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The architectural theory of the Mānasāra /

McGill University
Publication Date
  • Architecture -- India -- Philosophy
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Science


The extant Manasara is one of the authoritative treatises of vastusastra, traditional Indian architectural theory. The dissertation addresses the question of the nature of vastusastra, traditional architectural theory, as enunciated in the Manasara, and the relationship of theory to traditional practice. Vastusastra claims itself to be a priori with respect to practice. Two aspects of theory, theology and nomology, constitute the ontological and epistemological foundation and structure for this claim. From this sastraic perspective, practice is understood as mere application of rules. However, a closer hermeneutical reading of the text reveals the dialectical nature of theory itself, in both its theological and nomological aspects. This dialectic obtains in the relationship between theory and practice as a certain reciprocity between them, and in the parallelism between making the temple (the paradigmatic architectural object) and writing the treatise. Thus, a more precise understanding of the nature of traditional theory and its relationship to traditional practice is arrived at through this exercise. Such a calibrated understanding of vastusastra is indispensable in addressing the issue of the proper role that it may play in contemporary Indian architectural practice which is constituted in the modern scientific and technological mode.

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