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RELIGIOUS FACTORS

One major rational objection is why include a treatise on building in a religious work. Why not present it with all its reasons, aims, methods and media in a logical and scientific manner. I offer some hypothesis and some reasons :- Hinduism as in chinese culture and religion, is a way of life rather than just a religion. It is not a formal, finite concept that is bounded in a volume but rather a scattering of treatise on all subjects with a central philosphy of life running through it. This is the spirit of hinduism which has survived. Hence if religion is a way of life then the way of life is also a part of religion. There is no duality. Everything has the same purpose, the same philosphy and the same concept behind it, be it a house, a temple, man himself or nature. One advantage is the preservation of the message. It is treated with reverence and regard and very few dare tamper with it. the cocoon of religion preserves the many simple practical basic rules of architecture. The design principles are adhered to with the same unquestioning faith and thus necessarily lead to a overall good design. Ventilation, radiation, wind and sun are dealt with properly and religion ensures their widespread prevalence.

Both Vastu and Feng Shui eschew other shapes than the rectangle and square and thus ensyred good town planning. God is the enforcer. No need for enforcement of rules by law. After all as Satre said "There is no fear, no phobias, only the fear of death and unknown. What better fear could there be induced compliance with the rules. However this same has been muddied over the years and now exists in a warped state with signs of the revival very faint. Superstitious, unscruplous practioners, greed and ignorance have tainted the purity of these doctrines. It becomes hard to seperate the truth from fallacy and here is where the real role of the architect lies. That to seperate the wheat from the chaff. Modern science too has a major role to play as it must probe deeper into the works and develop a system that works so well and is so functional. Only then can the vadility of these systems be proved or disproved. BOUNDARIES Another major objection to the rational architect is the boundaries, restrictions and limits it puts into the design process. So many rules and all have to be followed. Yet all cannot be followed fully.

Then the architect has to optimize and produce the best possible combination of all the various factors. It is possible to design taking into account so many factors, only it is much tougher and requires greater discipline. And the reward is an optimum design. Thus the architect must realize which factors should be given priority and the relevant weight to be attached to each factor considering the current design context. Thus the role of the architect becomes even more . THEN AND NOW Over the last few decades a specific architectural education has emerged which has borrowed largely from the western model and has completely neglected to study or examine either the scientific base or the technology of the traditional architecture. In fact ancient building techniques have been relegated to museum status and are studied with little emphasis on the continuity between the past and the present. The ancient traditions are built in strong roots that have fostered positive results over the centuries.

The artist-sculptor or the architect emerged from a very carefully nutured system with both the skill and the inward commitment towards social well-being, rather than from motives of self-aggrandizement. Stress was laid on holistic appraisal and functioning of the social system that even today remains a very powerful living tradition in both Indian and Chinese cultures. The belief that the cosmos is a manisfestation of a traditional, non-dual, yet immanent principle which unfolds the world and inhabits it as its animating principle is central to our ancient philosphy. This one undivided principle which contains the universe in its womb in potential form is the beginning of all spatial dimension and temporal duration. As it evolves the original wholeness is split as under, gets differenciated and gives rise to form pairs of opposites, the elements and the world of senses.

The scriptures say that the individual who has the experience of this unbroken totality represented through harmonious relationship of spaces, feels complete in himself. When structure are fragmented without reference tothe sensibilities of the earth and the ryhtms of the stars, man is incomplete, fractured from his roots. This is the traditional ethos. Much of this is similar to current design philosphies. Modern architecture too lays stress on the wholeness , unity and an integral concept inherent in each aspect of a building and its harmony with the environment. The ancient tradition go a step further. The integral concept and the central idea which they want to manifest in their buildings is none less than the central cosmological unity and the prefect unbroken totality of the universe itself. they do not want the built environment to be just in harmony with its surroundings but rather to harmonise and resonate with all the forces and elements existing.

Our modern system thus do not place so much of a burden as the traditional ones do on the architect. In the current design scenario the architect is a translator of the requirement of the client in keeping with the technical, aesthetical and to a lesser degree environmental needs. In the ancient tradition the architect was the creator, a follower, of the profession of the Gods themselves and on his shoulders fell the honerous task of unifying his creations wth the cosmological unity and this unity would lead to a design which would be apporopiate in all respects and withstand any scrutiny. PRESENT FORM OF VASTU Vastu Shastra our ancient building science is once again a passion among many who believe that it can change their fortunes. Visitors to the South Delhi office would miss the smiling face of the lady receptionist unless they walk right round her- she sits with her back to the main door. The owner of the buisness a staunch Vastu Shastra adherent claims it helped turn around his once flounding venture. He is even having his factory designed the 'Vastu-friendly' way. Millions made or lost are often attributed to the direction of a gate or main door faces, the shape of the plot, the position of a particular room.

For houses Vastu Shastra demands that there be open space all around, that balconies and most door or windows face east or north, that the southwestern side is good for the master bedroom but bad for the water tank. Shapes of land too are important : a square plot is best - it creates all round prosperity. Triangular plots as well as polygonal ones, may create problems for the owners. Industrial estates, shopping arcades, wells, garages, staircase nothing is exempted from Vastushastra's ambit. And even the biggest of the builders may consult a shastri before they clinch the land deal. Vastu Pandits never had it so good. Fear is the key. "What most of these so called experts do is play on the insecurities of the average buisnessman," says architect Charles Correa. "If you don't turn your table and move it to the end of the room, you will lose all your money", they proclaim. "This works like magic. The client buys this rather than the aesthetic or functional reasons that architect usually present". Correa feels that the Vastushatra were meant for large open sites on which a structure can be oriented in any direction. " its a different mater in places where the direction of the building main entrance is determined by the surrounding road network I would'nt play silly tricks and move the main entrance to the building's rear". Anyhow its often impractical to apply Vastushastra directions universally. "In Rajasthan we can't open our bedroom to the north in winter when the winds from the north are unbearably cold says Uttam C. Jain who grew up in Malwara, Rajasthan. There is no rationale in Vastushastra ," adds Achyut Kanvinde.

Meanwhile questions are being asked about the many vastu prescriptions that have become confusingly ambigious as Indian life-styles changed. An important factor in VastuShastra is the source of water. What is the source of water for a Delhi resident of a multistorey building. The tap. The overhead tank. The Yammuna. Just like Manu-Smirti was relevant a few centuries ago but it is torn to pieces now maybe that is how vastu too will go. Raj Rewal would rather consider VastuShastra like a KamaSutra. Parts of it are practical and parts of it are ridiculous- he points out. Vastu Shastra is a mixture of superstition, vague mystical thoughts and some very sensible ideas. We have to see whats relevant today. RELEVANCE These ancient systems of designing the built environment of the man were a part of a much greater cultural and social ethos and a way of life which existed in those times.

Thus they can only be understood when viewed in the context in which they were prevalent. Architecture war infused with the spirituality which now seems out of place but was very much a part of the living traditions of both these grand ancient cultures. The relevance of Vastu Shastra for the Indian architect thus needs to be re-examined in the light of our current social and cultural values. We are living in a society which is in a state of transition and metemorphosis. We are trying to retain our Indianess , our religion and culture and its values while at the same time keeping up the world and relying heavily on western concepts of education, administration and buisness etc. This mixture and the resulting confusion natural to any such transition is reflected in all the spheres of life and much more visible in the current state of our Architecture. We have still not evolved anything like a distinctive modern architecture. What we have is a curious mixture of Greek, granite and glass. Baroque and exposed brick, Vastu and concrete, Marble and false terracota, and so on. The architecture of a place only reflects the social and cultural currrents of that time and age and so perhaps this is the accurate manisfestation of today's spirit.

Thus to transplant Vastushastra into the current scene is nothing but ignorance, superstition, opportunism and irresponsibility on the part of the architect. Treating it as yet another building element in conjunction with the whole bagful of other elements is a mockery of the very concept of it. You cannot have a "Vastu" plan and a Greek elevation and do justice to either. Just like Hinduism was more than just a set of religious rules but rather a way of living so is Vastu not just some rules for building but rather a way of design, a philosphy of building. Only when this is understood will its misuse and abuse stop. Since we have adopted the western way in most of the spheres of life we must evolve a comparable system, an equally insightful and exhaustive method of design. We have taken science as our God. Let this science show us the way. The purpose of the architect is to optimize the built environment and comfort the man. Let us use science to search for means to do this. We cannot transpose Vastu into this age and what will only be tainted and impure because that way of life is gone, only let us retain its spirit within us.