vedic architecture and buddhist architecture of asia
V .surya teja
• For the basis of Hindú architecture often reference is made to Vastupurusa or “the spirit
of the site”. One legend explains this as follows. There was an evil demigod (bhuta) who
was born during Siva’s fight with the Asur Andhaka. This bhuta possessed a terrifying
countenance and an insatiable hunger. The legend goes that having done great penance,
the bhuta won a boon from Siva that allowed him to swallow the three worlds that
constitute the Hindu cosmos. As this being stretched himself and began to occupy the
heavens, he fell flat on the earth. The various gods and demigods seized this opportunity
and pinned various parts of his body to the ground, rendering him helpless. This being
came to be called Vast (or Vastupurusa) because the gods and demigods managed to
lodge themselves on his body. Legends hold that the deities, in pinning him down,
occupied different parts of his body and continued to reside there (Figure1). In order to
satisfy his hunger, Brahma ordained that he receive offerings from people on building
sites before construction. The body of the Vastupurusa is supposed to be sensitive at a
number of points called marmas. The well-being of the Vastupurusa assures the well-
being of the building and, by implication, its owner. An important criterion for any
building, therefore, is to avoid injury to the marmas located on the body of the
Vastupurusa. To ensure that this is achieved, texts prohibit any direct construction upon
the marmas themselves. The marmas are specifically said to lie at the intersection of
major diagonals, seen as the veins (siras or nadis) of the purusa.
Vedic architecture or vaasthu shastra
• To define Vaastu Shastra - Vaastu , which means physical environment and Shastra
meaning knowledge or principles, is one of the traditional Hindu canons of town
planning and architecture.Its current popularity stems from its focus on a
wholesome approach to space and form. A home can be so much more — it can
be a special space that creates an influence of good health, happiness, family
harmony and enlightenment. Vedic architecture reliably gives our homes these
influences by using laws of nature that connect individual intellingence with
• Vastu Shastra in essence unifies many subjects together like science, art,
astronomy and astrology. It can also be said as an ancient mystic science that was
used for designing and building the ancient palaces . Vastu Shastra according to
believers helps one to make lives better by securing the living space and
preventing things from going wrong.
• Vaastu as the science of direction , combines all the five elements of nature and
balances them with an individual and the material. The five elements namely
Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space .According to scriptures , ancient sages and seers
had known the secrets of using all the five elements of this universe and their
special characteristics and influences such as the magnetic field, gravitational
of Earth, the galaxy in the sky, the directions and velocity of the winds, light and heat
of the Sun , including the effects of its Ultra-Violet and Infra-Red rays, the volume and
intensity of rainfall etc.
• This knowledge formed the base for what evolved as Vaastu Shastra. The five
elements otherwise also called "Paanchbhootas" of the nature , pave the way for
enhanced health, wealth, prosperity and happiness in an enlightened
• Most importantly Vaastu extracts the positive energies of the five basic elements
of nature - the solar energy of sun, lunar energy of moon, wind energy, magnetic
effects of earth and heat energy of fire and balances them to bring harmony into
the life of a person planning to build or live on a premises.
• There are four categories of Vaastu
• 1, The Earth site or Bhoomi, which is the principle dwelling place on which
• 2, The structure or the Prasada, which would be the building
• 3, Moving vehicles or Yaana
• 4, Furniture or Sayana..
• So, the principles of Vaastu Shastra extend from the macro level to the micro level
which includes site selection, site planning and orientation. It also deals with
zoning and disposition of rooms, proportional relationships between the various
parts of buildings and the character of the building.
• However in today's age & time with growing urbanisation, paucity of space and
• significantly the rampant sense of faithlessness in anything that modern science
fails to explain, it is practically impossible to even dream of a home or office
confirming to the laws of "Vaastu". Its current popularity stems from its focus on a
wholesome approach to space and form. Some perfect Examples of Ancient
Buildings that have been built as per Vaastu :- The TajMahal - Agra , India
• Prashanti Nilayam - Puttaparthi , India
• The temple of Lord Sri Venkateshwara - Tirupati, India.
• Nirmal Hriday Bhawan - Calcutta (Mother Teresa) , India.
• Vivekananda Rock Memorial - Cape Camorin( Kanyakumari) , India.
• Vijaynagar Steel Plant - Torangallu , India
• The Sun Temple in Konarak -Orissa ,India is a perfect example of Vaastu
• Buddhist religious architecture developed in South Asia in the 3rd century BCE.
• Three types of structures are associated with the religious architecture of early
Buddhism: monasteries (viharas), stupas, and temples (Chaitya grihas).
• Viharas initially were only temporary shelters used by wandering monks during the
rainy season, but later were developed to accommodate the growing and
increasingly formalised Buddhist monasticism. An existing example is at Nalanda
(Bihar). A distinctive type of fortress architecture found in the former and present
Buddhist kingdoms of the Himalayas are dzongs.
• The initial function of a stupa was the veneration and safe-guarding of the relics of
the Buddha. The earliest surviving example of a stupa is in Sanchi (Madhya
• In accordance with changes in religious practice, stupas were gradually
incorporated into chaitya-grihas (temple halls). These reached their high point in
the 1st century BC, exemplified by the cave complexes of Ajanta and Ellora
(Maharashtra). The Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya in Bihar is another well
• The Pagoda is an evolution of the Indian stupa
The Buddhist architecture has its
root deeply implanted in the
Indian soil- the birthplace of the
Buddha's teachings. The Buddhist
architecture began with the
development of various symbols,
representing aspects of the
Buddha's life (563 BCE - 483 BCE).
For the first time, it was the
Indian emperor Ashoka, who not
only established Buddhism as the
state religion of his large
Magadh empire, but also opted
for the architectural monuments
to spread Buddhism in different
places. Distinctive Buddhist
architectural structures and
sculptures such as Stupas,
Pagodas, monasteries and Caves,
which have been mere spectators
of different eras quietly speaks
about the phases of the Buddhist
stages. "The shape of the stupa
represents the Buddha, crowned and
sitting in meditation posture on a lion
throne. His crown is the top of the spire;
his head is the square at the spire's base;
his body is the vase shape; his legs are the
four steps of the lower terrace; and the
base is his throne."
THE GREAT SANCHI STUPA
• The 'Great Stupa' at Sanchi is the oldest
stone structure in India and was
originally commissioned by the
emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd
• Its nucleus was a simple hemispherical
brick structure built over the relics of
• It was crowned by the chatra, a
parasol-like structure symbolizing high
rank, which was intended to honour
and shelter the relics.
• There are four gateways known as
‘TORANAS’ at the cardinal points to the
compass and are slightly staggered
from the railing enclosing stupa.
• The ambulatory or pradakshina path is
fenced by railing 3.35m high all around
• Outside the railing there once stood
the famous ashoka pillar, the fragments
of which are noticed now to the right
of southern torana
• Toranas, the entrance to the ambulatory were accepted as the
traditional type of ceremonial potals and excel the array of
• Torana consists of two square uprite columns with capital of lion or
elephant heads denoting strength.
• These columns support three separate horizontal panels between each
of which is a row of ornamental balusters.
• These panels are supported by atlantean figures, a group of dwarfs,
lions and elephant.
• The total height of this erection is somewhat 10.36m with a width of
Railing or Balustrade
• The vedica or railing consists of upright octagonal plan 45cm in diameter spaced at
60 to 90cm from each other and connected by three lens shaped horizontals called
‘suchi’ or needles 60cm deep being threaded through the holes of the upright.
• The top horizontal bar is provided with coping to drain out rain water.
STAMBHAS OR LATS
• These pillars are common to all the styles of Indian architecture.
With the Buddhist they were employed to bear inscriptions on their
shafts, with emblems or animals on their capital.
• Typical Buddhist column are of two type one is based on
persepolitian type and other graeco-roman type.
• Persepolitian type is a octagonal with bell shaped capital supporting
animal sculpture. The shaft is highly polished and has a vase-shaped
• Graeco-roman type is rectangular with shallow flutes. They are tall
and slender, the height nearly six to eight times its lower diameter.
At the top is a capital usually with a fluted vase motif.
• A chaitya is a Buddhist shrine including a stupa. In modern texts on Indian
architecture, the term chaitya-griha is often used to denote an assembly or prayer
hall that houses a stupa. Chaityas were probably constructed to hold large
numbers of devotees and to provide shelter for them. were built as standing
structures with the stupa being surrounded by a colonnaded processional path
enclosed by an outer wall with a congregation hall adjoining it,The more
spectacular and more numerous chaityas, however, were cut into living rock as
caves. were built as standing structures with the stupa being surrounded by a
colonnaded processional path enclosed by an outer wall with a congregation hall
adjoining it, The more spectacular and more numerous chaityas, however, were
cut into living rock as caves. An ancient practice, this has had a long tradition in
Buddhism. Ancient Buddhist chaityas can be found in remote parts of
Maharashtra, specially in Ajanta's rockcut architecture. The earliest rock-cut
chaityas, similar to free-standing ones, consisted of an inner circular chamber with
pillars to create a circular path around the stupa and an outer rectangular hall for
the congregation of the devotees. Over the course of time, the wall separating the
stupa from the hall was removed to create an apsidal hall with a colonnade around
the nave and the stupa.
VIHARAS OR MONASTERIES
• In the early decades of Buddhism the wandering monks of the Sangha, dedicated
to asceticism and the monastic life, had no fixed abode. During the rainy season
they stayed in temporary shelters. These dwellings were simple wooden
constructions or thatched bamboo huts. However, However, as it was considered
an act of merit not only to feed a monk but also to shelter him, sumptuous
monasteries were created by rich lay devotees (Mitra 1971). They were located
near settlements, close enough for begging alms from the population but with
enough seclusion to not disturb meditation. They consist of a main-hall entered by
• They also contain the assembly hall, dining chambers.
• From the halls deep into the rocks, cells are provided for meditation.
• The shrines contains beautiful figures of Buddha and the walls of the antechamber
antechamber depict the stories based on Buddha's life and fine frescoes as in case
• Some great structural viharas were about 60m high covered with glazed tiles.
• Pillars were richly chiseled in the form of dragons.
• Beams were painted in red and rafter with all colors of rainbow.
• Viharas were literally the pleasure gardens of monastic precincts.
• Some of the important Buddhist viharas are those at Ajanta, Ellora. Nasik, Karle,
Kanheri, Bagh and Badami.
• A pagoda is a tiered tower built in the traditions originating in
historic East Asia or with respect to those traditions, with multiple
eaves common in nepal,india,china,japan,korea,vietnam,burma
and other parts of Asia. Some pagodas are used as taoist houses of
worship. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most
commonly buddhist and were often located in or near viharas .This
term may refer to other religious structures in some countries. In
vietnam and combodia due to French translation, the English term
pagoda is a more generic term referring to a place of worship
although pagoda is not an accurate word to describe a Buddhist
vihara. The modern pagoda is an evolution of the a tomb-like
structure where sacred relics could be kept safe and venerated. The
architectural structure of the stupa has spread across Asia, taking
on many diverse forms as details specific to different regions are
incorporated into the overall design. The origin of the pagoda can
be traced to the stupa (3rd century BC).
ARCHITECTURE OF PAGODAS
• Pagodas attract lightning strikes because of their height. Many pagodas have a
decorated finial at the top of the structure, and when made of metal, this finial,
sometimes referred to as a "demon-arrester", can function as a lightning rod. Also
Pagodas come in many different sizes some may be small and others may be large.
Pagodas traditionally have an odd number of levels. The pagodas in Burma,
Thailand, Laos and Cambodia are very different from Chinese and Japanese
pagodas. Pagodas in those countries are derived from Nepali stupas, and are
commonly built with cement, concrete and bricks.
THE IRON PAGODA OF
KAIFENG,CHINA,BUILT IN 1049 A.D.
The Mahāyāna tradition is the largest major tradition of
Buddhism existing today, with 56% of practitioners,
compared to 38% for Theravāda and 6% for Vajrayāna.