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"Graphic Transcription and Analytic Study of


Architectural Proportions in Mayamatam

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Vinay Mohan Das


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Heritage as a Living & Evolving had its own conventions, which were quite unknown to
Process: Europe. What his work lacked entirely was any reference to
Graphic Transcription and Analytic the Shilpa Shastras, the traditional and time-honoured texts
Study of Architectural Proportions in in which the local conventions relating to architecture were
Mayamatam clearly explained [6]. The Archaeological Survey of India
has been involved in architectural surveys of monuments
Vinay Mohan Das till date and has a very rich collection of architectural
Senior Lecturer, Deptt. of Architecture & Planning documentation [7].
Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology, Bhopal The research in this area can be classified into two categories,
namely, Field work and Theoretical work. The above works
can be classified as field work. In the theoretical research
INTRODUCTION front, the first person who attempted to understand ancient
Ancient Indian Architecture Philosophy: Indian Architecture was Ram Raz [8] .Since 1812, Ram Raz
collected ancient architectural treatises in Sanskrit and toiled
Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), a pioneer to decipher their mysteries. The result was The Essay on
in the field of traditional philosophy of Indian art stated the Architecture of the Hindus, posthumously published in
in The fundamentals of Indian Art that the design of London in 1834. Ram Razs book was a path-breaking work
buildings, towns etc. suggest and symbolize the Universe; the in the field of Hindu architecture. He was the first Indian
site of a temple or town was laid out in relation to astrological scholar to study the principles of Hindu architecture as
observations; every stone had its place in the cosmic reflected in the ancient Hindu architectural treatises. His work
design, and the very faults of execution represented the was also quoted by Owen Jones [9] in chapter 13 Hindoo
imperfections and shortcomings of the craftsman himself. Ornament of his book Grammar of Ornament.
In his opinion this holistic approach to design resulted in
a wonderful, beautiful and dignified architecture, and such Another researcher in this area, Dr. P.K. Acharya [10],
conceptions were reflected in the dignity and serenity of also selected the Manasara for translation and graphical
life itself. Under such conditions, the craftsman was not an transcription. His work is available in a number of volumes
individual expressing individual whims, but a part of the first published from 1934 to 1946. The treatise Samrangana
Universe giving expression to the ideals of its own eternal Sutradhara was selected by Dr. D. N. Shukla [11] for his
beauty and unchanging law [1]. research on Indian architecture and published in 1960. The
Mayamatam, another architectural text was translated by Dr.
Therefore, for any architecture to be perfect, it had to satisfy Bruno Dagens which was first published in English in 1984
parameters such as astrological observations, principles of by IInstitut Francais dIndologie, Pondicherry and Bharatia
eternal beauty, laws of nature etc. as defined in the texts of Institute, New Delhi. The same work was then published in a
that age. This could have been done only with detailed project bilingual edition in 1994 and contains critically edited Sanskrit
planning and execution. The existence of ancient monuments text which is an improvement over the earlier edition as it
can be taken as an indication of presence of multidisciplinary contains explanatory footnotes, analytical table of contents
and multilateral knowledge [2] base of design and managerial and a comprehensive glossary [12].
skills. The architect (sthapati) was the central figure in the
entire scenario and with his team of assistants the work Adam Hardy [13] researched the Temple Architecture
was executed. For any architectural project, perfection in all of Karnata Dravida (North Karnataka). He has been
aspects was the most sought after goal. interested in relationships between architectural history/
theory and practice. He opines that architectural history
Documenting and Understanding Ancient Indian may be approached through the eyes of a designer, while
Architecture architectural design can be informed by an understanding of
principles and processes underlying traditional architectures.
One of the early pioneers of Indology, and the founder of His work on temple architecture was published in 1995 [14].
the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal was Sir William Jones A chronological listing of most of areas of research and
(1746-94) [3]. Archaeological and historical pursuits in researchers are given in Table 1. However, this list is not an
India started with his efforts, who put together a group of all inclusive list of areas of research and researchers and their
antiquarians to form the Asiatick Society on 15th January supporting organizations.
1784 in Calcutta (now Kolkata). The publication of a
periodical journal named, Asiatic Researches was started in Mayamatam
1788, in the researches, surveys carried out by the society
were published to make the public aware of the antiquarian As per Dr. Bruno Dagens, a prominent expert on the
wealth of India [4]. Mayamatam who has edited and translated the book, the
body of Sanskrit literature dealing with architecture and
In the same decade, William Hodges, the first of the British iconography is voluminous, even scattered and insufficiently
professional landscape artists to visit India, spent over three surveyed and it is matched by a vernacular literature, more
years in the country from 1780 to 1783 and painted amongst scattered and less known. In the extensive and widely
other subjects, the architectural heritage. [5] He published his disseminated range of works in this area, the Mayamatam
reflections on the countrys architecture partly in the notes occupies a fairly well defined place. It is a general treatise, a
accompanying his series of aquatints, Select Views in India vstushstra, written in Sanskrit but originating from Dravidian
(1785-88) and then more coherently in his Dissertation India, most probably the Tamil area; it is part of the Saivite
on the Prototypes of Architecture: Hindu, Moorish and gamic literature without the connection being underlined
Gothic of 1787. This material was repeated and amplified by any pronounced sectarianism and its drafting must have
in his volume of memoirs, Travels in India of 1793. In all been done during the Chola period, at the time when the
his works, Hodges clearly perceived that Indian architecture architecture it describes had reached the peak of its maturity.
Table 1 A Chronological List of Research in Indian Architecture and Allied areas

S.No. Circa Work Persons


William Jones, and Archaeologi-
1. 1780.. Architecture field work
cal Survey of India
2. 1780.. Architecture field work through paintings William Hodges
3. 1810.. Architectural theoretical work Ram Raz
4. 1840.. History of Indian and Eastern Architecture James Fergusson
5. 1890.. Architectural Documentation Bannister Fletcher
6. 1905 Indian art, architecture, aesthetics Ananda Comarswamy
7. 1920 Indian art, temple architecture Stella Kramrisch
8. 1910.. The Ancient and Medieval Architecture of India E.B.Havell
9. 1930.. Sculpture analysis and theory Alice Boner
10. 1930.. Architectural translation and graphics P K Acharya
11. 1940.. Indian Architecture documentation Percy Brown
12. 1960.. Hindu Architecture treatise translation and research D N Shukla
13. 1960.. Architectural theory and analysis Madhusudan A Dhaky
14. 1970.. Indian culture Kapila Vatsyayan
15. 1980.. Architectural translation of Sanskrit Text Bruno Dagens
16. 1990.. Architectural documentation with labeling and analysis Adam Hardy
17. 1990.. Architectural documentation and analysis Pierre Pichard

It can thus be assigned a chronological bracket which goes It was decided to select this book since it is a well structured
from the early 9th century to the late 12th century [15]. book, complete with exhaustive explanatory footnotes. An
The Mayamatam published by the Indira Gandhi National added advantage was that it had both the Sanskrit text and
Center for the Arts is in two volumes with a total of 36 English translation on adjacent pages (Sanskrit on the left
chapters and an appendix. Volume I has 22 chapters and page and English on the right one) so that the words and
the remaining are in volume II. It is a large text comprising their exact meanings could be easily identified.
of 3336 verses in all. The chapters can be classified under
areas of town planning, residential architecture, religious METHODOLOGY AND SCOPE:
architecture, religious rituals, iconography, interior design, The process followed for the exploration of architecture as
renovation work, vehicle design. The chapters of architecture described in Mayamatam is given in Table 2 below.
and planning are from 1 to 30 having 2626 verses. However,
the parameters listed above appear in more than one area in The exercise of tabulation has been very helpful in a more
the volumes. For example, rituals are described in chapter in-depth understanding of the text as every technical term
4; Taking possession of site, chapter 8; Offerings, chapter 9; has become clear. Doing this on a computer also helps
Village planning, chapter 12; The foundation deposit, chapter in finding the same word and its different interpretations
18; Making of roof and completion of works, chapter 24; depending on its context in the lok. General words have
Gateways, chapter 27; Features of houses for the 4 classes, not been translated and put into appropriate cells in many
chapter 28; First entry into house. cases by me.

Table 2: Methodology

Step 1 Studying a chapter; Reading the Sanskrit text and its English translation.
Step 2 Tabulating the word to word meaning of the Sanskrit text and English translation.
In this process, adding notes wherever an alternative interpretation is possible, or some additional
Step 3
translation is to be done.
Based on the understanding, cross referencing and library survey (ASI publications, books by vari-
ous authors), making first draft of the sketches on a square grid sheet along-with comments. The
Step 4
interpretation is at two types, one is sequential and other is an integration that is a figure made from
information present in different places in the text.
Step 5 Making final sketches on a square grid sheet along-with comments and cross-references.
Step 6 Preparing CAD drawings and Three dimensional CAD models of each sketch.
Presentation of data and findings in the form of sheets, models, tables, images, slides etc., depend-
Step 7
ing on the purpose of the presentation.
Table 3: Tabulation and notes for Vedibhadra Socle

Table 4: Alternative interpretation to original translation

Explanation of Process followed with the


help of examples:
Steps 1 to 3:
In Mayamatam the chapter 13 is titled The
Socle (Upapitha). The Socle is a building part
which is placed beneath the base (adhishthana)
which acts as a supplementary base and makes
the building more high. The verses 6 to 8
describe a socle named vedibhadra type 1. After
studying and understanding the text, the word
to word translation is tabulated. The tabulation
alongwith comments are shown in Table 3. In
chapter 15 Dimensions of Pillars and Choice
Fig.1: Final sketch of vedibhadra socle. of Materials, in verse 29, the translation of one
13.6 Vedibhadra socle Type I
Vertical Divisions: 12

Elevation Section

Fig. 2: CAD drawing showing section and elevation of vedibhadra socle Thus, in this way, the descriptions are taken up for graphic
transcription and visual interpretation. Though the
Mayamatam has many areas like planning, interior design,
vehicle design material specifications, technical information
etc., the scope of this study is limited only to architecture
and the visual analysis limited to geometric and proportional
analysis.
The drawings thus prepared can be used to demonstrate the
buildability and visual appeal of the Sanskrit verses.
Fig. 3: View of vedibhadra socle
The above was an example of a drawing being made by
referring a sequence of verses. The following is an example
phrase in the lok offers an alternative interpretation. The of a drawing of an architectural example being made by
details of the verse and the alternative interpretation are combination of sequential interpretation and integration of
shown in Table 4. information appearing at various places in the text.
Steps 4 and 5:
Making of single storey temple Kesara:
The final sketch of socle vedibhadra drawn on a square
grid sheet is shown in Figure 1. The various profiles of Description: (verse 19.33-34) The Kesara comprises a forepart
mouldings are designed after a study of photographs and in the middle of its faade. There are aediculae at the level
drawings of monuments, Archaeological Survey of India of the roof, some at the corners and others and others in the
publications and personal interpretation and inputs. middle; there is a false dormer-window above the forepart.
The attic and roof are circular or square; (the width and the
Steps 6 and 7:
projection of) the median forepart are respectively three and
After the sketch, the drawing of the same socle is made two fifths, three and two sixths or three and two sevenths
on computer using CAD software. The names of the sub (the width of the building).
parts, that is, mouldings are added and the proportional
dimensions are also added as shown in Figure 2. A Temple Kesara has been designed with the following cross
perspective view of the same is shown in Figure 3. references within the Mayamatam as given in table 5.

Table 5: Characteristics of Kesara a single storey Temple


Width As per v 19.1
Height is Adbhuta mode that is 1:2 as per v 19.2
Height base ht pillar as per v 14.15b,47
Height pillar 2 ht base as per v 15.4
Height entablature ht pillar as per v 16.48
Height roof 2 or 3 X attic height as per v 18.2
2 or 1 X its stereobate height (vedika) as per v 18.2, or 2 X vedika height as per v
Height attic
19.19b
Height vedika 2 X freize (prati) of entablature height, 1 X prati height as per v 16.51
Height freize (prati) 1 module, or , module as per v 16.29b
Note: for all building parts and proportion mentioned above, only one dimension is chosen of the many dimensions prescribed in the above referred verses. The
computer generated stage wise models of the temple Kesara are shown in Figures 4 to 12.
Fig. 4: Stage 1: Base Fig. 5: Stage 2: Pillars Fig. 6: Stage 3: Walls

Fig. 7: Stage 4: Handrail Fig. 8: Stage 5: Entablature Fig. 9: Stage 6: Roof

Fig. 10: Stage 7: Attic (Griva) Fig. 11: Stage 8: Shikhara

Fig. 12: Stage 9: Complete View with Kuta & Koshtha

Fig. 13: Width to Length ratios for Pavilions


ANALYSIS AND RESULTS Table 6a: Names of width to length proportions for
Pavilions:
This research is in progress as a Ph. D. work by the author.
The following is a presentation of the on-going analysis and S. No. Name W: L
results. These are subject to alterations, if any, as per inputs
of experts and peers. 1. Chhanda W: (W+1 unit)
2. Vikalpa W: (W+2 unit)
Plan Proportions 3. Abhasa W: (W+3 unit)
The plans of temples, houses, pavilions etc. were mostly 4. Jati W: (W+4 unit)
square or rectangular. The length and widths were defined in
cubits or in parts. The names and corresponding proportions
of total Width: Length for Pavilions, Halls and Houses are
given in Table 6 and proportions for pavilions are shown Table 6b: Names of width to length proportions for Halls:
in Figure 13.
S. No. Name W: L
Grids in Plan 1. Chhanda W: (W+1 unit)
2. Vikalpa W: (W+2 unit)
The plans of houses, pavilions and halls were divided into
3. Abhasa W: (W+3 unit)
number of parts in width and length thus creating a grid.
These grids could be 5 X 5, 4 X 6 etc. These parts were made 4. Jati W: (W+4 unit)
into open courts, verandah, gallery, rooms, etc. as per the
prescription. An interesting feature of the grid for pavilions
was that the distances were given as clear distance between
pillars and not the centre to centre distance. Table 6c: Names of width to length proportions for
Houses:
This peculiar grid demarcation was perhaps helpful in having S. No. Name W: L
the right proportion of the void with respect to the mass,
which is not possible if centerline distances are given as then 1. Jati W: (W+2 unit)
the width of the pillar would change the void proportion. 2. Chhanda W: (W+4 unit)
An example of divisions of a pavilion described as Mangala 3. Vikalpa W: (W+6 unit)
having 10 X 12 parts is shown in figure 14.
4. Abhasa W: (W+8 unit)

Elevation Proportions
Similarly the elevation was designed with certain Width to
Height ratios. The names of these for temples and houses
are given in Table 7 and Figure 15.

Elevation Sub-Divisions

The elevation was sub-divided into the Socle (up-peetha)


(optional), Base (peetha), Pillars (stambha), Entablature
(prastara), Attic (greeva), Roof (shikhara), and Finial (sthhupi).
The heights of these levels were in proportion to each
other. For example for a two storey temple, the total height
is divided into 28 parts comprising of a Base of 3 parts,
first storey of 6 parts, entablature of first storey of 3 parts,
second storey of 5 parts, entablature of second storey of 2
parts, stereobate of attic of 1 part, Attic of 2 parts, Shikhara
of 4 parts and finial of 1 parts. Figure 16 shows
these subdivisions for a two storey temple in Sarvakarmika
Fig. 14: Divisions of pavilion Mangala mode.

SHANTIKA PAUSHTIKA JAYADA ADBHUTA SARVAKARMIKA

Fig. 15: Width to Height Ratios for Temples (general)


Table 7a : Names of height to width proportions for
Houses:

S. No. Name W: H
1. Shantika 1: 1
2. Paushtika 1: 1
3. Jayada 1: 1
4. Dhanada 1: 1
5. Adbhuta 1: 2

Fig. 16: Vertical proportions of two storied Temple in arvakarmika (1:2) Table 7b: Names of height* to width proportions for
mode Temples (general):
S. No. Name W: H
1. Shantika 7: 10
2. Paushtika 6: 9
3. Jayada 5: 8
4. Adbhuta 4: 7
5. Sarvakarmika 3: 6

Table 7c: Names of height* to width proportions for


Single storeyed Temples:

S. No. Name W: H
1. Shantika 7: 10
2. Paushtika 1: 1
3. Jayada 1: 1
Fig. 17: Ratios of Pillar Height, bottom diameter and top diameter
4. Adbhuta 1: 2
*The height is defined in two ways: including sthupi and excluding sthupi
(v.11.20)

Numbers
Apart from the proportions, the numbers of various
building elements was also considered important in the
design of buildings. For humans, odd numbers were
prescribed whereas for Gods the numbers could be both
even and odd. The texts prescribe a number of dimensions,
proportions etc. For example, the number of foreparts or
porches (bhadra) in a pavilion could be from one to four
(Refer Figure 18).

CONCLUSION
Ancient Indian architecture has well defined series of
Fig. 18: Numbers of foreparts in a pavilion proportions for plan, elevation and building elements.
Proportions are prescribed for micro, meso and macro
levels which are time tested and are still appreciated in this
Building elements age.
The building elements like pillars could be designed with This is mainly due to the nature of the Mayamatam text
a number of interdependent dimensions and proportions. itself and of its subject which allows the specialist to give
The bottom diameter of a pillar could be 1/10 to 1/8 an interpretation, whether it be personal or guided by the
of its height; the top diameter equaled 11/12 to 5/6 of fashions of the time and place. The phenomenon is only
bottom diameter (Refer Figure 17). Thus, the proportional possible because inspite of their doctrinaire character this
relation of the pillar with other building components was treatise and others of the same group, leave to architects
the right to originality in the exercise of their art; in other
maintained and in this way the entire building was a set of
words, the tradition is a guide more than it is a restraint
inter-related dimensions. [16].
REFERENCES

1. Coomaraswamy, A. K. (1985), - Chapter 1, Aims of


Indian Art, pg 11, in Fundamentals of Indian Art-vol.1,
The Historical Research Documentation Programme,
Jaipur.
2. Chhaya, H D (1998), - Vedic Spirit in Architecture,
Architecture + Design, pp 21-25
3. www.kamat.com/kalranga/people/pioneers/w-jones.
htm. retrieved August 24, 2004
4. http://asi.nic.in/index2.asp?sublinkid=28, retrieved
November 2, 2006
5. www.kamat.com/database/content/landscapes/
william_hodges.htm, retrieved November 2, 2006)
6. www.newstodaynet.com/2005sud/05dec/ss8.htm,
retrieved August 23, 2006
7. http://asi.nic.in/index2.asp?sublinkid=29, November 2,
2006
8. www.newstodaynet.com/2005sud/05dec/ss8.htm,
August 23, 2006
9. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/DLDecArts.
GramOrnJones, Retrieved August 23, 2006
10.Acharya, P. K., (1934), - Architecture of Manasara,
Illustrations of Architectural and Sculptural objects.
(Manasara series vol V), Oriental Books Reprint
Corporation, New Delhi.
11. Shukla, D. N., (1960), Vastu-Shastra Vol. 1, Hindu
Science of Architecture, Munshiram Manoharlal
Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi 110055
12. Dagens, Bruno, (1994), - Mayamatam, Vols. I & II,
Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi
& Motilal Banarasidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi.
13. www.cardiff.ac.uk/archi/school/staff/hardya.html,
retrieved August 24, 2006
14. Hardy, Adam, (1995), Indian Temple Architecture: Form
and Transformation, , Indira Gandhi National Centre for
the Arts, New Delhi-110001 & Abhinav Publications,
New Delhi
15. Dagens, Bruno, (1994), - Introduction, pg lxiiii, in
Mayamatam, Vols. I & II, Indira Gandhi National
Centre for the Arts, New Delhi & Motllal Banarasidass
Publishers Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi.
16 ibid, - Introduction, pg ci

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The author is thankful to the following for their contributions


in this research work:
Prof. H. D. Chhaya, (Ex. HOD Department of
Architectural Conservation, School of Planning and
Architecture, New Delhi).
Akash Trust, Pondicherry
Rishabh Software, Vadodara
Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government
of India.

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