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During the medieval ages in India, no single dynastic power served as the undisputed dispenser of cultural and artistic ideas. However, despite their regional flourishes, Hindu temple designs displayed a remarkable unity of aesthetic purposes. This unified philosophy was codified into a system of rules or canons (a compendium of architectural guidelines) called the Vastushastras. These canons were the purview of the priestly class, were intentionally made very complex so that they were incomprehensible to even skilled building craftspeople and were seldom challenged.
Of all the canons and rules in the Vastushastras, the one that found the most favor with building designers from ancient times to the present day is the Vastu purusha mandala. The Vastu purusha mandala has been defined as "a collection of rules which attempt to facilitate the translation of theological concepts into architectural form." This law of proportions and rhythmic ordering of elements not only found full expression in temples, but extended to residential and urban planning as well. This paper argues that the influence of the Vastu purusha mandala extended beyond building activity to encompass the cultural milieu as well. The first section discusses the principles underlying the Vastu purusha mandala. The application of the Vastu purusha mandala in residential design and city planning is discussed in the second section. The implications of the mandalas on the social milieu are also identified. Finally, the current status of the mandala in contemporary Indian architecture and urban design are identified.
The Vastu purusha mandala (Dhama, 1962)
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