Asian Traditions: Building for Peace

Sthapatya ved, India's ancient alliance of spiritual practice and science, aims to bring prosperity, health, and tranquility to today's frenzied society by providing rules for orientation, proportion, and placement of homes.

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Creating spaces that bring peace and healing to their occupants is, without question, an art. Consider the enchantment of a light-filled courtyard, the sense of community in a welcoming town square. From the ancient Greeks and Romans to the late-twentieth-century New Urbanists, many designers have felt an intrinsic need to build homes and cities around a central, sacred space. Why? The answer may lie in an ancient system of architecture that’s as much a union of spiritual practice and science as it is an art.

Thousands of years ago, sages in India created a system of formulas for building auspicious homes, buildings, and cities, which many believe was the precursor to feng shui. An exacting system that offers rules for orientation, placement, and proportion of structures, sthapatya ved, also known as vastu (Sanskrit for "land’’or "site’’) is an aspect of vedic ( Sanskrit for"knowledge’’) science that also includes the health system known as ayurveda, a type of Indian astrology known as jyotish, and a musical system known as ragas. The common principle in all these disciplines is Tat Tvam Asi or "Thou Art That,’’ a statement indicating that everything is part of the supreme creative force.

Check out the Sep/Oct 2000 issue of Natural Home to learn all about sthapatya ved architectural principles and design, including:

  • Proportion and placement
  • Building orientation
  • Choice of materials