Vastu in the New York Times

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Mon Oct 24 09:49:26 UTC 2011

Dated October 18 on the New York Times site is the story "For Wealthy Indian Family, Palatial House Is Not a Home" ( by Vikas Bajaj.

It discusses how India's richest man (and perhaps richest person) built an extravagant house but has yet to live in it. One theory why he has failed to do so is because the vastu (always capitalized in the article except for the below citation) principles are not followed. An Indian analog, perhaps, of feng shui, the article describes it as:

Vastu, a philosophy particularly significant in Hindu temple architecture, emphasizes the importance of directional alignments that create spiritual harmony. Many Hindus believe that living in a building not built according to vastu principles brings bad luck.

In Wikipedia, it is also capitalized and called Vastu Shastra ( The word does not appear in the online OED, but is listed in the online AHD.

In English, mention of the word goes back at least to 1834. 

"Essay on the architecture of the Hindús," by Rām Rāz, Henry Harkness, Royal Asiatic society of Great Britain and Ireland, London, page 15 (

In the source, the word is italicized.

The third chapter of the Manasara professes to treat of the nature and qualities of the ground on which buildings are to be erected. It opens with the definition of vastu, a term used to express the ground on which any superstructure is raised, as signifying that which is inhabitable, and directs a careful examination of the site to be selected for building, as to its fitness for the purpose from its colour, smell, taste, form, and touch. It then goes on to divide the soil into four sorts, and to point out in the order of superiority what is considered auspicious for the residence of each of the four classes, with reference to the five qualities above

The word seems to have a solid history in English beginning at the start of the twentieth century.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society -

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