icon

THE INDIAN ANTIQUARY 1876

SILPA SASTRA

BY Rev. J. F. KEARNS, MISSIONARY, S. P. G., TANJORE

There is in Tamil a treatise on Silpa Sastra, said to have been originally composed in Sanskrit by Myen, who, according to mythology, was a son of Brahma and architect of the gods. The original work appears to have been disseminated far and wide, and to have suffered by omissions as well as by additions. The work under consideration seems to have been formed from selections of existing editions of the original work under the superintendence and guidance of persons having a practical knowledge of Silpa Sastra, or at least of persons professing to have such knowledge. It has passed through a second edition, from which we may infer that the work is in demand. It were greatly to be desired that a future edition should have a competent Tamil scholar to carry it through the press, for the errors in the present edition are numerous beyond all precedent; and this, added to a bad style, renders the perusal of the book anything but a pleasant recreation. There are, besides, frequent repetitions, and many things that might be omitted without in any way impairing the value of the book as a work of art. The book is dedicated to the glory of Siva, and after the usual slokas in praise of the deities the need of a Silpan is thus stated:-

Temples, town's, seaports, houses,
Tanks and wells, these require the Silpan's hand;
Construct them by the hand of another?
this is said to be equal to the sin of murder.

The study of the Atharvana Veda, the 32 Silpa treatises, a perfect knowledge of the Vedic mantras, by which images are inspired with the indwelling presence of deity, are necessary to the Silpan who desires to understand his profession thoroughly.

The book next gives the cubit measure as follows:-

Eight atoms make one cotton fibre (in thickness),
Eight fibres make one hair (in thickness),
Eight hairs make one grain of sand,
Eight grains of sand make one mustard seed,
Eight mustard-seeds make one bamboo-seed,
Eight bamboo-seeds make one finger,
Six fingers make one quarter-cubit,
Twelve fingers make half a cubit,
Eighteen fingers make three-quarters of a cubit (this latter is termed matthibam),
Twenty-four fingers make one cubit.

This measure is also called Jathi and Mamangulam. It is used by Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras.

But although this is the standard of measurement for all four castes, the instrument itself is constructed of a different material for each. The rule is as follows:-

For Brahmans the measure should be of bamboo,
For Kshatriyas it should be constructed of ebony,
For Vaisyas it should be of teak,
For Sudras of the red vengai (Atropa Mandagora).

As a preliminary to all work, the exact position of Vasthu-purusha (the god of the earth) must be accurately ascertained. He is represented as sleeping, standing, walking, reclining, &c.; and the exact time of each of these is of the utmost importance, for each duration of time has an influence for good or evil towards the man who wishes to build. His sleeping-time is very unlucky. To ascertain these times, a marvellous amount of astrological calculation has to be got through. In the months of Sitterai, Vaykasi, Adi, Avarni, Aipasi, Kartika, Tai, and Masi he is " standing or up." But having ascertained so much, it is still necessary to ascertain the lucky days in these months. Accordingly we are told:-

The 10th of Sitterai, the 21st of Vaykasi, the llth of Adi, the 6th of Avarni, the 8th of j| Aipasi, the 8th of Karttika, the 21st of Masi, and the 12th of Tai - on these days Vasthu-purusha is up: these are proper days.

Having gone so far, we have still further to go, for we have to ascertain the auspicious hours of these days. Here they are:-

The 8th Indian hour of the day in Tai, the 10th of Karttika, the 2nd of Adi, the 5th of Sitterai, the 21st of Avarni, and the 8th Indian hour of the day in Aipasi.

There is very much more to be ascertained regarding Vasthu-purusha before the house-post is set up; and to deter people from venturing to build before ascertaining everything about Vasthu, and, having ascertained all necessary knowledge, to compel them to build accordingly, we are told:-

Knowing all that is necessary about Vasthu, if one does not construct his house accordingly, his substance shall be consumed, he shall lose his life, the goddess of misfortune shall be with him, his women shall waste away, and the designer of his house shall perish by disease.

Having ascertained all that is necessary about Vasthu, we still have much to do before ascertaining the site for the contemplated house. We must ascertain the earth upon which to build. The rule is as follows:-

Sweet earth is for Brahmans,
Bitter earth for Kshatriyas,
Sour earth for Vaisyas,
Pungent earth for Sudras.

Upon earth that smells like curdled milk, like clarified Butter, honey, blood, hair, fish, birds, or buttermilk, sow no grain, for it will yield nothing, neither upon such land erect a house".

As correct time is a very necessary matter in this science, the author gives directions for the construction of sundials, but the preliminaries are many. He directs as follows:-

First determine the auspicious day; then the northern solstice, the right ascension of the rising point, or the arc of the equator that passes the horizon with each sign of the ecliptic, and the star or constellation at the time.

Dials made of elephants' tusks are proper for Kshatriyas, of blackwood for Brahmans, arid of heart of tamarind for others.

Here, though not in the order of the book, we may give two very simple methods for ascertaining the time of day before the sun has reached the meridian:-

Rule I

Stand with the sun to your right, join your hands horizontally - reject the thumbs - erect the index-finger from the middle. If the shadow of the erect finger extends to the outer edge of the finger next adjacent - to the index finger of the left hand - it denotes 48 minutes past sunrise, and so on.

When the sun has passed the meridian, the position must be altered accordingly.

Rule II

Take a straw eleven fingers in length, place it on the ground, bend it, raising one part to serve as a gnomon, the gnomon being erected against the sun, east or west of the meridian. The height of the gnomon is found by raising the end of the bent portion no higher than suffices exactly to throw its shadow to the extreme point of the recumbent portion of the remainder of the straw. The gnomon so found gives the time of day. Ascertain how many fingers it contains: the sum is the time in Indian hours.

N.B. If the time is taken before twelve o'clock, the sum shows the number of Indian hours since sunrise; if after twelve o'clock, the sum denotes the number of Indian hours to sunset.

"Omens" are largely used in this Sastra: thus, on your way to select a site:-

Should a person with a broad head, or a bald head, should a snake, a sanyasi, a single Brahman, a woman with no breasts, a new pot, a person without a nose; a bundle of firewood, a sick person, a barber, a blind person, an oil merchant, should these or any of them meet you, it is an omen of evil.

Should the architect, or the master about to build the house, meet a young handsome virgin, the sign is most auspicious".

Omens are ascertained also by coconuts, and this form appears to be in great demand:-

If the crown of the coconut is large, and the opposite side small, this denotes wealth (in the proposed house) ; if on throwing it upward three parts fall on the head, and two on the foot, this denotes joy; if it break in pieces of five twos and five threes, this also denotes wealth ; if a piece is attached to the inner fibre, this denotes long life; if it is dashed to pieces, diamonds will be discovered; if it fall splitting in the middle, great affliction will befall the householder.

Before commencing a building or wedding panddl, a ceremony termed mukurthan, or the fixing the auspicious hour, is performed in a small hole or pit in the ground, and to the omens that may be obtained in this hole or pit much importance is attached:-

If a black ant, a scorpion, a white ant, a red ant, or a hair be seen in the pit, the house built on such a site shall be consumed by fire. If a bit of gold, a frog, a cow's horn, grains of any kind, a brick, or a bit of silver be seen in the pit, all happiness, prosperity, and pleasure, together with long life and boundless wealth, shall ever be found in the dwelling erected on such a site.

There are also omens obtained from flowers:-

In the centre of the proposed site, make a pit one cubit in length, depth and width. Fill it with water. Take a flower in your hand, meditate upon the deity, then cast it into the water, and if it floats round by the right-hand side to face the sun it is a sign of great happiness, wealth, fame, and honour. If, however, the flower should float by the left-hand side, it is a sign of great affliction, continual anxiety, and unheard-of misery. A house should not be built on such a site.

There are many more omens derived from flowers thrown into the pit, with reference to the point of the compass at which the flower remains motionless:-

If the flower remains motionless at the north-west, the eighteen kinds of pulmonic disease shall seize the builder of a house on such a site ; his wealth shall be taken by others, death shall carry him away, and demons shall convert the site into a place for burning the dead!

If the flower remains motionless at the north point, the builder will become rich, he shall have the blessing of sons and of long life, he shall be reverenced by the venerable, and being charitable, reverencing him who is called a ' Refuge,' he shall be esteemed a saint!

One might well suppose that now, at least, the yajamana might commence to build his house; but the very spade that is used to mark off the site of the proposed building, and the pegs and lines, must give forth their omens:-

If the edge of the spade bends at the first delve, if the peg flies out of the ground (as the blow is made upon it), or if the marking-line snaps in two, these are inauspicious omens. The man who builds on such a site, besides affliction and anxiety, must also endure never ceasing trouble, and eventually become the prey of the god of death.

In the foregoing quotation the "marking-line" is mentioned, but it must not be supposed that any cord will suit the purpose. The rule is as follows:-

For the gods (i. e. temples) the line must be of silk and of three twists; for Brahmans' (houses) it must be of dharba grass and of two twists; for Kshatriyas it must be of the feelers of the banyan and of three twists; for others it must be of cotton thread and of two twists. This much is declared.

The site at length having been decided upon, it is divided into, first, four equal parts, and these again into sixty-four parts. The four parts in the centre are regarded as Brahma's, and the four points are regarded as the region of Ruthiran; other four points are regarded as Vishnu's, and all the remaining parts are regarded as pertaining to the gods of Svarga. Here the author remarks that there is in the universe and the body an apparent fitness, and that the same fitness should be discernible between the body and the house; and he then adds that the man who, having regard to this analogy, builds a house, shall secure its existence for a hundred ages; he shall possess calves, bullocks, and milch cattle, increasing day by day, and he shall join in, the celestial dance with the glorious Lakshmi, who sits on the cool lotus-lily.

The following will throw some light on this

The Eight Points and their properties

Indra's place (the east) is the proper conjugal abode of the householder; Revati's place, S. E. 11°29'5" (? Piscium), is the proper place in which to eat food; Yama's place (south) is the proper place in which to keep clothes ; in Niruti's place (south-west, Canis ?) is the proper place in which to keep water; Varuna's place (west) is the place proper for devotional exercises; Vayu's place (north-west) is the place proper in which to store grain ; Kuvera's place (north) is the place proper to -keep gold, &c. &c.; and in Esani's place, N.B. (? or ? Corvi ?), is the place proper for women of the household to give birth to children.

The author then gives us the rule regarding the dwellings of the four castes:-

The south for Brahmans, the west for Kshatriyas, the north for Vaisyas, and the east for Sudras.

We next have a rule with reference to the disposition of the householder's property:-

Put your ashes to the south (of your house), your straw to the south-west; keep your buffaloes to the west, and in the north-west keep your grain and your cows.

To the north of your house erect your kitchen, to the east keep your sheep, in the south-east of your house keep your children. This is ordered.

According to this Sastra every house should have a box, technically termed garbha, in which to keep the family plate and jewels; and this box is kept in a certain part of the house, astrological determined upon. The rule regarding the construction of the box is as follows:-

Take clay from a crab's hole, clay from the horn of an elephant - i.e. clay that an elephant has on its tusk after butting the earth - clay from an anthill, clay from the horns of a bull - i.e. after butting the earth - mix them well together and form the box. Divide the box into nine parts, put diamonds into it, reverence it, and then bury it in the north-east point of your house, and happiness will ensue.

The next order pertains to "Doors":-

If the door of the house closes of itself, having been opened, it is a sign of long life to the householder. If it closes with a creaking noise, it is a sign that the house will perish. If it stands as one leaves it, it is a-sign of-long-life-and happiness.

If it moves like the two pulses vatham and pittham, it is as though one said, ' Drive a nail in the centre bar': disease without end shall dwell in that house.

If the door makes a noise like an oil-mill, the happiness of having sons shall not be found in that house. The householder's wife shall die, and distraction of mind shall ensue.

The author next passes on to the consideration of trees, of which he gives us three classes:-

Male Trees

A tree that is strong and thick like a pillar - that is long, straight, and regular - is a male tree.

Female Trees

A tree with a thick base, a pointed, narrow trunk, and small at the top, is a female tree.

Hermaphrodite Trees

Slender and long in the middle of the trunk and having a thick head, this without doubt is an hermaphrodite tree.

Male trees serve for pillars; female trees for wall-plates, beams, and capitals; hermaphrodite trees serve for cross-joists, joists, and rafters.

The mango is proper for temples, the mar-gosa for Brahmans' houses, the teak for Esha-triyas, the illuypai for Chettis, and the vengai for Vellalars' houses.

Our author now proceeds to treat of trees.

Concerning Trees

For houses there are trees proper for their construction, and trees that are unsuitable; we shall now declare the trees that are suitable for gods and men.

Trees from a place of public resort, trees from a village or from the precincts of a temple, trees that have been burnt, trees in which are birds' nests, trees growing on anthills, trees in which are honeycombs, trees fruiting out of season, trees supporting creepers, trees in which maggots dwell, trees growing close to tanks or wells, trees planted in the earth but reared by constant watering, trees broken by elephants, trees blown down by the wind, trees in burning-grounds, in forsaken places, or in places which had been paraclieris, withered trees, trees in which snakes live, trees in places where there are hobgoblins, devils, or corpses, trees that have fallen down of themselves, - these are all bad trees and to be avoided: if one uses such trees in his house, evil shall befall him.

The Ficus racemosa, Ficus indica, Ficus virens, the Silk-cotton tree, the Butea frondosa, the Abrus, the Jujuba, the first leaf of a Palmyra, the Makirla (?), the Woodapple [1] - all these are to be avoided; for if any of them are used in the construction of a house, the wealth of the householder will decrease, his children will die, and poverty and affliction will be his lot.

Our author now gives us the auspicious days for setting up the posts, rafters, &c.:-

On Monday set up the posts, on Wednesday place the rafters, on Friday thatch the house, and on Thursday take up residence. Like Indra, the householder will have long life and happiness.

Our author next treats of certain astrological observations that are necessary in order to ascertain what the ground selected as a site may contain within itself, and on the discovery then made the person who intends to build is expected to act. He commences irregularly by at once stating what observations are to be made, while a little further on he gives a complete list of the things that may be found and which affect the silpan.

We shall commence with the list; meantime we would observe that this portion of the book is designated Bhumi-Sallium.

There are sixteen kinds of sallium, viz. skulls, bones, bricks, potsherds, dry sprays of timber, demons, ashes, charcoal, a corpse, grains of corn, gold (includes all metals), black stone, frogs, cows' horns, dogs' bones, urns in which the dead have been buried.

We shall now show our author's rules for discovering the sallium in the selected site:-

If in the seventh mansion from the rising sign (at the time of consultation) there are planets, and if at the same time the moon should be found in the fourth, seventh, or tenth mansion from that, there are hindrances most certainly in the proposed site ; and should a man build a house upon it, his women will be murdered, his family will perish, his wealth and happiness will vanish, and to his own life danger will accrue. There can be no happiness in a house on such a site.

If in the seventh mansion there are planets (at the time of consultation), and if at the same time the moon is in their kindras [2], in the proposed site ashes and bones shall be found. If one builds on such a site, he will become lazy, he will live in the constant fear of snakes, his wife will hate him, his wealth will vanish, and misery and affliction will seize him.

If in the tenth mansion there are planets (when the observation is made), black stone, hones, dry sprigs, lead and brass shall be found in the site. Now to build upon land where even but one of these is found would be to ensure the entire loss of one's property, the destruction of men, as well as of the house, and the householder shall have most horrible dreams: so saith Myen.

There is much more of this sort, but what we have given will suffice. The author next treats of the mode of discovering treasure that may be concealed in the selected sites, thus:-

If Jupiter or Mercury at the time of observation is in the fourth, seventh, or tenth lunar mansion from the moon, or if the sun is in the third, sixth, or eighth mansion from it, there is treasure in the site.

If Venus and Mercury are in conjunction, and Jupiter in opposition without retrogression, Saturn being in the leg of Jupiter, in the selected site treasure will be found; anyhow silver will doubtless be found.

If you desire to discover the exact place where money, enchantments, charcoal, bones, &c. &c. are concealed, divide the selected site into twenty-eight parts exactly, then ascertain what mansion the moon is in ; in the part corresponding with the number of this mansion, the wealth, &c. &c. is concealed.

Having given us these and many more, the author passes on to the consideration of times that are auspicious for various purposes: " The first thing to do is to ascertain the time of the star Kulikan. [3] The rule is as follows :-

On whatever day you wish to ascertain Kulikan's time, from that day to the next Saturday count up the number of Indian hours; multiply this by 3 3/4,. and the sum thus obtained is Kulikan's time.

To ascertain an auspicious hour:-

From the day you desire to ascertain the auspicious hour, to the fifth day following (at sunrise}, deduct from each day two and a half Indian hours; if the remainder equals the sun's aphelion distance, death will be the result of anything undertaken that day. If, however, the remainder gives the distance of Venus, it is auspicious; if it gives Mercury's, children will increase; if the Moon's, praise; if Saturn's, death; if Jupiter's, clothes; if Mars', unrelenting hate, will be respectively the consequences.

Our author next introduces to us the days of the week upon which it is considered unlucky to travel in certain directions, viz.:-

On Mondays and Saturdays eastward, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays northward, on Fridays and Sundays westward, on Thursdays southward. On these days to journey towards the prescribed points is not only unlucky, but positively disastrous.

To know the unlucky days, however, is not enough, - we should know the propitious hours in which to commence an undertaking: accordingly, our author gives them:-

On Mondays and Saturdays it is propitious to undertake a journey any time up to the 8th Indian hour; on Thursdays it is propitious to set out on a journey southward up to the 12th Indian hour on Fridays and Sundays it is propitious to the 12th Indian hour; on Tuesdays it is propitious to the 12th Indian hour to journey northward ; and on Wednesdays it is propitious to the 16th Indian hour.

The author next gives the various points, their regents, together with the astrological points, and their signs, &c. &c., and then proceeds as follows:-

In the following four months, namely, Auni, Purattasi, Margali, and Punguni [4], if one builds a house, endless sickness and poverty shall be his lot. Even the gods themselves would suffer should they build in these months

In proof of what has just been stated he adduces the following examples:-

On a Monday in the month Adi [5], Havana lost his head; in the month Margali the Bharata war and other wickedness took place; in the month Purattasi Hyrani a died ; in Punguni Siva drank the poison; in the month Auni Mapelasakkiravarthi fled from his town; therefore, in the months Auni and the others aforesaid, to commence a house, or to take up residence, is dangerous. Persons who do so will not only be obliged to desert the house; they will further become beggars. The gods themselves cannot prevent this taking place.

If Sunday and the tenth lunar asterism occur together, Monday and the sixteenth, Tuesday and the sixth, Wednesday and the ninth, Thursday and the twenty-fourth, Friday and the fourth, Saturday and the twentieth asterism, do not build on these days: if you do, the house will be consumed by fire.

When Sunday and the second lunar asterism occur together, Monday and the fourteenth, Tuesday and the twenty-first, Wednesday and the twenty-third, Thursday and the eighteenth, Friday and the twentieth, Saturday and the twenty-seventh, these days are unlucky for the performance of anything.

On these days if one marries, his wife shall soon be a widow, the newly built house shall soon be a ruin.

If on those days one sets out on a journey, death shall overtake him, and though he perform the nideka ceremony, his wife shall be barren, but should a child be born it will die.

When one is building his house, he should present the silpan with a new cloth, money, sandal-wood powder, and garlands; he should further salute him and make respectful inquiries regarding, his health. So decreed Myen.

Auspicious signs when visiting the selected site:-

When the householder and the excellent silpan set out to inspect the newly selected site, if on the way they should meet with a handsome damsel, or a damsel whose skin resembles gold in colour, build the house immediately.

When the excellent silpan and the householder arrive and are standing on the site, if a lizard chirps on the right side it is a good sign ; if on the left the sign is excellent, the householder will have good fortune; let him finish the house rapidly and neatly: those that dwell in it will obtain riches and never lose them.

The Site

If one finds a piece of land the east and west of which are low but the south-west high, there he should build his house, for all kinds of prosperity will attend him. If the site should be low on the western and the northern sides, or should the western be high and the northern side low, in a house built on such sites the family will increase; they will have long life and live prosperously.

If one should build a house on a site crossed by a pathway common to the people, his wealth will perish, his cattle will die, his wife and children will die, and the house will become equal to a burning- ground for the dead.

Land at the side of a temple or in front of one, land frequented by devils and hobgoblins, land on the right side of a temple sacred to Kali, or land belonging to the highroad, are not suitable for building- sites. Should, however, a man be so far lost to decency as to build upon such sites, his wife and children shall die, his cattle and all that he has will perish, and, alone in the world, he will wander from place to place, a beggar living upon alms.

The site of an old or ruined church, land in which snakes dwell, land upon which Pariahs resided, land upon which sages have resided, burning grounds, battle-fields, these are unsuitable for building- sites. Should a man build upon them, he and his relatives will perish, and the house will become a jungle.

In the first portion we mentioned the author's division of the site into sixty-four parts. In the second part he recurs again to it, but with considerable difference.

The rule for building a house

Divide the site into sixty-four parts: the four central portions constitute Brahma's place (sthanam), the four portions or rooms at the corners of Brahma's sthanam are for guardian demons, the eight portions- or rooms adjoining these latter are for guardian deities, the remaining forty-eight portions are for the use of people.

The author next treats of the silpan himself, his dress and character, and the extent of his professional knowledge, as follows:-

The Silpan

One adorned with a necklace of sacred beads, the sacred thread upon him, a ring of dharba upon his finger; delighting in the worship of God, faithful to his wife, avoiding strange women, true to his family, of a pure mind and virtuous, he is a silpan indeed.

Girded with silk-like cord made of fibre, chanting the Veda, constant in the performance of ceremonial acts, piously acquiring a perfect knowledge of various sciences, the silpan follows his profession.

The Silpan's Art

The Silpan should perfectly understand the cubit, measure, the level, the gnomon [6], the jewel (proper for him to wear), the box for keeping jewels), the part of the house named garbha, the line, the peg, the floor, the various kinds of trees, the mode of hewing timber, the characteristics of trees, the places where each are to be found, the plumb-line and mortising.

Concerning the Gnomon.

In building temples great attention is paid to the gnomon : therefore we shall declare what is the proper length and thickness, &c- &c. of this instrument. It should be twelve fingers in length; three-fourths of this should be absorbed by the head (or the thickest part of the instrument), and the remaining one-fourth should taper off to a point like a needle, the whole being turned in a lathe and resembling in shape a conch-shell.

Gnomons for the use of men should be made of the timber of milk-producing trees, as, for instance, the Artocarpus integrifolia, the Ficus indica, Ficus religiosa, Ficus racemosa, and the Ficus virens. For temples, however, it must be of Acacia sundra.

Concerning the Peg

The pegs should each be eleven fingers in. thickness, twenty-four fingers in length. Ascertain the position of Vasthu : then in the south-west corner of his belly, the south-east, the north-east, and the north-west corners drive home your pegs.

Concerning the Site

When required to build houses, palaces, private apartments, &c. &c., first ascertain the centre of the site by the line, form there a pit one cubit square and one cubit in depth, and pour water into it until it is quite full. This water should then be made to flow over the sides of the pit in the directions of the cardinal points by so flowing, it will discover the deflections in the site; stretch the line accordingly and make it level.

Houses built with black stone, or with black stone and bricks, are proper for gods, for Brahmans, and for hermits; for others than these to dwell in such houses is unbecoming.

Concerning Trees

When about to build houses, halls, palaces, or mandapas, the injunctions of Myen with reference to trees - which are good, and which are bad - may not be neglected.

Having performed the necessary mukurtham, proceed to the forest, taking with you various kinds of sweetmeats; offer these as a sacrifice to the god of forests, standing close to a male tree.

On the south side of the tree [7] deposit dharba grass, on the west place your axe; then, meditating on the mantra for the expulsion of demons and hobgoblins, drink some milk, dip your axe in milk, and, devoutly looking upwards, strike the tree with the axe a clear cubit [8] from the ground.

Fell trees according to the foregoing rule, but observe whether much water, or water-like milk oozes from the incisions: for if there be much the trees are unsuitable. Again, if the tree, when falling, makes a noise like the voice of a tiger or elephant, it is an omen of good. If the noise resembles.. crying or laughing it is an ill omen ; if the tree falls with its head to the north, or east, it is a good omen. The Artocarpus integrifolia, the Punnei (Rottlera tinctoria ?), the Mango, the Bassia longifolia, the Eugenia Jambolana, Mimusopa Elengi, the Michelia Champaca, the Calutropis gigantea, the Phansi (?), the Ficus religiosa, the Ficus indica, the Ficus racemosa, the Runica. granatum, and the Tropis aspera- these are milk-giving trees, and their timber is soft; the timber of all other trees is called hard timber.

On Joining

Find the breadth, of the beam ; let this be the length of the connecting tie. Next ascertain the depth of the beam ; one-ninth part of this should be the thickness of the connecting tie : this tie is called kudumi. [9]

The nails used to secure a joint should be driven through the centre when the work is for a temple; when the work is intended for dwelling-houses, &c. &c., to the right of the centre is the rule to be observed. If the nails are driven to the left of the centre, the enemies of the householder will increase, and the house will be consumed by fire.

A joint should not fall in a line with the centre of the door : for loss of life and property is the consequence of such an arrangement. The proper place, if there must be a joint, is half-distance from the centre of the door.

Hard timbers should be joined with hard timbers, and soft timbers with soft. When joining, the greater length should be to the right hand, and the lesser to the left of the joiner. The carpenter should be on the outside, and the silpan on the inner side.

In joining beams, if the head of one tree is joined to the head of another tree, a terrible illness will occur in the house ; but if the head of a tree and the foot of a tree are joined .to form the beam, wealth and happiness will dwell in that house.

Concerning Doors

The timber of the Naval tree is proper for doors of temples, the Nim [10] for doors of Brahmans' houses, the Teak for Kshatriyas, the Illappa for Vaisyas, Coconut timber for Vellalars.

A door should be constructed entirely of one sort of timber. It is improper to construct it of different. kinds; and the door should be hinged to the left door-post, i.e. the left looking from the outside.

Before fixing the door-frame in its place, find the length of the house, then mark the exact centre. If the door is for a dwelling-house, it should be set up to the left of the aforesaid centre, but if for a temple the centre is the proper place.

Another rule:-

Find the length of the house-wall, divide the sum into nine parts, set off three parts to the left hand, and five parts to the right hand: the door should stand in the remaining part of the wall of the house.

Concerning Door-posts

Stone door-posts are proper for temples. Door-posts of Margosa are proper for Brahmans, of Ebony or Teak for Kshatriyas, Illappa for Vaisyas, Cocoanut and Acacia for Vellalars.

Door-posts should not be placed in the centre of the wall. According to the rule of the ancients, find the thickness of the wall by measure; divide this into six parts. The centre of the-sixth or outer part is the proper place for the door.

Concerning setting up Doors

If Leo is ascending, set up the south door; if Taurus, set up the west door ; if Kuvera, set up the north door ; if the Moon is passing the meridian, the east door. When Leo is ascending is the proper time for placing a door in a temple of Vishnu. When Taurus is ascending is the proper time for placing a door in a temple of Mahadeva. When Kuvera is ascending is the proper time for setting a door in Ganesa's temple. When the Moon is passing the meridian, a door may be set up for any one.

If one determines to build a house, let him be careful to attend to the rules of the Divine Silpan. Myen Achari, for measuring length, breadth, and thickness. Also let him enter upon residence on a propitious day, and the blessing, of Lakshmi, health, long life, and happiness shall attend him.

Concerning taking up residence

Sunday and Tuesday are unlucky days to take up residence; Saturday, Thursday; Wednesday, and Monday are propitious days. The stars Ashvini, Chitra, Punarvasu, Anuradha, Visakha, Uttarashadha, Uttara Phalguni, and Revati are propitious. The constellation's Kambum (Aquarius) and Virasikam (Scorpio) are unlucky. The fourth, ninth, and fourteenth days of the Moon are also unlucky. Attending to these rules, take up your residence in the house.

The ninth and the fourteenth days of the Moon, Saturdays, Fridays, the months Punguni, Auni, Purattasi, and Margali, are unlucky ; if you take up residence you will be bitten, by a poisonous animal. If the planet Venus is rising or setting, or if the Trident of Siva is opposite, do not enter upon residence on those days, if you do, you will suffer great loss.

There is a good deal of this kind of matter, with which we need not trouble our readers. The author next treats of the Mukurthan of the Garbha; but first we shall give his rule for ascertaining the character of the Garbha, and the individuals for whom it is fit.

Let the yajamana construct a measuring rule in length equal to four of his own hand-spans. With this measure let him measure the house from east to west, and from south to north. Square the sums and divide the product by eight. If the remainder is 5, the Garbha is named Suba-garbha: success in all things will be secured to the yajamana. Should the remainder be 6, it is called Kaka-garbha: it is of a middle character, fit for outcastes to live in. Should the remainder be 1, it is called Garuda-garbha, and is fit for the four castes. Should the remainder be 3, it is called Simba-garbha: this is excellent. Should the remainder be 7, it is called Geja-garbha: great advantages befall the dweller. Should the remainder be 2, it is called Pura-garbha: this is fair, and is fit for hunters. Should the remainder be 4, it is called Swan-garbha : this is fair, but fit for Lambadis and Koravars. Should the remainder be 8, it is called Kaluthai-garbha: this too is fair, but the house will never be completed, and even should it, it will perish; it is a dwelling fit only for very low castes, wild beasts, peacocks, and antelopes.

Garbha Mukurthan

Reject Fridays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Mondays, and Wednesdays. Also reject the eighth of the following constellations:- Uttara Phalguni, Uttarashadha, Magham (Capricornus), Punarvasu, Shetataraka, Mriga, Rohini, Anuradha, and Revati. Reject also the full and the new moon, also the fourth, ninth, and fourteenth days of each half-moon; all other times are propitious for Garbha Mukurthan.

If you perform Garbha Mukurthan when Pisces is declining, it will be fortunate; if when Aries and Taurus are declining, sickness "will ensue: if when Gemini is declining, sorrow will be the result; if when Cancer is declining, wealth and progress will be the result; if when Virgo is declining, everything you take in hand will prosper; if when Scorpio and Sagittarius are declining, your wife will flourish, deriving excellence from numerous sons.

The author gives a rule for ascertaining certain matters connected with buildings. He uses two expressions, Ayam and Selavu. which, in the connexion he uses them, I cannot translate better than by 'Profit' and 'Loss.'

The Rule

Ascertain the length of the house, square it, multiply the sum by 8, and divide the product by 12 : the remainder is the Ayam, or profit. Again, take the square number and multiply it by 9, divide the product by 10, the remainder is the Selavu, or loss. Again, take the square number and multiply it by 27, and divide the product by 100, the remainder is the age or durability of the house. Again, take the square number, multiply it by 8, and divide the product by 27, the remainder is the star. Again, multiply the square number by 3, and divide the product by 8, the remainder is the Yoni. Multiply the square number by 9,. and divide the product by 7, the remainder is the day. Multiply the square number by 9, and divide the product by 4, the remainder is the caste. Multiply the square number by 4, and divide the., product by 9, the remainder is the Amsam. Multiply the square number by 9, and divide the product by 30,. the remainder is the Tithi. If this falls within 15, it Belongs to the crescent moon, but if above 15 to the decrescent moon. Again, multiply the square number by 4, and divide the product by 12, the remainder is the constellation. Multiply the square number by 8, and divide the product by 5, the remainder gives the Sutra. The following are the Yonis:- Garuda, Puni, Simha, Noy, Pambu, Eli, Ani, Musl: of these Puni (cat),-Eli (rat), and Musl (hare) are bad. The following are the Amsams :-Arsam, Soram, Putthi, Satthi, Thanium, Rasium, Kalibam, Varuttham, Rokam, and Subam. The following' are the Sutras :-Palan, Kumaru, Rajan, Kilavan, Maranan.

We now give an example or two that may serve to illustrate the foregoing:-

Given the length of the house 11 cubits, and the width 5 cubits, to find the age,-that is to say, how- many-years-such-a house -will stand. By the rule 11 X 5 = 55, and 55 X 27 = 1485, 1485 divided by 100 = 14, the remainder being 85,-which remainder indicates the number of years the house will stand.

Given the length of the house 15 cubits, and the width 7 cubits, to find the caste for whom it is suitable. 15 X 7 = 105, 105 X 9 = 945, and 945 divided by 4 = 236, remainder 1. The remainder 1 indicates the first caste, i.e. Brahmans.

Given the length of the house 17 cubits, and the width 7, to ascertain the caste for whom it is suitable. 17 X 7 = 119, 119 X 9 = 1071, and 1071 divided by 4 = 267, remainder 3. The remainder 3 denotes the third or Vaisya caste"

The next example exhibits the entire series.

Given the length of the house 9 cubits, width 3 cubits, to find the Ayam and Selavu, &c. &c. By the rule 9 X 3 = 27, 27 X 8= 216, and 216 divided by 12= 18,-12 = Ayam [11]. 27 X 9 = 243, and 243 divided by 10 = 24, remainder 3,-which is the Selavu or loss, and so on according to the rule. The Yoni is Garuda, the star Revati, the part of the lunar month the third day, the day of the week Thursday, the constellation Pisces, and the caste Vaisya.

Strange as all this appears to us Europeans, natives regard these things as matters of great importance, and I have been informed by a well-educated native gentleman that many of these rules are adhered to even now.

The Ayams and Selavus are also used for the purpose of ascertaining whether good or evil will happen to the householder; thus:-

If the Ayam be 0 or 2, it denotes that great pleasure and happiness awaits the householder; if 3 or 4, fame and happiness are indicated ; if 5 or 6, increase of wealth ; if 7 or 8, beneficence and true wisdom are indicated.

Multiply the Ayam by 9 and divide it by 10 to find the Selavu or loss. If the remainder is 1, it denotes that .great poverty is in store for the householder. If 2 remain, the house will be consumed by fire. If the remainder is 8, Lakshmi will dwell in that house. If 9 remain, the destruction of sons will ensue. If the remainder is 10, it is most excellent."

We have already given the rule for finding' the eight Yonis, and as these exert a very considerable influence upon uneducated Hindus, we shall give the instructions concerning them as contained in this book.

The Yoni Garuda (hawk) is in the east.
Lion south
Serpent west
Elephant north
Cat south-east
Dog south-west
Rat north-west
Hare north

The reader will observe that the animals are placed antagonistically, e.g. the dog is the natural enemy of the hare, the cat of the rat,. &c. &c. The rule accordingly is:-A person dwelling; in Garuda's position should not undertake anything that would oblige him to journey toward the position of the Serpent, and vice versa, because Garuda will come forth in search of food, and meeting the Serpent on the same errand mischief is likely to befall the person journeying between them and so of the other Yonis. It is dangerous for a-person living in a Yoni to travel in the direction of its opponent. Accordingly the author advises his readers to consult an almanac before setting out on a journey.

The width of the house appears to be a matter of very considerable importance in the silpan's art. Our author in 26 slokas sings of the width of houses. He gives forty-four examples, and of these seventeen are fraught with mischief to the householder: we give a few as examples:-

If the width of the house is six feet, the blessing of Lakshmi and all happiness will be here.

If the width of the house is ten feet, sheep and oxen will increase, imperishable wealth and flourishing fields will be the possession of the householder. If the width of the house is twenty feet, the wife will flourish, sons will increase, and wealth of all kinds will ensue to the householder. If the width of the house is nineteen feet, the servants will die, business will fail, terrible mischief will befall the housekeeper, and his wife will be kept by another man.

If the width of the house is twenty-eight feet, sickness and the death of sons, the loss of wealth, and untold poverty will ensue. Therefore a man should flee from such a house.

These are sufficient to serve as examples, but it is observable that there is no distinct rule in the book, beyond what may be found in these examples, for defining the proper width of a house.

Concerning Days

Sunday is a good day for transacting business, Monday for sowing grain, Tuesday for fighting, Wednesday for commencing studies, Thursday for getting married, Friday for getting shaved, and Saturday for performing penance.

If one digs a tank in the point of Agni, besides losing his wife by death, he himself will meet with an accident, and his wealth will vanish. If one digs it in Yama's point, it will be a useless tank, besides which the man who dug it will become a beggar. If, however, one digs a tank in Isani's point (north- east), he will obtain wealth.

Concerning Wells

If one digs a well in the north-east or west points of the house, auspicious events will ensue. If one digs a well in the north-west, the death of sons will follow. If one digs a well in the south-west, sickness will be the result. If one digs a well in the south, death will follow. If one digs a well in the south- east, he will be childless. And if one digs a well in the centre of his house, his wealth will perish.

If one digs a well in Varuna's point (west), the blessing of the Supreme One, and all happiness, will be the result.

If one digs a well centre to south-east, south, south-west, and north-west, his relations and his sons will die of sickness, he shall lose all his wealth, and will afterwards live by begging."

Notes

[1]The three trees here classed under Ficus are now all referred to genus Urostigma. There are two Silk-cotton trees: Bombax malbaricum and Cochlospermum gossypium. Butea frondosa is commonly known as 'Dhak' or 'Palas', Jujuba as 'Bher'; and the Wood-apple is either Aegle marmelos or Feronia elephanturned.
[2]Kindras are found by subtracting the place of the planets from their aphelion; the remainder is their kindra or anomaly.
[3]An imaginary planet in Hindu astronomy, but perhaps Caput Draconis.
[4]i.e. Ashadha, Asvini, Pausha, & Chaitra respectively;-ed
[5]Srvana.
[6]The word in the original is sangu; a conch, the Silpa Asaris have an instrument resembling it made of wood. by which they make some astrological observations.
[7]The tree to be cut down.
[8]In which is to be observed the bad forestry of the Hindus. It is easiest for a short man to cut at this height, but the rules of European foresters are that such trees as coppice (i. e. grow again from the "stool" or stump) must be cut close to the ground, in order to secure a sound and straight second growth while trees which do not coppice should be "stubbed up" (eradicated)._Ed.
[9]This verse is slightly obscure and I found it necessary to get a silpan in Tanjore to explain it. According to him, natives when joining beams that are to rest on pillars or walls do not mortise them as we do. They square both ends as cleanly as possible, and the Kudumi mentioned above is let into them.
[10]Margosa of the Portuguese, Melia Asadirachta of botanists.-ed.
[11]When there is no remainder the divisor becomes the Ayam, as in this instance.

Return to the Top

Problems? Comments? Questions? Contact us by email!

Pixie Inc