Building in Harmony

Ancient Vedic principles can help orient the home for personal well-being

Aparna Patil, owner and principal of Mansara Architecture, in a Springfield Road residence in Henrico County that she designed and built using Vaastushastra principles (Photo by Parker Michels-Boyce)


It’s a mad world, but if you come home to a house designed with the ancient Vedic principles of Vaastushastra, you can expect to experience a greater sense of well-being, says Aparna Patil, owner and principal of Mansara Architecture along with her husband, Nitin, who’s the managing partner.

Patil studied architecture and urban planning in India, her native country, coming to the U.S. in 2000 for her husband’s work (he’s a scientist who also owns a robotic company). Until 2011, she worked for NBJ Architecture, where she was lead project architect on the Hindu Center of Virginia. Built according to Vaastushastra principles, it was also the first LEED-certified gold Hindu temple in Virginia.

Patil sat down with R•Home to explain this design principle based on ancient Hindu scripture and how it translates to today’s structures.

R•Home: What drew you to architecture?

Aparna Patil: Architecture is an extremely creative field. It’s art, creativity and science combined, which is very appealing to me. … For me, space is very sacred. [I started Mansara because] I wanted to create independence and freedom, and to give back. I remember looking for my own home … and [I] was not happy with what I saw. Your home should please, it should be comfortable, functional and beautiful at the same time.

Architects share a great responsibility. It is unfair, almost, to not create beautiful spaces which are available for everyone. … When someone has a 9-to-6 job, that person doesn’t experience architecture. You go to an office which is hardly properly designed. Very few people are lucky to have nicely designed spaces for themselves. People have the luxury here in the U.S. to do DIY projects and to renovate — but you can only do so much … you cannot really change the space by redesigning or changing the orientation without breaking down the structure. That intrinsic beauty has to be designed from scratch. And I think more and more good homes are required. That’s what I mean by giving back — by creating nice, beautiful spaces.

R•Home: Tell us about Vaastushastra.

Patil: “Vaastu” means building, “shastra” means science. Literally, it’s the science of building. So it’s the ancient Vedic sense of building, but at the same time, it uses a lot of passive design features, which are being used today by LEED professionals in “green” buildings.

Vaastu talks of the five elements, and these elements are placed on the Vaastupurusha Mandala, which is the framework or grid on which you design a home: fire (southeast), earth (southwest), air (northwest) and water (northeast) ruled by Venus, Uranus, [the] moon and Jupiter, respectively. The fifth element is ether — “Aakash” [in the center]. We have all these five elements within all of us. When you have all of these in balance, then you have a balanced home, which is harmonious.

In Vaastu, for example, the kitchen is best positioned in the southeast. This gives you morning and afternoon sun, beaming into the kitchen when you are preparing breakfast, which is beneficial because it relates to your circadian rhythm — the natural clock within ourselves that is set to function with the sun.

Southwest is where the element of earth is present, and where the master bedroom should be; this is where you find maximum stability. The stability translates to stable relationships, finances, career and goals. In the air element, you can have guest rooms, conference rooms … spaces used for transitional functions.

R•Home: What can people do to improve their spaces, short of demolishing?

Patil: Pay special attention to how the light comes into the house. A window is an opportunity to connect with the outdoors. Such a point of interest can be created within a space which does not have windows by brightening it up with lights, paint or artwork. Vaastu is flexible. It’s never possible for it to be exactly oriented unless you build it from scratch.