Qualities of a Shilpi

In the tradition of Vaastu shilpa, many ideas have been put forward regarding the training and education of the designer.  This can be brought into our present day educational system since it looks after so many areas of professionalism as well as the ethics of an individual who is concerned about the quality of his/her output as well as the preservation of his/her environment. 

Various texts have put together the qualities that are required in a good designer.  What must be borne in mind is that the traditional designer was also capable of physically building the actual structure.  Therefore the qualities specify field application as well as personal skill in building technology. 




The traditional texts only speak of a male designer.  Today we have to add the feminine element to this.

The Sthapati is one who is qualified to design and build a structure.
He must be well versed in all theoretical data.
He must be judicious, straight forward and honest.
He must be free from envy and anger.
He must be physically fit without any lacunae that would prevent him from full activity of the body.
He must be familiar with mathematics.
He must be a good draughtsman and artist.
He must be widely travelled.
He must be self controlled and free of vices.
He must be generous and compassionate.
He must have an understanding of the science of architecture


The Sutragrahi is usually the sthapati’s son or disciple. 
He is the assistant in the site.
He must be skilled in all the above characteristics of the sthapati as well as be a good and obedient assistant.
He must be an expert in measurement and be capable of marking on the site.
He must have the skill to guide the team working under him.


The Takshaka is one who is an expert on materials such as stone, brick, wood, mortar, and other substances for building.
He has to be an expert mason.
He has to be an obedient member of the team.


The Vardhaki is an expert carpenter.
He must understand all jointing
He must be a good member of the team.

It is also added that the entire team should have a good relationship with each other and they should work together in a happy and cordial manner.



It is said that the sthapati or the traditional designer-builder is part of the community known as the Viswakarma.   It is also said that they appeared out of the face of Lord Brahma. Visvastha  (Tvashta) appeared from the north, Viswabhu (Viswakarma) appeared from the east,  Visvasrasta(Manu) appeared from the west, and Visvavit (Maya) appeared from the south.

The sons of these 4 are as follows:

  • Visvakarma’s son is Sthapati
  • Maya’s son is Sutragrahi
  • Tvashta’s son is Vardhaki
  • And Manu’s son is Takshaka

Another story of the lineage of the viswakarma goes like this:

The original designer visvakarma is invited by Prithu the first king in BharathVisvakarma speaks of his experience in building the capital of Amaravati for Lord Indra.  He invites his four sons to help him in the design and implementation.   These sons are Jaya, Vijaya, Sidhartha & Aparajita.

In the modern context this hierarchy  can be compared to the building teams that are involved in building activities even now.  Modern Architect-engineer takes the role of sthapati.  The supervisor does the work of Sutragrahi, the technicians who are engaged in masonry (masons), Joinery (carpenters and metal workers), concreting etc are Vardhakis.  The workers who cut, saw, shape, dress and smooth the materials are Takshakas.   To execute an architectural work all four are important.  Therefore the tradition has stressed on team efficiency and not on individual capabilities alone. 


Ihaiva lokasya krtam vina
Silpina vina gurum
Na labhyate tu yattasmat
Ebhyah saha karayet

Vastu vidya

Other shlokas:


The Great Monuments and Buildings

Even though we celebrate the great buildings and monuments of the historical past, we don’t have sufficient information on the great builders and designers of India. Unlike the European counterparts who are made into the heroes in films and stories, we seldom give a thought to these extraordinary designers of our past. They lived and died in anonymity. Some of their names have survived with the viswakarma community.Let us take a look at them.

The Thiruvetriyur Thukkanangai temple is a masterpiece by Ravi Peruntacchan and it is still in worship.

The Shilpis responsible for the creation of the temples and monuments of Mamallapuram are Kevada Peruntacchan, Tacchan Gunamallan, Paiamizhippan and Abhajan.

Shore Temple MamallapuramShore Temple Mamallapuram
Pancha Ratha MamallapuramPancha Ratha Mamallapuram


The great Brihadisvara temple at Tanjavur was designed by Kunjaramallan Rajaraja Peruntacchan. It is seen as a heritage site and millions of people throng its site every year.

shlokaBrihadisvara, Tanjavur


Parameswara Peruntacchan, conceived and executed the unique Vimana at Uttiramerur  It is also an  unique temple that has several levels to it.  On each level Lord Vishnu is in different postures:  standing in Sama Pada Sthanakam in the ground level, sitting in the Yogasana posture in the first floor and lying down in the Anantha sayana posture on the second floor.

shlokaVishnu Temple at Uttiramerur


Kerala Temples have their own unique style using wood and tiles.  Here too the designers and builders remain unknown and their greatness remains unsung.

shlokaGuruvayur Temple




The Jain temple at Mount Abu has been made with the most extraordinary skill and remains a testament to the greatness of our master builders, sculptors and craftsmen.

shlokaJain temple at Mount Abu

shlokaCeiling detail in the Jain temple at Mount Abu



The images of Buddha in the cave temples of Ellora are of a very early date (6th to 8th C AD) and are extraordinary works of art that create both awe and peace simultaneously.

shlokaImage of Buddha in Ellora

shlokaFacade of cave temple in Ellora


The form of the divine dancer Nataraja is very typical of Tamil nadu and it is one of the greatest achievements of design and symbolism.  The early method of casting the bronze icon using the lost wax process was evolved into a very fine art and technology as early as the 9th c ad. The image in the temple at Konerirajapuram is over 6 feet tall, and the mind boggles at the advanced technology involved in the process of casting such a large icon.


shlokaNataraja at Konerirajapuram



(References: Sthapathi Magazine:  Sthapatya Veda by V.Ganapati Sthapati)