Vastu: Selection of a Building Site
BY: MICHAEL BORDEN
Aug 17, INDIA (SUN) From lectures and interviews of Ganapati Sthapati.
The technology of Vastu architecture lays enormous emphasis on the selection of the building site for human habitation. Vastu science looks upon the Earth as a living organism with its origin in the primordial energy. The Vastu Shastras address the energy contained in the Earth as "Vastu Purusha" where "Purusha" means the subtle energy that permeates the Earth and "Vastu" is the material body of the Earth that evolved out of that energy. In abstraction "Purusha" is but a subtle substance "Vastu" or essence of the subtle universe which, in other words, means "universal consciousness". Earth is a conscious living being suspended in space and existing as an extension of the universal being. Earth is evoked and poojas are offered to it before excavation for construction. This is called "Vastu Shanti" or the "appeasement" of Earth.
A prayer is made to the Earth before starting the earthwork:
"O Mother Earth! May you fill the plot with your energy and make it fertile. May you bless us with wealth and prosperity. I bow to thee!"
All animate objects including human beings are tied to the Earth, with no scope for escape, and therefore, they should try to live in harmony with its subtle and physical qualities. This is an emotional integration that the Vastu science establishes between man and Earth and finally between man and the built space. The built space is created by man in accordance with a formula by which the Universal Being has created the material objects of nature. This integration is indispensable for peaceful life on Earth and in built environments.
How is this kind of emotional integration (ecological friendliness) achieved?
There are two streams of approach. One is gross and the other is subtle. The subtle approach to emotional integration has to do with the harmonizing of the building energy frequency with that of the Earth's energy frequency. This involves a mathematical process called the Ayadi calculations.
On the gross side, the Vastu texts prescribe a set of physical but significant tests for selecting a good site in view of the fact that the physical properties of the Earth are not uniform throughout its surface. Various forces of the material universe affect the Earth and the Earth affects the bodies present on it. Also, the study of the contour of the land and the flora and fauna present is a concern to the Vastu designer. The color, texture, odor and taste of the soil are another set of considerations.
A site where water is found at the depth of a "man's height with upraised arms" is know as "Purushanjali matra" and is said to be good for human habitation. Water flow underneath the land should be in a clock-wise direction, along with the motion of the Earth. A way to test for this is to dig a pit three feet deep, fill it with water, throw flowers on the surface and watch whether they move in a clockwise direction.
While defining the physical characteristics of a good soil and site one of the Vastu texts says:
"The soil of the habitable ground should be soft and close grained (hard and well consolidated) and be overgrown with fragrant flowers, creepers and shrubs. Further it should be of good odor, spacious in extent and of even level. Also with sub-soil water flowing in clockwise direction."
The evenness of grains and compactness of the soil are tested by digging a pit of 3 hastas (8'-3" x 8'-3" x 8'-3") and refilling the pit with the excavated soil. The soil is good if a part of the earth remains after refill, bad if there is insufficient soil to refill the pit and fair if no earth is left over after refilling.
The fertility of the soil is verified though a test because it is a reflection of the fertility and prosperity available to human life inhabiting the land. This is ascertained by sowing seeds on the site and observing the duration of germination, ranging form three to seven days.
There is a very sensitive test for ascertaining the quality of the ambience prevailing in the particular area to be taken over for residential purposes. For this test, a certain number of cows and calves along with bulls are left free on the site, over grown with seedlings and saplings, to graze. The purpose is to ascertain the sensitivity of the soil conducive to procreational tendencies of human beings. If the bulls raise affectionate and alluring sounds and run towards the cows to mate with them, this is good. This is considered to be a very good sign. It foretells affectionate and intimate relationship between master and mistress of the house to be built on that site. The spiritual ambience that prevails in the area accounts for such behavioral overtones.
Vastu designers adopt a practical way of identifying the quality of the building site from the very sight of the vegetation that grows there. If the leaves are thick, green and of dense growth, the soil is considered to be the best one for human habitation. Such a feature ensures the presence of water underneath and on that account the fertility of the soil is recognized.
Living near big factories that pollute the air is objected to by the Shastras. Even the factories of the shilpis were kept away from the towns or cities in the olden days. Also, temple complexes are recommended to be located in far flung areas such as mountain tops, forests, riverbanks or seashores.
Marshy lands, slushy sites, clayey soils are disallowed by the Shastras. No improvement of defective soil or site is recommended in the shastras. Outright rejection is advised. This is because such an improvement would be partial and of a temporary nature and not a permanent solution.
Lands containing skulls of animals and human beings, broken stones, tiles, scraps of iron, nails spikes, hair, husks, charred wood or charcoal, white ants (termites?), serpents, rats and frogs are stoutly objected to. They are considered to be cancerous. This aspect of keeping the earth free from impurities is covered very elaborately by Vastu sciences under the title "Bhugarbha". The concept in this context is that the life-long association with bad earth is harmful to physical and spiritual well being.
The natural lie of the ground is also to be studied. This aspect is known as "declivity of the ground" or "plavanam". In general, the ground with its southern and western parts raised and inclined respectively towards north and east is recommended. This ensures the flow of underground water in the clockwise direction throughout the year. This trait is noticeable in the temple buildings with the water chute directed either to the north or to the east. Wells should only be in the Northeast quarter or corner of the site. The energy starts moving from this point of northeast of an enclosed space. It is common that every building, village or town should be enclosed by a compound wall to be vibrant. The walls form the cup that contains the energy. Every plot of land that is demarcated into a habitable Vastu moves clockwise with its axis situated at the center of the built space. This axis, though invisible to the physical eyes does exist, just as there also runs a thread of consciousness in the human body from the center of the skull, down below and between the legs, which is called Brahma Sutra. This thread of consciousness is also established very consciously in a house built according to Vastu principles. This thread or plumb of consciousness introduced in a built space ensures not only stability, but also mobility (growth) of the energy enclosed and it is expended to the dwellers to experience harmony and develop physically and spiritually.
Slope of land:
West elevated - sloping towards the east: promotes material growth and prosperity.
South elevated - sloping to north: brings in wealth
East elevated - sloping towards west: loss of wealth
North elevated - sloping towards south: loss of inhabitants
Northeast elevated - sloping towards southwest is bad.
Southeast elevated - sloping towards northwest is good.
Northwest elevated - sloping towards southeast is bad.
Southwest elevated - sloping towards northeast is good.
South east and east elevated - west and northwest are low-lying is good for human beings.
South and Southeast elevated - north and northwest low lying brings name and fame in all activities.
Southwest and south elevated - north and northeast low-lying, the family of the indweller will multiply and be long lived. Added to this such a plot is blessed with long life.
West and southwest elevated - northeast and east low-lying brings welfare and comfort to the occupant.
West and northwest high - east and southeast low, is said to create commotion and enmity.
North and northwest high - south and southeast low creates disease.
North and northeast high - low from south to southwest leads to annihilation.
East to northeast elevated - west to southwest low-lying causes decay of family.
There is a sloka in a text called Vastu Vidya, which can be memorized by practitioners:
The plot with its:
East side high -- death of children
South east high -- brings in wealth
Southeast low -- loss of wealth
South high -- free from illness
South west high -- brings in wealth
West high -- blessed with progeny
North west high -- loss of property
North high -- generates disease
North east high -- excessive grief
There is also an indication of high or low ground with respect to profession. For individuals involved in physical labor--declivity on the west, commercial activities -- declivity on the South, political leaders and rulers -- declivity on the East, intellectuals and professionals -- declivity on the North.
There is a general description of an ideal building plot in the Mayamata and Mansara for human and Divine habitation. Brahmarishi Maya recommends a square or rectangular plot. (I have seen Sthapati take an irregular plot and create a square plot within it, defining it with a fence and letting the rest of the odd shaped area be just left over for landscaping only.) The ground should have rise on the West or South side.
The sound of the ground, when tapped with an instrument (a spade or pickaxe) should be that of a horse, elephant, bamboo, veena (stringed instrument), sea or dundubi (percussion instrument).
The land should have the odor of lotus or padiri flowers or grains or cows. Land possessing the colors white, red, yellow, black or gray, tastes such as bitter, acrid, astringent, saline, sour or sweet, such a site brings in wealth and prosperity. Land possessing the smell of curd, ghee, honey, oil, blood, corpse, fish or birds are rejected due to negative effects on the health.
Water should be reached at a depth of 7'-6". The location of the building should not be close to public institutions or monasteries, temples or palaces.
Sites where thorny trees grow should be avoided. Graveyards should be avoided. Shapes of the building site to be avoided are circular, triangular, polygonal with irregular sides, serpentine, curved like the back of a tortoise, ground with rise in the center, shapes of bird, fish, drum, willow, conch, chameleon, lizard, monkey, pig, python, chisel, pickaxe or cat.
Location of a building at a place not easily accessible or at the junction of 2, 3 or 4 roads, or opposite to a road (perpendicular) should be avoided. Places with heavy and giant trees should not be selected.
In general, it is indeed the spirit that favorably responds to order in the material world. Spirit is order incarnate. The Vastu Vedins call it "Vastu Dharma". Anything disorderly is alien to its nature. Perpetual association with any kind of disorder is rejected and thus physical disturbances avoided. The selection of a site surrounded by a healthy environment of physical and spiritual nature is the keynote of Vastu technology.