Indian Architecture: According to Manasara-Silpasastra (Manasara Series: Vol.II)

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Item Code: IDF745
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Prasanna Kumar Acharya
Language: English
Edition: 1996
ISBN: 8121507197
Pages: 268
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.7" X 6.5"
Weight 550 gm
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Book Description

From the Jacket:

This volume entitled Indian architecture according to Manasara- Slipasastra is the Second in the series or Professor P. K. Achary's Manasara Series. Here he has discussed exhaustively the question what is Manasara? An understanding of this term Manasara is essential; for buildings are the yard sticks by which the achievements and standards of living of bygone ages can be correctly evaluated. But this term defies elucidation; for it not only embraces all activities connected with the construction of private dwellings, public edifices, forts and other multipurpose structures but also includes other functions like designing chariots, gardens, vehicles, furniture and so on; even town and village planning are not left out. As words, like humans age their meaning and usage change with time.

Consequently to ascertain their true significance one has to wade through a mass of literature belonging to different periods. The author has surveyed the whole gamut of Sanskrit literature from the Vedic to the Gupta periods to bring out clearly the various connotations of the word Manasara with those of Vitruvius classic for the benefit to those interested in the comparative study of architecture. He has thrown light on the age and language of Manasara. All those interested in Indian architecture shall find this an invaluable time saver; for it encapsulates the information lying scattered in several works.



The term silpa means an art, fine or mechanical. It covers some sixty-four such arts. But here Silpa-sastra is used in the sense of Vastu-sastra, this latter term being less usual. The literal render- ing of Vastu-Sastra would be' science of architecture,' but a complete Vastu-sastra deals with more than what is generalIy understood by architecture. In the Vastu-sastras the term architecture is taken in its broadest sense and implies what is built or constructed. Thus in the first place it denotes all kinds of buildings, religious, residential, and military; and their auxiliary members and component mouldings. Secondly, it covers town-planning; laying out gardens; constructing market-places including ports and harbours ; making roads, bridges, gate- ways, triumphal arches ; digging wells, tanks, trenches, drains, sewers, moats ; building enclosure walls, embankments, dams, railings, landing- places, flights of steps for hills and bathing ghats, and ladders. Thirdly, it connotes articles of furniture such as bedsteads, couches, tables, chairs, thrones, wardrobes, baskets, cages, nests, mills, conveyances, lamps and lamp-posts for streets. It also includes the making of dresses and ornament; such as chains, crowns, head-gear and foot and arm wear. Architecture also includes sculpture and deals with carving of phalli, idols of deities, statues of great personages, images of animals and birds. It is also concerned with such preliminary matters as the selection of site, testing of soil, planning, designing, finding out cardinal points by means of a gnomon, dialling, and astronomical and astrological calculations.

All these matters are systematically treated in the standard work on the subject known as the Manasara. Under this short title the work has been catalogued and generally referred to. But the com- plete title, as appears from the seventy colophons of the text, is the Manasara-vastu-sastra, Some manauscripts have the title Manavasara, It is stated on the fly-leaf of some other manuscripts that those manuscripts were copied from a Silpa-sastra which is apparently meant to be the title of the original work.

The etymological rendering of the word manasara is 'the essence of measurement,' sara meaning essence and mana measurement, It may, however, be rendered by 'the standard measurement' or 'the system of proportion' as has been done by the author of An Essay on the architecture of the Hindus, In this sense the full title Manasara Vastu-sastra would imply a Vastu-sastra or science of architecture, where the essence of measurement is contained, the standard measurement followed, or the system of proportions embodied.

There is an ambiguity as regards the signification of the title of this: standard work, The colophon annexed to each of the seventy chapters contains the expression Manasare Vastu-sastre, This is apparently in- tended to mean either the Vastu-sastra by Manasara or the Vatstu-sastra named Manasara. In other words, Manasara would seem to be such a name as may be applied to the author as well as to the work. In a passage in the treatise itself the term manasara has been used in both these senses. Therein it is held that 'all this is stated to have been compiled by the ancient Manasaras, This great science was formerly revealed by all the gods beginning with the Creator and the King of gods, Having been compiled therefrom, this treatise Manasara is made for the benefit of the people'. In this passage the term manasara is once used in the sense of a generic name (of architects), and secondly as the title of a treatise implying' the essence of measurement,' which is the etymological rendering of manasara. This latter sense is explicitly expressed in another passage where it is stated that 'having successively collected in a concise form the essence of measurement from the sastra' this treatise is compiled. The former sense is also substantiated by several other passages. In one place it is stated that 'the treatise, compiled by the sages or professors of architecture called Manasaras, was named after the sage or archi- teot Manasara." There is yet another ambiguity in this passage, Manasars being once a generic name in the plural and in a second place a personal name in the singular. As a generic name it is used in another passage where it is stated that there are many Munasaras.' Then thirty-two sages or professors of architecture are specified by names, wherein mana or measurement is associated with four names- Mana-sara, Mana-kalpa, Mana-bodha and Mana-vid. It is not unlikely that the sages or professors, with whose names mana or measurement is associated, are intended, to be distinguished from the rest as being specialists in 'measuring' which is a very important feature of the science of architecture. It is also used exclusively as a personal name when it is stated by all great sages or professors, Manasara and others.'

All the available external references to Manasara, however, point to its being used mostly as a personal name. In the Dasa- kumara-charita of Dandin, Manasara is mentioned as the king of Malwa, With him was engaged in war the king Rajahamsa of Pataliputra who was the father of Rajavahna, the chief of the ten princes. In two unpublished inscriptions Manasars, (? Manasarpa) occurs as the name of an architect. In the Agni-purana also Manasara is men- tioned, but its meaning is uncertain. Therein it may be interpreted as implying both the title of a treatise and the name of an author.

The contents of the Manasara, however, fully justify its unique position as the most representative silpa-sastra. It can also he placed side by side with Vitruvius's work, which iS the standard treatise on Roman architecture. No elaborate explanation is perhaps necessary for the justification of the title of this volume. This was originally intended to be an introduction to the Manasara and to be read along with the First Edition and the English Translation prepared by the present writer. But the study of the whole subject is in its infancy, if not at its birth. So it was found necessary to refer briefly to a few essential things which, though elaborately discussed in the writer's Dictionary, can hardly be included in a mere Introduction to either the Text or the Translation of the Manasara.


  Acknowledgement Iii
  Preface 1
I Vedic Literature 5
II Buddhist Literature 9
III Classical Literature  
  a. The Epics 17
  b. The Puranas 19
  c. The agamas 23
  d. Miscellaneous Treatise 29
II Summary and Synopses of  
  a. The Manasara 34
  b. The Mayamata Silpsa- Sastra 89
  c. The Amsumad-bheda of Kasyapa 92
  d. The Visvakarma- Silpa 96
  e. The Agastya 100
  f. The Sanatkumara-Vastusastra 102
  g. The Silpa-sastra of Maudana 103
  h. The Samgraha 106
III Position of the Manasara in Literature  
  a. The Types of Buildings 111
  b. The Measurements 121
  c. The Five Orders 125
  d. The Three Styles 130
IV The Manasara and Vitruvius Compared  
  a. The Extent and Popularity 134
  b. Similarity in Number and Titles of chapters 137
  c. Similarity in Training of Architects 137
  d. Similarity in Preliminary chapters 142
  e. Similarity in Town-planning 143
  f. Similarity in Forms, Species and foundations of Buildings 147
  g. Similarity in Columns 149
  h. Similarity in division of Compound into five courts 154
  i. Similarity in Doors 155
  j. Similarity in Sculptural measures 156
  k. Similarity in linguistic style 158
  l. Similarity in mysterious titles 159
V Age of the Manasara  
  a. The Brihat- Samhita 160
  b. The Bhavishya and Matsya Puranas 163
  c. The ancient Professors of Architecture 164
  d. Types of Building and Columns 167
  e. The Matsya, Garuda and Agni Puranas 168
  f. The Artha-Sastra, Kamandakiya-niti and sukra-niti 169
  g. The Dasakumara-charita 170
  h. The Holal inscriptions 171
  i. The Surya- siddhanta, Lilavati and Siddhanta-siromani 172
  j. The tentypes of twelve storeyed buildings representing ten provinces 173
  k. The three styles representing three geographical divisions of India 176
  l. Identification of Nagara, Vesara and Dravida styles 180
  m. Division of Royalty into nine classes 181
  n. The extent of Gupta Empire 184
  o. The prevailing Religion 185
  p. Developments in Literature, Language and fine Arts 193
  q. Unfaded memory of Seven Gupta Kings 195
  r. Conclusions 198
Appendix The language of the Silpa- Sastra 199
  General Index 215


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