Tag Archives: Devalaya; Vastu; Temple Architecture;

Temple Architecture – Devalaya Vastu – Part Nine (9 of 9)

Some norms adopted in the Shipla shastra

I. Determination of cardinal points (Dik nirnaya)

In Sanskrit, the root, ma, stands for that which gives existence to a thing, gives it a reality in our world; and demonstrates the relation between things. The term matir, for mother is derived from that root ma.There is a close relation in the Indian thought, between measurement (maa_na) and creation.Measurement separates and differentiates the elements of the world and provides them an identity or a recognizable standard form. Perhaps the first act of measurement in our universe was the breaking of the barrier between time and timelessness; and, it surely saved our existence from perpetual chaos.

Maana not merely measures the elements of space and time, but also governs the standard of ones conduct in life.

It is said that the ritual of measurement performed at the commencement of the temple building or of a Vedic altar is a re-enactment of creation of the world. The importance accorded to precise orientation and precise measurements in the construction of the temple reveals the symbolism involved in the act. The Sanskrit term, vimana, referred to the temple signifies a ‘well-measured’ or “well-proportioned” structure. The standard texts on temple architecture carry extensive discussions on the systems of proportional measurements and the techniques employed for determining true cardinal points.

The ancient text Shathapatha Brahmana repeatedly refers to the term prachee meaning the correct East-West line. Ascertaining the exact cardinal points and drawing the East-West line (prachee) was one of the primary concerns of the ancients. It was considered essential to align any auspicious structure say, yupa, the sacrificial altar; a mantapa, the pavilion; or a temple, along the prachee. The Sulaba Sutras of Bhodayana and Kathyayana too describe methods to determine true cardinal points.

The Yajna altar of the Vedic times, which was reconstructed each year around the time of vernal equinox, carried a rich symbolism. The altar built of five layers, represented the five seasons, five elements and five directions. The altar was surrounded by a wall of 360 bricks representing 360 days of the year. The fired bricks symbolized the elements of fire, earth, and water. The akasha   provided space and air by breathing upon the bricks of the altar and bringing them to life.

The Shilpa Shastra texts, such as Kashyapa Shilpa sutraVastu Vidya; Vishwakarma Vastu Shastra; Shilpa Rathnam; Ishana Shiva Guru Doctrine and Manasara etc   too discuss elaborately the instruments and the methods employed to determine true directions.

The instrument that the texts talk about in this regard is the Sanku Yantra or the gnomon. The gnomon is probably mankind’s oldest astronomical device.  The Sanku in its simplest form is a piece of sharp edged, smooth surfaced  pole made of wood or other material, firmly  erected perpendicular to a leveled ground rendered “as smooth as a mirror“, The method uses the movement of the Sun and the shadows it casts . And, it is often described as the Indian Circle Method.

The Sanku (gnomon) or its variations were used by all ancient civilizations for determining the east-west direction and also for knowing time. The Indian astronomers also used it for the determination of the solstices, the equinoxes and the geographical latitudes. For instance, Brahmagupta described a conical gnomon, the staff (yasti) of which represented the radius of the celestial sphere and was used for determination of the position of heavenly bodies, and also for terrestrial surveying. The Sawai Jai Singh’s Observatories at Ujjain includes a Sanku Yantra. (Please check: )

Sanku Yantra at Ujjain


For the limited purpose of our discussion, let us confine to the Sanku discussed in the texts of Shilpa Shastras and its use for determining the cardinal points. Each text of the Shilpa Shastra  recommends its own set of specifications for the height and girth of the gnomon; the material or the wood to be used for making the gnomon; the mode of embedding the gnomon into the earth; the type of ropes and the pegs to be used; and the measurements to be taken etc. Some of the salient recommendations of only four of Shilpa texts are briefly tabulated under.

  • Particulars



Vastu Shastra

Manasara Ishana Shiva


Height of Sanku above the ground level- (In inches)


–        15 inches 12 to 24



48 inches

for Temples



-18 inches

Kanista- 12inches

12 inches
Girth of sanku at the bottom 2 inches Uttama -2 inches

Madhyama -1inch


-1/3 inch

2 inches
Pointed edge at the top of sanku 1 yava Like a pin-head A sharp point

made of metal

Diameter of the circle drawn around the base of Sanku Twice the height of the sanku pole from the ground 24 inches Four times

the height of Sanku

Twice the height of


Ground on which Sanku

Is erected

Level –like a stone Level –like water surface Level- like water surface Smooth and level as a  mirror
How to embed the Sanku? Fixed firmly Some portion to be buried underground Some portion to be buried underground Erected

on the ground

Which wood to be used for making Sanku Sara vriksha Kadira,


Kshira vriksha

Kadira, Shami, Kshira

Or ivory




Season of the year for taking measurements Summer solstice, brighter half of the month Any auspicious day

barring Full –moon and New-moon days

Summer solstice,






Before drawing the plans and designs for a temple, the orientation of the site has to be established properly. The best way to go about it is to commence the exercise at a time when the sun is in the northern part of the sky, and on a day when there are no sunspots disfiguring its visible surface.

Before erecting the Sanku pole, it is essential that the ground is rendered absolutely clean, smooth and flat. The Mayamata and Manasara describe what is called as “water method” to ensure an even and a flat surfaced ground. The selected ground, in a square shape, is leveled and enclosed by a frame of bricks; and is filled with water. Then, with the aid of a measuring rod the height of water at different points are checked to ensure that the water column is of same height throughout. After it is dried out the uneven surfaces, wrinkles and blotches are corrected and evened out by suitably increasing/decreasing the level at selected points.

The Vastu Vidya Shilpa text suggests an improvement over the above method. After the leveling by water-method has been carried out, it recommends the use of a device called avanatha constructed out of three wodden strips of equal length (25 inches each).An equilateral triangle constructed out of the three wodden strips is placed at different points on the prepared ground. If the pendulum (plumb line) suspended from the apex of the triangle stayserect at all test-points; it means that the pegs stand at equal height. If not, suitale corrections have to be carried out, until it is required. Finally, after the ground has been dried, cleaned and fine-leveled, it again is checked by the avanatha.

The Sanku has to be erected in the mid region of the prepared ground. The ritual of erecting the Sanku is called Sanku_sthapana. The sanku is made of either ivory or the seasoned kadira (hard) wood which does not bend in the heat of the sun. Its surface should be smooth, perfectly circular and without irregularities; and pointed at one end.

The total length of the sanku would normally be 18 inches; of which six inches would be under the ground level. The effective height of sanku, above ground, would normally be 12 inches. The Manasara text however recommends 24 inches as the best (uttama) and 18 inches as next-best (madhyama) height of the Sanku. The girth of the Sanku at its bottom should range between two inches to six inches. Its top-end should be pointed; but it should not be too thin; else it might be difficult to mark its shadow on the ground, especially during the evenings. The diameters at the top and bottom should be proportionate to their length.

The Sanku should be fixed firmly and it should stand perpendicular to the ground. With the base of the Sanku as the centre, a circle should be described around the sanku, having a radius equal to twice the height of the Sanku. It is argued that the radius of that circle should not be too long; nor should it be too short. In either case of extreme, it would be difficult to obtain correct readings, especially during the evenings. Most texts recommend that the radius should be twice the height of the Sanku.

[There is some confusion here. Some texts say the diameter (vyasa) should be twice the height of the Sanku. While some other texts say that the radius (trigya) should be twice the height of the Sanku. But all texts say that the radius should not be less than the height of the Sanku. I have, in the interest of uniformity, adopted here the radius as equal to twice the height of the Sanku.]

The Shilpa texts such as Shilpa DipikaRaja_vallabha and Kunda _siddhi recommend a unique method to ensure that the Sanku is standing perpendicular to the ground. They suggest that in case the height of the Sanku is 12 inches, a circle should be described with the base of Sanku as the centre and with a radius of 16 inches. This in effect forms a right angled triangle , with the radius as the base of the triangle (16 inches), the Sanku as its height (12 inches); and the string(rajju) connecting the top of the Sanku to the point of intersection of the base of the triangle with the circle forming the hypotenuse. If the sanku stands absolutely perpendicular then the string (hypotenuse) should measure exactly 20 inches. This exercise was based on the theory of Brahmagupta (6thcentury AD) otherwise known as the Pythagorean Theorem.

Now, having completed the preliminary work — of leveling and smoothening the ground; erecting the sanku ; and drawing a circle , round its base, with a radius equal to twice  its height — you proceed with the task of  determining the cardinal points with the help of gnomon. It is recommended that the first reading is taken at sunrise during a month when the solar path is towards the north (uttarayana) during a bright fortnight when sunrise is clear, when there are no spots in the solar disc and when the sun is in the asterism of the appropriate fortnight.

As the sun rises in the morning, you keep observing the sanku’s shadow. When the shadow of the top of the Sanku just falls on the circle, mark the point. By evening, when the shadow of the sanku gets longer, you again mark the point where the shadow intersects the circle.Connect the two points with a straight line. This line points directly East-West. This East-West line is called prachee. A line perpendicular to the E-W line is the north-south direction.

In this method, as the sun rises in the east, the shadow points west. Then, as the day advances, the shadow first swings to the north and then to the east, as the sun travels to west.The problem with this method is that the shadows are shorter in the summer than in the winter, because the earth is tilted toward the sun in summer and away from the sun in the winter. Another issue is that the sun moves most rapidly at the equinoxes. And, therefore the points marked on the circle indicate   only approximately correct directions.

An improvement over this method is the drawing of circles with these East and West points as centres. The radius of the circles is the distance between those East and West points. The intersection of these circles creates a fish shaped figure. A line drawn between the points where the two circles intersect indicate the geographic North-South.



In Uttarayana Punyakala or Makara Sankranti, Sun in his entourage, after touching the southernmost tip of his path (23.5 degrees or Circle of Tropic of Capricorn – Makara Sankranti Vritta), he reverses his movement from travelling in southern direction and from that day onwards he starts travelling in the Northern direction for next six months, from Makara up to Mithuna signs, till he reaches northernmost tip of his path (23.5 degrees or Circle of Tropic of Cancer – Karkataka Sankranti Vritta). From that point, which termed as Dakshinayana Punya Kala, again he starts travelling in Southern direction, again for another six months, from Kataka up to Dhanu signs, till he reaches the circle of tropic of Capricorn. Utarayana can also be explained as the progress of the Sun to the north of equator – The Summer solstice. Dakshinayana is the progress of Sun to the south of the equator – The winter half of the year.

In a period of six months as the sun moves from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer his position shifts by 47 degrees. That is, the sun’s position shifts by about 8 degrees in each month. Accordingly, the sun shadow on the ground too shifts gradually during this period. Theoretically, the Indian circle method leads to the error up to 8′ in the time near spring and autumn equinox (March and September). If the East-West line (prachee) has to be fixed accurately, the readings taken earlier need to be fine-tuned. The Shiva Guru Doctrine suggests the following method in this regard.

The shadow points of the Sanku intersecting the circle drawn around it should be marked everyday both in the morning. Over a period of time these markings form a curvaceous line or an arc. Further, when the shadow of the Sanku is within the circle, three points have to be marked three circles should be drawn with these three points as the centre. The points of intersections of these circles should be marked. Let us name these points as A-a; and B-b. When the lines joining A-a  and B-b are joined and extended backwards they converge in the point N, as shown in the following diagram. A line drawn at 90 degrees to the line indicating North would be the East-West line.


As the sun rises and sets at shifting points on the horizon, the vertical gnomon casts its shadow in different directions on different days of the year, while the length of shadow also varies from day to day through the year.

The shadow of the sun will on any given day of the year follow a curved path from west towards east. From spring equinox to autumn equinox the path will curve towards south. From autumn equinox to spring equinox (yellow area above) the curving is northerly.

The amount by which the sun changes its declination during the day decreases as the sun moves away from equinox, and on the days of solstice the change is zero.

Shilpa Shastras caution that the points marked out on the ground based on the shadows cast by the sanku do not therefore indicate the true cardinal points. The readings need to be suitably corrected depending on the movement of the sun.

The texts suggest that the East- West line should be established with adjustments- by reduction- of the following numbers of digits for each ten day period of each month. There, again, is no uniformity in this regard. The corrections suggested by each text are different. Please see the following table for the month -wise corrections suggested by two major texts.

Rashi Chandraman





Reduction suggested

(in inches)


A B` C
kanya Bhadrapada Jul-Aug 01 02 02
Rishabha Vaishaka Apr-May 01 02 02
Mesha Chaitra Mar-Apr 01 00 00
Kumbha Magha Jan- Feb 05 04 04
Makara Pushya Dec-Jan 07 06 06
Mithuna Jesta May-Jun 03 04 04
Kataka Ashadha Jun-Jul 03 02 02
Simha Shravana Jul-Aug 01 00 00
Tula Ashviyuja Sep-Oct 03 04 04
Vrishika Karthika Oct-Nov 05 09 06
Dhanus Margashira Nov-Dec 07 08 08
Meena Phalguna Feb-Mar 03 01 01

 Corrections are as per Mansara. 

Rashi Chandraman





Reduction suggested

(in inches)


kanya Bhadrapada Jul-Aug 00 01 02
Rishabha Vaishaka Apr-May 01 01 02
Mesha Chaitra Mar-Apr 02 01 00
Kumbha Magha Jan- Feb 06 05 04
Makara Pushya Dec-Jan 08 07 06
Mithuna Jesta May-Jun 02 03 04
Kataka Ashadha Jun-Jul 04 03 02
Simha Shravana Jul-Aug 02 01 00
Tula Ashviyuja Sep-Oct 02 03 04
Vrishika Karthika Oct-Nov 04 05 06
Dhanus Margashira Nov-Dec 06 07 08
Meena Phalguna Feb-Mar 04 03 02

 A stands for first 10 days of the month; B stands for days from 11 to 20;And C stands for days from 21 to 30 of the month

After carrying out the corrections, you plot the readings and draw the lines and arcs. The final drawing will look as under.

The East-West line is named Brahma Sutra; The North-South line is named Yama Sutra; and, the Diagonal lines are named Karna Rekhas. The entire exercise is called Dik parchheda or Prachee sadhana, which is achieving the true cardinal points.

Guided by the stars

The practice of determining the directions, based on the position of stars is rather ancient. TheKathyayaneeya sulba sutra mentions that the true East can be determined with reference to the position of the pairs of stars: Chiita and Swathi;Shravana  and Prathi  shravana;Krutthika and Prathi krutthika; and Pushya and Punarvasu , when they are 86 inches above the horizon. The text however does not detail the method to be employed. There is no description, either, of Prathi Shravana and Prathi Krutthika stars.

The Shilpa texts –Kathyayaneeya sulba sutra, Raja Vallabha and Shilpa deepika– mention that the line connecting the polar star (dhruva) and the two stars of the Ursa Major (Saptha Rishi mandala) , when extended would point to North.


A few points need to be mentioned by way of clarification.

The exercises described were undertaken to find the geographic North Pole which is the pole about which the Earth seems to spin. They were not talking about the Magnetic North Pole.

The Magnetic North Pole is currently wandering at a few kilometers per year through the far north of Canada, while the Geographic North Pole is in the Arctic..

The methods which we discussed so far were being followed by the Shiplis until about the 17thcentury .Thereafter, with the introduction of magnetic compasses, the ancient methods were given up. Now everyone goes by the compass to ascertain the directions. Yet, many feel that determining the geographic north, as the ancient did, is a superior method.

Incidentally, the diagram, based on the Sanku method, for positioning the yupa, the sacrificial altar, looked as shown below.


II. Four Types of Architects

The ancients mention four types of architects – the Sthapati, Sutragrahin, Vardhaki and Takshaka.

The Sthapati is the chief architect or master builderempowered to plan, design and direct the construction from the beginning to the end. He is well-qualified in Shastras and the Vedas. He is pictured as a cultured, decent man free from vices. He has the ability to direct his team. 

The Sutragrahin is the supervisor and is said to be normally the Sthapati’s son or disciple. He is also well-qualified in the Vedas and Sastras. He is an expert draftsman or Rekhagna, who directs the rest of the work force. His job is to see that all building parts are aligned correctly. He should be able to give instructions to the other craftsmen.

The Vardhaki is the painter and has made a special study of it. He is also well-versed in the Vedas. Vardhaki joins together the building elements shaped by Taksaka.

Taksaka is the craftsman who cuts and shapes the building elements. The Takshaka is also the master carpenter who is responsible for all the intricate wood work including doors, windows, pillars etc.

These four classes are considered the representations of Viswakarma, Maya, Manu and Twasta, the sons of Brahma, the creator.

Acharya is the learned preceptor who gives the yajamana (one who sponsors the temple project) the necessary advice and guidance in selecting the proper site, the sthapati and other silpins. The sthapati, yajamana and the ahcarya form the trinity of vastusthapana (construction); they are compared to Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra .


III .Building Materials used in temple architecture

The building materials that are prominently used in temple construction are the stone, the bricks and the wood (apart from earth which we discussed separately in the earlier part of this series). The Shilpa texts describe in detail the nature of these materials and the criteria for their selection, for various purposes. Let us take a quick look at these three materials.



The stones are the major ingredients in temple construction. One cannot think of a temple constructed without using stones. It is therefore natural that the Shilpa texts discuss the stones quite elaborately.

The following, in brief, is the summarized observations and recommendations of some shilpa texts.

The stones collected from open source such as mountain or hill are stronger and more durable as compared to those dug out of earth. Similarly, the stones or boulders dug out from the coastal areas are considered weak, as they could be eroded by the chemicals and the salt content of the sea. They are not considered fit to bear heavy loads. The reason for preferring the stones from hills or mountains could be that they are well seasoned by constant exposure to the vagaries of weather; and are unaffected by salts and other chemicals.

Stone should be free from lines, patches, blotches, blots and cracks or other faults. The white lines or patches in a black or other coloured stone are acceptable. But, black lines or black patches in white or other coloured stones are not acceptable at all. The explanation given is, the white lines, the patches of quartz, strengthen the rock structure; while black lines of baser materials weaken the stones. The traces of chlorite or olivine cause green or black patches and weaken the stones; therefore, such stones are not recommended for temple construction. The Vishnu Darmottara Purana talks in great detail about the faults in the rocks and the methods to test the rocks.

Stones such as marble, steatite, khondalite, sandstone, basalt etc are not fit for carving a diety. They are not recommended in load bearing areas, either. They could be used in other areas, if needed.



As regards their colour, the stones are of four basic colours: white, red, yellow and black. Some of them could be tainted with traces of other colours. Stones of white colour are regarded the best for temple construction. The next in the order of preference are the red, yellow and black coloured stones. . It is preferable to use uniformly the stones of the same colour.

The Kashyapa Shilpa mentions seven categories of white stones: white as milk, as the conch, as jasmine, as moon, as pearl, as alum and as the kundapushpa (a variety of jasmine).The white stones with traces of blue or slight brown or bee-like black lines are considered good for temple construction.

The red coloured stones are of five types: Red as red hibiscus flower (japa kusuma), as kinsuka(bright red), as the indragopa insect, as parijatha flower, as the blood of a rabbit, and as pomegranate flower.

The yellow colour of the stones is of two types: yellow as the Banduka flower, and as koranti flower.

The black of the stones comes in ten colours: black as the pupil of the eye, as mascara, blue lotus, as bee, as the neck of peacock, as kapila cow, as urd gram etc.


The stones are also classified according to their “age”-: child (baala), youthful (taruna) and the old (vriddha).

If a stone when tapped gives out a faint sound or the sound is as that of mud, or of half burnt brick; such stones are classified as baala– the child; to mean raw or immature. The baala stones are not fit for making idols or for bearing loads.

If a stone when struck produces the sound resembling the ring of a bell and if such sound resonates for quite a while, such a stone is classified as taruna youthful. Such stone should have a cold touch and a soft feel. If the stones emanate fragrance it is much better. The taruna– the youthful – stones are fit for carving images and for crucial areas of temple.

An old, the vriddha, stone does not give out any sound and has a dry appearance.It gives the touch and feel of a frog or a fish. It might have many holes or might be in a state of decay. Such old and spent stones are not fit for making images or for load bearing areas.


Stones are also classified according to their “gender”. Those stones which give bronze sound at the hammer   weight are called “male’. Those which give brass sound are called “female’. And, those that do not produce any sound are called genderless (neuter).

A hollow stone may be taken as pregnant and hence should be discarded. When smeared with a paste, overnight, it changes its colour. Shilpa Ratna describes dozens of such pates Some stones are said to carry poisonous effects. These stones too should be tested by application a paste; and should not be used.

It is suggested that male stones are used for carving male deities; female stones are used for carving female deities; and the neuter stones are used for other constructions. Further it is said, the male stones could also be used for construction of sikhara (tower) and stone walls; the female stone could be used for structures above foundations; and the neuter stones could be used for foundations.

Male stones are big, round or polygonal, are of a singular shape and uniform colour; they are weighty and give out sparks when hammered. When dug out, its apex will be towards north. If the apex is inclined towards north or west facing, the rock is considered inauspicious. Highly compact rocks like dolerites, bronzites, proxenites and peridoties as well as lamprophyres are regarded male rocks.

A female rock is of medium weight , square or octagonal, thick at root and thin near the apex, cold to touch, soft to feel and on being struck gives out sonorous notes like that of a mridanga (drum).

A neuter gender stone is one that doesn’t give any sound on being struck and narrow towards its bottom and triangular on its upper side ; and such stones may be used only for the foundation.

[ About Chisels and carving – Khanitra-pancakam srestharn -excerpts from Pride of India: A Glimpse Into India’s Scientific Heritage

Five types of chisels are good. The different varieties are lanji (biting), langali (plough like), grdhradanti (like vulture teeth), sucimukha (needle tipped) and vajra (diamond like). All are made up of steel and each one of two types is narrow and broad.

Men beat the chisel on the long mallet, with the short mallet people use for breaking stone. All instruments are sharpened, dipped in cow’s urine and then smeared with ingida (asafetida) oil and whetted in leather.

Bhedastu lafiji, Iangali, grdhradantI, suclmukha, vajra iti, sarve ayasa dvividha bhavanti ksinah prasastasca, musaladharubhe musaladandena khanitrarh ghatayanti prayojayanti silabhedane tat I Sarvastrani tiksnani, gavarnbuputitani I Tatah ingidalepitani carrnasanitani ca I

Sculptors apply a softening mixture. Shell-solvent, Kustharasa, sea salt and the powder of the bark of the ukatsa tree are thus the four fluids for the softening of stones. With this plan, after immersing the chisel for 10 days, sculptors use the chisel in sacrificial rites and also dig with ease.

Silpakarah pralepayanti dravakarasam II Sankhadravakustharasa -saindhavakharpara- ukatsavalkalacurnena sahitarh siladravanartha- mevam rasacatustayarn anena mantrena dasaharnardanante vaitane khanitrarh prayojayanti khananarnacaranti bhadrena sthapakah II]


[ The following are some prescriptions on preparation and mixing of the mortar

There should be 5 parts extract of beans, nine and eight parts molasses (thick treacle that drains from sugar ) and curd or coagulated by acid (respectively). Clarified butter (ghee) 2 parts, 7 parts milk, hide (extract) 6 parts.

Pancamsarn masayusarn syannavastarnsarn gudarn dadhi II Ajyam dvyarnsam tu saptarnsarn kslram carma sadarnsakam 

There should be 10 parts of myrobalan*. Coconut two parts, honey one part. Three parts plantain are desired.

Traiphalarh dasabhagarn syannalikerarn yugarnsakam II Ksaudrame karnsakam  tryarnsarn kadallphalamisyate

In the powder (thus) obtained, 1/10th lime should be added. Larger quantity than others of molasses, curd and milk is best

Labdhe curne dasarnse tu yufijItavyarh subandhanam II Sarvesamadhikarn sastarn gudarn ca dadhi dugdhakam

In two parts of lime, (add) karaka, honey, clarified butter, plantain, coconut and bean. When dry (add) water, milk, curd, myrobalan along with molasses gradually.

Curna dvyarnsam karalarn madhu ghrta kadall narikeram ca masarn Suktestoyarn ca dugdharh dadhigudasahitarn traiphalarh tat krarnena I

Now in the powder (thus) obtained, grow one in hundred parts. It (the compound) is said by leading thinkers who know the technology as rocklike.

Labdhe curne satarnsesmsakamidamadhuna canuvrddhirn prakuryadetad bandharh drsatsadrsamiti kathitarh     tantravidbhirrnunindraih II]


Coming back to the issue of acoustics in the stones, the Shilpis   displayed a remarkable skill and ingenuity in crafting “musical “pillars, which when struck at right points produce sonorous octaves. One can see such pillars in the Vijaya Vittala temple at Hampi; Meenakshi temple at Madurai; and at Sundarehwara temple at Trichendur. There might be such “musical” in other temples too. Usually such pillars are of granite and charnockites; and of different girths and volumes to produce the right octaves.

[ As regards the assembling Pillars Starnbha-sandhayah ,following are a few excerpts from Pride of India: A Glimpse Into India’s Scientific Heritage

Assembly of Pillars: It is said that there are five types of assemblies suitable for pillars; these are Mesayuddha, Trikhanda, Saubhadra, Ardhapani and Mahavrtta.

Mesayuddharn trikhandam ca saubhadram cardhapanikam I Mahavrttarn ca paficaite stambhanam sandhayah smrtah II

When there is a central tenon* (projection at the end of a piece of wood etc., with a width) a third (that of the pillar) and a length twice or two and half time its width, this is Mesayuddha (mortise – A hole to receive a tenon ,and tenon) assembly

Svavyasakarnamadhyardhadvigunam va tadayatam I Tryarnsaikam madhyarnasikham mesayuddharn prakIrtitam II)

In the Trikhanda assembly, there are three mortises and three tenons arranged as a Swastika, The assembly called Saubhadra comprises four peripheral tenons.

Svastyakararn trikhandarn syat satriciili trikhandakarn I Parsve catuhsikhopetam saubhadramiti sarnjfiitam II

An assembly is called Ardhapani (scarf joint) when half the lower and half the upper pieces are cut to size according to the thickness chosen (for the pillar)

Ardham chitva tu mule Sgre canyonyabhinivesanat I Ardhapaniriti prokto grhitaghanamanatah

When there is a semicircular section tenon at the centre, the assembly is called Mahavrtta, the well advised man employs this for circular section pillars

Ardhavrttasikharn madhye tanmahavrttarnucyate I Vrttakrtisu padesu prayunjita vicaksanah II

The assembling of (the different parts of) a pillar should be done below the middle and any assembling done above will be a source of accident; (however) the assembly which brings together the bell-capital and the abacus gives the certainty of success. When a stone pillar, with its decoration, (is to be assembled) this should be done according to the specific case.

Stambhanam starnbhadairghyardhadadhah sandhanamacaret I Stambhamadhyordhvasandhisced vipadamaspadam sad a II Kumbhamandyadisarnyuktam sandhanam sam pad am padam I Salankare silastarnbhe yathayogam tathacaret II

It should be known that the assembling of the vertical pieces is done according to the disposition of the different parts of the tree; if the bottom is above and the top is below, all chance of success is lost

Sthitasya padapasyangapravrttivasato viduh / Urdhvamulamadhascagram sarvasampadvinasanam II ]

Ramanathaswamy Temple


B.Bricks (Ishtaka)

Bricks have been in use for thousands of years in construction of yupa the sacrificial altars and Chaithyas the early temples of the Vedic ages. Shathapatha Brahmana  as also Shilpa Rathna describes the methods for moulding and burning the bricks. The Sulba sutras and Manasara detail the dimensions of the bricks of various sizes in relation to the sacrificial altars constructed for various purposes. The remnants of the Indus valley civilization too amply demonstrate the extensive use of bricks in construction of buildings and other structures.

During the later ages, the bricks were used in the temple structures mainly for erecting Gopuras the temple towers and Vimanas the domes over the sanctum.

As per the descriptions given in Manasara the bricks were made in various sizes; the size of the bricks varying from 7 inches to 26 or even  to 31 inches in length. The length of the bricks were 1 ¼, 1 ½, 1 ¾ or 2 times the width .The height of the brick was ½ its width or equal to the width. Thus, bricks of different sizes, shapes, and types were made. The composition, shape and baking of a brick depended upon the use to which it was put.

Interestingly, the bricks with straight and linier edges were called male bricks; while those with a broad front side and a narrower back side or those of curved shape were called female bricks. The bricks in concave shape were called neuter bricks. The male bricks could be used in the construction of the prasada, the sanctum. The female bricks were used for the sanctum of female deities. The neuter bricks were generally not used in temple construction; but were used for lining the walls of the well.

According to Shukla Yajurveda Samhita, bricks were made from thoroughly mixed and pulverized earth and other ingredients. The earth was strengthened by mixing goat hair, fine sand, iron flake or filings and powdered stone. Earth was also mixed with ‘raal oil’, etc. and thoroughly beaten and blended in order to increase the strength of the material by enhancing the cohesion of the earth particles. Triphala concoction is said to render the earth, white ants (termite) and microbe proof.

[ Maya-mata and other Shilpa–texts give details about brick-making (Istaka-sangrahanam).  Following are a few excerpts from Pride of India: A Glimpse Into India’s Scientific Heritage

Salty, off-white, black and smooth, red and granulated, these are the four kinds of clay

Usaram pandurarn krsnacikkanarn tarnrapullakarn II Mrdascatasrastasveva grhniyat tamrapullakam I

Clay suitable for making bricks and tiles must be free from gravel, pebbles, roots and bones and must be soft to touch.

Asarkarasmarnulasthilostarn satanuvalukam II Ekavamam sukhasparsamistarn lostestakadisu

Then fill the clods of clay in knee-deep water; then having mixed, pound with the feet forty times repeatedly

Mrt-khandarn purayedagre janudaghne jale tatah u Alodya mardayet padbhyarn catvarirnsat punah punah 

After soaking the clay in the sap of fig, kadamba, mango, abhaya and aksha and also in the water of myrobalan for three months, pound it

Ksiradrumakadarnbamrabhayaksa – tvagjalairapi II Triphalambubhirasiktva mardayenmasamatrakam  

These (bricks) are in four, five, six and eight unit (widths) and twice that in length. Their depth in the middle and in the two ends (is) one fourth or one-third the width. Again these bricks should normally be dried and baked.

Catus-pancas adast abhi rmatrai staddhidvigul)ayatai:lll Vyasardhardhatribhagaikatlvra madhye parespare I Istaka bahusah sosyah samadagdhah punasca tah II

According to the experts, only after one, two, three or four months, again throwing (the baked bricks) in water, and extracting (them) from the water with effort, (will put the brick to use)

Eka –dvi- tri-catur-masarnatitya  -iva vicaksanah I Jale praksipya yatnena jala duddhrtya tat punah II)  ]


Brick lying was done with the aid of molds; and, the bricks were burnt in enclosed kilns. The works like Shilpa Ratna and Vastuvidya explain that the brick moulds were baked for 24 hours in a fire of firewood.

Bricks black in color or half baked or broken or defective otherwise were rejected. The bricks should be well burnt and be of uniform color.

According to Shulba Sutra, bricks measuring 22.8X11.4X5.7 cms were used in construction of walls. The Bodhayana Sulaba sutra specifies the arrangement of bricks, while constructing a wall. The brick should be directed in a dextral and laevo order. The brick ends should not be piled one over the other. The joints of the brick in each third row of brick may fall over the brick of the first row; this is the ‘Malla Lila’ style of fixing the brick, based on the arrangement of the joints of the brick.

The bricks having a smooth surface are not to be set one above the other, but are to be fixed in straight line and the wall should be of an equal thickness all over. The corners of the walls should be on the ratio of 5: 3: 4 and at right angle to each other. According to the Sumrangana Sutradhara, the square of the diagonal of the wall should be equal to the sum total of the square of the width of the wall.

It is said that the altar constructed for major sacrifices, bricks of about 200 types were used, depending upon the size and shape of the altar.


[For the details of the different types of altars and their measurements; the type and the number of bricks needed for each type of altar and their arrangement : please check here for section 5.2.1 and onward  of  the excellent research paper produced by Dr. Sreelatha.]



doors of temple

Wood has limited use in traditional temple structure of medieval times. Its application is mainly for carving doors, erecting Dwajasthamba  the flag posts and for other utilities such as platforms, stands etc. But, in rare cases (as in Sri Jagannath temple at Puri or at Sri Marikamba temple in Sirsi) the principal idol dhruva bhera is made of wood. The most extensive use of the wood is of course in the construction of the Ratha the temple chariot. In rare cases as in Puri a new chariot is created each year.

Shatapatha Brahmana a Vedic text of about 1500 BC or earlier makes repeated references to wood and its applications. During its time the temples and the images were mostly made of wood (kasta shilpa). The text mentions a certain Takshaka as a highly skilled artist who carved wood. It names a number of trees the wood from which was used for various purposes. For instance Shaala (teak) and Kadira a type of hard wood was used for carving images, pillars, gnomon (sanku) and other durables. Certain other trees are also mentioned as being suitable for pillaras, posts etc: Khadi, Shaal, Stambak, Shinshipa, Aajkarni, Kshirani, Dhanvan, Pishit, Dhanwalan, Pindi, Simpa, Rahjadan, and Tinduka.

Trees such as Nibaka (Neem), Panasa (jackfruit), Asana, Sirish, Kaal, Timish, Likuch, Panas, Saptaparni, wood are said to be best for roofing work.

Coconut, Kramuk, Bamboo, Kitki, Oudumbara (silk cotton etc. wood is suited for hut constructions, ribs and rafters etc.

However use of certain trees considered holy or godlike was not recommended in temple construction. The trees such as Ashwattha (Peepal), Vata, Nagrodha (banyan), Chandana (sandalwood), Kadamba, Badari, Shami, Bilva, Parijatha, kinsuka, and Bakula, were   some such sacred and godlike trees.

Chandana, Kadira, Saptaparni, Satwak, etc. were used for engraving and carving artwork.


The southern text Shilpa Rathnam states that the wood from the following is not suited for temple construction.;

Trees from a place of public resort, trees from a village or from the precincts of a temple, trees that have been burnt, trees in which are birds’ nests, trees growing on anthills, trees in which are honeycombs, trees fruiting out of season, trees supporting creepers, trees in which maggots dwell, trees growing close to tanks or wells, trees planted in the earth but reared by constant watering, trees broken by elephants, trees blown down by the wind, trees in burning-grounds, in forsaken places, or in places which had been paraclieris, withered trees, trees in which snakes live, trees in places where there are hobgoblins, devils, or corpses, trees that have fallen down of themselves, – these are all bad trees and to be avoided.


The lifetime of a tree was regarded as 103 years. The trees under the age of 16 were Baala – child trees; and those above 50 years of age were Vriddha– trees in their old age. The trees between the age of 16 and 50 years were regarded most suitable for construction of temple and homes.

Tall trees of uniform girth without knot and holes, in their youth, grown on dense hilly regions   are most suited for construction of pillars. The trees that are white under the bark are in the best category; followed by those having red, yellow and dark interiors; in that order. The juicy or milky trees are preferable.


The trees that are round from the root to its apex, give a gentle fragrance, are deep rooted, are solid and temperate may be taken as masculine trees, yielding male wood.

The feminine trees have slender roots and are thick at apical part, but a much thicker middle part with no fragrance or odor in the wood.

The wood should be straight and without any knot, crevice or cavity. The structure built by joining such male and female wood last for centuries

Neuter Trees

Slender and long in the middle of the trunk and having a thick head, is a genderless tree. While the male trees serve for pillars; female trees for wall-plates, beams, and capitals; the hermaphrodite trees serve for cross-joists, joists, and rafters.

Agastya Samhita has described the wood that is to be used in a chariot, boat or an aircraft. A youthful and healthy tree should be cut and its bark removed, thereafter, it should be cut in squares after which are to be transported to the workshop where these pieces should be stored upon spread out sand in an orderly manner for 3 to 8 months for seasoning. The root and apex sides must be marked because in pillars the root side is to be kept down and apex part up.

As far as possible, only one type of wood may be used for one particular construction. The use of more than tree types of wood in a construction is not recommended.

It is said the ISI standard A-883-1957 regarding a wooden items is based on the specification s mentioned in the ancient Indian Texts

Precautions in the selection of the building materials:

No used building material should be used.

Stolen and renovated material should never be purchased.

Materials confiscated by the King should not be used.

The wood culled from the trees cut down in a cremation ground; temple, ashram or shrine should not be utilized.


IV.Ayaadi Shadvarga

Ayadi _shadvarga is a matrix of architecture and astrological calculations.  According to Samarangana Sutradhara Ayaadi-shadvarga is a set of six criteria: Aaya, Vyaya, Amsha, Nakshatra, Yoni and Vara-tithi, which are applied to certain dimensions of the building and its astrological associations. The purpose of the exercise is to ascertain the longevity of the house as also the suitability to its owner. These norms are applied to temples too.

The term Aaya could be taken to mean increase or plus or profit; Vyaya – decrease or minus or  loss; Nakshatra,- star of the day; Yoni – source or the orientation of the building; Vara- day of the week; and Tithi – the day in lunar calendar for construction of building and performing invocation of Vastu Purusha..

The area of the structure is divided by certain factors assigned to each element of the Aayadi Shadvarga; and the suitability or longevity of the building is ascertained from the reminder so obtained.

For instance, if the plinth area of the house is divided by 8; and the remainder is either 1 or3 or 5, then these are called Garuda garbhaSimha garbha and Rishabha garbha, which are auspicious. Hence the plinth area of the building should be manipulated or altered to arrive at an   auspicious reminder.

The rule is also applied to ascertain the longevity of the building. According to this method the total area should be divided by 100 and if the reminder is more than 45, it is good and if it is more than 60 it is very good. For instance, if the length of the house 11 meters, and the width 5 meters, then its area is 11 X 5 = 55 sq.mts. Multiply the area by 27 (Nakshatra factor) , 55 X 27 = 1485. Divide the product 1485 by 100. The remainder is 85,-which indicates the projected longevity of the house. Since the reminder is more than 60, .it is a very healthy result.

There is another method for arriving at the Aayadi value. The result is categorized in to eight types of Aayas. According to this method, the area (length X breadth) is multiplied by 9; and divided by 8. The reminders 1 to 8 are interpreted as good or bad, as indicated in the following table.








Good. Brings wealth



Not good. ill heath of the head of the family and spouse.



 Very Good. Victory over enemies; health ,wealth and prosperity.



Bad. Ill health and bad omens.



Good. wealth and fortune.



Very bad. Head of family will turn a vagabond; premature death in family.



Good. Life of head of family and members brightens; improvent in heath and wealth.



Very bad. Sorrow to family; and no peace.

[For more on Ayadi calculations; pleaase check

Ayadi calculations]

Manasara says

When there is more merit than demerit, there is no defect in it; but if the demerit is more than the merit, it would be all defective.”



Vastu Darsha  by Dr. G Gnanananda.

Orienting From the Centre  by Michael S. Schneider…/summer/orienting/index.html

Cosmogony and the Elements… by John McKim Malville

Vastu Interiors


Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Temple Architecture


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Temple Architecture-Devalaya Vastu – Part Three ( 3 Of 9)

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.

geometry of the temple

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 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.

For instance:

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 symbolises the body of god on the macrocosmic 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.


Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Temple Architecture


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