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Lesson 13 - Trees and plants around the building

Copyright V. Ganapati Sthapati, January 1998

All animate objects, including human beings, which live on Earth (and the Earth itself), have a common source called "Space" or "Akasha". They germinate from space and return to it ultimately, losing their individual identities. Man, being part of gross nature, has to live in company and in harmony with all as his own kith and kin and near and dear ones. Man's association with animals and birds is inevitable and of deep significance.

There are other living organisms, growing upward while remaining fixed to the ground, such as trees, plants and shrubs, with which man and other animates are surrounded. We are dependent on these for comfortable life and healthy growth. We derive enormous benefits from them.

Large reservoirs of water such as lakes and tanks and ponds and rivers and seas are also a perennial source of food and energy for earthly existence. Forest, hills and valleys also exert enormous influence on our life. Apart from this we have to adjust to seasonal variations and inclement weather and the influence of the sun, moon and planets. Objects of nature both subtle and gross are directly connected to our physical existence on Earth.

The shilpi-rishis of yore studied the qualities of such gross nature, their positive and negative impact on physical life and carved a natural habitat on the Earth for man to live in. The Vaastu Shastras, while providing facilities for physical comforts of man in such habitats, aim deeper at linking human life with subtle energies prevailing within the built environment and outside of it. The traditional science and technology of Vaastu Vedic origin creates a kind of micro-universe on the Earth after the pattern of the macro-universe with all the physical and spiritual properties packed into it. This is the miro-abode or Chitrambalam that the Indian science has blessed humans with. The impact of subtle space on human psyche is the most important of all effects of nature on human existence.

Let us look at the green vegetation that grows on the Earth and their impact on human life. In the Southern India tradition, against the backdrop of local climatic conditions, specific mention has been made in the shastras about the species of trees and plants to be avoided or encouraged around the dwelling places. If they are found to exist already on the building plot, there are certain modes of disposal or adjustments in the positioning of the main building just to ward off harmful effects. The following are trees not desirable in the context of habitational space. It should not be forgotten that these trees and plants are useful in different contexts, though negative in the context of having them near human dwellings.

Palmyra (Palm)
Wood apple
Country fig tree (udumbara)
Purasu (portia)
Cotton Plant

The following are permitted to be grown around the residential area:

Jack fruit
Datu Mathulai
Pavala Malligai
Panneer (flower tree)

The traditional sentiment has been to avoid existence of Banyan, Peepal, Tamarind and Udumbara trees near residential areas. At the same time, certain exceptions are in texts and actual practice. Milk trees like udumbara are allowed on the south, fruit trees on the east and trees with water content and to nissara type (trees without hard core) on the west.

Certain other shastras attribute harmful effects in the case of milk trees (causes economic poverty), plantain trees (fear from enemies) and fruit yielding trees (harmful effects on human system). Such trees, if they need to be planted, should be away at least 100 feet. Their roots are not good for health.

Some shastras name locations that are permitted for milk tree and Kondrai (on the east), thorny plants (on the south) Plantain (on the west) and fruit trees (on the north).

There are trees and plants that secrete either milky juice or oily juice when scratched. The former is called "female" and the latter is called "male". There are trees that do not yield either, not even water. These are said to be neuter. The neuter trees do not yield either flower or fruit with no scope for progeny. The neuter ones have to be identified and rejected at all costs.

Certain species of tender grasses are permitted: darba, munja and arukampul.

Inside the enclosure wall it is very important to have the proper influence from plants.

Trees such as banyan, peepal and fig (Athi and Eithi) are undesirable near dwelling places but are to be held sacred in temple complexes. Trees such as Banyan and Peepal, with their wide spread branches, offer shelter for travelers and pedestrians. Banyan and Peepal are held as "Jnana vrikshas", trees of knowledge. With regard to their occurrence in nature, peepal should not be on the east, banyan should not be on the west, athi should not be on the north and athi should not be on the south. The negative effects that they would cause on the human nervous system and the locality as a whole are specified in the shastras.

Trees on which insects, worms, honeybees, bumble bees, owls, or serpents rest or multiply should be avoided around dwelling areas.

Lemon and "narthai" of citrous group are allowed on the inside of the house plot. Sweet smelling flower plants and creepers are allowed and also plants with medicinal property.

Lesson 14