A top Indian engineering school will now teach an 8,000-year-old architectural science

Built to plan.
Built to plan.
Image: Pixabay/CC0
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An 8,000-year-old body of knowledge is finding its way into the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kharagpur, the oldest of India’s elite engineering schools.

From August this year, architecture students at the institute, which counts Google’s Sunder Pichai among its alumni, will be taught vastu shashtra, the ancient Indian “science of architecture.”

Believed to have been developed between 6000 BC and 3000 BC, vastu shastra involves designing buildings by making the best possible use of the geography and location of the plot—including the influence of the sun’s light and heat, wind directions, the moon’s position, and the Earth’s magnetic fields. The architecture study is similar to the Chinese feng shui, essentially focussing on harmonising human life with its surroundings.

Many of India’s ancient temples and other structures have been built on the principles of vastu shastra and the architectural form traces its roots back to the Rig Veda, an ancient collection of Sanskrit hymns.

“With the advent of green technology, green lifestyle, and affordable environmental materials, there is a growing focus on green living and hence on understanding vastu across the world,” Joy Sen, head of IIT-Kharagpur’s Ranbir and Chitra Gupta School of Infrastructure Design and Management, told Quartz. “Vastu as a science form uses the interrelation between ecology, passive energy, and living beings.”

The institute decided to introduce the subject as a part of its plan to re-orient the syllabus for the next academic session. So, IIT-Kharagpur will integrate vastu with two of its existing modules across the undergraduate and post graduate departments. The basic concepts will be introduced at the undergraduate level. The post-graduate programme will see concepts such as solar principles, sacred diagrams, and design semiotics and semantics being taught in detail.

“Earlier the households would have a courtyard in the middle,” Sen explained during a lecture delivered at IIT-Kharagpur last week. “And they had a bedroom for summer and one for winter. All that followed the principle of nature.”