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MAYAMATA : An Indian Treatise on Housing Architecture and Iconography
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MAYAMATA : An Indian Treatise on Housing Architecture and Iconography
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About the Book

The MAYAMATA is a Vastusastra, that is to say a 'treatise on dwelling' and, as such, it deals with all the facets of gods' and men's dwellings, from the choice of a site to the iconography of temple walls. It contains numerous and precise descriptions of villages and towns as well as of temples, houses, mansions and palaces. It gives indications for the selection of a proper orientation, of right dimensions and of appropriate building materials. It intends to be a manual for the architect and a guide-book for the layman. Well-thought-of by the traditional architects (sthapati-s) of South India, this treatise is of interest at a time when technical traditions, in all fields are being scrutinized for their possible modern application.

The MAYAMATA has so far been translated into Tamil and into French. The present English version is based upon the Edition, with French translation, previously published by Dr. B. Dagens in the Publication Series of the French Institute of Indology (Pondicherry).

About the Author

Dr. Bruno DAGENS (b. 1935) is a member of the Ecole Francaise d' Extreme-Orient (French School for Far Eastern Studies). He has done archaeological researches in Afghanistan and in Cambodia and taught Sanskrit at the University of Louvain (Belgium). Since 1977 he has been working at the Institut Francais d' Indologie at Pondicherry.

Besides articles and contributions on archaeology and on iconography of monuments in Afghanistan and in Cambodia, he has published critical editions and French translations of the Mayamata and of the Saivagamaparibhasamanjari (a compendium of Saiva doctrine and rituals) and a study on architecture in Saivagama-s. His most recent book is a two volume survey of the monuments of the submerged area of Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh) .

Foreword

The MAYAMATA and the MANASARA are the two best known amongst Sanskrit treatises of South India on architecture and iconography. However, unlike the MANASARA an English ver- sion of which by P. K. Acharya was published in 1933, the MAYAMATA has not so far been translated into English. The pre- sent book is based upon our edition, with French translation, in the Publication Series of the Institut Francais d’Indologie. The Sanskrit text has been omitted so that the book may be of a reasonable size; by the same token we have been able to dis- pense with most of die footnotes which accompanied the French translation due to the recent publication by the Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Scientific Research, of our book: Architec- ture in the Ajitagama and the Rauravagama (New Delhi 1984); the assumption is that the two books will be used together. The glossary is presented in an abridged form; most of the drawings have been retained and some more added but it should be noted that they are meant to be no more than tentative sketches. Lastly, the interpretation of the text has been revised and we are grateful once more to our friend Mary Premila Boseman for her help in the establishing of the English text.

Introduction

The body of Sanskrit literature dealing with architecture and iconography is voluminous but it is scattered and has been insufficiently surveyed; it is matched by a vernacular litera- ture which is even more scattered and even less known It comprises, first of all, independent works which can be classi- fied under the general heading of "technical treatises" (Sil- pasastra) or under the more precise one of "treatises on dwel- ling" (vastusastra) or "treatises on dwellings" (vastusastra). The use of one or other of these designations in a colophon does not however make for any reliable indication as to the contents of the work or its originality; thus, the Manasara and the Maya- mata whose contents are identical, are designated as a uastu- sastra and as a uastusdstra, respectively. The scope of these works, and that of the domain they cover, varies considerably and that goes for the comprehensive treatises as much as for those which confine themselves to limited subjects, such as icono- graphy of Saivite deities or astrological points bearing upon the founding and the construction of a house. There are few specialized works of importance in this category even so, archi- tecture and iconography being more often dealt with in various works, whether more or less ambitious encyclopaedias or treatises which concentrate upon areas where architecture and iconography are involved. The great purana are to be found in this category, along with encyclopaedias of royal inspira- tion such as the Manasollasa or the Samaranganasutradhara and the Saivite and Vaisnavite agama of various persuasions, as well as the Grhyasutra and the Arthasastra. These types of works are just those in which the material is most abundant but most scattered and it should be added that a number of small inde- pendant treatises are nothing more than extracts from much larger works and, as well, that it is hard to be sure whether the Purvakdmikagama has borrowed from the Mayamata the very great number of passages common to both texts or whether the reverse is the case. That the dispersion is also historical and geographical only complicates the problem still further, and the architecture and iconography, as they appear in a given work, are but the reflection of what was in existence during the time of its drafting in the region where that was done; significant in relation to the described forms, this factor is also apparent in the technical vocabulary which is always more or less marked by regional usage, as well as by borrowings from the verna- cular. Then, there is the sectarian bias, whether stressed or not and very apparent in the iconography and also, even if to a lesser degree, in complex architectural forms, if not in their elements envisaged separately. The pretension to universality of many of these texts does nothing to conceal this phenomenon and, whether the regional and sectarian features are more or less emphasized, they are still, usually, obvious. It must also be added that the Indian or, more precisely, the Hindu koine, is so much the fruit of such a mixture of regional and unitarian trends that each author, or school, may legitimately imagine that its day-to-day reality is nothing but an accurate reflection of the whole Indian world.

In that very extensive and widely disseminated range of works, the Mayamata occupies a fairly well defined place. 1t is a general treatise, a uastusastra, written in Sanskrit but origi- nating from Dravidian India, most probably from the Tamil area; it is part of the Saivite agamic literature without the connection being underlined by any pronounced sectarianism and its drafting must have been done during the Cola period, at the time when the architecture it describes had reached the peak of its maturity. Comprising about 3300 verses and divided into 36 chapters, it is identified as a vastusastra, that is, as a treatise on dwelling, for it defines the vastu as "anywhere where immortals or mortals live" (2.1). This definition is followed by specifications which show that the concept of housing is very wide and is divided into four categories: the Earth (considered as original dwelling), buildings vehicles and seats (which last three are nothing but 'vastu' deriving from the first 'vastu', the Earth). Once iconography has been added to this list we have a panorama, brief but inclusive, of the content of the work. Leaving aside here the details of this content which we will analyse further on, we note that the Mayamata is arranged in three large sections: the first (Chap. 1-10) deals with dwelling sites, the first vastu, the second section with buildings (Chap. 11-30) and the third (Chap. 31-36), with the last two vastu, vehicles and seats, and with iconography (Linga, images and their pedestals). In these different sections are found entire chapters or significant passages consecrated to particular topics in the sphere of technique or that of the ritual which sets the pace for the construction: system of measurements and quality of the architects (Chap. 5), orientation and laying-out (Chap. 6-7), offerings to the gods of the site (Chap. 8), foundation deposit (Chap. 12), joinery (Chap. 17), rites for the end of the construction of a temple and for the first en try into a house (Chap. 18 and 28) and renovation work and associated rites (Chap. 35).

The work as a whole is coherent in spite of various interpola- tions which are sometimes, but not always, indicated by changes in the metres. These appear quite frequently in chap- ters describing temples where they often give information on details of decorative motifs which were evidently mentioned, though not described, in the original text; in the same way the description of a pavilion of the siddha type (25.39sq) is inter- rupted by fourteen verses given over to ritual firepits (kunda); this interpolation would seem to have been entailed by the mention of the fact that the siddha pavilion may serve "for all rituals". These interpolations do not seem to give rise to any great internal discrepancy; it is only to be noted that the mention, in a general chapter on temples, of thirteen, fourteen, and sixteen storeyed temples (11.19) seems to be the result of an updating of the text which never otherwise describes temples with more than twelve storeys (cf.22.66sq) .

CONTENTS
LIST OF FIGURES  
FOREWORD  
INTRODUCTION  
I. The technical literature and the Mayamata i
II. The Earth and the sites viii
III. Edifices xiv
IV. Vehicles, seats and iconography xxxii
V. Theory and practice xxxviii
CHAPTER 1  
Summary 1
CHAPTER 2  
Dwelling sites 3
CHAPTER 3  
Examination of the site 5
CHAPTER 4  
Taking possession of the sete 7
CHAPTER 5  
System of measurements 9
CHAPTER 6  
Orientation 11
CHAPTER 7  
Diagrams 15
CHAPTER 8  
Offerings 23
CHAPTER 9  
Villages and other settlements 25
CHAPTER 10  
Towns 38
CHAPTER 11  
The number of storeys and the dimensions 47
CHAPTER 12  
The foundation deposit 50
CHAPTER 13  
The socle 60
CHAPTER 14  
The base 63
CHAPTER 15  
Dimensions of pillars and choice of materials 70
CHAPTER 16  
Entablature 81
CHAPTER 17  
Joinery 89
CHAPTER 18  
Upper levels of elevation and the consecration ceremony 97
CHAPTER 19  
One storeyed temples 118
CHAPTER 20  
Two storeyed temples 123
CHAPTER 21  
Three storeyed temples 128
CHAPTER 22  
Temples with four or more storeys 138
CHAPTER 23  
Enclosures and attendants' shrines 149
CHAPTER 24  
Gateways 162
CHAPTER 25  
Pavilions and halls 176
CHAPTER 26  
Houses 204
CHAPTER 27  
Features of houses for the four classes 236
CHAPTER 28  
First entry into a house 253
CHAPTER 29  
Royal palaces 259
CHAPTER 30  
Doors 284
CHAPTER 31  
Vehicles 296
CHAPTER 32  
Beds and seats 303
CHAPTER 33  
The Linga 307
CHAPTER 34  
Pedestals 325
CHAPTER 35  
Renovation works 335
CHAPTER 36  
Iconography 342
APPENDIX:  
Where and when a well is to be established 375
GLOSSARY 377

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MAYAMATA : An Indian Treatise on Housing Architecture and Iconography

Item Code:
IDH063
Cover:
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Edition:
1995
Language:
English
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8.5" X 5.5"
Pages:
309
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About the Book

The MAYAMATA is a Vastusastra, that is to say a 'treatise on dwelling' and, as such, it deals with all the facets of gods' and men's dwellings, from the choice of a site to the iconography of temple walls. It contains numerous and precise descriptions of villages and towns as well as of temples, houses, mansions and palaces. It gives indications for the selection of a proper orientation, of right dimensions and of appropriate building materials. It intends to be a manual for the architect and a guide-book for the layman. Well-thought-of by the traditional architects (sthapati-s) of South India, this treatise is of interest at a time when technical traditions, in all fields are being scrutinized for their possible modern application.

The MAYAMATA has so far been translated into Tamil and into French. The present English version is based upon the Edition, with French translation, previously published by Dr. B. Dagens in the Publication Series of the French Institute of Indology (Pondicherry).

About the Author

Dr. Bruno DAGENS (b. 1935) is a member of the Ecole Francaise d' Extreme-Orient (French School for Far Eastern Studies). He has done archaeological researches in Afghanistan and in Cambodia and taught Sanskrit at the University of Louvain (Belgium). Since 1977 he has been working at the Institut Francais d' Indologie at Pondicherry.

Besides articles and contributions on archaeology and on iconography of monuments in Afghanistan and in Cambodia, he has published critical editions and French translations of the Mayamata and of the Saivagamaparibhasamanjari (a compendium of Saiva doctrine and rituals) and a study on architecture in Saivagama-s. His most recent book is a two volume survey of the monuments of the submerged area of Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh) .

Foreword

The MAYAMATA and the MANASARA are the two best known amongst Sanskrit treatises of South India on architecture and iconography. However, unlike the MANASARA an English ver- sion of which by P. K. Acharya was published in 1933, the MAYAMATA has not so far been translated into English. The pre- sent book is based upon our edition, with French translation, in the Publication Series of the Institut Francais d’Indologie. The Sanskrit text has been omitted so that the book may be of a reasonable size; by the same token we have been able to dis- pense with most of die footnotes which accompanied the French translation due to the recent publication by the Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Scientific Research, of our book: Architec- ture in the Ajitagama and the Rauravagama (New Delhi 1984); the assumption is that the two books will be used together. The glossary is presented in an abridged form; most of the drawings have been retained and some more added but it should be noted that they are meant to be no more than tentative sketches. Lastly, the interpretation of the text has been revised and we are grateful once more to our friend Mary Premila Boseman for her help in the establishing of the English text.

Introduction

The body of Sanskrit literature dealing with architecture and iconography is voluminous but it is scattered and has been insufficiently surveyed; it is matched by a vernacular litera- ture which is even more scattered and even less known It comprises, first of all, independent works which can be classi- fied under the general heading of "technical treatises" (Sil- pasastra) or under the more precise one of "treatises on dwel- ling" (vastusastra) or "treatises on dwellings" (vastusastra). The use of one or other of these designations in a colophon does not however make for any reliable indication as to the contents of the work or its originality; thus, the Manasara and the Maya- mata whose contents are identical, are designated as a uastu- sastra and as a uastusdstra, respectively. The scope of these works, and that of the domain they cover, varies considerably and that goes for the comprehensive treatises as much as for those which confine themselves to limited subjects, such as icono- graphy of Saivite deities or astrological points bearing upon the founding and the construction of a house. There are few specialized works of importance in this category even so, archi- tecture and iconography being more often dealt with in various works, whether more or less ambitious encyclopaedias or treatises which concentrate upon areas where architecture and iconography are involved. The great purana are to be found in this category, along with encyclopaedias of royal inspira- tion such as the Manasollasa or the Samaranganasutradhara and the Saivite and Vaisnavite agama of various persuasions, as well as the Grhyasutra and the Arthasastra. These types of works are just those in which the material is most abundant but most scattered and it should be added that a number of small inde- pendant treatises are nothing more than extracts from much larger works and, as well, that it is hard to be sure whether the Purvakdmikagama has borrowed from the Mayamata the very great number of passages common to both texts or whether the reverse is the case. That the dispersion is also historical and geographical only complicates the problem still further, and the architecture and iconography, as they appear in a given work, are but the reflection of what was in existence during the time of its drafting in the region where that was done; significant in relation to the described forms, this factor is also apparent in the technical vocabulary which is always more or less marked by regional usage, as well as by borrowings from the verna- cular. Then, there is the sectarian bias, whether stressed or not and very apparent in the iconography and also, even if to a lesser degree, in complex architectural forms, if not in their elements envisaged separately. The pretension to universality of many of these texts does nothing to conceal this phenomenon and, whether the regional and sectarian features are more or less emphasized, they are still, usually, obvious. It must also be added that the Indian or, more precisely, the Hindu koine, is so much the fruit of such a mixture of regional and unitarian trends that each author, or school, may legitimately imagine that its day-to-day reality is nothing but an accurate reflection of the whole Indian world.

In that very extensive and widely disseminated range of works, the Mayamata occupies a fairly well defined place. 1t is a general treatise, a uastusastra, written in Sanskrit but origi- nating from Dravidian India, most probably from the Tamil area; it is part of the Saivite agamic literature without the connection being underlined by any pronounced sectarianism and its drafting must have been done during the Cola period, at the time when the architecture it describes had reached the peak of its maturity. Comprising about 3300 verses and divided into 36 chapters, it is identified as a vastusastra, that is, as a treatise on dwelling, for it defines the vastu as "anywhere where immortals or mortals live" (2.1). This definition is followed by specifications which show that the concept of housing is very wide and is divided into four categories: the Earth (considered as original dwelling), buildings vehicles and seats (which last three are nothing but 'vastu' deriving from the first 'vastu', the Earth). Once iconography has been added to this list we have a panorama, brief but inclusive, of the content of the work. Leaving aside here the details of this content which we will analyse further on, we note that the Mayamata is arranged in three large sections: the first (Chap. 1-10) deals with dwelling sites, the first vastu, the second section with buildings (Chap. 11-30) and the third (Chap. 31-36), with the last two vastu, vehicles and seats, and with iconography (Linga, images and their pedestals). In these different sections are found entire chapters or significant passages consecrated to particular topics in the sphere of technique or that of the ritual which sets the pace for the construction: system of measurements and quality of the architects (Chap. 5), orientation and laying-out (Chap. 6-7), offerings to the gods of the site (Chap. 8), foundation deposit (Chap. 12), joinery (Chap. 17), rites for the end of the construction of a temple and for the first en try into a house (Chap. 18 and 28) and renovation work and associated rites (Chap. 35).

The work as a whole is coherent in spite of various interpola- tions which are sometimes, but not always, indicated by changes in the metres. These appear quite frequently in chap- ters describing temples where they often give information on details of decorative motifs which were evidently mentioned, though not described, in the original text; in the same way the description of a pavilion of the siddha type (25.39sq) is inter- rupted by fourteen verses given over to ritual firepits (kunda); this interpolation would seem to have been entailed by the mention of the fact that the siddha pavilion may serve "for all rituals". These interpolations do not seem to give rise to any great internal discrepancy; it is only to be noted that the mention, in a general chapter on temples, of thirteen, fourteen, and sixteen storeyed temples (11.19) seems to be the result of an updating of the text which never otherwise describes temples with more than twelve storeys (cf.22.66sq) .

CONTENTS
LIST OF FIGURES  
FOREWORD  
INTRODUCTION  
I. The technical literature and the Mayamata i
II. The Earth and the sites viii
III. Edifices xiv
IV. Vehicles, seats and iconography xxxii
V. Theory and practice xxxviii
CHAPTER 1  
Summary 1
CHAPTER 2  
Dwelling sites 3
CHAPTER 3  
Examination of the site 5
CHAPTER 4  
Taking possession of the sete 7
CHAPTER 5  
System of measurements 9
CHAPTER 6  
Orientation 11
CHAPTER 7  
Diagrams 15
CHAPTER 8  
Offerings 23
CHAPTER 9  
Villages and other settlements 25
CHAPTER 10  
Towns 38
CHAPTER 11  
The number of storeys and the dimensions 47
CHAPTER 12  
The foundation deposit 50
CHAPTER 13  
The socle 60
CHAPTER 14  
The base 63
CHAPTER 15  
Dimensions of pillars and choice of materials 70
CHAPTER 16  
Entablature 81
CHAPTER 17  
Joinery 89
CHAPTER 18  
Upper levels of elevation and the consecration ceremony 97
CHAPTER 19  
One storeyed temples 118
CHAPTER 20  
Two storeyed temples 123
CHAPTER 21  
Three storeyed temples 128
CHAPTER 22  
Temples with four or more storeys 138
CHAPTER 23  
Enclosures and attendants' shrines 149
CHAPTER 24  
Gateways 162
CHAPTER 25  
Pavilions and halls 176
CHAPTER 26  
Houses 204
CHAPTER 27  
Features of houses for the four classes 236
CHAPTER 28  
First entry into a house 253
CHAPTER 29  
Royal palaces 259
CHAPTER 30  
Doors 284
CHAPTER 31  
Vehicles 296
CHAPTER 32  
Beds and seats 303
CHAPTER 33  
The Linga 307
CHAPTER 34  
Pedestals 325
CHAPTER 35  
Renovation works 335
CHAPTER 36  
Iconography 342
APPENDIX:  
Where and when a well is to be established 375
GLOSSARY 377

Sample Pages



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