Vastu Shastra doctrine are ancient spiritual design priciples that can be described as follows:
Utilized in India for many centuries, Vastu Shastra has a number of cultural/historical linkages and similarities to both Feng Shui in China, as well as the design principles of the Ancient Greece. More recently, the traditions and tenets of Vastu Shasta were largely set aside in modern society. Even within India itself, Vastu Shanstra was being abandoned by professionals in deference to more contemporary formulations and design protocols within architecture and planning. This was due, at least in part, to opinions from some who felt Vastu Shastra was dated and too wrapped in superstition. Despite these feelings, many people in India continued to incorporate Vastu Shastra principles in their home design much in the way Feng Shui is applied in Chinese culture.
It should be noted, that there are some aspects of Vastu Shastra city design that should be discarded, astray suggest physically separating the working classes from the ruling and more elite classes. Beyond those, in light of the accelerating global challenges taking place in relation to the Earth’s climate, those Vastu Shastra principles that help enhance humanity’s proper place in and relationship to nature are worthy of further examination. This blogpost specifically examines those aspects of Vastu Shastra that help build a harmonious relationship between humans and Mother Nature in a planning context.
To begin, Vastu Shastra’s foundation is centered upon the five forces/energies of the universe. These are:
- Prithvi = the earth
- Jala = the water
- Vayu = the air
- Agni = heat or the fire
- Aakash = the space
A key component of Vastu Shastra is to properly align a structure or place in a manor which is creates balance with these cosmic forces/energies. To do so helps enhance well-being. To not be in balance with these forces, risks unhappiness, problems, and disappointment.
Vastu Shastra is applicable to the home, the neighborhood, the community, and beyond. How each of these aligns with the forces/energies of the universe can impact whether there will be a positive or negative flow over time.
Applications in Planning
There are numerous principles of Vastu Shastra that would be useful to the planning profession. These include how to properly site a building or community so that it aligns correctly with the cosmos in a manner that takes fullest advantage of the five forces of the universe. Here are just a few examples:
- A city/town should be developed aside a river, sea shore, or lake — if this location is bow-shaped, even better;
- Mountains and hills are helpful in that they provide security;
- Verdant forests, gardens, green belts, and flowers should be incorporated into the city/town design;
- Orientation to the cardinal directions is very important as are specific compass directions for specific purposes and needs;
- Primary streets should be lined with shops and intersect where the main open markets are located.
- Quarters of the city/town should be further divided by lanes and alleys;
- Each quarter of the city/town is dedicated to the production and sale of specific crafts;
- Use of non-toxic, energy-efficient, and sustainable building materials is emphasized;
- Minimize disruption during development;
- Five city/town shapes are recommended:
- Chandura (square) – considered the most balanced shape
- Agatara (rectangle)
- Vritta (circle)
- Krittta Vritta (elliptical)
- Gola Vritta (full circle)
Beyond the planning guidelines listed above, it is imperative to remember that there are also actions that could produce negative outcomes. These could lead the home, business, or community away from prosperous future and into decline. Essentially, for every positive step into balance with cosmic forces, there is a potential equal and opposite misstep that should be avoided if at all possible. These can be everything from improper siting, orientation, and design, to poor road layout.
Climate Change Applications
So…could human development patterns and how we orient and design structures be a contributor to accelerating climate change? Well, it is safe to say there are many places that have not developed in a manner that is in balance with the forces of the universe as they are described in the teachings of Vastu Shastra. The same could be said for specific residential uses, factories, mines, and many other projects. Some improperly located places should be obvious even to those not familiar with Vastu Shastra, as evidenced by their inharmonious, if not downright hostile relationship with nature.
Perhaps the single most beneficial aspect of Vastu Shastra in regards to the ongoing challenges of climate change is that it requires a different mindset in our individual and collective relationship(s) with nature. Throughout much of history, many humans have used Old Testament texts contained in the Book of Genesis to regard both nature and the Earth itself as things to dominate (a.k.a. have dominion over). As a result, humans have desecrated, polluted, contaminated, and degraded the Earth through their misguided actions and deeds. Well, guess what? Mother Earth is fighting back with more powerful storms, extended droughts, horrific floods, rampant wildfires, rising temperatures, and the like…and we (humans) are a primary cause through our wrongful actions.
Given the importance of restoring and maintaining a proper balance with nature, applying the principles Vastu Shastra could be a helpful tool for humanity to begin to reverse climate change. While it is unlikely that micro-level developments (individual homes and businesses) would be enough to sway the powerful forces of nature, at the macro-level, enormous urban agglomerations or the sprawling aggregations of homes, industries, and businesses across the planet can have more profound effects on our planet.
For the planning profession in this era of climate change, the call for “an equilibrium with nature” found in Vastu Shastra should also be incorporated into our efforts to build better, safer, cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous communities. Furthermore, forging solutions to ongoing problems that have arisen from having been out of balance with the five forces/energies of nature should be applied as one way to begin reversing the negative effects of humanity’s prior misdeeds. Finally, the single most important, productive, and long-lasting solution would be a focus on teaching universal harmony with each other, nature, and our planet. Otherwise, we risk the very survival of civilization itself.
If you are interested in learning more about Vastu Shastra in relation to planning and design, here are two books on the topic that area available on Amazon.com.*
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