In the course of explaining the verses on Mesha / goat / aadu from the Sangam texts in my last article , I wrote that I will bring out the verses on Vastu sastra from Tamil texts that would further strengthen our arguments for the antiquity of Vedic astrology.
An important source for this is Silappadhikaram of the 1st century CE. The context was the dance programme of Madhavi on the occasion of Indra Festival in Pumpukaar. The poet describes how the stage was made. His description shows that the stage was not constructed by imagination. He uses the terminology of Vaastu sastra such as angulas (viral) and hasthas (kOl) in deciding the length, breadth and height of the stage. He says that the people trained in texts, chose a place that was free of defects and measured it. With the long bamboo sticks they procured from the Podhigai hills, they made measurement as per traditional texts. They cut the bamboo into a hastha of 24 angula of utthama pramana, Ceiling planks measured as 8 x 7x 1 hastha each were raised on 4 pillars. The stage made in this way had 2 entrances where the ceiling plank was 4 hasthas high from the floor. The 4 directional deities were consecrated in that stage with lamps fixed on the pillars. (1) The poet does not forget to mention that the builders of the stage did all these as per the olden texts. Though there is no explicit mention of a chosen time (muhurtha) for erecting this stage, the reference to traditional texts and the consecration of deities, make it known that they had followed Vastu rules of muhurtha.
Earlier in describing the married life of Kannagi and Kovalan, he makes a mention of the cot used by them. There he specifically mentions that it was a 'cot having the legs made as per the rules of Mayan!' (2)
Cot or any furniture had a stamp of Mayan in those times of Silappdhikaram and before. Mayamatham describes 4 types of Vastu as "Bhumi PrAsAda yAnAni shayanan cha chathurvidham" (Mayamatham, Chapter 2 - verse 2). Bhumi and PrAsAda come under the category of building architecture. The last two namely yAna and shayana come under separate category for which Mayan was very famous. The same chapter of Mayamatham goes on to say that YAna includes conveyances and Sayana includes furniture of sorts. Mayan was known for making them and Mayasabha was the hallmark of his expertise in this field.
Skeptics and opponents would pooh-pooh the historicity of Mayan and Mayasabha and would put the date of Mayamatham to some century of the Common Era. But the Tamil literary sources authenticate the presence of Maya in Mahabharata times and his influence in Shayana Vaastu throughout India even before the start of the Common Era.
The cot mentioned above was made as per the specification of Maya Vaastu. This knowledge was available as early as the 1st century CE which was the time Silappadhikaram was composed.
The cot used by the Queen of the Pandyan King Nedum Cheziyan whom I wrote about in the last article (3rd century BC) is also described in detail in the Sangam text of Nedunal vaadai. The description of this cot is a stunning revelation of craftsmanship which is not to be found in the present times. It was a circular cot made of ivory. The specifications are such that the ivory for the cot was procured from an elephant which was more than 40 years of age and was having feet that resembled an inverted drum (a musical instrument). Such an elephant must have taken part in many battles and must be retired from war service at the time of procuring the ivory. Such an elephant must have lines on the forehead. The tusk of such an elephant must have fallen off (and not broken off) while the elephant was alive. Such a tusk was chiseled to make the cot. (3) As usual the poet says that experts were engaged in making the cot. Though the dimensions are not given, the specifications make it known that a well developed system of shayana Vaastu was in place at that time.
For every kind of art there were specifications and methods of doing. Such an advanced artistic knowledge was there in Sangam age. The above mentioned Sangam poem continues to describe how the bed was made and how the paintings on the bed-spread were made! Coming to Mayan, artifacts made as per Maya Vaastu were displayed in Pumpukaar at the time of Indra Festival. These artifacts were procured from Arya vartha by the Cholan King Karikaala when he made an expedition to the Himalayas.
When Karikal Cholan went on his expedition to the Himalayas (before the Common Era), he passed through many kingdoms in North India. On his journey, he was gifted with a Royal Canopy by the king of "Vajra desa" which was surrounded by water. The King of Magadha who was skilled in sword fighting, gifted him with a Vidya Mantap where experts used to congregate for debates. The king of Avanthi gifted him with a decorated entrance. All these were made with gold and precious gems. There were other decorated artifacts gifted to Karikal Cholan. All these were created as per the rules laid down by Maya who taught these rules to the ancestors of the makers of these things, in return for the help they once did to him (Maya). (4)
This is a crucial information because this tells that the ancestors of the craftsmen had rendered some help to Maya. This information found in Silappadhikaram is not a myth as the same information on these three artifacts gifted by the kings of the three countries of Aryavartha is repeated in chapter 28 in the context of describing the Cholan court –a chitra sabha – decorated with these three. (5)
What kind of help, the ancestors (thollOr = olden people) of the craftsmen of Vajra desa, Magadha and Avanthi (all of Aryavartha) could have done to Mayan in the past? The only connection to Maya comes in Mahabharata period when he was rescued from the fire in the Khandava vana by Arjuna and was asked by Krishna to build a palace for the Pandavas. (6) Maya brought the precious gems and other items he had collected in the past and started building the palace and finished it in 14 months. There is no mention of his team of men to assist him in the work. As a single person, he could not have built the entire palace. The local builders must have been pressed into service to help him. Silappadhikaram verse shows that these persons who had helped him in building that palace were taught the tricks and methods of his trade in return for the help they had rendered. They retained that knowledge and transferred it down the generations. The gifts that Karikalan received were made by those persons coming in their families who employed the rules of Maya that their ancestors had learned from him. By 2000 years BP, the Maya Vaastu on shayana had become wide spread throughout India, as is made known from the cot of Kovalan and Kannagi, made with Maya Vaastu.
By this information, the fact about Maya having built the Maya sabha for the Pandavas is cross checked (from Silappadhikaram). The date of Mahabharata was already established in Part 17 – and the inferences on planetary positions detailed in that article had not yet been disputed so far by anyone. (I sent that article to nearly a dozen scholars around the world who are not in the list). Maya Sabha was built before the Mahabharata war, that is, 5000 years ago. Maya did not start the work all in a sudden. He did the initial Graharambha puja at an auspicious time. In other words, Muhurtha astrology was in existence then.
Writing on this, Mahabharata says, "Agreeing to the wishes of both Krishna and the sons of Pritha, the illustrious Danava (Maya) of great prowess, having performed on an auspicious day the initial propitiatory rites of foundation and having also gratified thousands of well-versed Brahmanas with sweetened milk and rice and with rich presents of various kinds, measured out a plot of land five thousand cubits square, which was delightful and exceedingly handsome to behold and which was favourable for construction of a building well-suited to the exigencies of every season" (7)
Whatever Vaastu principle that is found mentioned in later day texts was already is existence as early as Mahabharata times. For example before Mayan started the work on Maya Sabha, Krishna told him to combine Godly, Asuric and Human designs in the building (8). This is a Vastu principle mentioned in Vastu Vidya. According to this, any site has Daiva, Asura and Manushya features and it is desirable to determine them and then construct the dwelling areas in Daiva and Manusha parts (9).
From the instruction of Krishna on Daiva – asura – mansuhya features of the land, it comes to be known that Vaastu knowledge was in existence before Maya was given the task of making Maya sabha. We find a reference to Vaastu and Graharambha puja earlier in the Epic. When Pandavas received Khandavaprastha as a share in the kingdom from Dhritharashtra, it was not a habitable region. Krishna Dwaipayana (Ved Vyasa) assisted them in selecting a site in that region for building a city. Mahabharata mentions that they performed certain propitiatory ceremonies and measured out a certain piece of land for their city (10). This goes to show that Vaastu puja was done after Bhu shodhana and after determining the Bhu lakshana.
This also shows that Vaastu vidya existed in our country before Maya was assigned the task of constructing the palace for the Pandavas. Maya himself reflected on Viswakarma before deciding on how to construct the Sabha. (11) Viswakarma Prakashika gives details of how to fix an auspicious Muhurtha for graharambha. Our opponents fond of dating this text would ascribe a later century of the 1st millennium CE. But like Mayamatham, Viswakarma Prakashika too was written by the followers of Viswakarma whose origins go to undated past. The graharambha muhurtha rules of Viswakarma Prakashika stresses on Chandra balam for the Yajaman, graharambha lagna and planetary yogas which pre-require knowledge of rashis. The Solar transit in different rashis is also a matter to be looked at when construction is started.
In this context let me answer a query from one of the members of this list who sent a mail after reading Part no 10 of my series of articles where I wrote
//One of the main clauses for fixing the time of the consecration of a temple is that Venus and Jupiter must not be combust at that time. From where they got the idea of these planets to fix the time of consecration of these temples at Irunthaiyur and Srirangam at 2000 + years ago? From Greece? Nothing can be more laughable than this. //
The sender wrote that this argument is too weak and asked,
//One of the main clauses// Who made those clauses? where is the evidence that those temples where originally consecrated by following the Muhurtha rules? Is there any recorded evidence to that effect?
The recorded evidences are the graharambha pujas for setting up Khandavaprastha and Maya Sabha. Jupiter and Venus must not be combust at that time. The malefic Saturn and Mars related yogas must have been checked or else the building would be destroyed by fire or leave one's hands. Wax palace in which the Pandavas were housed was a case in point.
For the doubting Thomases on knowledge of planets in Vedic society, let me say this. None of the Vedic yajnas can be done by one who is not a dwija born. In other words, without undergoing the upanayana ceremony, a person could not have done the yajnas nor learnt the Vedas or Vedangas. That means, Upanayana had come into existence before the period of Vedanga Jyothisha.
Upanayana cannot be done on some date. Astrologers know very well that getting a good Upanayana muhurtha is the toughest compared to all the other ceremonies including marriage ceremony. The age of the boy matters and the more importantly Guru- Shukra maudhyam must not be there at the time of upanayana. Fourth house must be free of afflictions and there are malefic yogas with reference to 4th house that must be avoided. Without knowledge of planets and houses, upanayana date cannot be fixed. This is the implicit proof for knowledge of planets and rashis in the Vedic society several centuries before Alexander's invasion. I would even say this pre-dates the pre-Hellenistic period.
To prove this last line, let me come back to Maya sabha built by Mayan. He built an indoor water tank which looked deceptive as there was no visible sign of water inflow or outflow structures in that tank. The surface of water was very much like a floor – something made possible by the fine bottom structure that was seen through the water. Similar structure is seen in the Great Bath of Mohenjadaro. It has all the features of a tank within an enclosed structure and this could have been the work of the masons who learnt the art of making interior tanks from Maya.
The Great Bath as it looks now: