Almost fifteen hundred years before modern architecture came into its own, Vaastu Shastra, the classical Indian treatise on architecture, had set down principles of good planning and design which have been in practice in this country ever since.
Today, people expect a Vaastu application to provide them instant curse and unending prosperity by relocating an entrance, without or room. However, Ananth, in this meticulously researched book, seeks to place Vaastu in its proper perspective as a highly evolved science, ridding it of the myths surrounding it. She examine the schools of thought existing in the tradition, the system’s application, and the responsibilities of the designer.
Supplemented with beautiful illustrations, this book is an authoritative text which combines traditional wisdom with the needs of a modern and transitional society.
Sashikala Ananth holds a degree in architecture from the School of Architecture Madras University. She has spent the last fifteen years assimilating traditional knowledge and exploring its field application. A recipient of the Ashoka Foundations Scholarship for innovative contribution to the field of architecture she was also part of a team that made the 1991 award winning film A Shilpi Speaks that explains the tradition of the sculptor, and has published a book, The Indian Tradition of Design Based on Vastu Shastra.
Ananth is a Student of Shri Ganapati Sthapati a leading authority on Vaastu on Vaastu Shastra and has also translated his text on iconometry into english. She has studied the Vaastu texts extensively and has worked with traditional artisan communities. She lives in Chennai where she works on projects incorporating the wisdom of Vaastu in creative and harmonious ways the modern lifestyle.
There are innumerable mythological stories that speak of the connections existing between the individual and the larger living systems, of action in one context which resonates and manifests in another place and time. To understand the nature of practices and principles of this subcontinent, therefore, one must look deeply into the psychological and spiritual universe of its tradition.
The Ramayana is a good starting point. Probably one of the most powerful stories in the life of a people, this spic has lived in the minds and hearts of Indians for over a thousand years. The spiritual teachings, ethical and moral values put forth by it have not only moulded generations of people but also influenced other Asian cultures for hundreds of years, besides forming part of art forms such as poetry, dance, drama, music, and harikatha.
The Ramayana is the story of an Avatara Pursha or exemplary man with divine qualities. This is a story of heroism, duty, banishment, abiding love, loyalty, of a saviour and a redeemer, of the tragedy of greatness that is undone by arrogance, of parental love that defiles time, of a man-women relationship that is varieties of themes and richness of meanings that the Ramayana contains. A conversation between Narada and Valmiki brings out the quintessence of the divine qualities of Rama:
‘Is there a man who combines all that is noble and kingly with the qualities of compassion and gentleness?
‘Hear the story of Rama, who was powerful and heroic, intelligent and just, courageous and compassionate, righteous and gentle, and at all times pleasing and affectionate in manner, loved by all people.’ Valmiki Ramayana.
When individuals encompass many layers of understanding within their personality, they respond to the deeper call of a people and of a civilization.
As the son of a king, Rama was the embodiment of both-the dreams of the father and the urges and desires of the people. He lived the life of a perfect son and a perfect king but simultaneously carried out the dictates of a divine birth to rid the land of its evil energies.
The negative karma acquired by his father, Dasharatha, through an act of carelessness in his early life had to be lived through. Having separated a devoted and beloved son form his parents, Dasharatha was punished by being deprived of the one joy central to his life-his eldest son, Rama. This terrible pain of parting from his son was too hard to bear and Dasharatha died of a broken heart. Rama being the lord Himself, was powerless to change the course of his father’s karma. Neither could he help his wife Sita in her struggle to maintain her innocence for she too had to live through the actions of her past.
Thus the complex tapestry of the Indian worldview maintains that individual lives must go through their own courses, and cannot be either stopped or diverted even by the Lord himself. The social life of the people has its own logic and meanings, which must also be attended to in its own layer. Oftentimes, in the mythology of this land a divine spirit is seen in its multiple manifestations amongst ordinary people. This guiding spirit may be present as Krishna the charioteer, or the hunter Shiva-each having their predetermined part to play in the movement of the story.
The imperatives that define the life of man in his relationship to the world around create their own patterns which must be taken to their logical end. The wisdom of the forefathers which is applied through medicine, yoga architecture, alchemy, mathematics, chemistry, agriculture, dying, weaving and astronomy have affected the life of a people as well as created bodies of knowledge that have been safeguarded by communities for centuries on end. But this knowledge is not isolated from the body of the larger cultural entity. Pragmatism and philosophy have been constantly stressed so that the individual may abide in the here and now even while contemplating the timeless wonders of the universe. Within the life of everyone, the simplicity of everyday action reveals eternal truths. To comprehend one aspect of the Indian mind is to delve into the entire field of perception. There cannot be an understanding of vaastu without understanding yoga, ayurveda, jyotisha, natya, sangeeta Vedanta. Even though each individual field of study has its own rigour and logic, it is profoundly connected with the entire framework of living. Till thirty years ago, Indian mathematician were competent musician or astrologers, designers were healers and agriculturists were philosophers.
This book attempts to build the larger framework of the Indian perspective which draws meaning from both concept and action simultaneously. This holistic nature of the universe is the strength of Vedanta, which cannot be separated into classicism and folk or knowledge and material manifestation.
Vaastu is both an idea a form. The built environment can be object, a space and an experience. The subtle movement of the one into the transforms space into stillness, where equilibrium promises endless energy; in that twilight which is neither darkness nor light, where healing is concealed within the organism waiting to be liberated, let us walk and learn together.
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