The most unique feature of the ancient Hindu civilization is that it conceived of knowledge as one integrated whole, of which all the various branches of learning are mutually complementary parts. While extolling spiritual learning as Para vidya, the supreme knowledge, the ancient Seers have also laid stress on the learning of material sciences, as Apart, vidya, subsidiary knowledge, which is contributory to the greater wisdom. Under the comprehensive range of religion, they synthesized all aspects of learning and of life, the physical and the intellectual, the material and the spiritual, the mundane and the other-worldly. The works in Silpa Sutra, which generally deal with the construction of houses and palaces, villages and towns in one half and with the election and installation of temples and idols of deities in the other, afford an effective example of this integration of knowledge.
The Silpa Sastra is one of the greatest legacies that we have inherited from our ancients. The multi-storied towers of temples which have anticipated the advent of sky-scraps, the thousands Of life-like icons and statues of elaborate and intricate workmanship, the countless varieties of ornamental designs in wood, brick and mortar, and stone, the colossal granite structures raised to dizzy heights in days when mechanized methods of lifting were not even dreamt of and the huge arched roofs of dome-like shape of very spacious halls with not a pillar to support them, and such other great engineering achievements which every foreign tourist in India gazes at, admires and envies, are all the results of the practice of architecture and sculpture, expounded in the ancient works of Silpa Sastra.
The word Silpa, in its wider connotation, comprehends all arts and crafts which require dexterity of hand, combined with concentration -of mind and creative faculty. It includes architecture -and sculpture, painting and engraving, smithy and carpentry and also all topics of constructive science coming under Mechanics and Engineering in modern parlance. In its more circumscribed sense the word denotes Vastu kala, the science of building and Murti kala, iconography. The hoary origin of this science can be easily surmised from the innumerable references to Silpa and Silpis in Puranas and Agamas.
Although six different schools of Silpa have been recognised in ancient works, two of them stand out as more prominent than the rest, namely the school of Visvakarma and that of Maya, the former being considered as the architect of the. Gods and the latter of the Asuras. Visvakarma Vastu Sastra, a standard work of the former school has already been printed and published by this Library and Mayamatam, the classic of the other school is now placed before the public.
Maya, who is considered to be the author of this treatise is spoken of with reverence as a sage, Mayamuni, and the epics describe him as one of the founders of Silpa Sutra, as a worker of miracles in the art of building, and as one endowed with divine inspiration.
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