Vastu Shastra – as you behold it!

January 14, 2013 / By  

I saw an advertisement for a residential project in a modern district of one of India’s cities that read – “100% VASTU- COMPLIANT HOMES”. It took me back to my college days when I was studying architecture. The debate then was whether “Vastu Shastra- Ancient Indian science of shelter” (similar to China’s Feng Shui) was a science or a part of India’s legacy of ancient wisdom that defines what to do and what to avoid through the use of metaphors. My professor helped me extract the science from the metaphors and realise that the ancient tradition was simply basic building climatology explained through metaphoric religious scripts.

Since that time, 21 years have passed, but the climatology of Vastu Shastra has remained poorly understood and largely ignored. At the cost of impractical design, additional expenditures and aesthetic compromise, developers constructing buildings and buyers purchasing homes care very little about trying to achieve maximum “Vastu- compliancy”. I appreciate and respect that the nature of supply is a function of the nature of demand. Given this, I am a bit unhappy that we are not gaining much in building better homes despite the relevant practice mentioned therein. As we should be able to work flexibly with it to make it relevant today, there is no need to be intimidated by Vastu Shastra’s warnings of what not to do.

Vastu Shastra is about maximising the benefits that can be derived from nature by planning sensibly in India’s geo-climatic context. For a predominantly warm country with a well-defined rainy season, the practice is related to the natural energy-producing elements, such as the “morning sun” of the East, which brings good radiations, and the cooling winds from the south-west seas, which bring rain and thus good fortune and “shield” the South against excessive heat, etc.

Rather than respecting this ancient wisdom and using it judiciously, today’s developers are building homes that are largely a pale, monotonous outcome of the so-called “% compliant” syndrome. Various regions in India have distinct regional architectural identity but it is being lost for the want of replicating so called “% compliant” features. Fortunately this activity is presently restricted to only certain cities and states. However, this trend seems to be growing and could lead to an unwarranted dependency on artificial building environments, which would increase capital investment and cause operating costs to rise. To be Vastu qualified, buildings often end up wasting space and materials. As India’s cities are facing severe shortages of land and sustainable energy, it is painful to see residential buildings making a mockery of the concept of “group housing”, which strives to optimise the sharing of infrastructure and services.

Instead of creating optimally functional, visually pleasing properties, architectural creativity may be subjected to concealing the inefficient hazards of Vastu-compliant buildings. Today, it is impossible to implement the practice of Vastu Shastra in its original form, and there is no need for it frankly. Given that today’s much increased population is jostling for space, understanding the concept of climatology and implementing it in the present context would be beneficial and give India efficiently designed homes that use less energy and restoring regional architectural identity.

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