Vastu is a traditional Indian method of building architecture with parallels to Chinese Feng Shui. However, Vastu consists of several principles that give it its own character and the dwelling space management outlook. The Sanskrit word vastu means a dwelling or house with a corresponding plot of land, so it is a holistic approach to house building that includes a larger scope of natural elements and energies. The vriddhi vāstu, takes the meaning of "the site or foundation of a house, site, ground, building or dwelling-place, habitation, homestead, house". The underlying root is vas "to dwell, live, stay, reside". In his classical Hindu scripture Brihat Samhita, Varahamihira, in the chapter Vastu Vidya, gives detailed explanations for the house layout that is based first on the royal court's dimensions from which several other social class dwelling patterns are derived. Particular attention is given to the directional floor plan layouts that follows the solar day of 24 hrs circle and eight directions. Another important term in Vastu is Vastu Purusha, it means "a living place", or a soul dwelling space.
The common element in all design variants in Vastu is to follow solar orientation patterns and also to include an unoccupied space in the middle of the house that symbolically represents the creative universal principle of Brahma. Brahma can be understood as a creative force in all undertakings that take place in the dwelling place, or house. Everything evolves around this center and the floor plan layout with rooms around it are particular manifestations of the center. In this context, special significance is given to the four cardinal and four ordinal directions on a compass:
East – Indra, South East – Agni, South – Yama, South West – Niruthi, West – Varuna, North West – Vayu, North – Kubera, North East – Isana.
They are called Ashta Dik Palaks, meaning Eight Guardian Deities. In the modern world the names of deities can be explained as specific forms of energy with their corresponding qualities. That way, a house, can be thought out as a mini replica of much larger planetary environment with the creative force of sun in the center. It is believed that every piece of a land or a building has a soul of its own and that soul is known as Vastu Purusha, soul of the living space.
How would Vastu principles of living space apply in the modern world and in particular in the house design, floor plans, elevations, and space planning? In comparison, in the Western practice of house and building design, directions in space don't seem to carry particular weight and only very few of those rules would be considered. For example, it is known that planning a kitchen placement in the South direction is not recommended due to the temperature influence during the course of the day. Also, a library placement in the South in a residential design is considered as less favorable. On the other hand, those general suggestions can be modified by the client's own preferences and recommendations, existing house floor plan layout and square footage. In addition, developing physical guidelines that respond to the psychological needs of people is one of the most difficult tasks in house and building design. It seems, Vastu principles would be better applied for the construction of a new house rather than remodeling an existing structure that would require several significant changes.
The 8x8 (64) grid Manduka Vastu Purusha Mandala layout for Hindu Temples. It is one of 32 Vastu Purusha Mandala grid patterns described in Vastu sastras. In this grid structure of symmetry, each concentric layer has significance of creative force described in elemental qualities
Manuals of architecture, called Vastu Sastra were used for Hindu temple layout, design and construction, along with chapters on design principles for houses, villages, towns. The architect and artists (Silpins) were given wide latitude to experiment and express their creativity.
Vastu Shastra-inspired plan adapted and evolved by modern architect Charles Correa (1930 – 2015), an Indian master architect, urban plannerand activist. Credited for the creation of modern architecture in post-Independent India, he was celebrated for his sensitivity to the needs of the urban poor and for his use of traditional methods and materials. The design: Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur, Rajasthan.