9: HINDUS' CITY LAYOUT AND THE CASTE
There were many factors that went
into determining the city layout style and pattern of the Hindus.
The Nature and structure of the land, the Nature & structure of its
soil, the social system prevailant in the land as like the caste constraints
and restrictions etc, scriptures all played an important role in the city
lay-out style and pattern of the Hindus. According to the structure and
quality of the land they had divided it into three categories.
This referred to the dry land with
no water, river and other resources.
This refers to the highly fertile
land with abundant water resources
and cool, pleasant climate.
The average kind of land that was
neither Jangala nor Anopa was called
The role played by the colour of
the soil, its dour, the sounds
Produced by it, its flavour in the
city layout pattern of the Hindus, has
been well brought out by the western
author Andras Volwahsen in his work
called 'Living Architecture - Indian',
of which some lines are given below:
The colour of the soil, its sound, flavour, the feeling it produced were
all taken into consideration and studied with great care. The colour
of the sand identified the castes of people who were suitable to be settled
there. White, red, yellow, black were important colours. The
white colour soil was considered suitable for brahmins, the red for kshathrias,
yellow for Vaishyas and black colour soil for soodhras. There also
connection between the flavour
of the soil and the caste system. The sweet soil was considered to
belong to the brahmins, the hot and pungent soil to the Vaishyas, the soil
with bitter flavour to the 'soodhras'. The soil which when tapped
would produce sounds like the bark of dogs or the bray of donkeys or thehowl
of the jackal should be avoided at all cost.'' (Living
Architecture Indian - page 44)
The slant or declivity of the land
structure was also taken into
account. The city should be
built on the soil that has declivity towards
the northern or eastern side.
The hindus believed that the south bound
declivity would bring death and
the south west bound slope, sufferings;
west-bound slope-poverty and destruction
of crops; declivity towards the
north west direction-war. After
the land most suited for constructing the
city was chosen in this way, from
out of the 32 different varieties of
'Vaasthu Purusha Mandala' the suitable
variety would be selected by a guru
having great scholarship in astrology.
The city would be constructed in
square shape (if it proves impossible,
in a rectangular shape). Andreas
Volwashsen says in his 'Living Architecture
Indian' (page 47) that from the
informations given in the 'ancient
books ('suvadikal') on varieties of
architectural styles and patterns
we come to know that the cities of perfect
square - shapes belonged to the
brahmins alone, and, as for the other castes
they should live in rectangular
- shaped cities only. And, the layout of
the city which would be constructed
thus with the right and suitable Vaasthu
Purusha Mandala chosen would appear
1. Fortitying walls would be built
round the city.
2. The city would appear as a big
square comprising of so many small squares, separated by the roads,
that run north-south and east-west.
3. The city would have been divided
into two parts by two broad royal roads that run north-south
4. The royal roadway thus built would
differ according to the character of the city. Forn instance,
in the case of big cities this royal roadway would be 12 metre width
and in ordinary cities it would be of 10 metre breadth and if it is a city
with just the market place, it would be of 8 metre width only.
5. To go round the city, on the interior
side o the fortifying wall also a road would be built. This road
would be as wide as the royal roadway. Apart from this the ancient
hindus’ books on Architecture also speak of what sort of people would live
in which direction of the city. We can cite the following
as examples to this:
a, 'The habitats of such people as
brahmins, astrologers, the royal authorities and officers of royalty
and police force should be in the North and North west regions.
b, The dwelling places of goldsmiths
and those who do such other works should be in the southeast reion.
c, The dwelling places of prison
authorities, soldiers, fishermen and cowherds should be in the southwest.
d, Market place in Northeast.
e, Places like the royal palaces
should be in the east- So, the ancient hindus, books on Architecture
say. Though these rules and regulations could not be
fully adhered to while constructing a city, the dwelling places situated
in the city should certainly be built with castewise divisions. All
these tell us in clear terms the role that caste played in
the field of city layout.