Vastu is derived from the ancient Hindu word ‘Vasanivase’ which means the place suitable for living. Vastu is a part of science that falls under astrology and architecture. It dates back to the era of Vedas, which is considered to be the most ancient and Holy Scripture of knowledge. While Astrology is said to be Vedanga (the limb of Veda), Vastu is said to be a Upaveda (minor Veda).
There are four types of Vastu: 1) Bhoomi - deals with selection of a site and land 2) Prasada - deals with Palaces and buildings 3) Yana - Vehicles, carts and ships 4) Sayana - furniture, tools and utensils.
Koutilya’s ‘Artha Sastra’ defines Vastu as a basis for constructing villages, landscapes, gardens, bridges, ponds and lakes. Varahamihira in his great work ‘Brihat Samhita’ deals with a lot of Vastu knowledge like weather forecasting, earthquake forecasting, rainfall, architecture, exploration of water springs etc.
‘Manasara’ another great book on Vastu, discusses the principles of architectural and sculptural construction. ‘Mayamatam’ of Maya who is said to build the great Maya Sabha of Pandavas (of Mahabharatha times) is a rich work with 36 chapters starting from the fundamental question of selecting a site/land for construction, building houses/temples, different ways of construction etc. Even ‘Viswakarmaprakasika’ also deals the same subject from a different light and in a candid way. ‘Samarangana Sutradhara’ authored by King Bhoja (1018 - 1060 AD) contains vast subject on house construction, town planning and temple architecture.
Four main directions are identified in all the works: East, South, West and North. Another four corners formed at the intersection points of these four directions, are called: SE, SW, NW, NE. The earth is the place of dwelling for everyone. It is a big magnet. Its magnetic North pole is located in universal South direction, and magnetic South Pole is located in universal North direction. This means the magnetic lines of earth travel from South to North. If anybody sleeps by placing his head towards North, there would be magnetic lines passing through his head in the same direction, and more blood is pumped into the head, thus creating head- related problems. This means the Earth’s magnetism also influences our lives.
It is good if a building is aligned strictly in the four main directions, because its walls will be either perpendicular or parallel to the magnetic lines of earth. If we build a house putting an entrance in any of the four main directions, there will be prosperity for the resident. But if the house is oriented into the corner directions, then the walls cross the magnetic lines in a zigzag way, leading to mental disturbances and lack of peace and success.
Plenty of light, air and water is also needed for living beings to thrive. Thus when a house is constructed, we should see that the house gets proper Sun light and wind. There should be availability of water in the ground in the vicinity of the house. The Sun light has got different energies which are identified as around 45 different deities. Each type of energy is suitable for a particular task. Accordingly, the place where the energy falls is allotted for living room, kitchen, dining room, bed room, etc. This provides a basic frame work for dividing the land for specific use. The land/plot is divided into 9 X 9 = 81 squares which is called ‘Ekaseetipada Vastu’. These 81 squares will represent where to erect the pillars for construction, where to place the main entrance, where to place the kitchen and other rooms, where to place what type of furniture, etc.
The Sun light along with other planetary lights is represented as ‘Vastu Purusha’, the deity of all plots. The position of Vastu Purusha changes every day and also depends on the seasons. Offerings should be made to Vastu Purusha and he will take care of the inmates of the house.
Vastu deals with how to select a plot, and making the plot ready for construction. It is ideal to have a plot in Square or Rectangular form and aligned properly in the four main directions. Then a compound wall must be constructed first. The plot must be divided into 81 squares of equal size, and a plan should be drawn. Then construction work should start after offerings are made to Vastu Purusha and other deities and planets. Vastu also gives advice on how to match the name of a person to the place where he wants to live, and how to find the direction for main entrance into his house. A general placement of rooms in a house is given in the diagram.
Like any other ancient sastra, Vastu must also be understood, interpreted and implemented based on the changed socio-economic conditions. Take for example the rule “Bathroom should not be next to kitchen – fire and water must be away”. This is because in those days the kitchen-fire was produced by burning either wood or coal and bathroom water source was a well. So this would dampen the fire wood/coal. In the modern kitchen, if you have a gas stove at one corner and a tap and sink at the other corner, its not going to take you to hell. Similarly the toilet in those days was an open space and for hygienic reasons used to be at the end of the house. But the modern toilets are ok to be attached to bed rooms.
In modern times, especially in cities, only a multi millionaire can follow all the Vastu rules. The rest 99%, especially the flat dwellers can only do the best adjustments. Vastu is like life where you want ideal parents, ideal brothers & sisters, ideal teachers & education, ideal job & money, ideal wife & children and ideal health. This is rarely possible and hence you have to live with and make the best of what you get.