« PreviousContinue »
ON THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE HINDUS. 13
my own observations regarding any affinity which to me may seem to exist between the Indian and European systems. The first chapter of the Mánasára treats of the several measurements used in architecture, sculpture, &c. In measuring space, the Hindús commonly take their reckoning from the most minute quantity or extent; and Mánasára, like others who have treated on the subject, begins his measure from paramánu, which he defines to be the particle perceptible only to the eyes of the sages, perhaps thereby importing the atoms spoken of in the writings of philosophers, while others have identified it with one of those subtile particles of substance which are seen floating in the reflected light of a sunbeam. “Eight” of these paramánus make one ratharénu, or grain of dust raised up by the wheels of carriages; eight ratharénus one valágra, the point of a hair; eight valágras are equal in size to a louse; eight lice to a grain of yava; three, three and a half, and four yavas make one angula, or finger of the inferior, middle, and superior sorts respectively. Twelve angulas make one vitasti or span; two vitastis one hastha or cubit, which is equal to twentyfour angulas, and is sometimes called cishcu hastha, lesser cubit, in contradistinction to prójápatya hastha, which is equal to twenty-five angulas. Twenty-six angulas make one dhanurmusti or the grasp of a bow; twentyseven angulas, one dhanurgraha or the handle of a bow. Thus the hasthas are fourfold; the first or cishcu is employed in the construction of couches, vehicles, and the like; the second or prájápatya is used in building temples, pyramids, &c.; the third or dhanurmusti in constructing houses; and the fourth or dhanurgraha, in the measurement of villages, towns, and cities. According to some, however, the cishcu hastha is adopted for all these purposes indiscriminately. Again, four hasthas make one dandd or staff, which is called sometimes yesti, and sometimes dhamus; and eight dandās are equal to one ruju, a cord which is employed in measuring all sorts of land. In raising sacrificial altars, a particular sort of angula is used, equal in size to the intermediate space between the two middle joints of the middle finger of
the carta, or master, and which is thence called mátrángula.
The second chapter of the Mánasára treats of the qualities of an architect (Silpi lacshanam); and as preliminary thereto, of the origin of artists of the several kinds, and which is traced to Viswacarma the heavenly architect. This personage is stated to have had four heads, probably in allusion to the supernatural talents with which he was endowed, and to his invention of so many useful arts. Another Viswacarma, Twasta, Maya, and Manu are named as his sons, and said to have left four other offspring, whose names, however, are not mentioned in any of the works under examination, but of whom the first is affirmed to have been by profession a sthapati, architect; the second sistragráhi, the measurer; the third vardhaci, the joiner; and the last tacshaca, the carpenter; and all of whom are considered as indispensably necessary to the building of an edifice. Their intermarriage, also, with the families of some noted persons of the Hindú mythology, is adverted to as a further proof of the divine origin of the artists; and the whole concludes with a short notice of their requisite qualifications, of which the following passages from the Manushyálaya Chandrica” will convey some idea. “An architect (sthapati) should be conversant in all sciences; ever attentive to his avocations; of an unblemished character; generous, sincere, and devoid of enmity or jealousy.” “Of nearly equal qualification with him should be the sūtragrahi; he may be either the son or disciple of the sthapati; he should be particularly skilled in mathematics, and be strictly obedient to the will of the sthapati.” “A tacshaca, who is thus called from part of his avocation being to pare the rough wood, should be of a cheerful temper, and well versed in all mechanical arts.” “A vardhaci is he who is dexterous in joining wood, and uniting other materials one with another; he should be of a calm disposition, and acquainted with drawing and perspective,” “As it is impossible to build houses and the like without the aid of the
* A treatise on civil architecture referred to in the preceding note.
ON THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE HINDUS. 15
four descriptions of artisans, sthapati and so forth, let the enlightened twiceborn" gratify them in every respect, so that buildings may be erected.” “Woe to them who dwell in a house not built according to the proportions of symmetry. In building an edifice, therefore, let all its parts, from the basement to the roof, be duly considered.” The word sthapati is from stha, that which is fixed or formed, and pati lord or master, and consequently, like the Greek Agxtsztwy, signifies a person who presides over the erecting of an edifice, the formation of a statue, and the construction of a chariot, &c. The principal qualifications of an architect consist in a knowledge of various branches of learning, such as arithmetic, geometry, drawing, sculpture, mythology, astrology, &c., the usefulness of all of which to a master-builder is too obvious to require any comment. Nor are these qualifications altogether unlike those which Vitruvius and other western architects have prescribed as indispensable to their profession, if we except the knowledge of medicine, music, and even anatomy, which the latter have thought proper to add to the qualifications of an architect. It is curious to observe, that among other moral qualities enumerated in the texts above cited, as requisite in
the Hindú architect, is included “sincerity,” a virtue, the want of which in the artists of India is proverbial. The third chapter of the Mánasóra professes to treat of the nature and qualities of the ground on which buildings are to be erected. It opens with the definition of västu, a term used to express the ground on which any superstructure is raised, as signifying that which is inhabitable, and directs a careful examination of the site to be selected for building, as to its fitness for the purpose from its colour, smell, taste, form, and touch. It then goes on to divide the soil into four sorts, and to point out in the order of superiority what is considered auspicious for the residence of
each of the four classes, with reference to the five qualities above
* Brahmans, C'shetriyas, Vaisyas, or men of the first, second, or third classes.
mentioned. Nay, some have gone even so far as to forbid the lower class from occupying the ground suited to the higher, and vice versä, on pain of incurring the severest vengeance of heaven; but the principle on which these distinctions are founded is altogether nugatory. It signifies little whether the ground designed for the residence of a Brahman be square or oblong, white or red, sweet or sour, provided that the situation is convenient, and that it furnishes a firm bottom for laying the foundation; nor is it possible to find a place possessing all the qualities required by this prescription for the residence of any one of the classes; and, in order perhaps to obviate this difficulty, another more general classification of the soil into three sorts is added, with a declaration that the two first will answer the purposes of all classes of men without exception. “The best sort of ground should abound with milky” trees, full of fruits and flowers; its boundary should be of a quadrangular form, level and smooth, with a sloping declivity towards the east, producing a hard sound, with a stream running from left to right, of an agreeable odour, fertile, of an uniform colour, containing a great quantity of soil, producing water when dug to the height of a man's arm raised above his head, and situated in a climate of moderate temperature. The ground possessed of qualities directly opposite to those mentioned above is the worst, and that which has a mixed nature is the middling.” The ground to be avoided is described in a special manner as follows: “That which has the form of a circle, a semicircle, containing three, five, or six angles, resembling a trident or a winnow, shaped like the hinder part of a fish, or the back of an elephant, or a turtle, or the face of a cow, and the like ; situated opposite to any of the intermediate quarters north
west, and the like; abounding with human sculls, stones, worms, ant-hills,
* Chadira (memosa of Linn.), cadumba (naseclea), nimba (margosa), champaca (michelea), punnága (mesua of Linn.), amlaca (emblica of Linn.), pátala (bignonia), saptapharna (echites
of Linn.), and some others, belong to this species of trees.
ON THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE HINDUS. 17
bones, slimy earth, decayed woods, coals, dilapidated wells, subterraneous pits, fragments of tiles, lime-stones, ashes, husks of corn; and exposed to the wafted effluvia of curds, oil, honey, dead bodies, fishes, &c.; such a spot should be avoided on every account.” The following rule is laid down in the first section of the Cásyapa, for the purpose of ascertaining the solidity of the ground on which the foundation is to be laid. “Having dug a pit a hasta in depth, in the middle of the ground, return the earth into it, and according to the space which the latter may now take up with reference to that which it occupied before the digging of the pit, whether more, less, or the same, the ground should be considered as good, bad, or indifferent; the good and indifferent sorts are acceptable, but the bad should by all means be avoided.” After the ground has been chosen with due regard to its qualities, the sthapati, in an auspicious moment, must cause the rites of purification to be performed, the prescribed oblations made, and consecrated water to be sprinkled on all sides, accompanied with invocations for the prosperity of the builder. The soil is then ploughed, certain ceremonies prescribed for this occasion also being observed. The fourth chapter of the Mānasara contains rules for the construction of the plough, and directions for ploughing the ground, preparatory to erecting temples, &c. “A plough,” says the author, “must be made of the chadira,” nimba,t or of the wood of any other milky tree. It must be from one to one and a half hasta in length, with a tapering point resembling the leaf of a bambu, furnished with a share of three, five, or six angulas long and two thick, and with a beam of three yards in length. This machine is to be yoked to a pair of oxen of equal size and of the same colour, either white, black, red, or gray. The oxen should be strong, and such as have not exceeded the middle age. Oxen with horns bent down, maimed,
weak, meagre, toothless, or lame, should be rejected; those with a white
* Memosa of Linn. + Margosa.