Sharad Narayan, our resident architect, bibliomaniac and music enthusiast talks about a growing rage and misunderstood science. All from personal and professional experience.
Ever seen those giant-size hoardings that assault your eyes at every nook and cranny of the city? ” If this (a Large Cut Diamond in the picture) is your paper-weight, we know where you’ll feel at home “(Please tell me not Devanahalli!!!). “Rubies Available for a Steal” (A Ruby being equated to an apartment. How Symbolic) . “Amazing Elevation to Alliviate Suffering”(Best of the lot, though the spelling is causing me immense pain).
Hilarious, isn’t it, how they think our minds are swayed by such ideas of splendor? Even better is when the hoardings start to make claims about being ‘Vaasthu’ Compliant houses. They tell you that they have the most ideal home for you, funnily enough having never met you. But, that is the kicker. The mere mention of ‘Vaasthu’ is enough to sway the most practical and simplistic people.
Most people fail to understand the true meaning and purpose of Vaasthu. The basic principles of Vaasthu are based upon Climatology and the style of living that was in place in the ancient times. Being an essentially agrarian community, the primary occupation was agriculture. Storage for future purposes took prime importance. Based on the ancient Vaasthu Purusha Mandala concepts, the 8 portions of the house can be divided in the following ways:
With the segregation of classes as per their profession, the use of the armoury became limited, and was slowly phased out.
The Granary was moved to the southwest corner so that the grains harvested will not be spoiled. Since the radiation of the sun is most powerful when falling on the southern and western façade, this was a good move, seeing that the radiation would kill harmful bacteria and other organisms.
The Kitchen was retained on the Southeast corner, with an alternative of having it in the Northwest corner. The prevailing wind direction is from the Southwest to the Northeast; hence, with the kitchens in these two locations, the movement of smoke or fumes will be out of the house, rather than into the house, as it would be if the Kitchen was in the southwest corner.
The entry and living room was kept to the north. This was done keeping in mind that the sun rays are the mildest to the north, and since we spend the majority of our time in the living area, this should be a comfortable place to be in.
The Toilets and Bathrooms were positioned in the south, keeping the old practice of conservancy lanes in mind (ideal placement, considering a North-facing site). This changed with the orientation of the site.
With time, the idea of Vaasthu slowly declined. With the advent of the British rule in India, most people forgot Vaasthu and found it more convenient to ape the Empire. This trend continued even after Independence. Until recently, Vaasthu was forgotten and ignored by most. However, from the beginning of the new century, many people are becoming obsessed with Vaasthu, be it logical stuff or ludicrous codswallop. Different schools of thought promoting different variants of the basic science that is Vaasthu distorts its original concepts. The final result sees a mish-mash of Vaasthu concepts illogically combined together to create spaces that are not too conducive for living. Some of these weird concepts are as follows:
The movement on a staircase should be in the clockwise direction. This is practically impossible; the staircase provides two-way movement, both clockwise and anti-clockwise.
Commode Orientation is a raging issue in vaasthu now. As per the ancient tradition, where people used to finish their business in the open, they would not sit facing the East or West; rather, they would face the North or South. This was, apparently, a way of not disrespecting the Sun-God; show him your face or your posterior while taking a dump, and he will surely subject you to eternal pain and suffering! In the current context, however, the same cannot be applied. Our toilets are enclosed within 4 walls. In certain cases (as in apartments) the toilets won’t even face an exterior wall. In such scenarios, the relevance of this rule needs to be questioned, instead of it being blindly followed.
Two openings of the same width should not face each other, as it will cause Kutthu. This is to do with counteracting positive and negative forces from opposite sides. But, for the life of me, I am yet to figure out how it matters. It’s not like the positive or negative energy is going to come and hit me square in the face in a great gust, when I open or close a door!!
The Puja room should not have a toilet above it. You should not walk over the Puja Room. The Puja Room should not share walls with any other room, and especially not with toilet. The logic behind this can be understood, but only in past context. When the house comprised only of a single floor, the Northeast portion was generally projected out as the Puja room (In accordance with the Deva Moolai). With time, and the increasing constraint on space, people are going vertical in constructing houses. The Puja is now considered an afterthought in most places, and hence is adjusted either in the kitchen or in the dining room. In the rare occasion that the house has a Puja room, such rules come into the picture, resulting in circus acts (like double walls, double slabs) being constructed in the house.
An associated belief is that the Gods in the Puja room should either face the East or the West. Now I really want to know, did the Gods tell you that they would punish you if they were made to face the North or the South? And why the preference? Did he whisper it in your ear as you were born?
Depending on the school of thought, you are supposed to have either an odd number or an even number of doors, windows or columns (yes, this happens). To quote an example, a client whose project I am handling found out that there were 18 columns supporting the framework for his house. As per Vaasthu he asked us to add an extra column, to make it an odd number. Now, the column he added is a dummy and does not continue on the upper floors. The money is thus wasted on such silly, vestigial thoughts
One of my favourite and illogical ones; once you climb up a few stairs to get into a house, you should not climb down again. The only foreseeable problem is when you walk around day-dreaming and fall down a few stairs. That should teach you not to walk around updating your Facebook/Twitter status on phone, instead of paying attention to where you’re walking.
With regards to the kitchen, the stove should only be on the east, and the sink should be on the west. The stove bit is understandable, since if there are fumes from cooking, they will be carried away, out of the house by the prevailing Southwest winds. The sink in the western portion is residual thinking. As per the Vaasthu Purusha mandala, the western portion of the house was the Varuna Moolai (Varuna: the God of water, as per Hindu belief). So, the West in a Southeast kitchen should be the sink. What direction is that, eventually?
The Highest Point of the house should be the Southwest; the Lowest Point should be the Northeast. This concept was applicable in ancient times for houses with a central courtyard. With compact and more functional spaces, this is impractical.
This one is Epic. The second bedroom in the house should not be in the Northwest corner of the house. Since the offspring will occupy the 2nd bedroom, there are chances of the child seceding from the family and even dying an untimely death. (Vishwakarma must be turning in his grave by now!!) As per the Vaasthu Purusha Mandala, the Northwest corner of the house is generally associated with Disease. Hence, the fear about disease and death is common. However, making it person-specific is a gimmick of present day Vaasthu interpretations.
If there is a West Entry to the house, there should be a door opposite to it on the Eastern side as well, to counteract the negative effects. The same can be applied if there is an entry on the South face; there should be door opposite to it on the North (So what happened to the Kutthu now? Epic Kutthu Fail 🙂)
These are just a few of the pointers I’ve noticed over 3 years of interactions with various clients. The belief in these kinds of Vaasthu is sometimes the kind that completely ruins a brilliant design. Belief is a very strong agent. When it turns into blind acceptance, it is more of a poison that affects your thought and judgment. Avoidance of such blind acceptance is the most ideal way to progress in a design process. Looking beyond these fallacies is essential while selecting a space for a house. I call it a space for a House, rather than a Home, since I believe that brick, mortar and concrete do not make a house; people do.