My father is a home builder. With his birthday having just passed when I started working on this post, and having visited my parents beforehand to take them both out for dinner, naturally I have been thinking about Vastu Shastra quite a bit. Naturally. I mean I always had a hunch there was more to my pops’ trade than slapping a house together.
The oldest known architectural document in the world, the Shastra is made up of the building guidelines set forth by Maya Danava around 3000 B.C.E. “There are more existing examples of sacred architecture in India than in all other countries of the world combined,” according to Swami B.G. Narasingha, a leading authority on the Shastra and its teachings.
To this day architects in India are first taught that “That which is temporarily manifest in this world, vastu, it is said, is originally existing on the plane of the transcendental or unmanifest, vustu.” The Vastu Shastra, therefore, Integrates physical and metaphysical, finite and infinite. Even just on the physical plane of existence it incorporates geometry, drafting, stone sculpture, bronze casting, wood carving, painting etc.
Then there are the more esoteric elements of the Shastra which along with the physical, combine to creating a space which is much like a tirthas that I mentioned a few posts back, in that it is a place where the Divine dwells amongst us. This is because it is mainly a document that expounds temple building, but it goes to show that all dwelling spaces must be sacred and must foster a tirtha-like atmosphere. Are they metaphors or practical truth? Many would say that the assertion of the Shastra is sound in that, in many ways much like the Feng Shui, it demonstrates a way to create the most vibratory atmosphere whether it be in your home or in your temple. A way to attune the atmosphere with the universal Aum, the universal flow of energy, prana.
A key element of the Shastra as it relates to temple building, obviously is reverence for deities, but this can apply to Hindu homes as well. Hence the Hindu tradition of placing an image of Ganesha at the front door of the home. Not only that but the Shastra recomments ways to build so that the optimal energy is present upon entrance to front door. It recommends installing the main door on an auspicious day. For those of us who rent apartments or anyone who moves into a pre-owned home, it occurs to me that it may be unknowable as to when the door was installed but we may be able to arrange to move in on an auspicious day. Either way, the Shastra recommends a Vastu puja upon moving in.
The positioning of the front door is of utmost importance in Vastu Shastra. In order to allow the most sunlight – UV rays. Vitamin D – the door should not open to the SE or SW. North East is ideal, but a temple should always face directly East.
But the Vastu Shastra has taken into consideration the most mundane of potential issues, which is why I think it can be applicable to the work of a home builder. For instance it recommends keeping front doors away from corners of the house. Why? Because this will eliminate most problems with moving large objects in and out, a frustration felt by masses to this day.
According to practitioners of Vastu Shastra building techniques, the front door should never face directly at another home because of the potential for both doors to be open at once creating an awkward moment whereby each can see into eachother’s lives. Nor should it look upon an abandoned building or one in a state of disrepair due to the potential to create a feeling of unease or depression. One is also advised not to have a septic tank beneath the front entrance, for obvious reasons.
Interestingly, it is advised that there be one door for entrance and one for exit, the exit door being the smaller of the two. Compare that to respiration, wherein it is recommended that we breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Just a thought since I mentioned prana earlier.
But this is largely related to the home. As I have said the Shastra is more related to temple building than anything. In the building of a more sacred nature, a massive square is first drawn onto the soil. This is considered the perfect fundamental form. This becomes the vastu-purusha-mandala, a mystical diagram which is symbolic of the Cosmic Being. Drawing this mandala is a sacred rite to initiate the building. This rite is not just ceremony however. It is said that the mandala sustains the temple in the metaphysical plane like the actual foundation sustains it in the physical world.
Jai Hari Aum