages and cities. Formation of streets, allocation of areas for various occupations as village, and demarcation of divisions for various deities in cities are part of this science. They are prescribed taking into account the needs and convenience of the users, environmental factors and religious beliefs.

According to Vastu Shastra, Vastu Purusha is the residing deity of the building site, and various locations of the building refer to the various parts of the deity’s body. The shastra prescribes rules for propitiation of Vastu Purusha before the commencement of the construction. This divine character is said to be a demon called Andhakasura, who was killed by Shiva and granted a powerful boon, the ability to swallow the three worlds of gods, human beings and demons. Those portions of the site associated with particular limbs of Vastu Purusha must be avoided for certain purposes which are mentioned. Vastu puja is considered an essential preliminary ritual to be performed before starting the construction work.

Vastu Vedam also covers construction of tanks, towers, schools, gardens and all public and private buildings. The techniques recommended taking care of the safety of the building and well-being of the dwellers.