Origin and scope of the work—This Dictionary (encyclopaedia) owes its name to the University of London. 1 A glossary of the architectural terms used in the Mānasāra, the standard work on Hindu architecture, was prepared for my private use when I found it indispensable, after struggling for two and a half years to edit for the first time and translate into English a text, which is written in five different scripts,2 possesses eleven badly preserved manuscripts, has undergone five recensions, and comprises more than 10, 000 lines of a language rightly remarked by Dr. Bühler as the ‘most barbarous Sanskrit.’3  In this connexion there arose an occasion for me to express to the University the opinion that an encyclopaedia of Hindu architecture was badly needed. Architectural expressions appear throughout the whole field of general Sanskrit literature and epigraphical records, as well as in the extensive special branch of literature known as Vāstu-śāstras, more familiarly called Śilpā-śāstras. Existing dictionaries, in Sanskrit, English or any other language, do not elucidate architectural expressions; and the texts of the Vāstu-śāstras have been waiting for hundreds of years to be unearthed from manuscripts which are quite inaccessible without the guidance of a special dictionary that would also be instrumental in bringing to light many new things hitherto left unexplained in inscriptions and general literature. The University selected me as the person most immediately concerned and entrusted me with the task, suggesting that I should ‘make a full “dictionary” of all architectural terms used in the Mānasāra, with explanations in English, and illustrative quotations from cognate literature where available for the purpose.’

Thus the terms included in this encyclopaedia are primarily those found in the Mānasāra. But all the new architectural terms of any importance discovered in all the known architectural treatises, epigraphical documents, and general literature have also been added. I should estimate the new terms at about one-fourth of the total, numbering approximately three thousand.4 No record has, however, been kept of the extent of the architectural manuscripts or the general literature searched, but some 50, 000 pages of archaeological documents have been gone through almost line by line.

Extent of architectural terms comprehended—In the Vāstu-śāstras architecture is taken in its broadest sense and implies what is built or constructed in lasting materials and with a design and an ornamental finis. Thus, in the first place, it denotes all sorts of buildings, religious, residential and military, and their auxiliary members and component mouldings. Secondly, it implies town- planning; laying out gardens; constructing market places; making roads, bridges, gates; digging wells, tanks, trenches, drains, sewers, moats; building enclosure walls, embankments, dams, railings, ghāts, flights of steps for hills, ladders, etc. Thirdly, it denotes articles of house furniture, such as bedsteads, couches, tables, chairs, thrones, fans, wardrobes, clocks, baskets, conveyances, cages, nests, mills, etc.

Architecture also implies sculpture, and deals with the making of phalli, idols of deities, statues of sages, images of animals and birds. It includes the making of garments and ornaments, etc.

Architecture is also concerned with such preliminary matters as the selection of site, testing of soil, planning, designing, finding out cardinal points by means of a gnomon, dialling; and astronomical and astrological calculations.

These and similar matters are expressed by technical names which are to be understood as architectural terms for the purpose of this dictionary (encyclopaedia).

Principal sources and arrangement of materials—The sources drawn upon in this compilation may be classified under two divisions, namely, literary and archaeological. The former includes all the known Vāstu-śāstras, mostly in manuscript, which are avowedly architectural treatises, such as the Mānasāra, etc.; architectural portions of the Āgamas, and the Purāṇas, cognate portions of the Vedic and classical literature, such as the Brāhamanas, the Sūtras, the Epics, Kāvyas, dramas, etc. The archaeological records comprise all the inscriptions and other cognate matters published in the following series: Epigraphia Indica (first 1 3 volumes); Indian Antiquary (fiist 44 volumes); Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum (2 volumes); Epigraphia Carnatica (12 volumes, in 15 parts); South Indian Inscriptions of Dr. E. Hultzsch, late Rai Bahadur V. Venkayya, and Rao Sahib H. Krishna Sastri (3 volumes, in 8 parts); General Sir A. Cunningham's Archaeological Survey Reports (23 volumes); Archaeological Survey, New Imperial Series (Vols. IV, XI, XII, XVIII, XXI, XXIII, XXIV, XXXIII, XXXIV); and Mysore Archaeological Survey Reports (Vols. I, II, III), [Serindia, by Sir Aurel Stein; Report on Archaeological Tour with Bunar Field Force (1900), by Stein; Ancient Khotan (Vols. I, II), by Stein, Ville de Khotan, by Remusat; L'Art de Gandhara, by M. Foucher; Notes Chinoise, by M. S. Levi; Fa-hien's Travels, by Legge; Asiatic Researches (Vols. I XIV); Marco Polo (Vols. I, II), by Yule; Ancient Colonies in the Far East, by R. C. Mazumdar; History of Siam, by Wood; History of Burma, by Phare; Inventaire Descriptif des Monuments Chams de L'Annam (Vols. I, II), by M. H. Parmentier; Cambodge (Vols. I, II, III), by E. Aymonier; Le Cambodge, by M. L. Delaparte; Java and Her Neighbours, by A. S. Walcott; De Sutrantraasche Period der Javansche Geschiedenis (1922), by Krom; Bijdragen tot-de Taal-Land en Volken-Kunde van Nederlandsche Indie (1918); Buddhist Records, translated by Bill; History of Art in Persia, by Perrot and Chipiez; Etudes Iraniennes, by Darmesteter; Scritores rerum Alexandri Magni, by C. Miiller; Architectural Remains: Anuradhapur (Ceylon), by Smitter; etc.5.

Illustrative quotations from these sources are, to speak very generally, arranged in the order in which they are mentioned above. Illustrations from other sources of smaller extent have been given where they seemed most suitable.

Appendices—A sketch of the important Sanskrit treatises on architecture is given in Appendix I. In Appendix II is given an alphabetical list of the historical architects mentioned in the archaeological records, together with short notes on their works and dates, where available. This list does not include those names which are casually mentioned without a reference to their works in the general literature, Purāṇas, Āgamas, and in the Śilpā-śāstras.

Ideal and general method Dr. F. W. Thomas was the first to suggest the idea of compiling such an encyclopaedia long before I felt the necessity of the glossary mentioned above. In carrying out Dr. Thomas’s kind advice it seemed to me that the most natural method was the one suggested by Dr. Burgess (Ind. Ant., Vol. XIV, pp. 319-20), for collecting materials for the ancient Geography of India by indexing separately all the geographical words occurring in the archaeological and literary documents. Dr. Fleet illustrated this principle by making a topographical list of such words found in the Bṛihat-saṁhitā (Ind. Ant., Vol. XXII, p. 169). This was followed by a similar list of words from the Bhāgavata-Purāna, by Revd. J. E. Abbott (Ind. Ant., Vol. XXVIII, p. i, f.). There such list-making stopped. It would have been much easier for me if I could have made use of any such list of architectural terms from any of the documents consulted.6

Professor L. D. Barnett, M.A., LITT.D., suggested that I should take Dr. S. Sorensen's Index to the names in the Mahābhārata my model. I have followed his method, as well as that of Professors Macdonell and Keith in the Vedic Index, so far as these indices are concerned in bringing together everything useful in the form of a short article.

Despite its bulk, Sӧrensen's Index mostly confines itself to the proper names contained in the Mahābhārata, and does not include any illustrative quotations. But I had to go much beyond a single work and consult an extensive field of literature, like the veteran workers of the Vedic Index of names and subjects, which, though it contains subjects in addition to proper names, has not, for obvious reasons, cited the original passages in text or translation in addition to giving references to them. In this respect I took the largest Sanskrit work, the St. Petersburg Dictionary, as my ideal. But there, too, I had to differ from its immortal authors, Messrs. Bӧhtlingk and Roth, the fathers of the most useful Sanskrit researches, in two important points. First, the St. Petersburg Dictionary does not, for obvious reasons, give in all cases the full context of the passages quoted therein. For instance, from the illustrations like ‘prāsādāruḍha’ and ‘prāsādāṅgana’ (see St. Pet. Diet., under PRĀSĀDA), it is difficult to see whether ‘prāsāda’ implies a temple, or a palace, or an ordinary residential building, or the assembly room and confessional hall of the Buddhist priesthood. In spite of some tremendous difficulties, I found it unavoidably necessary to cite long passages, in text or translation, or sometimes both, to illustrate the particular bearing of a term. ‘Piṭha,’ for example, implies a seat, an altar, a platform, the pedestal of a column, the basement of a building, the plinth, the yoni part of the liṇga, etc.; these different shades of meanings cannot be made clear by such quotations as ‘piṭhopari’ or ‘piṭham ashṭāngulam.’ The second point, by far the more significant, will further explain the need of long contexts. The St. Petersburg Dictionary refers only to well-known treatises which, though covering an extensive field, are yet easily accessible, and does not deal with manuscripts locked up and preserved as relics; nor has it anything to do with the epigraphical documents. My literary quotations are in most cases from a large number of works and manuscripts some of which are written in unfamiliar scripts and most of which are neither well known nor easily accessible; and the illustrations from all the published inscriptions and other archaeological records, comprising approximately 50, 000 pages, also necessitated the full context, partly for reasons stated above, and partly with a view to avoiding the possibility of distracting the attention of the reader and interfering with his grasping the argument rapidly.

Alphabetical order and transliteration—I could not avail myself of the express advice of Dr. Fleet in his highly appreciative Review of Dr. Sӧrenson's masterly Index (Ind. Ant., Vol. XXXIV, p. 92) to arrange the words according to the European alphabetical order, which, in the opinion of the reviewer, has enhanced the value of the work. The European alphabet, being more imperfect than the Sanskrit alphabet with regard to the number of characters, especially the vowels and the phonetical arrangement of them, seemed unsuitable for the terms which are included in this dictionary (encyclopedia.) In either of the alphabets, the transliterated Sanskrit words in some cases would be more or less confusing (e.g. Ṛishi, Ṛiksha, Rintika, Ripu). But for the difficulties of making typewritten copies 7 before the dictionary went to press, I should have preferred to have Sanskrit words written in Sanskrit characters. Following the order of the Sanskrit alphabet, words like ‘vaṁśa,’ and ‘śaṅku’ are given not before ‘vakra’ and ‘śaka’ (as in the St. Pet. Diet., M. W. Dictionary and the Vedic Index), but after ‘vahana’ and ‘śashpa.’ The anusvāra is derived from at least four nasal characters of the Sanskrit alphabet (ṅ, ñ, n, m). Logically the anusvāra should follow the order of the original letters: ‘śaṁku’ should be where ‘śaṅku’ would be placed; but this is an extremely confusing arrangement (see Apte's Dictionary). There is no reason why ‘śaṁku’ should be read before ‘śaka’ there is also no reason for its being placed after ‘śashpa,’ although one should be quite justified in doing so when he is following the order of a particular alphabet, and does not hesitate to read in another alphabet e after d, i after h, o after n, and u after t, or l after k, h after g, and so forth.

In transliteration I have followed the system of the Archaeological Survey of India. But I have not made any distinction between e and é, o and ó, simply because there is no such distinction in the Sanskrit language. These deviations from the trodden paths, which seem to be untenable, will not, it may be hoped, cause any inconvenience to readers.

Acknowledgment—Except in important cases which deserve special notice, the names of the scholars who have edited a particular inscription or written an article have not been added after the quotations. This need not offend anybody. I am sincerely grateful to the scholars to whom I owe the quotations. It seems, however, of little interest to know the name or names of the authors or editors of a particular passage, quoted occasionally a dozen times with full references to the article where it occurs. ‘Vedi,’ for example, implying a throne, has a parallel instance in a passage quoted from an inscription. The passage is borrowed from the editors and my indebtedness is shown by the usual quotation marks, and I have stated that this passage occurs in ‘Inscription from Nepal, no. 15, inscription of Jayadeva, verse 25, Ind. Ant., Vol. IX, pp. 179, 182.’ It, however, in no way enlightens the reader to know the names of the editors, Pandit Bhagwanlal Indraji and Dr. G. Bühler, C.I.E.

Again, a portion of a verse of the Sāṅkhāyana Ṥrauta-sūtra is quoted in the St. Petersburg Dictionary, but the full context is given in our encyclopaedia, and it is stated thus: Sāṅkhāyana Ṥrauta-sūtra, XVI, 1 8, 13 (St. Pet. Diet.). Beyond this, it seems unnecessary to add the names of Messrs. Bӧhtlingk and Roth. Lastly, in cases of quotations from general literature, the extent of which cannot be indicated even by an approximate number of books, it was impossible in some instances to mention the author's name. Compare, for example, a Glossary of Grecian Architecture, an anonymous work; and Śilpā-śāstra-sāra-saṁgraha Śivanārāya-ṇātmajena prāchīna-granthebhyaḥ sāram uddhṛitya prakāśitaḥ—Śilpā-śāstras-sāra-saṁgraha, compiled by collecting essential portions of the ancient treatises by a son of Śivanārāyaṇa’; again, Viśvakarma- jñāna, corrected (śaṁhśodhita) by Kṛishṇa-śankara-śāstri; the author, if there were a real one beyond the mythical Viśvakarman (Creator of the Universe), is not stated anywhere in the treatise itself.

Need of showing the results achieved—Although it would be presumptuous for anybody to say that the subject of a dictionary like this has been exhausted in a pioneer work, I might be permitted, in justice to myself, to add that all the known and knowable materials which were likely to be of any use for this encyclopaedia, have been closely consulted and utilized. Whether the results will justify the great labour involved will have to be left to the actual experiment of those who are in need of such a work.8 But the tremendous difficulties of a compilation like this will perhaps be not fully brought home to all readers, because ‘no one but those who have taken part in similar labours, can at all realize the amount of tedious toil, I might almost say drudgery, involved in doing everything singlehanded, collecting the quotations and verifying references and meanings, making indices and lists of words, sorting and sifting an ever-increasing store of materials, revising old work, arranging and re-arranging new, correcting and re-correcting, writing and re-writing, and interlineating “copy,” till reams upon reams of paper have been filled, putting the eyesight, patience, and temper to a severe trial.’

Aids and encouragement received—My sincere obligations are due, to the Secretary of State for India in Council for all facilities and help which I had the privilege of receiving as a Government of India State scholar and which were needed by a pioneer in this most exacting branch of oriental researches, specially during the Great European War of 1914-18. I take this opportunity to offer my respectful thanks in particular to late Sir Austen Chamberlain, late Sir T.W. Arnold, C.I.E., and late Mr. N.C. Sen, O.B.E. Words fail me to express adequately my gratitude to Professor Dr. F.W. Thomas, C.I.E., the then Librarian of India Office, London. As stated above, I owe to him the inception of the idea and courage to undertake this task. He placed at my disposal all the materials in the India Office and procured for me most of the available manuscripts from different libraries in India and Europe. He facilitated my work in Holland. He arranged, through the appreciation and kindness of Sir John H. Marshall, C.I.E., D.LITT., the then Director General of Archaeology in India, the creation of a prize post for me directly under the Governor in Madras for the publication of this work; this arrangement, unfortunately, fell through owing to absence on leave of Sir John Marshall and retirement of Lord Pentland at the time when I went to take up this appointment. It was again through Dr. Thomas's introduction that Sir Claude de la Fosse, C.I.E., M.A., D.LITT., the first Vice-Chancellor of the reconstructed Allahabad University, became personally interested in this work and readily induced the great educationist Governor, Sir Harcourt Butler, to recommend to the Government of the United Provinces to advance the cost of its publication.

I take this opportunity to express my respectful gratitude to Sir Harcourt Butler and his Government. And to Sir Claude I am further indebted for his scholarly sympathy, friendly advice, and constant encouragement. To those great lovers of oriental scholarship, Rai Rajeshwar Bali Sahib, O.B.E., the then Minister of Education; Kunwar Jagdish Prasad, C.I.E., O.B.E., I.C.S., the Education (then Chief) Secretary; and late Mr. A.H. Mackenzie, M.A., B.SG., the Director of Public Instruction, I am in a debt of gratitude for further encouragement, which has kept up the energy and spirit needed in bringing out this dictionary, after working on it for the past twelve years.

For suggesting many improvements I am indebted to the veteran orientalists, Dr. L.D. Barnett, of British Museum, London, and late Professor E.J. Rapson, of Cambridge University, who examined the whole manuscript before it went to press. I am thankful to Professor J.Ph. Vogel, PH.D., of Leiden University, for helping me with all necessary books during my stay there. To Mr. E.L.G. den Dooren de Jong and Miss Ch.L. Du Ryvan Beest Holle of Zootomical Laboratory, Leiden, I owe many friendly services in connexion with this work, but for which it would have been impossible for me to get on in Holland. To another talented lady friend, late Miss E.J. Beck, who took the trouble of putting in the diacritical marks to a duplicate typewritten copy of this dictionary, I owe, like many other Indian students, more obligations than I can adequately express.

Last but not least I am pleased to record my grateful thanks to Major W.C. Abel, M.B.E., V.D., lately the Superintendent of Government Press, Allahabad, and to his able successor, Mr. D.W. Crighton, and to their staff for their ever sympathetic and kind treatment towards me and their zealous and careful handling which was necessary in printing an encyclopaedia like this.


August, 1937.

  • 1. It has developed out of a Thesis, which was accepted by the University for the D. Lit. degree. See the Foreword for the change of title to ‘Encyclopaedia.’
  • 2. Grantha, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Nagari.
  • 3. Ep. Ind., Vol. I, p. 377; compare also Sir R. G. Bhandarkar, Ind. Ant., Vol. XII, pp. 140, 141.
  • 4. See the Foreword for a reference to the further additional terms discovered since 1928 and incorporated in this volume.
  • 5. See further details under Bibliography.
  • 6. Dr. A. K. Coomaraswamy published a short list after the publication of my Dictionary referring to a few new terms from the Buddhist literature and the writer's Indian Architecture (1927).
  • 7. Four copies of the Thesis referred to above had to be submitted to the University of London.
  • 8. See the ‘Extracts from Opinions and Reviews,’ at the end of this volume, also of the Architecture of Mānasāra, Volume IV (1934), by the writer, and ‘What Others Think’ in the writer's Hindu Architecture in India and Abroad, Appendix III, pp. 422-49.