This series on the teachings of Vastu
Shastra aims at introducing the readers to the original texts and principles of the Vedic Science of Architecture. Although "Vastu" (original Vedic term vastu) has become quite a popular term among the masses these days, it is more the apprehensions and illusions rather than the facts of this occult science that seem to have been spread. Afraid of the ‘hidden’ untoward effects of not having the house built as per the principles of vastu, people anxiously search for the expert-help; some even go in for hurried sell-off or breaking of the house. The confusion between blind faith and total disbelief has been a breeding ground for opportunists. For some it has become a tool for pretending against failures; rather than lack of assiduity and best efforts on their part, they blame vastu
imperfections as the cause of their failures. Many so-called experts have mushroomed with the rising businesses of ‘vastu-guidance’; most of whom have incomplete or only a superficial knowledge of this ancient science.
Hope this series will acquaint the readers with the fundamentals – that, vastu
mainly pertains to enabling supportive effects of geomagnetism and certain streams of energies of Nature. Most importantly, let them know that they don’t have to panic if their existing houses do not conform to the major guidelines of Vastu
Shastra. Little alterations or modifications will also suffice, as guided, for instance, for the arrangements of the specific rooms/corners of the house from time to time in the light of the articles in this series.
We had talked about the relative positions and directions of the bedroom and bathroom in the last issue. Here we discuss about the most important entity in the house, as identified in the Vastu
Shastra, namely, the kitchen. Be that a palatial mansion, a mud hutment, or any type of house, kitchen happens to be its pivotal place. It is referred to as the treasure of the house in some Chinese scriptures. This is the only prominent place in every home, where the agni
tatva (one of the five basic elements – the pancha tatvas) plays a key role. As we all know, the discovery of its gross physical manifestation – the fire – is considered as the foundation of modern civilization. In the remote pre-historic times people used to survive on raw (uncooked) meat, fruits and vegetables; it is the boon of fire that enabled cooking of our food and showered on us with varieties of other comforts…. Agni
tatva as a source of energy, including vital energy – the prañagni, and mental strength and radiance – the tejas, is also of great significance in yogic practices and spiritual sadhana.
Shastra describes the principle direction of natural energy field of agni
as –southeast (agnyeya). The Fire-God "Agnideva" is honored there as the divine power that governs this direction and associated Natural energy fields and sublime forces. (The name "agnyeya" of this direction is indeed derived from "agni"). Therefore, Vastu
Shastra prescribes that the position and design of the kitchen should be such that the tools of producing heat and fire such as, gas-stove, burner, electric heater, oven etc, be placed in the southeast corner of the house. Appropriate use of this direction is said to build up a vibrant environment in the house and enhances the vigor of its inhabitants.
As the sun is the natural source of heat and energy in this world, it is referred in the Vedic Scriptures as the shrine of Agnideva. Performing yajna (homam, havan, agnihotra) in the southeast direction while facing the east is therefore considered as most beneficial. It is supposed to bestow health, happiness, prosperity and fame upon the devotees. The "Agni Puran" describes these aspects in detail. It advises to perform bali-vaishva agnihotra2 every day in the southeast direction. It states that – "The devotees, who worship
the Agnideva by bali-vishva agnihotra
or other kinds of homam every day, are blessed with ojas (vigor), tejas (brilliance) and varchas (inner power and auspicious welfare).
If it is not feasible to perform homam or agnihotra
every day, lighting a lamp in the southeast corner every day will also be beneficial as per the Shastric literature. Some of the scriptures on Vastu
further recommend that for special auspicious effects, the fire in the southeast corner of the kitchen should not be extinguished completely. Such a thing might have been possible in the ancient times when people used firewood and dry cow dung in kitchen stoves. It is certainly not feasible in today’s circumstances. Instead, continuous lighting of a tiny lamp of ghee or oil should be tried. It is also said that the food cooked in the southeast direction induces liveliness, strength and charm in one’s personality.
Food prepared in the kitchen is the principal source of nourishment of our body, which is made up of the gross manifestation of the five basic elements (pancha tatvas). The health of our subtle-body depends upon the subliminal properties of these tatvas present in our food. As the energy fields and subtle environment of the kitchen affect the quality of food, they are given due importance in the Vedic scriptures.
The scriptures on Vastu
further stress that the agyena (southeast) angle effectuates optimal impact of natural energy fields required for the food cooked inside the kitchen. For instance, the 118th shloka of the 53rd Chapter (entitled "Vastu Vidya") of Varahmihir’s "Vrahat Samhita" states – "The best location for the place of worship/ devotion in the house is the northeast, that for the kitchen is the southeast, for general storeroom is the southwest and for grocery storage is the northwest corner (direction)."
Similarly, the shlokas no. 18-19 of the 106th Section (on "Nagaradik Vastu
Kathanam") of the "Agni Puran" state –– the strong room (safe for money and valuables) of the house should be placed in the eastward direction, cooking-room (kitchen) in the southeast, bedroom in the south and major tools storage in the southwest. The dining room should lie towards the west, grocery stockroom in the northwest, material resources storing in the northward direction and worship
and devotion room in the northeast. A house constructed according to these Vastu
Shastric designs is supposed to bring good luck for the residents.
A visible advantage of having the kitchen in the southeast direction is that it is open to the positive effects of morning sunrays and also gets fresh air most of the time. Added benefits are available if the cook faces the east while preparing the food. Not only he or she would enjoy good health and happy mood in general, but the food cooked thereby would also be tasty and filled with subtle vigorous effects. It is said that the ancient experts of Vastu
Shastra were able to identify the direction in which the food was prepared by simply tasting it! If the taste and quality of cooking could so much depend upon the position of the kitchen, the latter could naturally have significant impact on the health, mental development and hence the overall progress and life-status of the people who would eat the food everyday.
According to Chinese belief, the overall wellbeing of the residents of a house largely depends upon ––In which direction in the house the kitchen is placed, in which direction the food is cooked, etc. The ancient science of Chinese architect (Feng Shui) also lays maximum importance on proper positioning and designing of the kitchen in the plan of the house, as it directly affects the health and moods of the people. As per Feng Shui – the food cooked in the kitchen is the key source of energy (to work) for the inhabitants; it is therefore responsible (to a great extent) for their efficiency and hence for their prosperity and success.
The blueprint of the house, according to Vastu
Shastra, should be planned with respect to the shape, size and location of the plot. For example, the size of the corners in a specific direction would obviously depend upon whether the plot is rectangular, circular, triangular or hexagonal etc? Which way and how far is the nearest road or ground from it? What is already there in the surroundings, etc?
While constructing a house, often cost-effectiveness and maximum utilization of the space seem to be the major criteria these days. As a result, at times the construction is unscientific and against Vastu
Shastra. For example, in some houses, the kitchen faces the main entrance. The outer door naturally needs to be kept open for cross ventilation in such cases; the argument given in favor of this arrangement, despite the intrusion in privacy, is that –– the house is better guarded because anyone in the kitchen can keep guard on the main entrance as well and the smell of food would not spread inside the house, …, etc. But the fact is that apart from being inconvenient such a construction is quite against the Vastu
principles and might give rise to mutual conflicts, tensions and despair among the family members. Such houses are also said to be prone to cause economic problems and diseases. Therefore, as far as possible, the design of the house should avoid positioning the kitchen in front of the main entrance even while constructing it in the southeast. If such an optimal structure is not feasible because of the location of the plot etc, then, according to the Vastu
Shastra, the kitchen should be made in the western direction. Here again, the gas-stove, heater etc, should be kept in the southeast corner of the kitchen.
In the villages, people use firewood and dry cow-dung as fuel in their kitchens. Because of the availability of open space, they don’t face any problem in shifting the chulhas (usually made up of clay and cow-dung) in the desired directions. The situation is quite different in the towns and cities where the kitchens in the flats are generally small. Kerosene and gas-stoves are commonly used in most houses and usually one L-shaped or two parallel stone-platforms are constructed in the kitchen. If one of the platforms is attached to the wall in the west and the other in the east, obviously, the best choice would be to keep the stove(s) in the south east corner of the latter. (The other platform could be used for keeping utensils, drinking water container etc). Similar arrangements could be made with the construction of L-shaped platforms.
If the above arrangements are not possible, some alternatives could be chosen. We shall discuss this, along with some Vastu
guidelines on internal utilities of the kitchen, in the next article in this series.
1. Pancha Tatvas: The five basic elements of the gross manifestation of Nature, namely, prithvi –source of all material existence is solid or semi-liquid and gel forms; jala – source of material existence in liquid and fluidic forms; vayu – source of air and gaseous states of matter; agni
–source of fire and all forms of energies and light; and akasha
– the subliminal etheric expansion and source and foundational base of existence and manifestation of mental and emotional expressions.
2. Bali-vaishva agnihotra
is a type of agnihotra
or small-scale yagya, in which five offerings of ghee (clarified butter, preferably prepared from cow’s milk) and cooked food are sacrificed in the fire (lit on dry cow-dung cake) along with chanting of special mantras, before the people in the house eat.
(Series to be continued in the next issue)