Vastu Purusha Mandala
Before we proceed further, let us briefly discuss the concept of the Vastu Purusha Mandala. The faith that Earth is a living organism, throbbing with life and energy; is fundamental to the Vastu Shastra. That living energy is symbolized as a person; he is the Vastu Purusha. The site for the proposed construction is his field, the Vastu Purusha Mandala. In fact , the Vastu Purusha Mandala, the site plan, is his body; and , it is treated as such. His height (or spread) extends from the South West corner (pitrah) to the North East corner (Isana). The Vastu Purusha Mandala also depicts the origin of the effects on the human body. All symbolism flow from these visualizations.
Purusha means ‘person’ literally; and, it refers to Universal Man. Purusha is the body of god incarnated in the ground of existence, divided within the myriad forms. He is also that fragmented body simultaneously sacrificed for the restoration of unity.
Vastu Purusha is associated with the Earth ; and, its movable and immovable basic elements of nature, such as the earth, water, fire, air and space, just as a human being does. The Vastu purusha mandala is , in some ways, a development of the four pointed or cornered earth mandala having astronomical reference points. Further, the Vastu Purusha Mandala is also the cosmos in miniature; and , the texts believe “what obtains in a microcosm, obtains in macrocosm too (yatha pinde thatha brahmande).”
Similarly, it believes that,”Everything is governed by one law. A human being is a microcosmos, i.e. the laws prevailing in the cosmos also operate in the minutest space of the human being.” In the end, the nature, the man and his creations are all one.
“The vastu-purusha-mandala represents the manifest form of the Cosmic Being; upon which the temple is built and in whom the temple rests. The temple is situated in Him, comes from Him, and is a manifestation of Him. The vastu-purusha-mandala is both the body of the Cosmic Being and a bodily device by which those who have the requisite knowledge attain the best results in temple building.” (Stella Kramrisch,; The Hindu Temple, Vol. I)
The terms Vasu ( wealth) , Vastu ( substance) and Vaastu ( residence, dwelling , site ) are derived from Vas – to reside , to exist etc. Vasundara (one in whom the wealth – Vasu – abides) is one of the many names of Mother Earth.
Vaastu, whose body is vastu (existence); Vastupa (protector of vastu); Vastopathi (Lord of Vaastu); and, Vastupurusha (personification of Vaastu) are all synonyms or variations of the name given to Existence rendered secure and steady; and, laid out in order.
Vastopathi is also a form of Rudra; and, he is the protector of the Yajna; and, is the lord or in-charge of the Yajna-vedi (Yajna-vastu-swamin). Vastopathi is also the protector of the home. He is also Agni, the Grihasvamin or Grihapathi, the giver and protector of homes (Grihapathi, Vaasaka), who presides over the rituals at home. And, the radiant (vasu) Agni is a god of the terrestrial region (Earth). Along with Agni, Indra , Prajapathi , Soma and other gods are givers of dwellings; as such, they all are Vasus-s. They all reside in Vastumadala.
Vastopathi assumes many forms; he is Rudra, Agni, as also Asura. Vastupurusha, as personified, is an Asura; and his overlord is Brahma (Vastavadhipathi).
Whatever name by which Vastupurusha is known, his representation , on earth, is a diagram (Yantra) in the form of a square – Vastumandala. It is considered as his body (sarira) and as the device (sarira-yantra) of the Vastu-purusha, who, indeed, is an aspect of Brahma (Vastubrahma) .
The symbolism of Vastu-mandala was , earlier, associated with Yajna-vedi (the altar). The Brahma, the presiding priest of the yajna, draws the Mandala. The Vastupurusha, here, is indeed Agni. His head lies in the East (prachi), in the square of 64 squares, with his legs in the opposite; while his body and limbs fill the Mandala. The 360 bricks (corresponding to the number of days in a year – samvathsara) are so arranged as to connect the limbs, joints and the vital parts (naadi) of the subtle body of the Vastu-purusha, without hurting them*. These act as his nerves or the channels of energy. The spine (vamsa) of the vastu-purusha of 64 or 81 squares lies, with his face down (prottana), hands folded in Anjali-mudra, diagonally along the altar, with his head to the North or North-East .
[*This is based on the faith that the body of the Vastupurusha has a number of sensitive points called marmas. The well-being of the Vastupurusha assures the well-being of the building and, by implication, its owner. An important criterion for any building, therefore, is to avoid injury to such sensitive marmas. As a precaution, the texts prohibit constructions directly upon the marma-sthanas said to be located at the intersections of major diagonals, regarded as the veins (siras or naadis) of the Purusha.]
Apart from that, in a broader view, Vastu-mandala is based on the principle that Man and Universe are analogous in their structure and spirit. Vastu-purusha-mandala is thus a Yantra or an image of the Universe. It is also called as Puri (city) of the Purusha (Puri-sadah); or , as the ground (Bhumi) on which the Purusha rests. It is said; Vishvakarma, the divine architect was the first to make use of the square-like Vastumandala, to create things.
What is more important here is the symbolism, the symmetry and proportion of the diagram, than the actual figure of Man caught in it.
Vastu-purusha-mandala is not necessarily an actual picture of Man, encased in numerous cells or squares. As the scholar Stella Kramrisch explains: It is a diagrammatic representation, through symbols, of the field of co-ordinates, inter-sections, currents, flow of energies in the subtle body of a human being. The Purusha, in these diagrams, is a term of reference. It serves as a means to locate several parts, within the whole. The body here is but a sphere of coordinated activities; and, each part being associated with a particular function.
Whatever be the number of Padas (square or the position) in the structure of the Vastu-purusha-mandala, the Brahma is at heart of the Mandala; it is its vital aspect. The center of the Vastu-purusha-mandala is the seat of Brahma (Brahmasthana), around it are grouped 44 Devatas, in various positions. Of these, 12 Devatas form the inner rim, bordering the Brahmasthana; and 32 Pada-devata or Prakara-devata are placed, in the positions assigned to them, on the outer rows and columns enclosing the Vastu-mandala.
Thus, in all , 45 Devatas (1 + 12 +32) occupy the body of the Vastu-purusha, covering his head, body, limbs and vital parts. Whether the Mandala is composed of 64 squares or of 81 squares, in either case, the Brahma always resides at the center (Brahmasthana) ; and, the other forty-four are accorded places , according to their nature and importance in the Mandala. The position and the size of their Padas (cells) are variable. Therefore, the position of the 32 Prakara Devatas also varies from one type of Vastu-purusha-mandala to the other. Their positions are also regulated by space and time, as by the movement of the Nakshatras (stars).
As Stella Kramrisch explains (The Hindu Temple- Vol One) : “ the number 32 (= 4 x 8) is a function of 4; the binomial polarity, as seen in sunrise and sunset; east and west. In these 4×8 fields or units, the 4×7 regents of the lunar stations (Nakshatras) are accommodated. The numbers of 32 Divinities, plus the 12 Devatas in the inner rim, together with Bramha at the center form the body (yajna-tanu) of the Vastupurusha.
In the diagram, the right and left refer to the body of the Vastupurusha fallen with his head down. The divinities of the East and South are on the right ; and, those of the West and North on the left. Their positions are distributed on his intrinsic form, which is the square (chatur-akrti) ; and, not on the allusions to the figure of Man , which merely acts as a place of reference. The divinities are stationed at definite places of the square form; and, as a result , the same divinity is at times placed on the head ; at other times on his chest and so on , according to the position of the Vastupurusha , who faces East or North –East . Thus, the Devathas reside on the square form of the Vastupurusha only by mere implication .”
The Brahma-sthana, the nucleus, of the Mandala, generally, covers four squares in Manduka (64 squares) ;and, nine squares in Paramasayika (81 squares) designs. From Brahma, the regent of the Brahma-sthana emanates light and energy towards the other padas (squares) marked by their positions and time. The forms of the Sun (Aditya) surrounding the Brahma-sthana are 12 (dwadasha-adityas), as the inner divinities. They are placed in their positions according to the days/months/ year with which they are associated with the courses of the Sun and the Moon.
Lets take for instance the Manduka (64 squares) Yantra
[ Brahma is at the center is assigned four squares (Padas). And, of these 12 Adityas, the four – Aryaman, Vivasvan, Mitra and Mahidhara (or Pritvidhara or Bhudhara) – are assigned larger plots (padas) on the four sides of the Brahma-sthana, beginning from the East.
And, as regards the other eight Adityas, they are placed in four pairs , as : Savitr-Savitra (South-East); Indra-Indraja (South-West); Rudra-Rudraja (North-West) ; and, Apa-Apavatsa ( North-East) . Such pairs are located at the corner squares or their halves, starting from the South-East corner.
The Devatas on the outer rim (visakambha ) are associated with the positions of the Nakshatras ; and, are led by the four regents of the space (Lokapala) – Indra ( Mahendra) or Aditya (Sun) in the East; Yama in the South; Varuna in the West ; and, Soma ( or Kubera) in the North.
The four Lokapalas are positioned in the middle of each side. The corners are given to the regents of the eight intermediate directions (Asta-dik). These Asta-dik-palas, placed, beginning from the East, are: Isana (North – East); Agni (South-East); Nirtti (or Pitr) – (South-West); and; Vayu (Marut) – (North-West).
Of these, Isana is regarded as a form of sun with its rays; and, therefore is regarded as the lord of all quarters. His position (North-East) is considered the most auspicious of the intermediate regions.
Along the East–side of the Vastu-purusha-mandala, on its outer rim : between Isana ( North-East) and Agni (South- East ) are placed : Parjanya ( adjacent to Isana) ; and , adjacent to him are Jayanta and Indra (Mahendra) , next to whom is Aditya or Surya the Sun-god , the Lord of all planets. The other remaining gods on the East are some of the Vasus who guard the Dharma (rta) of the world. Next to Aditya is Sathya (truth); next to him is Vrisha; and, under him is Antariksha. The south East Corner ends with Agni.
South is the region of ancestors (Pitris); and is associated with death. The entrance to their region is on the South-East. The gods in the South are led by Yama, the Lokapala, the destructive aspect of Agni, the death, at the centre of the row. Yama is flanked by the gods associated with Pitr-s as also by the divinities of evil potent. Nearest to the South-East corner is Pushan, the Asura, the guardian of road-saftey. At the South-West corner reside the Pitrs (ancestors) or Nritti who symbolises the exit from life. Between Pushan and Pitrs, Yama, at the centre, is flanked by Vithatha, symbol of A-dharma, and his son Bhringaraja. The other lesser gods on the South are Grhakasta (who is Budha or mercury) and Gandharva, a messanger who creates discord between gods and men. And, Bhrigu or Mrga (Capricorn) is adjacent to Nritti in the south-east corner. He turns the path (pradakshina) towards West, the quarter of serpants.
Varuna (Jaladhipa), the son of Aditi, is the guardian of the West. As compared to his counterpart Mitra (aspect of sun), Varuna symbolizes darkness. Between Pitris (Nritti) and Varuna is Sugriva, the son of Vivasvan Martanda and the brother of Yama. And, Sugriva is flanked by Dauvarika the gatekeeper (Dwarapala) and Pushpadanta, the flower-tusked. Further, between Varuna and Vayu (on the north-west) is Sosana (Shani) symbolozing emaciation or withering away. And, Sosana is flanked by Papayaksaman, the consumption, Roga disease or affliction; and Asura, symbolozed by Rahu. It is said; Rahu (ardha –vastu) is the extension and Rahu, his brother, is his duration.
Soma- Kubera rules the North. Soma the Moon is the regent (Lokapala) of the North; as also the Lord of Nakshatras. And. Kubera is the Lord of wealth. This is the region of Yaksas, mortals and serpants. Betweem Soma in the center and Vayu in the Noth-West, is Mukhya, the Visvakarman, the maker of all forms. Mukhya is flanked by Naga, the serpant Vasuki; and, by Bhallata, the aspect of Soma with his rays. Between Soma and Isana is Aditi the mother of gods, And, Aditi is flanked by Diti the mother of Daityas (both being the wives of sage Kashyapa); and by Mrga (Argala) who is Bhujanga, having cast off his skin. These deities on the North in their Pradkashina connect the regions of death and life; West and East.]
The Manduka Vastu-mandala with sixty-four (8×8) Padas is considered particularly auspicious for construction of the temples. A number of famous ancient temples, including the temples at Kajuraho and the Sri Vidyashankara temple at Sringeri were designed by adopting the floor-plan structure as per the Manduka Yantra.
The Sri Vidyashankara at Sringeri was built in honour and memory of the Tenth Jagadguru of the Sringeri Mutt, Sri Vidyashankara or Sri Vidyathirtha, who presided over the Sringeri Peetam for a period of nearly 104 years from 1229 t0 1333. He is revered as one of the Greatest Gurus of the Sringeri Samsthanam. Even to this day, the official seal of the Sringeri Peetha bears the name of its most eminent Guru Sri Vidyashankara.
The temple which combines the Dravida and Hoysala architectural features; and, resembling a chariot is hailed as ‘poetry in stone. It said to have been built around the year 1388. It came about at the instance of Sri Vidyaranya (who later became the twelfth Jagadguru of Sringeri – 1380 – 1386).
The Shiva Linga, which is addressed as Sri Vidyashankara Linga, is installed at the Brahma-sthana; and, it is positioned over the Samadhi of the Parama-Guru , Sri Vidyashankara immersed in a Lambika Yoga – लम्बिकायोगनिरतं अम्बिकापतिरूपिणम् । विद्याप्रदं नमामीशं विद्यातीर्थ महेश्वरम् ॥
Idol of Sri Vidyatirtha at Simhagiri in Sringeri; flanked by the images of his
two foremost disciples – Sri Bharati Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya; Picture courtesy Sringeri.net
Sri Vidyaranya, the jewel among the Jagadgurus, was the head of the Sringeri Mutt for only a short span of six years (1380 – 1386). But his association with the Sringeri Peetha and with his predecessors Sri Vidya Tirtha (1229 – 1333 ) and Sri Bharati Tirtha (1333 – 1380) , who was his Purva-ashrama brother, was spread over a long period of almost sixty years. The era of the three Gurus – Sri Vidya Tirtha, Sri Bharati Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya – stretching over a period of 157 years, from 1229 to 1386, is regarded as the Golden Epoch (Svarna-yuga) in the history of the Sri Sharada Peetham, elevating it to position of great eminence.
It is said; the temple , a dedication to the Greatest of the Gurus, was indeed the fruit (Phala) of the harmonious combination of genius of two sages – Sri Bharathi Krishna Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya – along with the matchless skill of the architect (Stapathi), Jakkana. The plan of the Vidyashankara Temple is said to be a synthesis of various concepts of the ancient architectural traditions of the Shilpa Shastra.
The temple structure is erected on a richly sculpted plinth (upapitha), on top of which there is another platform (adhisthana) , on which are located six doorways. The layout of the temple ,which is structured to resemble a chariot, is more or less a rectangle, with apsidal East-West ends; the front door facing the East; and the Garba-griha on the West. The entrance to the Garba-griha is flanked by the shrines of Vidya Ganapati on one side and of the Durga on the other side. On the other three sides of the Garba-griha are the shrines dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara, with their consorts. The Vimana over the Garba-griha rises with an exquisitely well designed shikhara, mahapadma and stupi.
In the eastern half of the structure (mukha-mantapa) there is the magnificent Navaranga, decorated with intricately sculptured twelve pillars (chitra-kambha) , carrying large animal sculptures, which are huge monolith projections jutting out to support the structures above them. Each of those pillars is topped by a Yali, with a rolling stone ball in its mouth. The central ceiling is a specimen of exquisite of workmanship with lotus and pecking parrots.
As regards its basement, it is elaborately sculpted with the figures of animals; representations from mythologies (Purana); the images of several deities such as Shiva, Vishnu in his various forms, Kali, Shanmukha and so on.
A special feature of the Sri Vidyashankara temple is the ingenious alignment of the twelve pillars marked by the twelve signs of the zodiac (Raasi sthamba) in their regular order. It is said; during each of the twelve months of the solar year (each named after the Rasis or house, which the Sun is said to occupy in the course of the year – the Rasi-chakra), the rays of the early morning sun , entering through one of the three openings, fall upon its corresponding Rasi pillar.
Courtesy : Sri N K Rao and Smt Priya Thakur
The direct sunlight comes mainly through the eastern doorway, but also partly through the southern and northern doorways. There are also a few small gaps in the outer wall which allow the sunlight to enter.
The floor of the Navaranga Mantapa is marked with converging lines in accordance with the Sun’s movement round the twelve Rasi pillars, to indicate the path of the sunlight or the direction of the shadows that sun-rays cast. That was, possibly, meant to serve as a device to indicate the month of the year.
Several studies have been undertaken by a number of well qualified researcher to ascertain the Astronomical significance of the alignment of the twelve Rasi pillars and the marking of the sunlight , during each month of the year, on the designated Pillar.
As far as I know, the following studies are indeed very significant:
The Zodiacal Pillars of Sringeri by Smt. B S Shylaja , Bangalore Association for Science Education, JN Planetarium
Sringeri VidyAshankara Temple in the Light of Yoga by Viswa N Sharma, San Ramon, California
The studies, in a way, are rather in-conclusive. The study undertaken by N. Kameswara Rao and Priya Thakur of Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, makes an interesting observation:
The recent monitoring of morning sunlight on the Rasi pillars in the Navaranga of the Vidyashankara Temple revealed that they do not indicate the position of the Sun in the zodiacal constellations of the present epoch ; but , rather they match the zodiacal sky of 2000 ± 300 B.C.
Although the temple was supposedly built around A.D. 1350, it is suggested that the Rasi pillar arrangement might have been adopted from an earlier 2000 B.C. sacred calendar -device (or of a Vedic altar)
By the way, there is another astronomical wonder. It is the Sri Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple, Bangalore, believed to have been constructed during the time of Nadaprabhu Hiriya Kempe Gowda (16th century), renowned for his social reforms and contribution to building temples and water reservoirs in Bengaluru.
This temple was formed by the natural boulders of hillocks; and faces the south-west direction. The courtyard is wide and has large-sized monolithic sculptures placed in certain alignments. Shiva’s symbols – the Trishula and the Damaru – are placed on the southern edge of the courtyard.
Since these two large circular discs (each with a diameter of 2 Mt), placed parallel to each other face East and West, they are identified as symbols of the Sun and the Moon; and, are, therefore, known as Suryapana and Chandrapana.
This cave temple is famous because, at the time of Makara Sankranti (14th January), the early morning sun’s rays pass through the window and touch the Shivalinga installed in the Garba-griha.
Plate nineteen in ‘Picturesque Scenery in the Kingdom of Mysore’ by James Hunter, 1804
As regards the astronomical significance of the Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple, please refer to the research paper produced by Jayanth Vyasanakere, K. Sudeesh and B.S. Shylaja. In summary , it is said :
The passage of the setting sun through the cave of Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple on 14th January is well-known. The recurrence of this event on yet another date is established from our observations supported by simple astronomical calculations. Observations extended to other seasons have shown that the two large discs in the courtyard are probably aligned to the summer solstice. The shadow of the bronze pillar coincides with the vertical marking on the disc, a fact which has gone unnoticed all these years. Thus it is a unique temple where marking of both solstices are incorporated. A detailed inspection of an old painting dated 1792 shows that the passage of the sunlight into the cave also was probably intended for marking winter solstice. Subsequent constructions and renovations perhaps have modified it for 14 January (and 30 November). The summer solstice event is now totally forgotten.
Now, reverting to the main subject ..
The Vastu Purusha is visualized as lying with his face and stomach touching the ground; to suggest as if he is carrying the weight of the structure. His head is at North East (ishanya) and his legs are at the South West corner (nairutya).
There are many symbolisms associated with the position of the elements of the Vastupurusha
The South West corner (nairutya) where the Vastu Purusha has his legs corresponds to the Muladhara chakra ; and, denotes the earth principle. Just as the legs support the weight of the body, the base (adhistana) for the Muladhara should be stable and strong. Accordingly, the South West portion of the building is the load bearing area; and , should be strong enough to support heavy weights. Just as the feet are warm, the South West cell represents warmth and heat; even according to the atmospheric cycles , the South West region receives comparatively more heat.
Svadhistana chakra is in the lower stomach region near the kidneys. It is related to water principle (apa). On the Vastu Purusha Mandala, it is to the South and to the West . Therefore, the wet areas like bathroom etc are recommended in the south or in the west portions of the building. It is for sewerage (utsarjana).
Manipura Chakra is at the navel; and, relates to energy or fire or tejas. While in the womb of the mother, the fetus is fed with the essence of food ; and, the energy is passed on to it through the umbilical chord connected with its navel. The Vastu Purusha Mandala shows Brahma at the navel of the Vastu Purusha. Further, the lotus is the base (Adhistana) of Brahma. Thus , navel connects Brahman with Jiva or spanda or life. It is left open and unoccupied. The central portion of the building is to be kept open. It is believed that Vastu Purusha breaths through this open area.
Anahata chakra is near the heart. It is related to Vayu, air regulated by lungs. The lung region of the Vastu Purusha should be airy.
Vishuddaha chakra is near the throat from where the sounds come out and reverberate in space. This region represents Space (Akasha). The sound OM emerges out through throat. The echo of that sound vibrates in the hallow of the bone-box of the head , and in the space in brain. The head of Vastu Purusha is in the North East corner (Ishanya). The Ajna chakra is between the eyebrows. This direction is related to open spaces (akasha). Atmospherically, North East is cooler; and, so should be ones head. The Puja room, Devagraha, is recommended in the North East portion of the house.
The limbs of Vastu Purusha, other than the above, are also related to the construction of the building. Liver (yakrt) is towards South East. The cooking area is recommended in South East, because it is related to Agni. The rays of sun reach here first and cleanse the atmosphere.
The North West, vayuvya, is presided over by air Vayu. The Organs like spleen, rectum of the Vastu Purusha fall in this portion. The store room is recommended here; perhaps because the spleen in the body does the work of storing and restoring blood.
[There is a belief that the vastu purusha is awake during eight months of the year and is asleep in the other four months (eight months of wakefulness: mesha, vrishabha, kataka, simha, tula, vrichika, makara and kumbha; and the four months of sleep : dhanur, mina, mithuna and kanya).
Some others say that the vaastu purusha sleeps in vaastu chakra on the left side and rotates clockwise during twelve months with his head towards:
Jan: west-south-west; Feb: west; Mar : west-north-west ;Apr : north-north-west; May : north ; June : north-north-east ; July : east-north-east ; Aug : east ; Sept : east-south-east ; Oct : south-south-east; Nov : south ; and Dec : south-south-west.
While taking up construction of a structure, digging in the sector where Vastu-purusha’s head lies is not recommended. The schedule for erecting the doors is also based on this concept.
If Leo is ascending, set up the south door; if Taurus set up the west door; if Kubera set up the north door;
If the moon is passing the meridian, set up the east door.
When Leo is ascending is the proper time for placing a door in a temple of Vishnu. When Taurus is ascending is the proper time for placing a door in a temple of Mahadeva. When Kubera is ascending is the proper time for setting a door in Ganesa’s temple. When the moon is passing the meridian, a door may be set up for any one.
I think, this concept of purusha sleeping may have only astrological significance; and therefore , varies from person to person and from site to site. They cannot be generally applied. Even otherwise, now, hardly anyone goes by this schedule, as it is impractical.
Perhaps the four months of non-activity as recommended, might have something to do with the onset of monsoon , winter and such seasonal constraints.]
Vastu and directions
These areas are also related to various planets and their positions.The vastu purusha mandala, like the horoscope is another way of illustrating the intersection where the sky and earth meet at the horizon, at the equinox points; and the zenith and nadir
The Vastu Purusha lies with his back up, perhaps to suggest that he carries the burden on his back. Pillars are not recommended on sensitive parts of Vastu Purusha; they are the inlets and outlets.
The general guidelines are: the South West should be heavier and North East where gods dwell should not be so . The base should be heavy and the apex be lighter; just as in the case of a hill or a tree. The sensitive organs like brain, eyes, ears tongue are in the head; and the head should be lighter and secure. The head of the Vastu Purusha is in the North East and it should be kept free of pillars. Activities like worship, study are recommended in and towards east and adjoining directions.-North east and South East.
Sun is at the center of the solar system; the earth and others rotate around it. The Vastu follows the same principle. The middle house , the dining hall and work space represent the sun aspect. After sun set the South West and North West are warmer; bedrooms and store house are recommended here.
It is said that, although water is everywhere that which cleanses the body is water; and that which purifies mind is Thirtha. A brick and stone construct is house. A Vastu is temple.
“The Hindu temple typically involves a multiple set of ideas. Perhaps Hindu traditional architecture has more symbolic meanings than other cultures. It is highly articulated. The temple is oriented to face east, the auspicious direction where the sun rises to dispel darkness. The temple design includes the archetypal image of a Cosmic Person spread out yogi-like, symmetrically filling the gridded space of the floor plan, his navel in the center, and it includes the archetype of the cosmic mountain, between earth and heaven, of fertility, planets, city of the gods, deities, etc.). One encounters these simultaneous archetypal themes and meanings conveyed (and hidden) in the semi-abstract forms in many Hindu temples. There are rules of shape and proportion in the authoritative texts of Hindu tradition (shastras and agamas) which give birth to a variety of complex temple designs. The Brihat Samhita text (4th century CE) says the temple should reflect cormic order. To understand the uses of recursive geometrical forms involving self-similarity on different scales (fractals) in the Hindu temple complex we will need to explore some of these deep images and their uses.
” The structure of a temple rests on its Vastu-purusha-mandala, the ground-plan and its logic (chhandas). The ground-floor (adahschanda) is placed with the Garbha-griha (sanctum) at the center, corresponding to Brahma-sthana, the center of the Vastu-purusha-mandala. It is surrounded by thick walls, on which rest the high super-structures. These structures are in alignment with the gods who surround the Brahma-sthana. The various kinds of projections, the zone of 32 Pada-devatas form the perimeter of the temple. The well proportioned Vimana rising from above the garba-griha.
Thus , the form of the temple, all that it is and signifies, stands upon the diagram of the vastupurusha. It is a ‘forecast’ of the temple and is drawn on the leveled ground; it is the fundamental from which the building arises. Whatever its actual surroundings… the place where the temple is built is occupied by the vastupurusha in his diagram, the Vastupurusha mandala…. It is the place for the meeting and marriage of heaven and earth, where the whole world is present in terms of measure, and is accessible to man.”(25) The cosmic person became the universe, and to recreate this origin is to construct a cosmos which offers a return to the transcendent oneness.
The vastupurusha mandala is a microcosm with some fractal qualities. As shown in the illustration, there are self-similar squares within squares within squares. The geometric configuration “of central squares with others surrounding it is taken to be a microscopic image of the universe with its concentrically organized structure.” Thus the grid at the spatial base and temporal beginning of the temple represents the universe, with its heavenly bodies. It is also more– it simultaneously symbolizes the pantheon of Vedic gods– “each square [is] a seat of particular deity.” The gods altogether make up the composite body of the Purusha.
The Purusha is related not merely to the site and the ground plan; even the elevation of the temple is likened to the the body of the Purusha. And, different parts of the temple are named after the the limbs of the body; the soul being consecrated in the image of the deity in the sanctum. The temple is , thus, an image of the Cosmic-man.
If the temple symbolizes the body of god on the macro-cosmic plane, it equally symbolises the body of man on the microcosmic plane. The names of the various parts of the temple are the very names used to denote the various parts of human body! Look at the following technical names: paduka, pada, carana, anghri, jangha, uru, gala, griva, kantha, sira. Sirsa, karna, nasika, sikha. Pada (foot) is the column, jangha (shank) is parts of the superstructure over the base. Gala or griva (neck) is the part between moulding which resembles the neck. Nasika (nose) is any nose shaped architectural part and so on. The garbhagriha represents the head and the image, the antaryamin (the indwelling Lord). This symbology tries to impress upon us the need to seek the Lord within our heart and not outside.
The temple also represents the subtle body with the seven psychic centres or cakras. The garbhagrha represents the anahata cakra (the fourth psychic centre in the region of the heart) and the topmost part of the kalasa point to the sahasrara (seventh and the last centre situated at the top of the head). The first three centres (muladhara, svadhisthana and mainpura situated respectively near the anus, sex-organ and navel0 are below the ground level. The fifth and the sixth (visuddha and ajna cakaras, situated at the root of the throat and in between the eyebrows) are on the sikhara area.”
(Stella Kramrisch, The Hindu Temple, Vol. I)
Sahasra chakra is regarded the seat of consciousness. An aperture on top of the head, called brahma randra, leads to it.In the structure of the temple, the brahma randra is represented in the structure erected on top of the sanctum. The flat-roof (kapota) of the sanctum is overlaid by a single square stone slab known in the texts as brahma-ranhra-shila (the stone denoting the upper passage of life). The sanctum is viewed as the head; and right on top of the head is the passage through which the currents of life ascend to the tower through this stone slab.
Interestingly, the kalasha placed on top of the vimana is not imbedded into the structure by any packing it with mortar or cement. it is, in fact, placed in position by a hollow rod that juts out of the centre of the tower and runs through the vase, the kalasha. it is through this tube that the lanchana ‘tokens’ (cereals and precious stones) are introduced. one of the explanations is the hallow tube represents the central channel of energy the shushumna that connects to the Sahasra, the seat of consciousness, through the Brahma randra.
The expressions Mandala, Chakra and Yantra are synonymous. Mandala is explained as that which gathers the essential detail (mandam laati).The Chakra and Yantra too perform similar functions. Like Chakra, the Mandala too denotes visualization, an act of bringing together all significant details; those details might pertain to the world or the body or the structure of the building or whatever. It also brings together the outer and the inner faculties or energies.
Though all the three mean the same, they have somehow seemed to have acquired distinct forms. For instance, Chakra suggests a circular form, while the Mandala might be a figure of any shape, but commonly a square. While both Chakra and Mandala are lenier representations, Yantra is a three-dimensional projection.
In the Vastu Purusha Mandala too, the ground plan and the vertical plan are cast in two dimensions and in three dimensional representations of the structure.
Whether you call it Chakra or Mandala or Yantra; it represents a sphere of influence and brings together and energizes all its components.
In a way of speaking the Vastu Purusha and the Chakreshwari of the Sri Chakra represent the same principles. They embody and preside over all the aspects of their domain, which is universal. They not merely resolve the internal and external contradictions, but also usher in complete harmony of existence.
Just as the Sri Chakra is the unfolding of the Bindu at its centre, the temple is the outpouring or the expansion of the deity residing in Brahmasthana at the centre.
Both the forms employ the imagery of an all – enveloping space and time continuum issuing out of the womb. In the case of Sri Chakra the Bibdu is dimension-less and is the imperceptible source of energy. The idol, the Vigraha, in the Garbagriha at the Brahmasthana represents the manifestation of that imperceptible energy or the principle; and it radiates that energy.
[There is an theory that suggests that the board of chess was inspired by the 64 celled Vastu Purusha Mandala. It states
“The form of the chess-board corresponds to the ‘classical’ type of Vastu-mandala, the diagram which also constitutes the basic lay-out of a temple or a city. It has been pointed out that this diagram symbolizes existence as a ‘field of action’ of the divine powers. The combat which takes place in the game of chess thus represents, in its most universal meaning, the combat of the devas with the asuras, of the ‘gods’ with the ‘titans’, or of the ‘angels’ with the ‘demons’, all other meanings of the game deriving from this one.” (Please check:
The Hindu Temple, by Stella Kramrisch,.
Devalaya Vastu by Prof.SKR Rao
Vastu -, Astrology and Architecture : A collection of essays by various authors
Pictures are from internet.