Architecture influenced by Vedic literature follows the principle of fullness emerging from fullness. It implies that for an individual to be in peace and harmony within themself, everything about them should be in harmony with the universe. George Bernard Shaw, a renowned British Author, quotes, “The Indian way of life provides a vision of the natural, real way of life. We veil ourselves with unnatural masks. On the faces of Indians are the tender expressions which carry the mark of the Creator’s hand.”
The excavations at Mohenjo Daro and Harappa proved the existence of a prehistoric and developed civilisation in India. This also approved the existence of well-developed techniques of architecture and construction that would undoubtedly have been systematically stated in record books for transmission to the later generations and for being used as a reference guide for construction on site. Although written references cannot be traced back to that period, literature from the 4th century onwards provides detailed study in the form of Sthapatya Shastra, Vastu Shastra, Shilpa Shastra, Grihya sutras, Agamas, Tantras, and many more.
Architecture as described in the Vedic Literature
1. Sthapatya Shastra
According to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Sthapatya Shastra is that aspect of the Cosmic Knowledge of Natural Law that maintains the buildings where the individual lives and works, and the environment in which he moves, well set in cosmic harmony. It is a discipline of architecture and civil construction recognised as both a scientific field and an art form, often referred to as Sthapatya-kala. The term “Sthapatya” originates from the root word “Sthapana,” which signifies the act of establishing or creating. It is said; Vishvakarma, the divine architect, was the first to make use of the square Vastumandala to create spaces. Sthapati were the professionals who designed spaces according to principles put forth by him. Vaastu Shastra has its origin in Sthapatya Shastra.
2. Vastu Shastra
The principles of Vastu Shastra deal with the arrangement and layout of buildings, the proportions of spaces, spatial geometry, and the use of materials to create harmonious and auspicious living environments. It is regarded that the Vastu Purusha delivers maximum benefit by managing energies and influences of five elements, planets, chakras, directions, and geometry of the structure. The Vastu Purusha is related not merely to the site and the floor plan but also to the structure’s elevation. The designs aim to integrate architecture with nature by utilizing geometric patterns, symmetry, and directional alignments.
3. Shilpa Shastra
Shilpa Shastras are a collection of ancient texts covering various aspects of art, architecture, and sculpture in the context of measurement, proportions, viewer perspective, mudra, emotions, and Rasa. They provide detailed guidelines on architectural forms, techniques, and the proportions of wood, stone, and metal sculptures. These texts are considered authoritative sources for designing and constructing temples, palaces, and other religious and cultural structures.
Grihya Sutras provide insights into the design and layout of traditional Indian homes, including the organization of spaces, the placement of rooms, and the use of materials and symbols for auspicious living. Agamas and Tantras are religious scriptures that form the foundation of temple architecture and rituals in many parts of India. These texts provide guidelines for requirements of the temple site, building materials, and temple construction, including details about architectural styles, spatial arrangements, sculptural elements, and rituals to be performed within the temple complex.
Various scriptures like Mayamata, Manasara, Samarangana Sutradhara, Rajavallabha, Vishvakarmaprakasha, and Aparajitaprccha include chapters on the architecture of temples, homes, villages, towns, fortifications, streets, shop layouts, public wells, public bathing, public halls, gardens, and riverfronts among other topics. It is important to understand that the influence of Vedic literature on Indian architecture is not limited to a single text or a specific period. It has evolved and been interpreted by various schools of thought, geographical locations, and regional traditions throughout history. Different regions in India have their architectural styles and practices that Vedic principles have influenced uniquely.
Why is Vedic Literature relevant today?
1. Harmony with Nature
The Vedic texts emphasize the interconnectedness of human beings and the natural world. This philosophy can inspire architects to create designs that integrate seamlessly with the environment, promoting sustainability and harmony. Natural lighting, ventilation, and locally sourced materials can contribute to sustainable and environmentally conscious architecture. The Vedic texts provide architectural planning and placement guidelines to ensure optimal energy flow and balance. This perspective can provide architects with insights into creating spaces that function well technically and feel energetically balanced and uplifting.
2. Sacred Geometry
Vedic literature often explores the relationship between mathematics, geometry, and spirituality and is influenced by balance, harmony, proportion, and the importance of light and space. They discuss the concept of yantras, intricate geometric diagrams used in meditation and worship. Architects can draw inspiration from these geometric patterns and proportions to create aesthetically pleasing and spiritually uplifting spaces. Vedic literature encompasses a vast array of mythological stories and symbolic representations. These narratives and symbols can be incorporated into designs to create spaces that evoke a sense of spirituality and connect people with a deeper meaning.
3. Universal Principles
Creating spaces that promote community engagement, encourage social interactions, and accommodate diverse needs can reflect the values of compassion and respect for all life forms as prescribed in the Vedic texts. Many principles found in Vedic literature have a universal appeal and can be applied beyond cultural boundaries. The timeless wisdom of Vedic literature enables the creation of spaces that resonate with people from different backgrounds and cultures.
Vedic literature can provide inspiration and philosophical guidance. Still, the practical requirements of modern architecture, building codes, and the specific needs of the intended users must be considered. The pink city of Jaipur, Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya, and Jawahar Kala Kendra have incorporated principles from Vedic literature in modern aspects. It is also observed in the planning and designing of individual homes, residential complexes, commercial and industrial campuses, and major public projects in India. The legacy of Vedic literature in shaping the architecture of the modern world is a testament to its enduring glory and its unwavering relevance in our quest to create spaces that nourish the body, mind, and soul.
Citations for Magazine,Journal,Newspaper Articles – Print or Online:
Temple Architecture-Devalaya Vastu.Available at:https://sreenivasaraos.com/tag/vastu-purusha/
D’source-Devalaya Vinyasa-Shilpa Kala Shala,Available at:
Sthapatya Veda,Available at:https://www.hindupedia.com/en/Sthapatyaveda
Vedic Architecture-Ideal India,Available at:https://ideal-india.in/
(2015)Ancient Vedic Architecture,Available at:https://www.thehinduportal.com/2015/07/ancient-vedic-architecture.html
Jayswal Pankaj(2020)Importance of Vedic knowledge in modern times,Available at:https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/youth2020/importance-of-vedic-knowledge-in-modern-times-27937/
Vastu Shastra,Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vastu_shastra
Chandrashekhar Mala(2023)Discovering the Beauty and Wisdom of Shilpa Shastras: Exploring the Science behind Ancient India’s Arts, Crafts and Architecture,Available at:https://cultureandheritage.org/2023/06/shilpa-shastras-the-science-of-arts-crafts-of-ancient-india.html
Sadrish(2023)Vishwakarma: The Divine Architect of Devas,Available at:https://vedicfeed.com/vishwakarma/
Citations for images/photographs – Print or Online:
1_Vedic Literature describes architecture to be in harmony with the Universe_©Mysticalbee.com
2_Harappa Civilization_©Nadeem Khavar
5_Shilpa Shastra_©Culture and Heritage.org
6_Vedic Temple Design_©templearchitecture.com
8_Jawahar Kala Kendra_©Medium.com