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Music of India – a brief outline – Part Eleven

Continued from Part Ten – Anibaddha, Nibaddha and Prabandha

Part Eleven (of 22) – Prabandha

As said earlier, the major types of Prabandha were counted as four: Shuddha Suda, Salaga Suda, Alikrama and Viprakirna.


1.1. The two major types of Prabandha – Shudda and Salaga – are usually mentioned with the suffix Suda. However, it appears the term Suda was not in use during the early stages, say in the 5th century. For instance; Matanga in his Brhaddeshi does not employ the term Suda. He merely lists out the phrases: Ela, Karana, Dhenki Vartani, Jhombada, lambaka, Rasaka and Ekatali

But, the term Suda has been in active use since 11-12th century in the works of Somesvara (Ca, 1130), Haripaladeva (Ca.1175), Prasvadeva (Ca.1200) and other writers who preceded Sarangadeva (13th century).

And, Sarangadeva  was the first to present the class of Suda systematically, lending it a theoretical base.  (However, he did not seem to have defined the term Suda). For about 300 years thereafter, the terms and descriptions provided by Sarangadeva were adopted by all the later authors.

2.1. Later in the 15th century, Kallinatha (Ca.1440) in his Sangita kalanidhi explains the term Suda as a Desi shabda (regional or vernacular term) that signifies a particular group of songs (Gita-vishesha-samuha-vachi) –

Suda iti Gita-vishesha-samuha-vachi Desi sabdah.

Venkatamakhin (Ca.1650) also describes Suda in almost similar terms, calling it Deshiya Sabda (vernacular term) which stands for a type of songs –

Suda ityesha desiya-shabdo gitaka vachakah.

There is another explanation where Sudu is said to be a Kannada term meaning ‘ a small bundle of grass’ ; and it signifies knotting together (  ekatra-gumpham ) of different Taalas .

2.2. Mahamhopadyaya Dr. R .Satyanarayana surmises that since both Kallinatha and Vekatamakhin hailed from Kannada country, Suda may have been an Old -Kannada term derived from the root Sul (meaning sound in old Kannada). And, Suda denoted a group of certain type of songs.

The elements of   Prabandha – Anga and Dhatu


prabandha (1)


General features

3.1. Prabandha in the early texts has been explained or identified with reference to its general physical features.

Parshvadeva  (10-11th century) defines Prabandha as the Giti-s (songs) that are made of four Six Angas or Avayava (limbs or organs) and four Dhatus (substance or elements) –

chaturbhir- dhatubhih shadbhishcha-angairyah syat prarbandhate tasmat prabandhah”.

3.2. Somesvara (Ca. 1126–1138 CE) in his Manasollasa confirms and expands further. And, Sarangadeva (Ca.1230) in the fourth Canto of Sangita-ratnakara sums up the formal features of Prabandha as: Six Angas (Svara, Birudu, Pada, Tena, Paata, and Taala) which like the limbs of a body are the integral parts of a configuration called Prabandha; and four Dhatus (Udgraha, Melapaka, Dhruva and Abhoga) which are like substances or elements that regulate the proper working of the body.

3.3. Among the Angas: Svara signifies the notes (sol-fa passages); Birudu stands for  words of praise, extolling the subject of the song and also including the name of the singer or the patron;  Pada the meaningful  words; Tena or Tenaka are vocal syllables , meaningless and musical in sound with many repetitions of   the syllables like Te and Tna conveying a sense of  auspiciousness (mangala-artha-prakashaka); Pata vocalized drum syllables  or beats of the percussion and other musical instruments; and,  Taala is musical meter or the cyclic time units.


4.1. The Angas and Dhatus were explained with reference to organs and elements of the human body

Of the  six Angas, it was said :  Tena and Pada, reflecting auspiciousness and meaning respectively are its two eyes; Pata and Birudu are the two hands because they are produced by the hands, the cause being figuratively taken for effect; Taala and Svara are the  be two feet as they cause the movement of the Prabandha.

As regards the Dhatus – Udgraha, Melapaka, Dhruva and Abhoga – were said to be  like the Dhatus ( energies or Doshas) of Vata (wind), Pittha (bile) and Kapha (phlegm) that support (Dharana) and sustain (Bharana)  body functions and the physical constitution; and, Prakriti   which is the basic nature of body.

Thus Prabandha, like a well functioning human body, with its textual, melodic and rhythmic components was conceived as  a well structured musical composition.

5.1. The Prabandha was also classified (Prabandha-Jaati) depending on the number and type of Anga-s that went into its structure. For instance; the Medini Jaati Prabandha has all the six Angas. The Anandini Jaati has only five Angas (in which pada and Taala along with any three other Angas are present).  Similarly, the Dipani Jaati four Angas (in which pada and Taala along with any two other Angas are present); the Bhavani Jaati  three Angas (in which pada and Taala along with any one other Anga are present;  and the Taravali Jaati has only two Angas ( in which pada and Taala are present) . No Prabandha could be conceived with only one Anga.

Similarly, Prabandha was also classified according to the number of Dhatu-s : Dvi-dhatu (Udgraha and Dhruva); Tri-dhatu (Udgraha, Dhruva and Abogha);  and Chatur-dhatu (Udgraha , Melapaka, Dhruva and Abogha).


6.1. The term Dhatu has many meanings such as substance (dravya), thing (Vastu) , element , layer, constituent part, ingredient, element etc. In the present context, Dhatu could be taken to mean an element or a  section or sections of a Prabandha composition.

6.2. Somesvara in his Manasollasa explains the four Dhatu-s:

: – Udgraha is the commencing section of the song. Here the song is first grasped (udgrahyate), hence the name Udgraha.

Udgraha is said to consist a pair of rhymed lines, followed by an ornamental passage; and, then by a passage of text describing the subject of the song. Thus there should be pair of lines in the Udgraha and also in the third section.

: – Melapaka is the bridge, the uniting link between the two Udgraha and Dhruva.

The Melapaka should be rendered adorned with ornamentation (Alamkara).

: – Dhruva is the main body of the song and that which is repeated. Dhruva is so called because it is rendered again and again(refrain); and, because it is obligatory or constant (dhruvatvat).  [It is also said ’the Dhruva is in the Udgraha itself – Udgraha eva yatra syad Dhruvah]

: – and, Abhoga is the conclusion of the song. Abhoga gets its name because it completes (Abhoga) the Dhruva. It should mention the name of the singer.

Once the Abhoga has been sung, Dhruva should be repeated.


6.3. Among the four Dhatus, the two – Udgraha and Dhruva – are essential and indispensable. And the other two, Melapaka and Abhoga may or may not be included.

6.5. In addition, there is an optional fifth Dhatu called Antara (or Antara-marga, the intermediate note) which connects Dhruva and Abhoga. (Antara was used exclusively in Salaga Suda).

[Antara-marga is described as an intermediate note which occurs somewhere in the midst of Jaatis. It is not a dominant note; and, it is employed rarely (alpatva) in the middle (madhye-madhye alpatva yujam). And when it is used it is not repeated much (anabhyasa). It brings in variety (vichitratva-kariny). And, as a rule it occurs in the modified (Vikrta) Jaati (krta sa antara-margah syat prayo vikrta Jaatishu).]

Rendering of a Prabandha

7.1. The scholars surmise that a typical Prabandha might have been rendered in the following sequence.

The opening Udgraha will begin with a couplet set to mater (Chhandas), in meaningful words (Pada) setting out the main theme of the song and continuing with elaboration of the melodic syllables (Svaras). Then, in the interlude which functions as the bridge (Melapaka), one may or may not have passages of Tena. Then comes the main section Dhruva set in meaningful words (pada) and meter (Chhandas) with appropriate Taala cycles. Here, the rhythmic element of the song gets more intense. Then, one could have an optional section (Antara) perhaps with rapidly recited Pata syllables – before coming to the concluding section. For the concluding section (Abogha), the Anga Birudu is required as the signature (Mudra) of the composer or singer or as a dedication to the patron. The performance could conclude with repletion (refrain) of main lines from Dhruva.

[Udgraha and Dhruva are taken to be the equivalents of the present-day Pallavi; Dhruva is also be the body of the Kriti. Melapaka is the bridge just as  of Anu-pallavi; and Abhoga as that of the concluding charana (stanza) with the Mudra (signature) of the composer.]

[The Dhrupad (Dhruva-pada) evolved from Salaga Suda Prabandha, which had five Dhatus namely Udgraha, Melapaka, Dhruva, Antara and Abhoga. Of these, the Abhoga, being very long was split into two sub parts the Sanchari and the Abhoga. The Dhruva was also dropped. The Dhatus of the Dhruva-pada-prabandha thus became Udgraha, Melapaka, Antara, Sanchari and Abhoga. Later Udgraha and Melapaka were combined into one division called the Sthayi.  Thus the modern Dhrupad has four divisions: Sthayi, Antara, and Sanchari Abhoga.]

Shuddha Suda

8.1. As mentioned, the ancient Prabandhas were arranged in four classes: (1) Shuddha Suda – the pure or the classic type; (2) Alikrama, the intermediate type to be inserted in Shuddha Suda ; ( 3) Salaga Suda the pseudo-classical  songs of mixed nature intended for art-music,  theatre and dance; (4) Viprakirna, separate or different type of songs.

8.2. Of these, the songs of the Shuddha Suda, governed by strict rules, were regarded as the classical musical suit of the middle ages. They had to conform to the prescribed Raga, Chhandas and Taala in addition to the other criteria as specified- (Ragadi –anyatyad asya shuddhatvam ishyate).

8.3. The Shuddha Suda was divided into eight types: Ela, Karana, Dhenki, Vartani, Jhombada, lambaka, Rasaka and Ekatali. While rendering, it had to consist between four and eight songs from among these eight types.  They were sung in Jaatis and Grama Ragas and their derived archaic Ragas.

9.1. It appears the Shuddha Suda songs were mainly prayers and songs that eulogise various virtues.


For instance; in the Ela the first song of the Shuddha Suda  , which have Chhandas, Alamkara and Rasa etc , praise the virtues of detachment (hana or vairagya), generosity (audarya), benevolence (saubhagya), heroism (shaurya) and courage (dhairya). The Ela songs were said to be blissful to the performer and to the person who figured as the main character in the song. It was said that by singing the Ela with devotion (bhakthi) and sincerity (shraddha) one would be blessed with the grace of the goddess Sarasvathi .And Varahi would increase the passion, Durga the ferocity and Indrani the regal valour.  It appears that Ela was not sung separately but as a part of suit of cycles (Suda) . It is said; Ela in praise of Goddesses Sarasvathi and others were sung in Raga Takka, Sriraga, Vasantha, Hindola, Malavakaisika and Kakubha. But, sadly no example of a suit having at least four songs ahs come down to us.


And, Jhombada compositions were rich in figures of speech (Alamkara). Several types of Jhombada which had ornate similes in which the dispositions and emotions the main character were described in terms of the idioms of experiences of the legendry (Puranic) figures. For instance ; the pains and pangs of separation in love were described through the suffering of Rama and Sita (Rama-jhombada); the joy of the lovers in their meeting as the love of Krishna and Malathi (Madhava jhombada); love in sublime union as of Vishnu and Lakshmi (Purushottama jhombada); , anger and fury of the king destroying enemies as that of the Rudra (Rudra jhombada) ; and,  the victorious  King returning from the battle glowing with  pride as the  glory of Shanmukha the Commander of the Divine forces (Shanmukha jhombada)  and so on

Some jhombada songs were meant for special occasions, such as : Nandi jhombada to please gods at the beginning of a theatrical performance to please gods; Sapeksha jhombada : to seek special favours from  the King  etc


The Rasaka songs under Shuddha Suda were similar in structure to Jhombada song. They also had the first section (Udgraha), bridge phase (Melapaka), refrain (Dhruva), conclusion (Abogha) , and again  refrain– punar-punar-upadana –   (Dhruva) or Udgraha; and in addition it would also have  an improvised introduction Aalap.

Srimad Bhagavatha (Canto 5, Chapter 31) provides rare examples of the Rasaka songs (of both the Shuddha Suda and Salaga Suda cycles) . They celebrate the celestial dance and songs of Krishna and the Gopis.


Karana songs had three Dhatu-s: Udgraha, Dhruva and Abogha (But not the Melapaka) . Dhruva was made of Pata (vocalized sounds or beats of the percussion) ; and auspicious (mangala)  sounding words  or  sounds like tenna-tena-tom . Karana was said to be of nine kinds.


Dhenki songs were set to combination of different Taala-s. In contrast, the stanzas Vartani songs were different Ragas.


The Ekatali songs of the Shuddha Suda consisted of Udgraha , Dhruva ,Abogha and Dhruva again. The first section of the Udgraha could have the structure of an Aalapa.

Salaga Suda

10.1. Salaga is the Apabhramsa (or the localized name) for Chayalaga (suggesting that it is a shadow of the Shuddha variety).  Salaga Suda was Niyukta Prabandha and belonged to Taravali Jaati because it had only two Angas– Pada and Taala. It also had only three Dhatus:  Udgraha, Dhruva and Abhoga (but not Melapaka). Hence, the Salaga Suda came to be known as Tri-dhatuka Prabandha; and, was considered pseudo-classical. And, the Salaga was set to Desi Ragas (Desi-ragadi-samabandat Salagatvam api smrtam). Yet, the Salaga Suda ranks high among the ancient type of refined songs.  Venkatamakhin, in his work, takes up only the Salaga Suda for the discussion on the Prabandha-s.

10.2. The seven types of Salaga Suda songs that Sarangadeva mentions in his Sangita –ratnakara are: Dhruva, Mantha, Prati-mantha, Nihsaru, Addatala, Rasaka and Ekatali. A similar classification is mentioned in Sangita-siromani and in Kumbha’s Sangita-raja.

Here, excepting Dhruva, all the other song-types are named after their Taala.

The Rasaka and Ekatali songs of the traditional Shuddha Suda re-appear in the Salaga Suda. Their Taala is still the same. but the musical setting of the main section  has changed.

In the Rasaka of Salaga Suda, the Udgraha (initial) section itself could be rendered as Aalapa or the Aalapa phrases could be used at the beginning , in the middle or  at the end of the Dhruva section.

In the Ekatali of the Salaga Suda, the Antara , which in the other songs of this class functioned as an optional section following the Dhruva, became obligatory and was sometimes performed with Aalapa phrases.

[  It is interesting to see how the Taala of the medieval mixed suit Salaga Suda found their way into the South Indian Music. In his treatise Sangita-sudhakara (Ca.1179) the Gurjara King Haripala describes seventy-six Prabandha songs. Among these songs one may recognize some compositions of the Salaga Suda class: Dhruva, Mantha, Jhampa, Addatala and Ekatala, but also other songs such as Rupaka and Tivida (= Triputa). The names of the seven songs called after their Taala correspond to the names of the seven Taalas of the modern Karnataka system.

In the songs of the medival Salaga Suda each Taala variety is associated with a particular Rasa.]


11.1. Of these seven varieties of the Salaga Suda compositions, the Dhruva type was  the prominent one.  And, the Dhruva was different from the others in its construction. The others also had similar structures but they lacked the invisible-auspicious benefits (adrustaphala).

11.2. Dhruva, in the context of Natyashastra, initially meant stage-songs, which formed an important ingredient of the play. Natyashastra mentions different types of Dhruva-s and their uses in different dramatic sequences. It is said; these were called Dhruva-s because their words, Varnas, Alamkaras and Jaatis were are all regularly (Dhruvam) connected with one another. . Dhruva is also explained as Nityatva and Nischalatva having a character of stability. Natyashastra describes five kinds of Dhruva-s : Praveshika, Nishkamanika, Prasidita , Akshepita , and Antara. They were, of course, employed depending upon the context in dramatic situations.

But, in Prabandha, the Dhruva Prabandha refers to a rigid and tightly knit structure consisting three sections or Dhatus (Udgraha, Dhruva and Abogha) and an additional section Antara, if needed.

Sangitaratnakara lists sixteen types of Dhruva Prabandhas:  1.Jayanta; 2.Shekhara; 3.Utsaha; 4.Madhura; 5.Nirmala; 6.Kuntala; 8.Chara; 9.Nandana; 10.Chandrashekhara; 11.Kamoda; 12.Vijaya; 13.Kandarpa; 14.Jayamangala; 15.Tilaka; and, 16.Lalita. The objectives of these songs were ,generally, the  attainment of auspicious (mangala–prada) things in life, such as : longevity, worthy progeny, progress in life, growth in luster, enhancement of intellect, enjoyment, victory, and securing ones desires etc.

Kallinatha in his commentary suggests a correction to the general rule. He tries to view the virtue of a composition in terms of its ‘meaning-content’- Akshara-artha and Pada-artha. He remarks that a composition which is ‘irregular’ (aniyama) in regard to the number of its syllables (akshara-sankhya) could still be considered as Dhruva Prabandha, if the Pada aspect is according to the rules. And, even otherwise, when the composition is irregular in regard to the number of words in the text (Pada-sankhya) , it can also be considered as Dhruva Prabandha if it is endowed with other virtues (guna) such as Rasa, Taala ,etc.  That perhaps was to suggest that the evaluation or classification of a composition did not entirely depend on the presence/absence of  certain structural components.

11.3. Dr. R. Satyanarayana explains that while rendering a Dhruva Prabandha a particular order was followed: First Udgraha containing only one section (only one Dhatu), then a pause. Thereafter, the melodic element Dhruva is sung twice (refrain). If there is no Antara, Dhruva is followed by the Abhoga, sung once. This is followed by the Dhruva on which the song rests.

If there is an Antara, it is sung in any order at the pleasure of the singer; but, it should be followed by Dhruva, Abogha and Dhruva each rendered once in the same order.

[In the Ekatali song of the Salaga Suda, the Antara (which in other cases was an optional section) became obligatory and was sometimes performed with Aalapa phrase.

In the Rasaka of the Salaga Suda, the Udgraha section itself could be performed as Aalapa or the Aalapa phrases could be used at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the Dhruva section.]

12..1. Dr. R. Satyanarayana explains that till about the 12th century, a Salaga Prabandha was often named after its Taala, since the Taala provided the rhythmic description of the song. In this manner, he says, we have Varnas which signify the names of a Nrtta, Vrtta, Taala and Prabandha.

Dhruva Prabandha, he explains, was unique in the use of Taala-s in that it employed nine separate Taalas, while they were sung as a series of separate songs. Thereafter, there came into vogue a practice of treating each song as a stanza (or charana as it is now called) of one lengthy song. And, it was sung as one Prabandha called Suladi. Thus, the Suladi was a Taala-malika, the garland of Taalas or a multi-taala structure.

There was also a practice of singing each stanza of a (Suladi) Prabandha in a different Raga. Thus, a Prabandha was a Taala-malika as also a Raga-malika.

12.2. Matanga mentions about Chaturanga Prabandha sung in four charanas (stanzas) each set to a different Raga, Taala and language (basha). Similarly, Sharabha-lila had eight stanzas each sung in a separate Raga and Taala.

12.3. Sarangadeva mentions several types of Prabandhas which were at once Raga- malikas and Taala-malikas: Sriranga, Srivilasa, Pancha-bhangi, Panchanana, Umatilaka, and Raga-kadamba.

12.4. The Raga malika, Taala malika and Raga-Taala- malika concept was adopted and improved upon by the Haridasa (Sripadaraya, Vyasaraya, Vadiraja, Purandaradasa and others) to produce series of Suladi songs.


13.1. It is said; the term Ali denotes a line or a row; Krama indicates the ordered sequence. It appears, the Ali when rendered along with or inserted into the Shudda was called Alikrama. The Alikrama Prabandha is, thus, a series of systematically arranged Prabandhas, perhaps ordered according to syllables (Varna) or Matraka (Akshara). It was believed such singing was equivalent to chanting the Mantras. The origin of such practice must have served a ritual as well as an artistic purpose. Manasollasa provides instances of the arranged Ali Prabandhas.

13.2. The Ali Prabandhas were twenty-four in number (Varna, Varnasvara, Gadya, Kaivada, Angacharini, Danda, Turangalila, Gajalila, Dvipadi etc. and when the Ali Prabandhas were combined with Suda they were said to be thirty-two. Several Ali Prabandhas were fused together to form a single Prabandha (in contrast to Viprakirna which were scattered and rendered individually).

13.4. Many songs of the Ali Krama were named after their Chhandas. In the Ali Krama songs some well known types of Chhandas from classical Sanskrit poetry, such as Arya, Totaka and Dvipatha as well as their Prakrit equivalents (Gatha, Dodhaka etc) were employed.

14.1. Some instances of Ali Prabandha are mentioned.

: – Krauncha-pada was a type that opened with Svaras (sol-fa syllables) in its Udgraha section followed by words in the Dhruva section. The Abhoga section carried words conveying the Prabandha name and the two signatures (Mudra).

: – The Svara-artha Prabandha of Alikrama had the seven Svaras arranged in such a manner that it would form a meaningful sentence in which the Prakrita words were also, often, used.

:- The Dhvani-kuttanl was a type of Ali Prabandha, in which two different Taalas were used in its two sections (Dhatu) , as a result the Laya also varied in its tempo. The sections were separated by a brief pause.

: – The Pancha-Tala -Svara Prabandha s of Alikrama class used to commence with an Aalapa. Five Padas out of all the Padas were repeated twice. The instruments such as Mujara-vadya ( a type of percussion) were used along with Pata (vocalized drum beats) . After each Khanda (section) of singing a different instrument was used.

: – The Raga-kadamba  Prabandha of the Alikrama class employed different types of Taalas with different Chhandas ( meter) while presenting a series (garland ) of Ragas.



15.1. Viprakirna conveys the sense of being scattered, disbursed, dishevelled or extended. The Viprakirna or the mixed class of Prabandhas were separate pieces of songs set in simple Chhandas and in simple words. Many Viprakirna songs were in the regional languages.

In the Viprakirna Manthaka songs, particular variety of Mantha Taala was used in combination with other musical metres or other varieties of the same Taala in each of the sections. The names of the songs indicate their subject: Lakshni-kirti, Hara-smaraka, Gauri-priya, Madana-vallabha .etc. There were also other   popular types of songs praying: for fortune (Sriprada, Srikara, and Sampathkara); for begetting sons (Putra-prada), for begetting daughters (Tanaya-prada), for mental peace (Mati-vilasa), for good for destruction of enemies (Shatru-mardana).

Several of the of the above mentioned auspicious Manthaka songs were performed in special Ragas. For instance ; Lakshmi-kirti in Raga Mallara; Hara-smaraka  and Gauri-priya  in Raga Kedara; Putra-prada in Panchama; Satpitaputra in Gurjari; Srikara in Sri Raga ; Tanaya-prada in Vasantha or Lalitha ; Rati-lila in Saurastra Raga and Shatru-mardana in Varali raga.

In due course, the Viprakirna replaced ancient complex songs of Shuddha Suda and Alikrama suits.

15.2. It is said; the North Indian poetical pieces such as Doha (Dohada) couplets and Caupai (Chatus-padi) the four lined songs were derived from the Viprakirna Prabandha. Similarly, in the South the devotional poetry of Kannada adopted meters of Tripadi and Shatpadi. In a like manner, each linguistic region of India developed its own types and forms of poetry, especially in devotional music.

16.1. The Viprakirna Prabandhas were said to be of thirty-six types, such as shrirariga, tripadi, chatushpadi, shatpadi, vastu, vijaya, Tripatha, Rahadi, Virasri, Srivilasa   etc.

Some instances of the Viprakirna Prabandha are mentioned.

: – Rahadi songs of the Viprakirna class were composed describing battle sequences in Vira Rasa.

:-In the Virasri of Viprakirna one stanza was composed in the spoken language (Basha pada) and the next was made of Birudu , the epithets or expressions of admiration.

: – Srivilasa songs of the Viprakirna employed five Ragas and five Taalas; while the Saranga songs were set in four Ragas and four Taalas.

:- Tripatliaka had three Dhatus (sections) composed of syllables of Vadya (Pata), words of praise (Birudu) and Svaras, in a serial order (karma).

: – Chaturanga was composed of four Dhatus (sections) each section was in different language, different Chhandas,  different Raga, different Taala .

:- Caccari songs were sung during the spring festival (Vasanthotsava) composed rhyming couplets in regional languages (Prakrit), set to Hindola Raga and Caccari –Taala or Krida-Taala. The rhythm was  of importance in these songs that were sung  with group dances.


Gita Govinda

TOP_EventCategory_Gita Govinda topband121214105922 (1)

17.1. While on the subject of Prabandha, I cannot resist talking about the most enchanting Gita-Govinda of Sri Jayadeva Goswami (about 1150 A.D) who was a court poet of the King Lakshmana  of the Bengal region ( 12th century ) . It is the most celebrated and the best loved among the Prabandha class.

It is a semi-dramatic  composition of twelve episodes (Adhyayas ) consisting monologues in sixty slokas and twenty-four songs of eight lines (Astapadi).   

17.2. Though it is recognized today as the sublime Shringara-mahakavya that lovingly describes the emotive sports of Sri Radha the Mahabhava highly idealized personification  Love and Beauty; and  Krishna the eternal lover (Sri Radha-Krishna lila) , it is basically a Prabandha composed of Anga, Dhatu, Sahitya, Raga, Taala, Murchana, Rasa and Bhava.

Sri Jayadeva at the commencement of his Khandakavya states that he is composing a Prabandha Kavya (Etam karoti Jayadeva kavih prabandham). The Ashtapadi (eight footed) is a Dvi-dhatu Prabandha, i.e. consisting two sections (Dhatu):  Udgraha and Dhruva.

The Gita Govinda abounds in a large number of song-sequences; and, each is titled as Prabandha viz. Prabandha-I, Prabandha-II etc. Yet; it is nearer to the Prabandha songs than to a Kavya (classic poetry).

Gita Govinda is the most enchanting collection of twelve chapters (Sarga). And, each Sarga commences with soulful a Sloka followed by one or two songs arranged in couplets. These songs are known as Giti, Prabhanda or Ashtapadi, since twenty-four of such  (but not all) employ eight couplets. Sri Jayadeva himself calls them as sweet and delicate Padavali-s (Madhura komala padavalim).

17.3. Gita Govinda in simple, delightfully lucid Sanskrit is one of the finest Khandakavya-s that is classified as a Prabandha.  At the same time, it is permeated with intensely devotional and delicate Madhura Bhakthi. The Gita Govinda was one of the inspirations of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprbhu who was steeped in Krishna-bhakthi; and, it  is the primary text of the Gaudiya Vaishnava School of Bengal.

The Gita Govinda one of the principle texts of the Bhakthi movement has also been a unique phenomenon in Indian music. This evergreen lyric sequence is set to music and rhythm by the poet himself. And, musically, each of the twenty-four songs or Prabandhas in Gita Govinda is set to a Desi Raga and a Taala. His Ragas were : Malava, Gurjari, Vasantha, Ramakari, Malavagowda, Karnata, Desakya, Desivaradi, Gowdakari, Bhairavi and Vibhasa. And his Taalas were: Yathi, Rupaka, Eka, Nissara and Ashta.

Sadly, we, now, do not know how the Raga mentioned therein actually sounded or what their scales were. Therefore, their correct interpretation and rendering are lost to us.   The Astapadis in the modern days are rendered in Karnataka and Hindustani Ragas currently in use  . 

There are many legends associated with Gita Govinda. For instance; in the nineteenth Ashtapadi, Krishna requests Sri Radha: The poison of love has gone to my head, Place your tender rose-colored feet on it to let the poison recede (Smara garala khandanam, Mama sirasi mandanam, Dehi pada pallava mudaaram).

After he wrote these lines, Sri Jayadeva wondered whether it was appropriate for Sri Radha to place her foot on the head of the Lord. Then, he promptly scored out those lines. And, next morning to his wonder and amazement those very lines appeared again in his script. Sri Jayadeva took that as the Lord’s blessing and approval of his Prabandha.

Jayadeva Goswami

17.4. The immense popularity of Gita Govinda is phenomenal . Each region and each language of India embraced with love and devotion; adopted it as its own; sang in its own chosen Raga; and, interpreted it in its own dance form.

Several poets , inspired by the Gita Govinda, have created lyrical poems in Sanskrit and in the regional languages, elaborating on parallel themes.

The most noted of such delicately beautiful poems (Madhura komala padavalim) are; Sri Krishna Lila Tarangini of Narayana Thirtha (Ca.16th century); Mahakavi Vidyapati Thakur’s (15th century) love-poems in Sanskrit and in Maithili; and, hundreds of Padavali-s in regional dialects by Vaishnava saint-poets.



Prabandha in Historical perspective

18.1. The Prabandha served as an extremely versatile, resourceful and ever changing musical format allowing scope for many of regional variations.  Prabandha as a class of Music had a very long and useful life spread over centuries. It was the dominant form of Music, Dance and other poetical works for more than a thousand years ending by 1700 AD or a little later.

The term Prabandha almost went out of use after the 17th century. And, in its later stages, Prabandha came to be understood as the final component of a four-fold system (Chatur-dandi) devised by Venkatamakhin: Raga; Thaya; Gita; and Prabandha.

[Strangely, it appears that while the Chatur-dandi was being written, Prabandha as a class of Music was almost on its way out.]

18.2. Although, Prabandha, as a genre, has disappeared, its influence has been long-lasting, pervading most parts, elements and idioms of Indian Music – both of the North and of the South. The structures, internal divisions, the elements of Meter (Chhandas), Raga, Taala and Rasa , as also the musical terms that are prevalent in the Music of today are all derived from Prabandha and its traditions. Many well-known musical forms have emerged from Prabandha.  Thus, Prabandha is, truly, the ancestor of the entire gamut of varieties of patterns of sacred-songs, art-songs, Dance-songs and other musical forms created since 17-18th century till this day.

18.3. For instance; the Dhrupad (Dhruva-pada) of the Hindustani Sangita Paddathi, which insists on maintaining purity of the Ragas and the Svaras, evolved from Salaga Suda Prabandha, which had five Dhatus namely Udgraha, Melapaka, Dhruva, Antara (optional) and Abhoga. Of these, the Abhoga, being very long was split into two sub parts the Sanchari and the Abhoga. The Dhruva was also dropped. The Dhatus of the Dhruva-pada-prabandha thus became Udgraha, Melapaka, Antara, Sanchari and Abhoga. Later Udgraha and Melapaka were combined into one division called the Sthayi. Thus the modern Dhrupad , rooted in Prabandha, has four divisions: Sthayi, Antara, and Sanchari Abhoga.

Dhrupad retained the essential nature of the Prabandha tradition of deep introspection in elaboration of the Raga and in expanding the rhythmic patterns.  Accordingly, the Dhrupad has continued to maintain the distinctions of Anibaddha (un-structured) and Nibaddha (structured) Gana through its Aalap and Bandish sections.

In the Prabandha, Tena or Tenaka , one of its  Six Angas, described as vocal syllables, meaningless and musical in sound with many repetitions of   the syllables or sounds like tenna-tena-tom, conveying a sense of auspiciousness(mangala-artha-prakashaka), was sung after rendering Ragalapti; but, before the main section of the Prabandha i.e. the Dhruva which was set in meaningful words (pada) and meter (Chhandas) with appropriate Taala cycles.

A similar practice was adopted in Dhrupad.  The Tena of Prabandha became the Nom tom of Dhrupad. It was elaborated after rendering the Alap but before taking up the Bandish.  The latter part of Alap slides into the more rhythmic nom-tom section, where the Raga develops with a steady pulse employing meaningless syllables such as nom tom dir tana etc, but without the binding of the Taala.

The counterpart of Nom tom in the instrumental music is the Jor –Jhala of Sitar.

Now, the term Bandish meaning the structure of the song is the re-formed name for Bandha of the Prabandha Music.  And, similarly, Vastu of Sangita-ratnakara took on the Persian name Chiz to denote either a text, or a text and its melodic setting.

The latter part of Bandish is the series of Improvisations executed mainly through playing on the words of the text by breaking it up, but keeping  the group of words , so formed distinct. This division of words synchronized with the beats and cross rhythms is called Bol- Bant. In addition, melodic ornamentations, such as meend and Gamaka are also employed for improvisation. And , with Pakhawaj  , Laya –bamt , an improvised and playful rhythmic patterns are woven in an enterprising manner.

18.4. In a similar manner , in the Karnataka Sangita , the Udgraha and Dhruva of the Prabandhas took on the name of Pallavi , while Melapaka , the bridge, came to be known as Anu-pallavi (that which follows the Pallavi).  The length of Dhatus (sections of the song) was extended by introducing the Antara as the second theme into Anu-pallavi. At the same time, the large number of sections (stanzas) was reduced. And, Abhoga the concluding section of the Prabandha became the last charana (stanza) of the Kirtana or Kriti accommodating the Mudra (signature) of the composer.

Tena that were originally used in the Tena-karana of the Prabandha lost their mystique nature and became meaningless musical syllables- Taana-s.

In the Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi , particularly in Veena , the Tanam , was derived from the Tena-karana  which was meant to be played on the Veena in the Nanda type of songs of the Viprakirna class of Prabandha. The  Taanam (played soon after the latter part of the Alapana)  is a particularly endearing segment of the Veena play of the Karnataka Sangita.

Svaras which had been prominent in the ancient Vartani and Svara –karana songs of the Shuddha Suda  and in Ali Krama  song Svarartha  re-appeared as Chitte Svara in Karnataka  Kritis;  and asSapta tan in Khyal of Hindustani Music.

The Neraval of Karnataka Sangita is similar to Bol- Bant of Dhrupad.

The application of the Drum syllables (Pata) once the a characteristic feature of the Paata and Bandha–karana of the ancient Shuddha Suda and of the vernacular Sukanku song of the Viprakirna led to the creation of new forms such as Hindustani Tarana and the Karnataka Tillana.

The simple devotional form Viprakirna type of Prabandha served as the model for various types of Padas, songs etc. In addition to the regular words (Pada) , the tone-syllables (Svara) , drum-syllables(Pata) , epithets (Birudu) , invocatory syllables (Tena) and musical meter (Taala) were used again for composing many song-forms in regional languages .

The Suladi and Ugabhoga songs of the Haridasa-s were derived from Salaga Suda Prabandha. And, Suladi Taala-s were also derived from the Prabandha practices.

The epithets Birudu which once had been the important element in the Birudu Karana of the Shuddha Suda and which mainly constituted the famous lauds (Namavali stotra) of Sanskrit literature (in the musical treatise called Stavana manjari) became the basic element of the Namavali and Divya nama Kirtanas of the Karnataka sangita.

As regards the Taala of the ancient Shuddha Suda, they found their way to the Karnataka Kirtana and Hindustani Dhrupad through the mixed forms of Salaga Suda, perhaps during the second half of the 12th century.

Thus, almost all musical forms in the realm of Karnataka sangita owe their origin to one or other types of Prabandhas. Many elements of the Prabandha found their re-birth in various musical forms such as Kriti, Kirtana, Varnam, Padam, Daru, Javali, Tillana etc.

19.1. By about the end of 17th century a realisation dawned on the musicologists and composers that Prabandha format had grown very rigid, laying more emphasis on the text than on the musical content; and, that the faithfulness to the form was, at times, carried to its limits.

19.2. And, Prabandha, naturally, had to give place to improvised, easier and innovative (manodharma samgita) forms of music having distinctive features of their own. Yet; here too, it is the basic elements of Prabandha that provided guidelines to modern composers of classical music.

19.3. Most of the medieval Prabandha-s eventually disappeared because of the stiffness of their musical construction. Yet; it should also be mentioned that Prabandha helped the Karnataka Sangita, enormously, in defining its  concepts and terms, specifying the structures of its songs , refining its Grammar  and in ensuring continuity of our ancient tradition.

In the next segment lets talk about the Desi Sangita and the Ragas.


Continued in Part Eleven

Desi Sangita



Sources and References

Indian Music: History and Structure by Emmie Te Nijenhuis

A History of Indian music by Swami Prajnanananda

Sagītaśiromai: A Medieval Handbook of Indian Music edited by Emmie Te Nijenhuis

Dattilam: A Compendium of Ancient Indian Music edited by Emmie te Nijenhuis

The Traditional Indian Theory and Practice of Music and Dance edited by Jonathan Katz

Music and Musical Thought in Early India by Lewis Eugene Rowe

Kalātattvakośa: by Ramesh Chandra Sharma

Sangiti Sabda Kosa by Bimal Roy

Suladis and Ugabhogas  by  Mahamahopadyaya Dr. R .Sathyanarayana

Prathamopalabda Swarasahita Samkeerthana Sila Lekhanamu by I.V Subba Rao

Darus in Carnatic Music by Dr. Gowri Kuppuswami and Dr. M Hariharan; Published in ‘Shanmukha’, October 1986 (Vol.XII; No.4)


Posted by on May 10, 2015 in Music, Sangita


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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.

If the temple symbolises the body of god on the macrocosmic plane, it equally symbolises the body of man on the microcosmic palne. 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 ressmbles the neck. Nasika (nose) is any noseshaped architectural part and so on. The garbhagrha represents the head and the image, the antrayamin (the indwelling Lord). This symbology tries to impress upon us the need to seek the Lord within our heart and not outisde.

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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