VEDIC Principles for Planning
of Temple Cities of India
By: Ar. Iram Aziz
• Rig VedaRig Veda
• Sam VedaSam Veda
• Yajur VedaYajur Veda
• Athar VedaAthar Veda
• Mayamata, Manasara, Vishvakarma - VastuShastra,
Samaranganasutradhara, Aparajita - Priccha,
Manasollasa, Prasadamandana, Shilparatnam etc.
are treatise on Architecture based on Vedic hymns.
• There are innumerable references in Rigveda which indicate a
very advanced Vastushilpa.
City and its Functions
• A traditional nagara (city) is one where the sacred and the
• Temples (mentioned in Yajurveda hymns) - the link between
the cosmic and the human (worship)
– cultural centres; festive and ritual activities
– educational : pathshala
– social life: public meetings and social gatherings
– significant part in the economy of the village: donations
goes for nagara development and employments.
– Mathas: monastic centre of education and pilgrim rest
City in literary and epic narratives
• Sanskrit epics
– Ramayana; Ayodhya and Sri Lanka - advanced stage of city
• Tamil epic poems
– Silappadigaram; city is of technical order - vibrant, wealthy
and a heterogenous city
• Kautliya's Arthashastra; a treatise on statecraft and polity,
image of a well-planned city where people of diverse
occupations interact, although within the given framework.
• Kalidasa's play Shakuntala
• Vatsyayana's Kamasutra
City as a site of liberation and alienation
• City provides locale for the pursuit and fulfilment of the four
aims of life- Purusharthas
– Dharma- duty, righteousness, morality
– Karma- pleasure
– Artha- wealth
– Moksha- liberation
• In some brahmanical texts, the city is also seen as a place to
be avoided (Apastamba) Dharmasutra (I, 32,21), as the quest
for liberation is impossible in a city.
• The Bauddhayana declares that: "It is impossible for one to
obtain salvation, who lives in a town covered with dust" (II, 3,
• Sthapatya Veda (part of Atharva Veda); layout of a city
• Smriti Shastra; street layouts (micro & macro)
• Vaastu Shastra - treatises on architectural planning,
construction and design; matters relating to site selection, site
planning and orientation, quality of soil, water resources,
planting of trees and groves.
– Arthashastra; environmental management
– Manasara Shilpa Shastra – Grama Vidhana & Nagara Vidhana
• A traditional city designed according to the principles of
sacred geometry was based on cosmological theories.
– Vaastu Purush Mandala
• Vastu Shastra recommends five shapes of a town;
1. Chandura; square
2. Agatara; rectangle
3. Vritta; circle
4. Kritta Vritta; elliptical
5. Gola Vritta; full circle
Source: Kautilya The
is considered to be a
and addresses those
to the practices of
• Silpasasthras refers to four distinct categories of habitation
settlements within the forts and fortified cities;
1. Janabhavanas : houses for common mass.
2. Rajbhavanas : palaces and gorgeous mansions for ruling class.
3. Devabhavanas : religious shrines.
4. The public buildings such as public rest house, public gardens, public libraries,
public tents, reservoirs, and wells.
• Silpasasthras do not put more emphasis upon the secular
architecture i.e.,the Janabhavanas
• Manasara, Mayamata and Visvakarma Prakara (later scriptures) laid
emphasis on planning and architecture of Janabhavanas.
– “architect of human dwellings”
– has given a list of 50 establishments including administrative and domestic
Hymn ‘Purusa Sukta’ in the Rg Veda, describes the symbolic division of
Purusa, or the Eternal Man, into four varnas or classes;
Allocation based on Varnashrama dharma or the ideal social & spiritual order. The
Sanskrit word Varnashrama is formed by joining 2 words "Varna" and "Asrama".
There are 4 kinds of Varnas & 4 kinds of Ashramas
Varnas (Social order or caste)
1.Brahamana - Intellectual class
2.Kshatriya - Administrative or ruling class
3.Vaisya - Business class
4.Sudra - Working class
Ashrama (Spiritual order or life’s culture)
1.Sannyasa - Renounced order
2.Vanaprastha - Intermediate stage between Grihasta & Sannyasa
3.Grihasta - an ideal married person, who contributes most to the society
4.Brahmacarya - A celibate, does academic learning under a bonafide Guru.
Vastu Shastra & Urban Design
– Nagara Vidhana
• Grid –iron pattern: main streets.
• Primary, Secondary & Tertiary street layout.
• Street with green plant borders.
• Pedestrian footpath between street & green belt.
• Junction of main axis: Brahmastana
• Public space ~ public accessibility ~ public building
• discard land that has depression in the middle area corresponding to Brahmastana
• Mixed use on main streets, i.e. residences above commercial/office etc.
• The streets that run round the layout can have buildings on one side. These
buildings can relate to schools, colleges, public libraries and buildings, offices,
guest houses etc.
• The smaller streets can have residential buildings on both sides. Each segment
or block can have houses that are uniform in height and appearance.
• People of similar professions, age groups, health can be housed in the same
• Crematoria were placed outside the layout Mandala
Vastu Shastra & Urban Design
– Samarangana Sutradhara
• Recommends 34 roads in a model town, running EW & NS.
• importance of gardens (mentions a belt of trees and plants surrounding town).
• banyan tree recommended in centre of a town, serving for a council hall.
• Udaka (source of water)
• most essential primary elements of nature (Panchabhoota).
• Source of life
• Trading routes (sea-shores & rivers)
• The drains and sewers are sloped naturally towards East & North
Vastu Shastra & Urban Design
• Towns based on plans ranging from Pechaka (plan of 4 squares) to Asana (plan
of 100 squares).
• It speaks of the street that is on the border of the street (Mangalaveedhi) and
the street that surrounds the Brahmasthana (Brahmaveedhi)
• Laying out should start in the NE (Easanya).
• A prosperous town is normally situated along a sea or river coast.
• A stream on the north border of the city running to the east or the concept of
the mega-city as an island will indeed contribute to its global success.
Madurai – “Temple City”
• The City of Madurai, was originally built around the Meenakshi temple .
• Rectangular streets named after the Tamil months of Aadi, Chithirai and Maasi surround the
temple, symbolizing the structure of the cosmos.