The Central Public Works Department (CPWD), a wing of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, has planned to offer a training program on “Vastu Shastra philosophy” to its architects and engineers. The one-day online workshop would see the participation of 67 eligible officials as well as other interested officers and is scheduled for November 17. They would actively discuss the concepts of the traditional Indian system of architecture based on the ancient Vastu Shastra texts and consider how it can be incorporated into building design.
Improving your skills through ancient philosophy
The CPWD National Academy based in Ghaziabad will organize the training course for architects, engineers and other officials. The academy was often involved in workshops and similar training sessions organized for engineers, architects, horticulturists and workers. They collaboratively organize these brainstorming sessions to upgrade and improve the techno-management skills of CPWD officers as well as other government agencies and public sector enterprises (PSUs).
Allowing a similar channel for discussion and feedback, they scheduled an online training session on the traditional system of architecture – Vastu Shastra, to upskill government officials. According to the official notice, 67 officials were chosen from different states by their respective offices. Apart from them, interested agents can also participate in the session by registering on the departmental portal. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have already been distributed to officials.
A report from New Indian Express quoted an official as saying, “At the end of the training, successful participants will also receive digital certificates. They will also be asked to send their feedback in a prescribed format which will be made available during the training. In addition to this, they mentioned that there would be a few other sessions during the month, discussing topics such as “quality assurance management, conservation of heritage buildings and stadium and sports complex design” .
Positive or controversial movement?
The CPWD wing is responsible for several projects of national significance, from the parliament and executive enclave to roads, bridges and residential complexes. Therefore, the decision to incorporate the teachings of ancient Indian philosophy into contemporary state architecture is a topic that has drawn mixed reactions.
Vastu shastra is believed to be a set of texts on Indian traditional architectural system, and it describes in detail the principles and concepts of design, layout, measurements, ground preparation, spatial geometry, etc. According Wikipedia, traditional design aims to integrate architecture with nature using geometric patterns, symmetry and directional alignments. Several such Indian cities and architectures were formulated under this shastra including the city of Jaipur planned by the Rajput King Jai Singh in 1727 CE to modern era projects such as Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya in Ahmedabad and Vidhan Bhavan in Bhopal .
The use of Vastu shastra was much debated in the colonial and post-independence era, with many engineers divided over the incorporation of the philosophy into architecture. Some have considered it mysterious and superstitious, while others have argued that it creates enduring and flexible design guidelines for a functional space.
Vibhuti Chakrabarti, a scholar of Sanskrit architecture and literature, was among the critics who believed that Vastu Shastra had lost its essence in contemporary times. He had said that many Vastu consultants projected the study as a “religious tradition” rather than an “architectural methodology” as it is actually taught in historical texts.
Most of the understandings conveyed by ancient Indian books revolve around the idea of being able to filter and take what is best for the new era. The CPWD wing’s decision to discuss Vastu Shastra with their architects and engineers can then be seen as a move towards exploring the nuances of Indian tradition.