By Life Positive January 1997 Life Positive correspondents interview two practitioners of vaastu shastra—Revathi Kamat and M.V.R. Reddy. Some excerpts from our discussions: Life Positive: Do you use Vaastu?Revathi Kamat: I follow vaastu. When my instincts are correct there is no contradiction at all. LP: Aren’t vaastu consultants and architects today speaking the same language?RK: Absolutely. But unfortunately the modern architect is not always fine tuned to an inner compulsion. If architecture truly meant a creative expression of sorts, there would be no contradiction. But architecture has had to succumb to commercialization, rationalization and other compulsions of conformity. M.V.R. Reddy: But you can’t say that all architects are open-minded. RK: I agree 100 per cent, their education does not permit them to be so. But vaastu has limitations, too. I love the medium of mud but vaastu says that only shudras (the lowest rung in the Hindu caste hierarchy) should use mud. I find it difficult to understand why something like this should be forced. MVR: Varna (the caste system) has no value in vaastu. RK: That may be how it is practiced, but it is written that white soil is for brahmins (the priestly caste), red soil for kshatriyas(the warrior caste), etc. What is the meaning of all this? MVR: Forget about all those things, vaastu shastra has been through so many changes. Those stipulations were meant to keep it confined to the brahmin community. It went abroad (in recent times) where it received the value addition of scientific research. Now it has returned to India and gets new respect. LP: Are vaastu experts taking selectively from the shastra? MVR: In today’s changed circumstances, you can’t live with orthodoxy. In earlier days, for instance, you didn’t have too many storeys or attached baths. Moreover, I can’t advise my clients to face only east, that is a luxury today. The shastraswere meant for kings who took the advice of vaastu experts to built cites for the common man. They had norms that said houses should face more towards the south and the east, that we should avoid the north and the west. Today’s municipal rules are uniform: leave five feet at the back, 10 at the front. Direct the back to the south and the front to the north—it is a horrible thing. Vaastu said that the sun’s rays from the west are not good, so leave more area to the east and the north; now people are being told to leave more area in the front. They are asking us to dig our own graves. RK: I agree that the government is creating graveyards. We must respect the sun and the wind direction; we must respect all the elements while designing cities, towns and villages. Our entire approach needs to be holistic, taking into account our lifestyle; nature and the way people actually conduct their lives. It is critical that we do sign our environment for life enhancing qualities, but without that quality being trapped in written rules and regulations. Human beings are capable of evolving those instincts from a direct personal relationship with the environment. The architect should be conscious not only of the objective that he builds for or the family that is going to occupy the building, but also of all those aspects that are around you, material and natural, which come together in an ensemble at a particular time. LP: Both of you seem to be saying the same thing, but in different languages. How many modern architects believe and practice what you just said?RK: I have always seen that if you are truly creative and your architecture has meaning, it is immaterial whether you build the Taj or a mud house in a village; it can vibrate with resonance, with all that is around it, it creates a sense of well being in the people who inhabit it that is its success. In Frank Lloyd Wright‘s works, for example, the energies are so inspiring, they transcend time and space. MVR: That is wrong. Vaastu can influence all activities but what will happen cannot be pinpointed. RK: I don’t deny all this. But we are talking about repair at the individual level, it is very piecemeal, it does not relate to the totality. We have picked up fragments of the past and we are using that knowledge as a tool to solve little problems. Vaastu presupposes a concern for the totality, but that feeling does not pervade the acts of the builder today. As an architect and as a person concerned for the environment, my plea is think of the totality of the Earth. That is more important than the nitty-gritty of individual well-being. LP: Can’t the architect and the vaastu practitioner come closer? RK: Yes, architects ought to learn vaastu if they want to survive in a world where it is in demand. MVR: A vaastu practitioner is a layman in front of a civil engineer. When I give advice the civil engineer gets offended because after studying so much he asks why he should listen to me. That is where the ego comes in. LP: So you can’t work together.RK: That is not true MVR: An architect and a vaastu expert can’t sit together for five minutes. RK: That is because well-being is not an architect’s concern, ego is. Style is his agenda, not the well-being of the individual occupying the space. When you design, you remove the intellect, remove the mind and the ego, and are one with all those aspects that need to shape it. Architects are creative and must use that creativity. An architect must be able to speak to anyone who has any inputs for the physical environment. If he is not speaking to a vaastu expert then he is not a true professional. LP: What does the vaastu expert keep in mind while designing?MVR: We promise two things: mental peace and prosperity. Mental peace is something which you cannot buy or ask for. LP: What is the role of the architect today? RK: You are responsible for following all the laws and by-laws, to understand the need and the materials, and coordinate them within the budget. Your creative input is not required professionally. Ordinarily society does not expect you to be creative, but only to cater to the material and spatial requirements of the client. If you are a respected architect, you are called upon to be creative, but every rarely as a professional. LP: An architect may or may not have heard of vaastu but he can be practicing it. RK: Yes, that is possible. MVR: Some can do it intuitively. Often I tell my clients to do this or that and they say yes we were going to do just that. Intuition is very important. LP: A vaastu practitioner also considers what a good architect would do. They are not separate, then. RK: At this point of time they are. LP: They need not be at loggerheads. RK: There I agree with you. MRV: No, they are at loggerheads. RK: The two are at loggerheads because the architect is just concerned with style. LP: Do you think people are ready for vaastu?MVR: Most of my clients are Marwaris (India’s most successful business communityfrom the Marwar region of Rajasthan) and they don’t ask questions. This is a most effective science; it starts to work the moment you make corrections. But for a layman to understand this, I ask them to wait for about one hundred days. You can demolish something or construct something, but according to rigid rules. Some people use mirrors to rectify errors or misfortune, but that is only a psychological treatment that works for a few days. At times you have to demolish something, it is not unlike amputating a body part. LP: What is the comparative importance of the home and the workplace in creating well-being? MVR: Home is most important because in your workplace you are alone while your family is at home. Whenever I have a client I never see his factory or office without seeing his home because I can put your office straight, but if you come with the wrong energies from your house, what is the point. LP: Would you say that vaastu shastra is here to say? RK: There are people who want instant solutions and those who are unhappy, they would want to try it. I agree that you need to follow some principles of vaastu. It is a tool with which you can rectify your life. The Marwaris are going through tremendous change in their physical space: they lived in havelis, traditional Indian mansions, now suddenly anything can be done, so there is no culture that is holding them together. You need vaastu. It is a tool with which you can rectify your life. You need vaastu to tell them how to orchestrate these changes, it provides spatial and temporal order. LP: But that must be true for the rest of India as well.RK: Any community in material or cultural transition will seek some sop. Also, everybody is unhappy with the general quality of life. For me anything to change the pattern to welcome a new totality is welcome. LP: What are the shortcomings of vaastu? RK: Any kind of revivalism or superstition prevents a person from recognizing his own strength, that is my only fear. At the same time I agree that through spatial manipulation you can promote well-being.LP: Do you think vaastu has a place in the West? RK: Vaastu has a place everywhere. LP: When we talk of vaastu we talk of well being. In modern times the emphasis is on maximum utilization of space and the design is for mass accommodation. Is it more expensive to design flats, hotels etc. on vaastu principles?MVR: Yes, it would be expensive, largely because there would not be 100 per cent utilization of space. The old principles of vaastu have no use today, it has to be used with the modern.
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