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Temple Architecture Devalaya

Vastu Part Seven (7 Of 7)

Sreenivasarao S / Blog / 6 yrs ago /

Some norms adopted in the Shipla shastra

I. Determination of cardinal points (Dik nirnaya)

In Sanskrit, the root, ma, stands for that which gives existence to a thing, gives it a reality in
our world; and demonstrates the relation between things. The term matir, for mother is derived
from that root ma.There is a close relation in the Indian thought, between measurement
(maa_na) and creation.Measurement separates and differentiates the elements of the world
and provides them an identity or a recognizable standard form. Perhaps the first act of
measurement in our universe was the breaking of the barrier between time and timelessness;

and, it surely saved our existence from perpetual chaos.

Maana not merely measures the elements of space and time, but also governs the standard of
ones conduct in life.
It is said that theritual of measurement performed at the commencement of the temple building
or of a Vedic altar is a re-enactment of creation of the world. The importance accorded to
precise orientation and precise measurements in the construction of the temple reveals the
symbolism involved in the act. The Sanskrit term, vimana, referred to the temple signifies a
well-measured or well-proportioned structure. The standard texts on temple architecture
carry extensive discussions on the systems of proportional measurements and the techniques
employed for determining true cardinal points.
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The ancient text Shathapatha Brahmana repeatedly refers to the term prachee meaning the
correct East-West line. Ascertaining the exact cardinal points and drawing the East-West line
(prachee) was one of the primary concerns of the ancients. It was considered essential to align
any auspicious structure say, yupa, the sacrificial altar; a mantapa, the pavilion; or a temple,
along the prachee. The Sulaba Sutras of Bhodayana and Kathyayana too describe methods to
determine true cardinal points.

The Yajna altar of the Vedic times, which was reconstructed each year around the time of
vernal equinox, carried a rich symbolism. The altar built of five layers, represented the five
seasons, five elements and five directions. The altar was surrounded by a wall of 360 bricks
representing 360 days of the year. The fired bricks symbolized the elements of fire, earth, and
water. The akasha provided space and air by breathing upon the bricks of the altar and
bringing them to life.
The Shilpa Shastra texts, such as Kashyapa Shilpa sutra; Vastu Vidya; Vishwakarma Vastu
Shastra; Shilpa Rathnam; Ishana Shiva Guru Doctrine and Manasara etc too discuss
elaborately the instruments and the methods employed to determine true directions.
The instrument that the texts talk about in this regard is the Sanku Yantra or the gnomon. The
gnomon is probably mankind's oldest astronomical device. The Sanku in its simplest form is a
piece of sharp edged, smooth surfaced pole made of wood or other material, firmly erected
perpendicular to a leveled ground rendered as smooth as a mirror", The method uses the
movement of the Sun and the shadows it casts . And, it is often described as the Indian Circle
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The Sanku (gnomon) or its variations were used by all ancient civilizations for determining the
east-west direction and also for knowing time. The Indian astronomers also used it for the

determination of the solstices, the equinoxes and the geographical latitudes. For instance,
Brahmagupta described a conical gnomon, the staff (yasti) of which represented the radius of
the celestial sphere and was used for determination of the position of heavenly bodies, and
also for terrestrial surveying. The Sawai Jai Singhs Observatoriesat Ujjain includes a Sanku
(Please check; )

For the limited purpose of our discussion, let us confine to the Sanku discussed in the texts of
Shilpa Shastras and its use for determining the cardinal points. Each text of the Shilpa Shastra
recommends its own set of specifications for the height and girth of the gnomon; the material
or the wood to be used for making the gnomon; the mode of embedding the gnomon into the
earth; the type of ropes and the pegs to be used; and the measurements to be taken etc. Some
of the salient recommendations of only four of Shilpa texts are briefly tabulated under.
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Height of Sanku
above the ground
level- (In inches)

Vastu Shastra
15 inches 12 to 24 inches
48 inches for

Kanista- 12inches

Ishana Shiva
12 inches

Girth of sanku at the 2 inches

Pointed edge at the 1 yava
top of sanku

Uttama -2 inches
Madhyama -1inch
Kanista-1/3 inch
Like a pin-head

2 inches

A sharp point
made of
Twice the
height of

Diameter of the
Twice the height 24 inches
Four times the
circle drawn around of the sanku
height of Sanku
the base of Sanku pole from the
Ground on which
Level like a
Level like water Level- like water
Smooth and
level as
Is erected
a mirror
How to embed the Fixed firmly
Some portion to be Some portion to be Erected on
buried underground the ground
Which wood to be Sara vriksha
Kadira, Shami,
used for making
Kshira vriksha
Or ivory
Season of the year
Summer solstice, Any auspicious day Summer
for taking
brighter half of the barring Full moon solstice, any
and New-moon days auspicious

Before drawing the plans and designs for a temple, the orientation of the site has to be
established properly. The best way to go about it is to commence the exercise at a time when
the sun is in the northern part of the sky, and on a day when there are no sunspots disfiguring
its visible surface.

Before erecting the Sanku pole, it is essential that the ground is rendered absolutely clean,
smooth and flat. The Mayamata and Manasara describe what is called as water method to
ensure an even and a flat surfaced ground. The selected ground, in a square shape, is leveled
and enclosed by a frame of bricks; and is filled with water. Then, with the aid of a measuring
rod the height of water at different points are checked to ensure that the water column is of
same height through out. After it is dried out the uneven surfaces, wrinkles and blotches are
corrected and evened out by suitably increasing/decreasing the level at selected points.

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The Vastu Vidya Shilpa text suggests an improvement over the above method. After the
leveling by water-method has been carried out, it recommends the use of a device
called avanatha constructed out of three wodden strips of equal length (25 inches each).An

equilateral triangle constructed out of the three wodden strips is placed at different points on
the prepared ground. If the pendulum (plumb line) suspended from the apex of the triangle
stayserect at all test-points; it means that the pegs stand at equal height. If not, suitale
corrections have to be carried out, until it is required. Finally, after the ground has been dried,
cleaned and fine-leveled, it again is checked by the avanatha.

The Sanku has to be erected in the mid region of the prepared ground. The ritual of erecting
the Sanku is called Sanku_sthapana. The sanku is made of either ivory or the
seasoned kadira (hard) wood which does not bend in the heat of the sun. Its surface should be
smooth, perfectly circular and without irregularities; and pointed at one end.
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The total length of the sanku would normally be 18 inches; of which six inches would be under
the ground level. The effective height of sanku, above ground, would normally be 12 inches.
The Manasara text however recommends 24 inches as the best (uttama) and 18 inches as nextbest (madhyama) height of the Sanku. The girth of the Sanku at its bottom should range
between two inches to six inches. Its top-end should be pointed; but it should not be too thin;
else it might be difficult to mark its shadow on the ground, especially during the evenings. The
diameters at the top and bottom should be proportionate to their length.
The Sanku should be fixed firmly and it should stand perpendicular to the ground. With the
base of the Sanku as the centre, a circle should be described around the sanku, having a
radius equal to twice the height of the Sanku. It is argued that the radius of that circle should
not be too long; nor should it be too short. In either case of extreme, it would be difficult to
obtain correct readings, especially during the evenings. Most texts recommend that the radius
should be twice the height of the Sanku. [There is some confusion here. Some texts say the
diameter (vyasa) should be twice the height of the Sanku. While some other texts say that the
radius (trigya) should be twice the height of the Sanku. But all texts say that the radius should
not be less than the height of the Sanku. I have, in the interest of uniformity, adopted here the
radius as equal to twice the height of the Sanku.]

The Shilpa texts such as Shilpa Dipika, Raja_vallabha and Kunda _siddhi recommend a unique
method to ensure that the Sanku is standing perpendicular to the ground. They suggest that in
case the height of the Sanku is 12 inches, a circle should be described with the base of Sanku
as the centre and with a radius of 16 inches. This in effect forms a right angled triangle , with
the radius as the base of the triangle (16 inches), the Sanku as its height (12 inches); and the
string(rajju) connecting the top of the Sanku to the point of intersection of the base of the
triangle with the circle forming the hypotenuse. If the sanku stands absolutely perpendicular
then the string (hypotenuse) should measure exactly 20 inches. This exercise was based on
the theory of Brahmagupta (6th century AD) otherwise known as the Pythagorean Theorem.

Now, having completed the preliminary work -- of leveling and smoothening the ground;
erecting the sanku ; and drawing a circle , round its base, with a radius equal to twice its
height you proceed with the task of determining the cardinal points with the help of
gnomon. It is recommended that the first reading is taken at sunrise during a month when the
solar path is towards the north (uttarayana) during a bright fortnight when sunrise is clear,
when there are no spots in the solar disc and when the sun is in the asterism of the
appropriate fortnight.

As the sun rises in the morning, you keep observing the sankus shadow. When the shadow of
the top of the Sanku just falls on the circle, mark the point. By evening, when the shadow of
the sanku gets longer, you again mark the point where the shadow intersects the
circle.Connect the two points with a straight line. This line points directly East-West. This
East-West line is called prachee. A line perpendicular to the E-W line is the north-south

In this method, as the sun rises in the east, the shadow points west. Then, as the day
advances, the shadow first swings to the north and then to the east,as the sun travels to
west.The problem with this method is that the shadows are shorter in the summer than in the
winter, because the earth is tilted toward the sun in summer and away from the sun in the
winter. Another issue is that the sun moves most rapidly at the equinoxes. And, therefore the
points marked on the circle indicate only approximately correct directions.

An improvement over this method is the drawing of circles with these East and West points as
centers. The radius of the circles is the distance between those East and West points. The
intersection of these circles creates a fish shaped figure. A line drawn between the points
where the two circles intersect indicate the geographic North-South.

In Uttarayana Punyakala or Makara Sankranti, Sun in his entourage, after touching the
southernmost tip of his path (23.5 degrees or Circle of Tropic of Capricorn Makara Sankranti
Vritta), he reverses his movement from travelling in southern direction and from that day
onwards he starts travelling in the Northern direction for next six months, from Makara up to
Mithuna signs, till he reaches northernmost tip of his path (23.5 degrees or Circle of Tropic of
Cancer Karkataka Sankranti Vritta). From that point, which termed as Dakshinayana Punya
Kala, again he starts travelling in Southern direction, again for another six months, from
Kataka up to Dhanu signs, till he reaches the circle of tropic of Capricorn. Utarayana can also
be explained as the progress of the Sun to the north of equator The Summer solstice.
Dakshinayana is the progress of Sun to the south of the equator The winter half of the year.

In a period of six months as the sun moves from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of
Cancer his position shifts by 47 degrees. That is, the suns position shifts by about 8 degrees
in each month. Accordingly, the sun shadow on the ground too shifts gradually during this
period. Theoretically, the Indian circle method leads to the error up to 8' in the time near spring
and autumn equinox (March and September). If the East-West line (prachee) has to be fixed
accurately, the readings taken earlier need to be fine-tuned. The Shiva Guru Doctrine suggests
the following method in this regard.

The shadow points of the Sanku intersecting the circle drawn around it should be marked
everyday both in the morning. Over a period of time these markings form a curvaceous line or
an arc. Further, when the shadow of the Sanku is within the circle, three points have to be
marked three circles should be drawn with these three points as the centre. The points of
intersections of these circles should be marked. Let us name these points as A-a; and B-b.
When the lines joining A-a and B-b are joined and extended backwards they converge in the
point N, as shown in the following diagram. A line drawn at 90 degrees to the line indicating
North would be the East-West line.

As the sun rises and sets at shifting points on the horizon, the vertical gnomon casts its
shadow in different directions on different days of the year, while the length of shadow also
varies from day to day through the year.
The shadow of the sun will on any given day of the year follow a curved path from west
towards east. From spring equinox to autumn equinox the path will curve towards south. From
autumn equinox to spring equinox (yellow area above) the curving is northerly.
The amount by which the sun changes its declination during the day decreases as the sun
moves away from equinox, and on the days of solstice the change is zero.
Shilpa Shastras caution that the points marked out on the ground based on the shadows cast
by the sanku do not therefore indicate the true cardinal points. The readings need to be
suitably corrected depending on the movement of the sun.
The texts suggest that the East- West line should be established with adjustments- by
reduction- of the following numbers of digits for each ten day period of each month. There,
again, is no uniformity in this regard. The corrections suggested by each text are different.
Please see the following table for the month -wise corrections suggested by two major texts.

Sr. Rashi







Reduction suggested (in inches)









Jan- Feb







A stands for first 10 days of the month; B stands for days from 11 to 20;
And C stands for days from 21 to 30 of the month

After carrying out the corrections, you plot the readings and draw the lines and arcs. The final
drawing will look as under.

The East-West line is named Brahma Sutra; The North-South line is named Yama Sutra; and,
the Diagonal lines are named Karna Rekhas. The entire exercise is called Dik
parchheda or Prachee sadhana, which is achieving the true cardinal points.

Guided by the stars

The practice of determining the directions, based on the position of stars is rather ancient.
TheKathyayaneeya sulba sutra mentions that the true East can be determined with reference
to the position of the pairs of stars: Chiita and Swathi;Shravana and Prathi
shravana;Krutthika and Prathi krutthika; and Pushya and Punarvasu , when they are 86 inches
above the horizon. The text however does not detail the method to be employed. There is no
description, either, of Prathi Shravana and Prathi Krutthika stars.

The Shilpa texts Kathyayaneeya sulba sutra, Raja Vallabha and Shilpa deepika- mention that
the line connecting the polar star (dhruva) and the two stars of the Ursa Major (Saptha Rishi
mandala) , when extended would point to North.
A few points need to be mentioned by way of clarification.
The exercises described were undertaken to find the geographic North Pole which is the pole
about which the Earth seems to spin. They were not talking about the Magnetic North Pole.

The Magnetic North Pole is currently wandering at a few kilometers per year through the far
north of Canada, while the Geographic North Pole is in the Arctic..
The methods which we discussed so far were being followed by the Shiplis until about the
17th century .Thereafter, with the introduction of magnetic compasses, the ancient methods
were given up. Now everyone goes by the compass to ascertain the directions. Yet, many feel
that determing the geographic north, as the ancient did, is a superior method.
Incidentally, the diagram, based on the Sanku method, for positioning the yupa, the sacrificial
altar, looked as shown below.


II. Four Types of Architects

The ancients mention four types of architects - the Sthapati, Sutragrahin, Vardhaki and

The Sthapati is the chief architect or master builderempowered to plan, design and direct the
construction from the beginning to the end. He is well-qualified in Shastras and the Vedas. He
is pictured as a cultured, decent man free from vices. He has the ability to direct his team.
The Sutragrahin is the supervisor and is said to be normally the Sthapati's son or disciple. He
is also well-qualified in the Vedas and Sastras. He is an expert draftsman or Rekhagna, who

directs the rest of the work force. His job is to see that all building parts are aligned correctly.
He should be able to give instructions to the other craftsmen.
The Vardhaki is the painter and has made a special study of it. He is also well-versed in the
Vedas. Vardhaki joins together the building elements shaped by Taksaka.
Taksaka is the craftsman who cuts and shapes the building elements. The Takshaka is also the
master carpenter who is responsible for all the intricate wood work including doors, windows,
pillars etc.
These four classes are considered the representations of Viswakarma, Maya, Manu and
Twasta, the sons of Brahma, the creator.
Acharya is the learned preceptor who gives the yajamana (one who sponsors the temple
project) the necessary advice and guidance in selecting the proper site, the sthapati and other
silpins. The sthapati, yajamana and the ahcarya form the trinity
of vastusthapana (construction); they are compared to Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra .

III .Building Materials used in temple architecture

The building materials that are prominently used in temple construction are the stone, the
bricks and the wood (apart from earth which we discussed separately in the earlier part of this
series). The Shilpa texts describe in detail the nature of these materials and the criteria for
their selection, for various purposes. Let us take a quick look at these three materials.


The stones are the major ingredients in temple construction. One cannot think of a temple
constructed without using stones. It is therefore natural that the Shilpa texts discuss the
stones quite elaborately.

The following, in brief, is the summarized observations and recommendations of some shilpa

The stones collected from open source such as mountain or hill are stronger and more
durable as compared to those dug out of earth. Similarly, the stones or boulders dug out from
the coastal areas are considered weak, as they could be eroded by the chemicals and the salt
content of the sea. They are not considered fit to bear heavy loads. The reason for preferring
the stones from hills or mountains could be that they are well seasoned by constant exposure
to the vagaries of weather; and are unaffected by salts and other chemicals.

Stone should be free from lines, patches, blotches, blots and cracks or other faults. The white
lines or patches in a black or other colored stone are acceptable. But, black lines or black
patches in white or other colored stones are not acceptable at all. The explanation given is, the
white lines, the patches of quartz, strengthen the rock structure; while black lines of baser
materials weaken the stones. The traces of chlorite or olivine cause green or black patches
and weaken the stones; therefore, such stones are not recommended for temple construction.
The Vishnu Darmottara Purana talks in great detail about the faults in the rocks and the
methods to test the rocks.

Stones such as marble, steatite, khondalite, sandstone, basalt etc are not fit for carving a
diety. They are not recommended in load bearing areas, either. They could be used in other
areas, if needed.

As regards their color, the stones are of four basic colors: white, red, yellow and black. Some
of them could be tainted with traces of other colors. Stones of white color are regarded the
best for temple construction. The next in the order of preference are the red, yellow and black
colored stones. . It is preferable to use uniformly the stones of the same color.
The Kashyapa Shilpa mentions seven categories of white stones: white as milk, as the conch,
as jasmine, as moon, as pearl, as alum and as the kundapushpa (a variety of jasmine).The
white stones with traces of blue or slight brown or bee-like black lines are considered good for
temple construction.

The red colored stones are of five types: Red as red hibiscus flower (japa kusuma),
as kinsuka (bright red), as the indragopa insect, as parijatha flower, as the blood of a rabbit,
and as pomegranate flower.

The yellow color of the stones is of two types: yellow as the Banduka flower, and as koranti

The black of the stones comes in ten colors: black as the pupil of the eye, as mascara, blue
lotus, as bee, as the neck of peacock, as kapila cow, as urd gram etc.


The stones are also classified according to their age-: child (baala), youthful (taruna) and
the old (vriddha).

If a stone when tapped gives out a faint sound or the sound is as that of mud, or of half burnt
brick; such stones are classified as baala- the child; to mean raw or immature. The baala
stones are not fit for making idols or for bearing loads.
If a stone when struck produces the sound resembling the ring of a bell and if such sound
resonates for quite a while, such a stone is classified as taruna youthful. Such stone should
have a cold touch and a soft feel. If the stones emanate fragrance it is much better. The tarunathe youthful - stones are fit for carving images and for crucial areas of temple.
An old, the vriddha, stone does not give out any sound and has a dry appearance or has .It
gives the touch and feel of a frog or a fish. It might have many holes or might be in a state of
decay. Such old and spent stones are not fit for making images or for load bearing areas.
Stones are also classified according to their gender. Those stones which give bronze sound
at the hammer weight are called male. Those which give brass sound are called female.
And, those that do not produce any sound are called genderless (neuter).

A hollow stone may be taken as pregnant and hence should be discarded. When smeared with
a paste, overnight, it changes its color. Shilpa Ratna describes dozens of such pates. Some
stones are said to carry poisonous effects. These stones too should be tested by application a
paste; and should not be used.

It is suggested that male stones are used for carving male deities; female stones are used for
carving female deities; and the neuter stones are used for other constructions. Further it is
said, the male stones could also be used for construction of sikhara (tower) and stone walls;
the female stone could be used for structures above foundations; and the neuter stones could
be used for foundations.
Male stones are big, round or polygonal, are of a singular shape and uniform color; they are
weighty and give out sparks when hammered. When dug out, its apex will be towards north. If
the apex is inclined towards north or west facing, the rock is considered inauspicious. Highly
compact rocks like dolerites, bronzites, proxenites and peridoties as well as lamprophyres are
regarded male rocks.

A female rock is of medium weight , square or octagonal, thick at root and thin near the apex,
cold to touch, soft to feel and on being struck gives out sonorous notes like that of
a mridanga (drum).

A neuter gender stone is one that doesnt give any sound on being struck and narrow towards
its bottom and triangular on its upper side ; and such stones may be used only for the

Coming back to the issue of acoustics in the stones, the Shilpis displayed a remarkable skill
and ingenuity in crafting musical pillars, which when struck at right points produce
sonorous octaves. One can see such pillars in the Vijaya Vittala temple at Hampi; Meenakshi
temple at Madurai; and at Sundarehwara temple at Trichendur. There might be such musical
in other temples too. Usually such pillars are of granite and charnockites; and of different
girths and volumes to produce the right octaves.

B.Bricks (Ishtaka)

Bricks have been in use for thousands of years in construction of yupa the sacrificial altars
and Chaithyas the early temples of the Vedic ages. Shathapatha Brahmana as also Shilpa
Rathna describes the methods for molding and burning the bricks. The Sulba
sutras and Manasara detail the dimensions of the bricks of various sizes in relation to the
sacrificial altars constructed for various purposes. The remnants of the Indus valley
civilization too amply demonstrate the extensive use of bricks in construction of buildings and
other structures.

During the later ages, the bricks were used in the temple structures mainly for erecting
Gopuras the temple towers and Vimanas the domes over the sanctum.
As per the descriptions given in Manasara the bricks were made in various sizes; the size of
the bricks varying from 7 inches to 26 or even to 31 inches in length. The length of the bricks
were 1 , 1 , 1 or 2 times the width .The height of the brick was its width or equal to the
width. Thus, bricks of different sizes, shapes, and types were made. The composition, shape
and baking of a brick depended upon the use to which it was put.
Interestingly, the bricks with straight and linier edges were called male bricks; while those with
a broad front side and a narrower back side or those of curved shape were called female
bricks. The bricks in concave shape were called neuter bricks. The male bricks could be used
in the construction of the prasada, the sanctum. The female bricks were used for the sanctum
of female deities. The neuter bricks were generally not used in temple construction; but were
used for lining the walls of the well.
According to Shukla Yajurveda Samhita, bricks were made from thoroughly mixed and
pulverized earth and other ingredients. The earth was strengthened by mixing goat hair, fine
sand, iron flake or filings and powdered stone. Earth was also mixed with raal oil, etc. and
thoroughly beaten and blended in order to increase the strength of the material by enhancing
the cohesion of the earth particles. Triphala concoction is said to render the earth, white ants
(termite) and microbe proof.
Brick lying was done with the aid of moulds; and, the bricks were burnt in enclosed kilns. The
works likeShilpa Ratna and Vastuvidya explain that the brick moulds were baked for 24 hours
in a fire of firewood.

Bricks black in color or half baked or broken or defective otherwise were rejected. The bricks
should be well burnt and be of uniform color.
According to Shulba Sutra, bricks measuring 22.8X11.4X5.7 cms were used in construction of
walls. TheBodhayana Sulaba sutra specifies the arrangement of bricks, while constructing a
wall. The brick should be directed in a dextral and laevo order. The brick ends should not be
piled one over the other. The joints of the brick in each third row of brick may fall over the
brick of the first row; this is the Malla Lila style of fixing the brick, based on the arrangement
of the joints of the brick.
The bricks having a smooth surface are not to be set one above the other, but are to be fixed
in straight line and the wall should be of an equal thickness all over. The corners of the walls
should be on the ratio of 5: 3: 4 and at right angle to each other. According to the Sumrangana
Sutradhara, the square of the diagonal of the wall should be equal to the sum total of the
square of the width of the wall.

It is said that the altar constructed for major sacrifices, bricks of about 200 types were used,
depending upon the size and shape of the altar.


Wood has limited use in traditional temple structure of medieval times. Its application is
mainly for carving doors, erecting Dwajasthamba the flag posts and for other utilities such as
platforms, stands etc. But, in rare cases (as in Sri Jagannath temple at Puri or at Sri
Marikamba temple in Sirsi) the principal idol dhruva bhera is made of wood. The most
extensive use of the wood is of course in the construction of the Rathathe temple chariot. In
rare cases as in Puri a new chariot is created each year.
Shatapatha Brahmana a Vedic text of about 1500 BC or earlier makes repeated references to
wood and its
. During its time the temples and the images were mostly made of wood (kasta shilpa). The text
mentions a certain Takshaka as a highly skilled artist who carved wood. It names a number of
trees the wood from which was used for various purposes. For instance Shaala (teak) and
Kadira a type of hard wood was used for carving images, pillars, gnomon (sanku) and other
durables. Certain other trees are also mentioned as being suitable for pillaras, posts etc:
Khadi, Shaal, Stambak, Shinshipa, Aajkarni, Kshirani, Dhanvan, Pishit, Dhanwalan, Pindi,
Simpa, Rahjadan, and Tinduka.

Trees such as Nibaka (Neem), Panasa (jackfruit), Asana, Sirish, Kaal, Timish, Likuch, Panas,
Saptaparni, wood are said to be best for roofing work.

Coconut, Kramuk, Bamboo, Kitki, Oudumbara (silk cotton etc. wood is suited for hut
constructions, ribs and rafters etc.

However use of certain trees considered holy or godlike was not recommended in temple
construction. The trees such as Ashwattha (Peepal), Vata, Nagrodha (banyan), Chandana
(sandalwood), Kadamba, Badari, Shami, Bilva, Parijatha, kinsuka, and Bakula, were some
such sacred and godlike trees.

Chandana, Kadira, Saptaparni, Satwak, etc. were used for engraving and carving artwork.
The southern text Shilpa Rathnam states that the wood from the following is not suited for
temple construction.;

Trees from a place of public resort, trees from a village or from the precincts of a temple, trees
that have been burnt, trees in which are birds' nests, trees growing on anthills, trees in which
are honeycombs, trees fruiting out of season, trees supporting creepers, trees in which
maggots dwell, trees growing close to tanks or wells, trees planted in the earth but reared by
constant watering, trees broken by elephants, trees blown down by the wind, trees in burninggrounds, in forsaken places, or in places which had been paraclieris, withered trees, trees in
which snakes live, trees in places where there are hobgoblins, devils, or corpses, trees that
have fallen down of themselves, - these are all bad trees and to be avoided.


The lifetime of a tree was regarded as 103 years. The trees under the age of 16 were Baala
child trees; and those above 50 years of age were Vriddha- trees in their old age. The trees
between the age of 16 and 50 years were regarded most suitable for construction of temple
and homes.

Tall trees of uniform girth without knot and holes, in their youth, grown on dense hilly regions
are most suited for construction of pillars. The trees that are white under the bark are in the
best category; followed by those having red, yellow and dark interiors; in that order. The juicy
or milky trees are preferable.


The trees that are round from the root to its apex, give a gentle fragrance, are deep rooted, are
solid and temperate may be taken as masculine trees, yielding male wood.
The feminine trees have slender roots and are thick at apical part, but a much thicker middle
part with no fragrance or odor in the wood.
The wood should be straight and without any knot, crevice or cavity. The structure built by
joining such male and female wood last for centuries
Neuter Trees
Slender and long in the middle of the trunk and having a thick head, is a genderless tree. While
the male trees serve for pillars; female trees for wall-plates, beams, and capitals; the
hermaphrodite trees serve for cross-joists, joists, and rafters.
Agastya Samhita has described the wood that is to be used in a chariot, boat or an aircraft. A
youthful and healthy tree should be cut and its bark removed, thereafter, it should be cut in
squares after which are to be transported to the workshop where these pieces should be
stored upon spread out sand in an orderly manner for 3 to 8 months for seasoning. The root
and apex sides must be marked because in pillars the root side is to be kept down and apex
part up.
As far as possible, only one type of wood may be used for one particular construction. The
use of more than tree types of wood in a construction is not recommended.
It is said the ISI standard A-883-1957 regarding a wooden items is based on the specification s
mentioned in the ancient Indian Texts

Precautions in the selection of the building materials:
No used building material should be used.
Stolen and renovated material should never be purchased.
Materials confiscated by the King should not be used.
The wood culled from the trees cut down in a cremation ground; temple, ashram or shrine
should not be utilized.

IV.Ayaadi Shadvarga

Ayadi _shadvarga is a matrix of architecture and astrological calculations. According

to Samarangana Sutradhara Ayaadi-shadvarga is a set of six criteria: Aaya, Vyaya, Amsha,
Nakshatra, Yoni and Vara-tithi, which are applied to certain dimensions of the building and its
astrological associations. The purpose of the exercise is to ascertain the longevity of the
house as also the suitability to its owner. These norms are applied to temples too.

The term Aaya could be taken to mean increase or profit; Vyaya - decrease or loss;
Nakshatra,- star of the day; Yoni - source or the orientation of the building; Vara- day of the
week; and Tithi - the day in lunar calendar for construction of building and performing
invocation of Vastu Purusha..

The area of the structure is divided by certain factors assigned to each element of the Aayadi
Shadvarga; and the suitability or longevity of the building is ascertained from the reminder so

For instance, if the plinth area of the house is divided by 8; and the reminder is either 1 or3 or
5, then these are called Garuda garbha, Simha garbha and Rishabha garbha, which are
auspicious. Hence the plinth area of the building should be manipulated or altered to arrive at
an auspicious reminder.

The rule is also applied to ascertain the longevity of the building. According to this method the
total area should be divided by 100 and if the reminder is more than 45, it is good and if it is
more than 60 it is very good. For instance,If the length of the house 11 meters, and the width 5
meters, then its area is 11 X 5 = 55 sq.mts. Multiply the area by 27 (Nakshatra factor) , 55 X 27 =
1485. Divide the product 1485 by 100. The remainder is 85,-which indicates the projected
longevity of the house. Since the reminder is more than 60, .it is a very healthy result.
There is another method for arriving at the Aayadi value. The result is categorized in to eight
types of Aayas. According to this method, the area (length X breadth) is multiplied by 9; and
divided by 8. The reminders 1 to 8 are interpreted as good or bad, as indicated in the following


Symbolizin Reminde Interpretation

Dhwajaya Money
Good. Brings wealth
Dhumraya Smoke
Not good. ill heath of the head of the family and spouse.
Very Good. Victory over enemies; health ,wealth and
Shwnaya Dog
Bad. Ill health and bad omens.
Vrishabhay Bull
Good. wealth and fortune.










Very bad. Head of family will turn a vagabond;

premature death in family.
Good. Life of head of family and members brightens;
improvent in heath and wealth.
Very bad. Sorrow to family; and no peace.

Manasara says When there is more merit than demerit, there is no defect in it; but if the
demerit is more than the merit, it would be all defective.

Vastu Darsha by Dr. G Gnanananda.
Orienting From the Centre By Michael S. Schneider

Cosmogony and the Elements... John McKim Malville
Vastu Interiors
sanku or the gnomon was a very important instrument till about 17th century when the
magnetic compass arrived on the scene. now hardly anyone employs sanku. there are
however some purists that still find a value in using a sanku, for the reason it helps to
determine the true geographic north in the arctic; while the compass points towards the
magnetic north which hovers a few kilometers around the upper regions of canada .
it is amazing how meticulously the ancients went about in determining the true cardinal
points and the true east west line. aligning the sacrificial altars, the mantapas, chaitya,
temples etc. along the prachee, was of paramount importance to them. that concern
motivated developments in geometry, sulabha sutras, engineering and architecture too.
please let me know what you think of the criteria for selection of materials , as described
in the shilpa texts.

as regards sathapatha brahmana, it is regarded a major textual authority by all scholars

.it is frequently quoted too. after the rig-veda, this text is considered the most important
work in the entire range of vedic literature.
the shatapatha brahmana is a prose text associated with the shukla yajur veda. the
brahmana perhaps derives its name because it consists of one hundred adhyayas or
books. it belongs to the school of yagnasenins because some parts of it are ascribed to the
sage yajnavalkya yajnasaneya. it is the biggest brahmana text in volume and is very
important one too. it has survived in two versions: kanva and madhyandina. there are no
major differences between the two versions.
it is considered a very ancient text and is dated between 1900 bce to 3000 talks
about the events that took place when the mighty saraswathi was in full flow. in its later
parts it mentions about the shift in saraswathi towards kosala and videha, which is towards
east. that shift, according to geophysicists took place long before 1900 bce.
the shatapatha brahmana describes the great deluge of manu and the creation and rebirth
of the planet earth. in many ways it resembles the biblical story of noah and the arc of
mount sinai. it is not clear which legend inspired the other.
the text describes in great detail the preparation of altars, ceremonial objects, ritual
recitations, and the soma libation, along with the symbolic attributes of every aspect of
the rituals. it is no wonder the scholars of mythology and comparative religion regard
shathapatha brahmana a gold-mine of information.
please check the following link for english translation of the text by julius eggeling.