How to Apply Vastu Shastra in Your Home (The Vedic Precursor to Feng Shui)
A brief introduction to vastu shastra, the ancient architectural tradition that harmonizes the metaphysical flow within spaces.
Vastu shastra is an ancient architectural doctrine from India to design spaces that promote health, prosperity and mental lucidity. It is written as a guide, and is based on the concept of vastu, which in Sanskrit means “to inhabit.” Thus, it can be defined as “the doctrine of inhabiting” a place in the best way possible, based on the Vedic principles of harmony.
Unlike feng shui, which the new age culture appropriated a few decades ago, vastu shastra did not reach the West with the same popularity Its oldest reference, however, is in the Vedas of Indian literature, which were written about 5,000 years ago. ––In fact, these texts were most likely the origins of both feng shui in China and Ayurveda in India. But vastu doesn’t only define the optimal way to arrange objects inside a home, but it also provides the foundation for construction and architecture. The most popular of the vastu shastra canons is based on the form of the mandala, but all of them revolve around the five elements of Vedic tradition: earth, air, water, fire and space.
To build and arrange a space based on vastu shastra, the architect must consider two aspects: the physical and the metaphysical. The latter is concerned with both fear of the unknown and the pursuit to grasp the nature of the world. Between these two lies the human desire to do things well, in accordance and harmony with the forces of the unknown world, and here is where the mandala diagram becomes quite useful:
According to Indian mythology, in the beginning, Brahma, the creator of the universe, experimented with a new creature: a cosmic man who grew rapidly and began to devour everything in his path to satisfy his insatiable hunger. When he became too big to manage and his shadow eclipsed the planet, Brahma called on the gods of the eight cardinal directions, and with their help he subdued the man. They flattened him on the Earth and Brahma jumped in the middle. From that point on, Brahma made him a compromise that he would be worshipped by any mortal who built a structure on Earth.
The Vastu shastra demonstrates the principles of mandalic construction with a diagram called vastu purusha mandala, a metaphysical square where the cosmic man has his head facing the Northeast and his feet toward the Southwest.
It is not usual that Architecture devotes itself to the challenges of providing a foundation for human behavior in harmony with the physical and metaphysical forces of the world, especially if it involves the construction of homes and not only of temples. In other words, architecture doesn’t usually aim to guide its dwellers toward exaltation and spiritual peace. In the physical aspect, and always based on the purusha mandala, these are some of the canons and recommendations for designing a space:
1. In general, entryways are a very important part of vastu, and they bestow many attributes to a home. Here are some things one must take into consideration:
a) The entries into a home, living room, study and place of prayer should face North or East.
b) The main door should have two shutters, which should not open inwards.
c) Doors should not make noise. The total number of doors and windows should be an even number (2, 4, 6…) but should not end in 0 (10, 20….). If the door frame is black, the owner could face adversity.
2. Stairs should not be broken or damaged, and stairways should ascend clockwise.
3. The interior is one of the most important parts of a home. This is what vastu shastra recommends:
a) Bright colors should not be used in the home.
b) Cold and light colors should be used to paint the home.
c) When decorating, the following should be avoided: photos depicting war or sad faces; paintings with birds such as owls, crows or doves; erotic figures, etc.
4. Boxes of jewelry or money should face East to promote prosperity.
5. Kitchens and bathrooms should not face East.
6. Walls facing the West or South should be thick and tall; those facing the North or East should be thin and low.
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