|Vaastu - Being an Architect in India: Oct. 20th
|Bhaskar has been putting me to work on his housing plans.
He has acquired a 40 x 60 lot on which he wants to put a 2700 square foot
house with 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, servant's quarters, and the obligatory kitchen, dining
room, living room, and puja room.
|I spent a day working up a beautiful post-modern plan with
him. It had all the right curves and spaces, and was a plan I personally was extremely
proud of. In architectural school, Im sure the plan would have earned me an A. Of
course, this is India, and as I keep rediscovering what I think matters very little.
|Bhaskar had to have his mother review the plan. It was then
that I learned about vaastu, the ancient Indian science of building layout. I believe it
is the most ancient uniform building code in the world. Vaastu has a similar cultural
equivalent in China, Feng Shui. However, vaastu is caste related, and since Bhaskar is a
strict Brahmin (come to think of it, in India Ive never met a non-strict Brahmin),
this house had to be laid out according to the principles of vaastu. Bhaskars mother
rejected the plan as non-vaastu compliant, and I had to come up with something more
|So it was off to the bookstore to read about vaastu. First
up, the qualities of the site include its soil, and its seller. White colored soil is
considered good for Brahmins (the learned caste), red is good for kshatriyas (warriors),
yellow for vaishyas (the merchant class) and black for sudras ("the lower or
backwards working class"). Similarly, "the soil should have a taste appropriate
to the class - sweet for Brahmins, bitter for kshatriyas, sour for vaishyas and any
other taste for other working classes". Sites sold by rich people who have been
living happily on the site are always good. Sites which are being sold under duress, or
which contain dilapidated or haunted houses should be avoided (This explains why old
restored havelis, forts, palaces, etc., in India are always owned by white folks!). After
acquisition of the plot, cow dung should be placed on the site and a cow and its calf
should be placed there for "some time".
|Mother had objected to my placement of individual rooms in
the house. The entry had to be on the northeast, and the well had to be moved from the
southwest to the northeast. I had a dining room wash basin and toilet next to the puja
room, a major vaastu violation. The puja room was oriented to the south instead of on an
east-west axis. Everything it seemed including puja rooms, entryways, bedrooms (if you
want a male child), etc should be in the northwest corner of the house. The strangest rule
was that clothes had to be washed in the southeast corner because electricity will be used
for the washing machine. Huh? Say what?
|It was a challenge for Frank Lloyd Wright to do a house
under these design guidelines. What to do to with these seemingly incongruous rules? The
cynic in me said "Hire a vaastu consultant, and bribe him to invent rationalizations
to mother to get out of this". However, determined to bend, rather than break, I went
back, literally, to the drawing board. A new modified, and much less elegant plan was
produced that satisfied the laws of vaastu. While it is a livable house, it wont be
architecturally stunning. Mother, on the other hand, wholeheartedly approved the new plan,
and this architect now has a satisfied customer.
|While going through this process, Satish has been
purchasing an apartment of his own. Reviewing his plans, I noted that the toilet was
facing south, which if I understood vaastu correctly, was a major no-no. "Yar",
said Satish, "what does it matter, it comes out the north end".
|I really like Satish.