One of the oldest sciences in the world, Vaastu Shastra is often referred to while buying or renting a new home in India. Sowmya Putran, an architectural journalist, takes a look at the significance of this ancient science in today’s architecture.
Vaastu Shastra is an ancient science of positive spatial arrangement. The process, however, is challenging; and with a lot of unexplained theories and several misconceptions, the subject of Vaastu remains puzzling. Is Vaastu Shastra merely a culture-wide superstition or a field with modern-day relevance? This continues to be a topic of heated debate. While most modern-day architects don’t want their designs to be altered by Vaastu beliefs, there are eminent architects like Le Corbusier and Charles Correa who have famously incorporated Vaastu Science in contemporary designs. A good majority of home buyers across India still opt for Vaastu-compliant houses, and several colleges have included Vaastu Shastra in the curriculum of Architecture.
Given that a house is sound and functional, a house that promises to enhance one’s physical and mental well-being is preferred over a house that doesn’t. Vaastu has been a part of Indian culture for decades; however, today ‘Vaastu’ has become a sneaky back way to moneymaking by propagating a dogma, rather than providing design solutions. Your home, in essence, is a shelter to protect you from harsh weather and keep you cozy and comfortable. Thus, a well-planned house should be sensitive to environmental processes as much as possible and maintain a good balance between inhabitant activities and nature. For example, it would be smart to place the least visited rooms in the most heated (directly exposed to sunlight) corners and the air-conditioned rooms, office or bedrooms, in the cooler parts of the house.
Several studies suggest that the components of the inhabitants’ visual field can have a psychological impact, and must be carefully designed to improve health and happiness. Why do you think images with spiders, or snakes, or blood are not considered pleasant and aren’t common decor options for kids’ spaces? Considering that, putting up an image of a waterfall in your living room seems to be what most people would prefer, rather than a superstition. Clutter must be cleared, and graffiti must be removed from public spaces, for the same reason; such subtle yet persistent presence of fecklessness may inadvertently creep into other aspects of life.
Five elements of Vaastu Shastra used in Indian homes:
• Earth: A detailed inspection of the construction site, its size and shape is an important step towards Vaastu compliance.
• Water: Domestic water is made to drain in the north-east direction; this direction is considered auspicious for the flow of water.
• Fire: Believed to be an element of the south-east; kitchen fire is placed in this direction.
• Air: In a Vaastu-compliant home, windows and doors are designed to facilitate maximum ventilation, and Vaastu Shastra lists out these important directions.
• Space: An open space in the centre is a common sight in Indian homes. Vaastu Science gives different directions for better space.
Vaastu Myths Debunked
A popular myth about Vaastu is that it is a rule book. This is incorrect. Vaastu Shastra was developed as teachings for people who built their homes themselves. Vaastu Shastra does not list out any rules, it is only a guideline. Most of Vaastu Science evolved on the basis of climatic observations and social requirements, and it is provable by research. However, today, pseudo-pundits of the subject spread fear-mongering superstitions and piggyback on blind faith to greater profits. ‘Vaastu, if not followed, will ruin your relationships and business,’ is another false ‘rule’ targeted at the vulnerable. Vaastu remedy is architecture’s placebo treatment; if you believe in it, it might help you.
A lot of what is taught in Vaastu Shastra is outdated today; it was originally developed as general guidelines for people who had no access to architects. These theories were developed to ensure that, regardless of a person’s architectural knowledge, minimum standards of safety and welfare of residents were achieved. Although Vaastu Shastra has a strong foundation based on nature’s laws, several Vaastu principles in practice today do not consider contemporary architectural elements such as large, abundant glass panels, computational systems for energy and light, asymmetry, unconventional volumes and smart home technology. Even today, not everyone in India can afford an architect, and there is a growing need for common design principles to be available to everyone wishing to build a house. Modern-day architecture calls for a modern-day Vaastu Shastra, one modified to encompass broader issues of the social component of contemporary architecture, sustainability standards, mental health studies and technological advancements.
Perhaps a combination of Vaastu Science and contemporary green rating systems are necessary to build a more comprehensive rating system, a game changer in the context of green engineering.