It is popular in many Western countries to hear about the ancient Chinese system of Feng Shui, which attempts to align the energies of the physical world with the life of man.
The branch of Hindu learning that includes these ideas is called Vaastu Shastra, Hindu Architecture.
In Sanskrit the word “vaastu” means a building or structure and so the expression “vaastu shastra” is the science of structure.
Like Vedic astrology, vaastu is a vast and highly developed branch of learning and in this installment I can describe only the most basic principles of this subject.
There are, of course, whole books devoted to this wonderful subject and an interested reader is encouraged to study these books, especially if one is planning to build or buy a home, commercial building or land for construction.
Hindu Architecture addresses two kinds of buildings: religious structures––temples and shrines––and non-religious structures, civic buildings, business complexes and residential homes.
In Hindu culture, not only is the home and family all important, but so is the actual building where the family lives.
Consequently, how a physical building is designed and constructed is a matter of deep concern.
Hindu traditions tell us that there are forces, some subtle and others not so subtle, some positive and some negative, around us at all times, and like the Chinese system of Feng Shui, it is in man’s interest to arrange his life to take advantage of these positive forces and avoid the effects of the negative forces.
It has been observed that through the proper orientation of a building and other techniques, the positive forces can be focused in a way that will lead to an increase in wealth, happiness, and harmony for the residents of such a building.
Conversely, the wrong orientation of a structure and other architectural failures can cause unhappiness, disease and troubles for the inhabitants. The same can be said for other buildings including temples, business and civic structures.
We pointed out some of the essential principles of Hindu theology that affect not only astrology, but many other subjects of learning, including Hindu architecture.
The first is the idea that the world is a manifestation of the body of God or, more precisely, the world is the body of God.
A sacred structure such as a temple is designed to be not just the home of God, but the actual body of God. The building is sacred because it is the Deity directly.
The second principle concerns the relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm.
A tiny structure like a temple or a home, compared to the large universe, is constructed as a miniature version, a microcosm, of the greater universe, the macrocosm.
And finally, the third principle teaches that the part always contains within itself the whole.
Design a building by aligning the universe on the inside with the universe on the outside, knowing that the whole is within, and you control the forces of the universe within that building.
Hindu architecture always begins by laying the cosmic body of God (purusha) over every building site (mandala). This is call the Mandala Purusha.
The accompanying diagram illustrates this and shows how this cosmic body is positioned in relation to the site. Notice that the head of “God” lays in the northeast corner.
The basis behind this orientation is the principle of maximization of light that is described by the metaphor: the sun equals light, which equals knowledge, which equals consciousness and ultimately spiritual enlightenment.
The east is the source of light and of all the points along this eastern axis the north-east point is the most important because it is the point of maximization of light.
On June 21st of every year the sun rises in the north-east and this is the day when daylight is longest and darkness is shortest. There is maximization of light at this point and so the north-east corner is called God’s corner (isha-kona).
The cosmic head, which is a symbol for enlightenment, is placed in the northeast. It is perhaps a little crude to mention, but notice where the cosmic anus is located. Ancient Hindu culture includes everything!
This is the position reserved for the negative forces of the universe, personified as demons.
The south-west corner, which is the exact opposite of the north-east corner is not considered an auspicious place and so when arranging a home one should avoid placing the meditation, kitchen, or financial areas in this place.
In addition to the sun, there are, of course, many other powerful forces that affect the life of man, and so these forces have also been considered in Hindu architecture and given their respective places.
One of the most common features of Hinduism is its tendency to personify all things and so these forces are personified as Gods and given their proper “seats” in the various directions of Hindu architecture according to how they are positioned in the macrocosm, the greater universe.
Agni, the god of fire, sits in the south-east corner and so this is the ideal direction for a kitchen.
Kubera, the god of wealth sits in the north, so this is the best place for keeping financial matters.
In this way, knowing the places of these forces, the next illustration shows the basic arrangement of how any building should be designed to create an alignment with the forces of the universe.