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  • Copyright 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment

    * Correspondence to: Dr. Reena Patra, Department of Philosophy, Panjab University, Chandigarh 160014, India. E-mail:

    Sustainable DevelopmentSust. Dev. 17, 244256 (2009)Published online 12 November 2008 in Wiley InterScience( DOI: 10.1002/sd.388

    Vaastu Shastra: Towards Sustainable Development

    Reena Patra*Panjab University, Chandigarh, India

    ABSTRACTThis article discusses Vaastu Shastra (an ancient Indian knowledge of architecture) in rela-tion to the idea of sustainable development. It informs the complicated problems of urbanization and overpopulated cities of today. By drawing attention towards Vaastu Shastra, this paper discusses the built form of Indian settlements and explores the possibility of creating a living environment that is self-suf cient, ecologically balanced and culturally stimulating. It explains the concept of sustainable development based on ancient Indian traditional knowledge, through its culture, heritage and orientation towards forest sustain-ability, as a way to address elements within sustainable development. Further, the funda-mental principles, the relevance of Vaastu-Purusha-Mandala and the history of Vaastu Shastra are highlighted with discussions on its philosophical and social aspects. Last, an attempt has also been made to create a close relationship between Vaastu Shastra and sustainable development that can rede ne the present form of planning human settlement. Copyright 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

    Received 16 November 2007; revised 3 June 2008; accepted 4 June 2008

    Keywords: Vaastu Shastra; sustainable development; human settlement; urban planning; environmental policy


    IN THIS FAST DEVELOPING WORLD, UNLESS WE HAVE A FIRM COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY, EARTHLY RESOURCES WILL become extinct and life chaotic. The sheer force of economic developments, especially in India and China, with their two-thirds of the worlds population, could have a drastic impact on this already exploited planet. If we are to check and turn around the world from its path of inevitable self-destruction, an integrated, prac-tical approach to sustainable development must be identi ed. Inappropriate human settlement, planning and indiscriminate material-use have depleted the earths resources. Rationalizing an approach to land choice and use, water, sewage disposal, materials and community self-management will yield a solution. Traditional knowledge plays an important role in controlling human aspirations and ensuring interdependence and sustainability.

    The resultant built form of Indian cities today is complex, amorphous and chaotic. It no longer re ects a coher-ent response and ambience to its environmental context. The situation is reaching a crisis stage and a sustainable ecological relationship with built form is missing in new settlements. Today, humans are more than ever before aware of a loss of totality, wholeness and harmony. There is fragmentation and alienation of humans at all levels: individual, societal, psychical and cosmic. This is the consequence of adopting borrowed notions of planning and development. What is more unfortunate is that we are still looking towards Western concepts in attempting to solve the urban environmental crisis.

  • Vaastu Shastra: Towards Sustainable Development 245

    Copyright 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. 17, 244256 (2009)DOI: 10.1002/sd

    Such an approach, with overemphasis on technological solutions, often overlooks the social, cultural and local peculiarities. Looking at the damage that our cities and development have in icted upon the environment, one of the prime agendas is to explore the possibility of creating a living environment that is self-suf cient, ecologically balanced and culturally stimulating. We need to look at the fundamentals of human settlements, and evolve a system whereby we can establish a harmony among settlements, nature and people, and change the pattern of living.

    Therefore, a serious consideration of sustainable philosophy is required by taking traditional concepts on the subject as a model. Here Vedic knowledge Vaastu Shastra (an ancient Indian knowledge of architecture) is pre-sented as a model for sustainable development. Hence, Vaastu Shastra as a doctrine provides guidelines for human settlements and governance (Patra, 2007). To understand the rationale for human settlement design as contained in the Vaastu Shastra, one has to understand to devise a system that controls human settlement as an interest of sustainability, respecting the social fabric of the citizens, and their settlement. Sustainability is thus all about understanding the situation and developing methods that are equitable and that make sense ecologically, economically and socially.

    The concept of sustainable development. The term sustainability is one of the most widely used words today, in the scienti c eld as a whole and in the environmental sciences in particular. Until the late 1970s, the word sus-tainability was only occasionally used; in most cases, it was used to refer to the ways in which forest resources should be used. It has, therefore, a strong connection with the forestry sector. Other than this, the expression sustainability has been traditionally used as synonymous with words such as long-term, durable etc. It sheds light on the connection between nature and human communities, nature and culture. Sustainability character-izes the management of nature; this nature has already been practically and socially adopted, and turned into culture. As nature has been transformed into culture, therefore, there is an interactive relation between nature and culture (Hull, 2008). Sustainable development is a development that is likely to achieve lasting satisfaction of human needs and improvement of the quality of human life (Robert, 1980). The basic idea of sustainability is straightforward: a sustainable system is one that survives or persists. The term sustainable development suggests that the lessons of ecology can and should be applied to economic processes. The following rules and criteria underline the concept of sustainable development.

    Rules. These correspond to the ecology; economic and social criteria are given below (Gebauer, 2002, p. 6).

    The rate of exploitation of renewable resources must not exceed the rate of natural regeneration. The level of missions must not exceed the assimilative capacities of the eco-system affected when non-renewable resources are depleted, the reduction in stocks must be compensated for by an equivalent increase in the stocks of renew-able resources (Simonis, 1998, p. 25).

    Renewable resources (such as forests or water) should be used only in line with their rate of regeneration. The absorption capacity of nature for harmful emissions (such as CO2 emissions or toxic wastes) should not be

    overstrained, so that the eco-systems remain intact. To get these management rules intact at the various levels of decision-making, technical, social and institutional innovations are needed and adequate incentives have to be set.

    The effects of anthropological in uences on eco-systems must not abolish the limiting effect of their natural bounds. These regulations can be considered for the integration of management into the regeneration regime of nature. Sustainable management must also be organized in such a way that its integration is possible under technical, economical, political, legal, social, cultural and personal aspects (Pawowski, 2008).

    Criteria. Developments are connected with ecology, economy and social compatibility. There are three types of criterion introduced by the Board of Environment Experts for individual compatibility and also for the range of building and living. These are detailed below (Gebauer, 2002, p. 4).

    1. Ecological. Land consumption, sealing, resource consumption, energy consumption/carbon dioxide emission.2. Economic. Life cycle costs of buildings, investments in change/preservation in comparison to new buildings,

    infrastructure and subsidy expenditures.

  • 246 R. Patra

    Copyright 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment Sust. Dev. 17, 244256 (2009)DOI: 10.1002/sd

    3. Social. Job effect, safety device of living and meeting demands, suitable residential environment, work and spare time, healthy living, increase of the residential property ratio, cost of living.

    Sustainable development is focused on a social organization of a learning process, on the ability to use nature and social resources i.e. the possibility of changing the development path and adopting alternative ways, considering the possible endangerment of the reproduction of nature and society or nature and culture in the diversity of their possible use for human (Tyburski, 2008).

    The concept of sustainable development is close to what we learn from the Indian traditional knowledge, such as culture and heritage. Today, Vaastu Shastra (an ancient science of architecture, planning and designing) has become more relevant for modern humans because the environment has gained importance due to air, water and land pollution, dynamic changes in climate, population pressures and congested and overcrowded cities. It no longer re ects a coherent response and ambience to its environmental context (Nagdeve, 2004, pp. 461473). The situation is reaching a crisis stage and a sustainable ecological relationship with built form is missing from new settlements. Consequently, it has become necessary to acquire the traditional knowledge of Vaastu for developing human settlements such as Indian mega-cities, which can be transformed with the help of fundamental princi-ples of Vaastu Shast