HISTORY OF VASTU SHASTRA
The Vastu with word meaning ‘dwelling’, is believed to be the residing places of god and man. According to its modern meaning it covers all buildings irrespective of their use like residences, industries, business establishments, lodges, hotels etc. It is based on the five basic and essential elements, such as Vayu (air), Agni (fire), Jal (water), Bhumi (earth) and Aakasha (space), which are known as Panchabhutas. Everything on earth is built from these elements.
Modern historians including Havell, Cunningham and ferguson have conducted extensive studies regarding the origins of Vastu Shastra. On the basis of their studies, it is known that the science originated sometime around 6000BC. The subject was purely technical and hence its usage was restricted to architects only. The knowledge was passed down the line using oral teaching methods or through monographs that were handwritten.
The learned men of those days may not have lived in houses themselves but they most definitely dedicated their lives to the development of the science “vastu shastra” or “vastu”, as it is popularly known today.
The principles of the science laid down during those days were based purely on the effect of sunrays during different times of the day. The observations and corrections made were noted and concluded only after in-depth screening of the situation.
Vastu is a part of Vedas, which are believed to be four to five thousand years old. Through penance and meditation yogis of that period acquired answers believed to have come from the cosmic mind itself to their questions. Hence Vedas are heeded with divine knowledge. The art of Vastu originates in the Stapatya Veda, a part of the Atharva Veda.
It used to be a purely technical subject and it was only confined to architects (Sthapatis) and handed over to their heirs. The principles of construction, architecture, sculpture etc., as enunciated in the epics and treatise on temple architecture, have been incorporated in the science of vastu. Its description is there in epics like Mataysya Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana, Garuda Purana, and Vishnu Purana. There are some other ancient shastras that pass over the knowledge of vastu shastra to next generation, like Vishvakarma Prakash, Samraangan Sutradhar, Kashyap Shilpshastra, Vrihad Sanhita, and Praman Manjaree.
References in ancient literature
References to Vastu Shastra have been found in the great Indian epic ‘Ramayana’ also. The construction of the Holy city of Ayodhya, the capital of the kingdom of Lord Rama, shared a similarity with the plan written in the great architectural text ‘Manasara’. Even the ‘Ramsetu’ of ‘Ramayana’ was based on Vastu principles.
In the Mahabharata it is said a number of houses were built for the kings who were invited to the city Indraprastha for the Rajasuya Yagna of King Yuddhistira. Sage Vyasa says that these houses were as high as the peaks of Kailasa Mountains, perhaps meaning that they stood tall and majestic. The houses were free from obstructions, had compounds with high walls and their doors were of uniform height and inlaid with numerous metal ornaments.
References are also to be found in Buddhist literature, of buildings constructed on the basis of Vastu. They contain references to individual buildings. Lord Buddha is said to have delivered discourses on architecture and even told his disciples that supervising the construction of a building was one of the duties of the order. Mention is made of monasteries (Viharas) or temples, buildings which are partly residential and partly religious (Ardhayogas), residential storeyed buildings (Prasadas), multi-storeyed buildings (harmyas) and Guhas or residential buildings for middle class people.
Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa
Excavations in the ancient cultures at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa also indicate the influence of Vastu on the Indus Valley Civilization, which shows some specific following in construction and planning. They followed certain basic rules in these cultures and very much similar and comparable with the Vastu Shastra of Indian origin.