Written by Brook McCarthy
Vastu Shastra (vāstu śāstra) is the Vedic science of architecture and design of temples, homes and buildings. While the yoga asanas and pranayama breathing techniques apply to our interior environment, similarly, applying Vastu Shastra to our physical environments facilitates health, harmony and balance in our external environment.
Often referred to as ‘Indian feng shui’, Vastu Shastra actually pre-dates Chinese feng shui by about 1500 years. Vastu derives from the root vas, which means ‘to dwell, live, stay, abide’, while the Shastra loosely translates to ‘science, doctrine, teaching’.
Vastu Shastra was originally restricted to temple architecture, but in recent times, has been applied to any structure including houses.
Five elements: Pancha Maha Bhoota
All ancient cultures refer to the elements which make up the human body and the physical world. In Vastu Shastra, these are Earth (Bhumi), Water (Jala), Air (Vayu), Fire (Agni), and Space (Akasha). According to Vastu Shastra, Planet Earth sustains life because of the presence and balance of these five elements.
The five elements are also related to our five senses of taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight.
EARTH (Bhumi) – Earth is known for its gravitational and magnetic qualities. It is the only element that is connected to all the five human senses which is why it influences us the most. It is associated with the south-east direction.
WATER (Jala) – This is represented by rain, river, ice and gas. It is linked to our sense of taste, touch, sight and hearing. Its direction is north-east.
AIR (Vayu) – The air on earth is a mixture of various gases such as nitrogen, oxygen, helium, and hydrogen, which are essential for humans, so air is fundamental to our survival. Air relates to our sense of sound and touch and is associated with the north-west direction.
FIRE (Agni) – Associated with the sun, fire represents light and heat which accounts for day and night, the seasons, vitality, enthusiasm, passion and strength. The element of fire is related to our sense of sound, touch and sight, and its direction is south-east.
SPACE (Akasha) – Space is infinite with no boundaries. It is linked to our sense of hearing and related to the central position, known as brahmasthan.
Applying Vastu in your home
Each direction is governed by a planet and each intermediate direction relates to one of the elements. So, for example, north is ruled by the planet Mercury while south-east is associated with the element fire. So an ideal position for the fireplace or kitchen of a house is the south-east corner.
The fire element rules good health, sound finances and familial happiness, so the south-east corner of every room should include a spotlight or lantern with the light pointing towards the ceiling. Electricals such as the television, fridge, computer, microwave, etc, can be placed in the south-east corners.
The central part of a house is ruled by the space element. As all directions meet in the centre, it is holiest and most powerful zone of the house. Ideally, it should be kept open and uncluttered so that light can illuminate the centre. Traditionally, houses in India used to have an open courtyard in the center of the house, providing open sky, sunlight and cross-ventilation.
Air should enter a building from north-east. There are various guidelines for placement of doors, windows, ventilators, balconies, trees and plants, to balance the air element. Bodies of water bodies in the north or east are considered good. The flow and drain of water should be towards the north-east.
Best sleeping position
The direction that your head points while lying in bed is important. Our bodies have a positive north- and negative south-charged pole. It is best to avoid sleeping with our heads directed north because, as with a magnet, the two positive poles repel each other. Sleeping with the head towards the west is also not advisable.
Sleeping with the head towards the south is highly recommended, bringing sound sleep and increasing the wealth and prosperity of the household. Sleeping with your head resting in the east enhances memory, health and spiritual inclination so it is often advised for children.