Vastu can be considered as an ancient form of architecture under the realm of modern science.
Amidst various beliefs in mysticism, those interested in major astrological subjects should also take an interest in Vastu. In Indian mythological references, it is mentioned, “Grihasthya sya kriyassarva na siddhayanti griham vina,” which means Vastu is an ancient method of constructing homes, temples, or buildings. Vastu is a vast subject with many prevailing beliefs around the world, but here, we will try to understand it from the perspective of Indian beliefs or mythological doctrines. According to the Matsya Purana, during a battle between gods and demons, the gods defeated a demon and buried him in the ground. Upon the demon’s request in his prayer, Lord Brahma granted him the right to be worshiped. From this mythological context, the aspect of receiving blessings is related to the “Vastu Purusha.” It is believed that any construction work done in a region worshiping the Vastu Purusha will be successful, and conversely, if the Vastu Purusha’s instructions are ignored in any construction in that region, such construction may be unsuccessful or doubtful in terms of auspiciousness. Here, it is also noteworthy that the size of the region has a mythical context when determining the Vastu Purusha’s dimensions.
Vastu’s Indian context includes some prevalent mythological beliefs:
The eastern direction is considered important in Vastu since it is the direction of the sunrise. In building construction, it is recommended to keep the eastern direction mostly vacant. The sages have strictly forbidden sleeping with the feet towards the east.
The Ishan direction is the direction for worship or the sacred space for prayer in Vastu. The head of the Vastu Purusha is believed to be in the Ishan corner.
The northern direction is considered as the heart of the Vastu Purusha. In Vastu’s prevalent beliefs, it is recommended to keep the feet towards the north, if possible, while sleeping. In current scientific beliefs, it is a fact that the northern magnetic pole of the Earth merges with the human brain’s magnetic field, affecting the brain’s resistive memory power. Additionally, such resistance can cause a profound lack of sleep or disturbances during sleep.
Manjusri Vasthu Vidya Sastra: Ancient Blueprint for Sri Lankan Architecture
The Manjusri Vasthu Vidya Sastra, originating in the 5th or 6th century CE, serves as a foundational guide for constructing Sri Lankan Buddhist monasteries, towns, and houses. This manuscript, written in Sanskrit using Sinhala script, intricately details plans, structures, and the auspicious placement of elements. The text presents 12 diverse layouts for aramas (monasteries), each tailored for specific settings such as towns, villages, forests, or coastal areas. These layouts, including hastiarama and padmarama, meticulously organize not only religious buildings but also assembly halls, hospitals, and kitchens, emphasizing their relationships. Precision extends to soil properties, site selection, and construction materials, with detailed guidance on glues, pigments, and animal carvings. Rituals and auspicious timings play vital roles; the first brick laid facing east signifies the beginning, and inward-opening doors ensure positive outcomes. Strikingly, the Manjusri text shares similarities with other Vasthu Vidya Shastras, indicating the universal essence of ancient architectural practices. Despite cultural variations, these texts have led to mathematically precise and energetically vibrant buildings globally. The enduring influence of Vaastu Shastra resonates, emphasizing the timeless wisdom of ancient architectural practices.
Similar practices to Vastu in different parts of the world reflect humanity’s shared fascination with harmonizing spaces with nature and spiritual beliefs. Here’s an overview of similar practices globally:
- Feng Shui (China): Originating in ancient China, Feng Shui aligns individuals with their environment by arranging objects and structures to enhance the flow of “qi” or life force energy. It is used in architecture, interior design, and landscaping.
- Geomancy (Europe and Middle East): This practice interprets ground markings and natural formations to understand a place’s energies. It was prevalent in medieval Europe for choosing suitable building locations.
- Vastu Shastra (India): Indian architecture focuses on the layout, design, and orientation of buildings, emphasizing balance with natural elements and cosmic energies.
- Sthapatya Veda (India): Integrating Vastu principles, astronomy, astrology, and art, Sthapatya Veda aligns structures with natural forces and cosmic energies.
- Shinrin Yoku (Japan): Known as “forest bathing,” this Japanese practice emphasizes the healing effects of spending time in nature, emphasizing the importance of natural surroundings for well-being.
- I Ching (China): An ancient Chinese divination text, I Ching influences architectural arrangement based on philosophical principles.
- Native American Practices: Various Native American tribes align their dwellings with natural elements and celestial events, considering the spiritual significance of locations.
- Vatsu (Tibet): Similar to Vastu Shastra, Vatsu aligns structures with natural elements and cosmic energies, creating sacred spaces for meditation and rituals.
These practices, despite diverse origins, share a common understanding of creating harmonious and spiritually significant spaces. The essence of connecting humans, their spaces, and the natural world resonates globally, leading to various architectural practices influenced by ancient wisdom and spirituality. The enduring impact of these practices is evident in the diverse and vibrant buildings created worldwide.