Vastu Shastra: Secrets of a Happy and Healthy Home

Ancient Indian Laws of Architecture

Swaminarayan Temple, New Delhi, January 2012
The Swaminarayan Temple was built with Vastu Shastra rules in mind. Leon Yaakov/Flickr
This science is complete in itself.
Happiness to the whole world it can bring
All the four benefits it bestows on you
Rightful living, money, fulfillment of desires and bliss
Are all available in this world itself

Vastu Shastra is the ancient Indian science of architecture, which governs town planning and designing of man-made structures. A part of the Vedas, the word Vastu in Sanskrit means "dwelling," and in the modern context, it covers all buildings. Vastu pertains to the physical, psychological, and spiritual order of the built environment, in consonance with the cosmic energies. It is a study of planetary influences on buildings and the people who live in them, and it aims at providing guidelines for proper construction.

Benefits of Conforming to Vastu Norms

Hindus believe that for peace, happiness, health, and wealth one should abide by the guidelines of Vastu while building a dwelling. It tells us how to avoid diseases, depression, and disasters by living in structures in a manner that fosters the presence of a positive cosmic field.

Since Vedic wisdom is considered to be synonymous with divine knowledge of the cosmic mind obtained by sages in deep states of meditation, Vastu Shastra, or the science of Vastu, is thought to contain the guidelines given by the Supreme Being. Delving into history, we find that Vastu developed during the period of 6000 BCE and 3000 BCE (Ferguson, Havell and Cunningham) and was handed over by ancient architects through word-of-mouth or by hand-written monographs.

The Fundamental Principles of Vastu Shastra

The principles of Vastu had been explained in ancient Hindu scriptures, called Puranas, including Skanda Purana, Agni Purana, Garuda Purana, Vishnu Purana, Bruhatsamhita, Kasyapa Shilpa, Agama Sastra and Viswakarma Vastushastra.

The fundamental premise of Vastu rests on the assumption that the earth is a living organism, out of which other living creatures and organic forms emerge, and so every particle on earth and space possesses live energy. According to Vastushastra, five elements--Earth, Fire, Water, Air (atmosphere) and Sky (space)--govern the principles of creation. These forces act for or against each other to create harmony and disharmony. It also says that everything on earth is influenced in one way or another by the nine planets and that each of these planets guards a direction. So our dwellings are under the influence of the five elements and the nine planets.

The Positives and Negatives, According to Vastu

Vastushastra says that if the structure of your house is so designed that the positive forces override the negative forces, then there is a beneficial release of bio-energy, which helps you and your family members to live a happy and healthy life. A positive cosmic field prevails in a Vastulogically constructed house, where the atmosphere is congenial for a smooth and happy life. On the other hand, if the same structure is built in such a manner that the negative forces override the positive, the overbearing negative field makes your actions, efforts , and thoughts negative. Herein comes the benefits of Vastu, which helps you create a positive atmosphere at home.

Vastu Shastra: Art or Science?

Evidently, Vastu is akin to the science of geopathy, the study of the diseases of the earth. In both these two disciplines, for instance, the presence of dampness, dressed stones, beehives, and anthills are considered harmful for human habitation. Geopathy recognizes that cosmic electromagnetic radiations surround the globe and that radiation distortions can make a site unsafe for construction. In some parts of Austria, children are moved to different desks in school, at least once each week, so that learning difficulties are not increased by sitting too long in a stressed area. Geopathic stress may also attack the immune system and cause conditions like asthma, eczema, migraine and irritable bowel syndrome.​

There are also a lot of similarities between Vastu and its Chinese counterpart, Feng Shui, in that they recognize the existence of positive and negative forces (Yin and Yang). Feng Shui, however, attaches considerable importance to gadgets such as fish tanks, flutes, mirrors and lanterns. The similarity of practices is one reason why Fend Shui is gaining rapid popularity in India. Did you know that for the hit Hindi film Pardes, Indian movie mogul Subhash Ghai directed that each position of the shoot had to be compatible with rules Feng Shui? And in yet another Bollywood blockbuster Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, the colors used were in tune with the perceptions of Feng Shui.

While many people still strongly believe in Vastu, the common consensus is that it's an ancient science that was perhaps useful in ancient times but which makes little sense today. While some swear by it, many think that Vastu has become obsolete in modern cities with sewage systems, multi-storied buildings with air-conditioners, exhaust fans in kitchens, advanced water systems and so on.

Finally, it may be worth noting the words of Indologist and Vedacharya David Frawley: "India is a greatly favored land in terms of cosmic beneficence according to the Vastu aspect of its geographical location. The Himalayas, or Meru Parvat, oversee the whole of India in the likeness of the prime sahasrara chakra in the human body."