Vini Nathan
Interior Design Program, School of Arch & Design
Philadelphia University
School House Lane & Henry Ave
Philadelphia PA 19144-5497 USA

N2002-NathanThe Vastu purusha mandala (Dhama, 1962)

During the medieval ages in India, no single dynastic power served as the undisputed dispenser of cultural and artistic ideas. However, despite their regional flourishes, Hindu temple designs displayed a remarkable unity of aesthetic purposes. This unified philosophy was codified into a system of rules or canons (a compendium of architectural guidelines) called the Vastushastras. These canons were the purview of the priestly class, were intentionally made very complex so that they were incomprehensible to even skilled building craftspeople and were seldom challenged.

Of all the canons and rules in the Vastushastras, the one that found the most favor with building designers from ancient times to the present day is the Vastu purusha mandala. The Vastu purusha mandala has been defined as "a collection of rules which attempt to facilitate the translation of theological concepts into architectural form." This law of proportions and rhythmic ordering of elements not only found full expression in temples, but extended to residential and urban planning as well. This paper argues that the influence of the Vastu purusha mandala extended beyond building activity to encompass the cultural milieu as well. The first section discusses the principles underlying the Vastu purusha mandala. The application of the Vastu purusha mandala in residential design and city planning is discussed in the second section. The implications of the mandalas on the social milieu are also identified. Finally, the current status of the mandala in contemporary Indian architecture and urban design are identified.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is the Director of and Associate Professor in Interior Design in the School of Architecture and Design at Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, USA. Her educational background includes degrees in architecture and interior design. She worked as an architect for Walker Group/CNI in New York, a full service design firm specializing in retail design. She has also taught in interior design and architecture programs at Virginia Tech, the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, New York Institute of Technology and at her current institution, Philadelphia University. Her research interests include chaos theory, design processes, and research methods. She is currently researching the relationship between mathematics and architectural canons in traditional and contemporary Indian building designs.

The correct citation for this article is:
Vini Nathan, "Vastu Purusha Mandala", pp. 151-163 in Nexus IV: Architecture and Mathematics, eds. Kim Williams and Jose Francisco Rodrigues, Fucecchio (Florence): Kim Williams Books, 2002.