Published 1927


Professor A.B. Keith, D.C.L., D.LITT.—Of auxiliary sciences architecture has at last received expert treatment from Professor Prasanna Kumar Acharya in his Dictionary of Hindu Architecture and Indian Architecture based on a new text and rendering of the Mānasāra, for which the period of A.D. 500-700 is suggested. Striking similarities between the prescriptions of the Mānasāra and Vitruvius are unquestionably established.

(History of Sanskrit Literature, 1928, Preface, p. xx.)

E.B. Havell, Esq.—“Let me congratulate you on the results of your monumental researches by which you have contributed so much valuable data to the study of this great subject. All students of Indian Architecture are deeply indebted to you... I have read enough to appreciate your very thorough treatment of the subject.”

Dr. Abanindra Nath Tagore, D.LITT., C.I.E. —There are people who assume the role of critics of Art without having previously read a single treatise on Art. Moreover, they consider themselves to be authorities on the subject of Art although they may not have acquired the least practical skill in it.

There are enough of such people who talk a good deal on matters connected with Indian Art. They have continued to disseminate both within as well as outside India, a thoroughly inaccurate account of our Indian Art being influenced by their own individual notions.

There are others who are keenly anxious to acquire a true knowledge of Art and pursue their subject with a heart full of enthusiasm, by making a study of paintings, images, treatises on Art and the history of the land. Our young friend Professor Prasanna Kumar Acharya belongs to the latter category. The two big volumes which he has published after infinite pains are in the nature of an encyclopaedia embracing all the existing treatises on Indian Art. He has herein presented before us all the information that so long lay hidden and scattered all over the world.

There is a proverb ‘What is not contained in the Mahābhārata is not to be found anywhere.’ These two books may, on that analogy, be appropriately called the Mahābhārata of the literature on Indian Art, for, in them we find all that there is to know about Indian Art.

I may safely assert that these two volumes are just those that are fit to give a correct account of Indian Art to the world at large. Moreover, this much is certain that no two books of such magnitude and such merit as these, namely, Indian Architecture and Dictionary of Hindu Architecture have ever been published either in India or elsewhere on the subject of Indian Art, after such intensive study and infinite pains. As they are written in English it can be expected that a true knowledge of our Indian Art will now be conveyed to the four corners of the world.

Before one can acquire a thorough knowledge of Indian Art it is essential to make an acquaintance with the ancient books on the subject. Hitherto it has been extremely difficult to be able to read all the connected literature that is to be found in libraries whether in India or outside. Everyone of us does not know the language in which the treatises are written. Moreover, most of the original texts are preserved in distant lands. In the circumstances, a volume of this nature, written in English and containing as perfect a compendium as is possible, of all the existing treatises on Art, came to be a necessity, not only for us but for foreign artists as well. It really makes me feel proud that this stupendous task has been accomplished by our young friend, the author.

I cannot adequately express the extent to which I shall be able to make use of these two books and the profit which my pupils will derive from them. It is on all these grounds that I feel thankful to the author and wish an extensive circulation of his books.

We are expecting a few more such comprehensive volumes from the author on the subject of Indian Art written in the same beautiful style and including sketches of temples and other buildings, etc. in various parts. May the Goddess of Art be his guide in this great venture.

(Translated from Pravasi, April, 1928, by B.N. Lahiri, Esq., M.A., I.P.)

Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Ganganatha Jha, M.A., D.LITT., LL.D., Vice-Chaneellor. Allahabad University—These two books are the fruit of Dr. Acharya’s labour extending over several years and the learned Doctor deserves congratulations on having completed and what is more seeing through the Press, this monument of his industry and scholarship. The ideal that he set before himself is neatly expressed by the sentence appearing as a motto on the opening page ‘What the learned world demand of us in India is to be quite certain of our data, to place the monumental record before them exactly as it now exists, and to interpret it faithfully and literally.’ The Doctor has acted up to this ideal. There are many of us who have collected and presented before the scholars important data, but very few of us have succeeded in retaining the balance of mind needed for interpreting the data ‘faithfully and literally’; and Dr. Acharya appears to have been one of these few.

The Dictionary is a book which is so well done that it appears to be no exaggeration to say that for many decades, it cannot be improved upon, unless, of course, the South reveals to us more hidden treasures. If there is anything to object to, it is the title of the book, which docs less than justice to it; ‘Encyclopaedia ‘would be a fitter title. The term ‘Dictionary’ is associated in our minds with word-meanings; while Dr. Acharya’s work is very much more than word-meaning. Each term is followed by its meanings, mostly technical, an exhaustive account of the subject, and references to standard works of a wide range of literature. Thus, it will be seen, the work deserves a better title than ‘Dictionary.’ In fact, Dr. Acharya himself suggested to the London University the compiling of ‘An Encyclopaedia of Hindu Architecture,’ and it appears to have been a mere freak of fortune that when the University decided to entrust the learned Doctor with the work of compiling, they chose the term ‘Dictionary’; they appear to have been led to do this by the nature of the usual run of work done by modern scholars who in many cases have the unhappy knack of shirking work; but in being led away by this prejudice, the University were unfair to their alumnus, who has, by this work, more than justified the title that he had himself suggested.

The Dictionary is based mainly upon the second work mentioned above. I have had occasion to deal with the Mānasāra myself on one or two occasions, and I know how hopelessly corrupt the available manuscripts of the work are; and on more than one occasion, I have had to give up the task as hopeless. As Dr. Acharya remarks, it is a text which is written in five different scripts, 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.’ To the ‘barbarism’ of the Sanskrit of Mānasāra, I can bear personal testimony. I remember that when, about fifteen years ago, I was asked to make sense out of a few extracts from the work, I had to give up the task in disgust. Dr. Acharya deserves to be congratulated, therefore, for having succeeded not only in making some sort of sense out of the ‘barbarous Sanskrit,’ but evolving out of it a readable text and thereby undertaking and completing a work that deserves to be accepted as a standard treatise on Ancient Indian Architecture and to be placed on the shelves of every decent library in the country.

The general reader will be specially thankful for the second smaller volume which supplies full information on the main principles of Hindu Architecture. It is complete in itself, and should be useful to all such students as may not have the time or the inclination to take up the more voluminous Dictionary.

It is a matter of special gratification to us of the Allahabad University that we have at the head of our Sanskrit Department a scholar capable of doing work which, as a monument of industry and patience, compares favourably with the best of that class of scholarly work which has hitherto been regarded as ‘German.’

(Indian Review, March, 1928.)

Professor F.W. Thomas, C.I.E., M.A., PH.D.—“The immense labour which you have undergone and your devotion to a literature so obscure and difficult will receive their due recognition. I admire your courage and perseverance and your independence in working in a field where you could not expect much assistance from others (except in so far as the materials exist in published books). You are now certainly better acquainted with the subject of Indian architecture in the literary side than any other scholar, and no doubt you will often be consulted as an authority on the subject. I hope that the Dictionary will become a recognized work of reference as it deserves to do.”

Sir Claude de la Fosse, C.I E., M.A., D.LITT., once D. P. I. and the first Viee-Chancellor of reconstructed Allahabad University.—“The patience, the labour and the scholarship which you have devoted to these studies through so many years of your life are at length rewarded by the publication of works of permanent value to scholars and archaeologists.”

K. N. Dikshit, Esq., M.A. Deputy Director General of Archaeology—“Your recent publication, the Dictionary of Hindu Architecture, is really a monumental work, the value of which can hardly be exaggerated. I have no doubt that indologists all over the world will acknowledge their indebtedness to you for placing in their hands such a comprehensive study of the elements of Hindu architecture.”

Professor Dr Sten Konow, Editor, ‘Acta Orientalia,’ Oslo, Norway.—“Many thanks for kindly sending me your two volumes. You are opening up a new branch of research, and the world of scholars will be thankful to you.”

O.C. Gangoly, Esq. Editor, ‘Rupam.’—“We have received your two books for review and I hasten to congratulate you on your remarkable and scholarly treatises which will remove one of the crying needs of the study of Indian Art.”

Dr. Prasanna Kumar Acharya, who is Professor of Sanskrit at Allahabad University, has followed up his publication of the Sanskrit text and English translation of the Mānasāra by these two works on the same subject; and students of Indian architecture should be grateful to him for accomplishing with such thoroughness a task which has been long overdue, and which must have entailed a tremendous amount of patient and often uninteresting work, in a number of different languages. The Dictionary of Hindu Architecture contains all the architectural terms used in the Mānasāra and in the known Vāstu-śāstras, published inscriptions, and other archaeological records, with full references and explanations and Indian Architecture is, for the most part, an introduction to the text of the Mānasāra.

The Mānasāra is universally recognized as the standard Hindu treatise on architecture, and is the most complete and probably the oldest one extant, though no doubt it had many predecessors. This being so, it is rather surprising that no serious attempt has hitherto been made by modern scholars to edit and elucidate it. It has never before been translated into English, and most writers on Indian architecture disregard it or scarcely mention it. Eighty years ago indeed Ram Raz examined a portion of it in his excellent Essay on the Architecture of the Hindus; but it has never hitherto received comprehensive treatment. Scholars were no doubt shy of its technical terms or discouraged by its ‘barbarous’ Sanskrit, while it must be admitted that the Hindu tradition of presenting aesthetic principles as religious precepts and of embedding scientific matter in astrological formulas and mystic ritual is puzzling and disturbing to the non-Hindu. Nevertheless, the work deserves far more serious study than it has hitherto received, and not only from antiquaries, for Indian craftsmen of today still use the formulas of fifteen hundred years ago and the precepts of the Śilpa-śāstras are still the everpresent guides of the architect and the sculptor.

For the Mānasāra is, apart from its astrology, a practical craftman’s handbook, none the less so because its directions are regarded as ritual rules and its classifications seem often arbitrary and fantastic. In it, as always in India, art is a practical affair, a means to a definite end, never unrelated to life and worship. Mānasāra means ‘the essence of measurement’; and what would now be considered the practical part of the work consists of explicit directions regarding town-planning and the selection of sites, and more especially of minute statements of the mathematical proportions of every kind of building and image. This is not the place to examine the principles on which these proportions are worked out, nor are they always easy to follow without plans. The Essay of Ram Raz was illustrated, and it would have been a great help if Dr. Acharya could have rounded off his work with the addition of a series of well-executed plates. These would have been of especial value in examining what is perhaps the most interesting chapter of Indian Architecture, that in which the treatise of Vitruvius and the Mānasāra are compared. All that need be said here is that the two works, with all their essential differences, have so many striking affinities (in their classification, for instance, of the orders and mouldings) that we can hardly doubt that the standard Indian treatise was somehow or other influenced by the Roman architect who lived five hundred years or more earlier. Exactly how is another question, the solution of which would establish some important conclusions in architectural history.

(The Times’ Literary Supplement, May 31, 1928.)

These two volumes are a valuable addition to the few English books dealing with the little understood principles of Indian architecture and achitectural terms as practised and used by the sālaṭs who built the fine old shrines whose ruins remain to display their skill in construction and taste in details. Professor Acharya is to be congratulated upon the result of his labours in the very great amount of careful and painstaking search and the digging out of so much useful material from the vast amount of Indian literature he has consulted. The printers, however, have not turned out the books so well as the subject matter deserves. The numerous and lengthy quotations in the Dictionary would have been better in smaller type; and that of the Mānasāra is by no means clean. The paper is poor.

The author may not be averse to a few suggestions in the event of a second edition being produced. As ancient Hindu architecture, in its modes of construction, designs, and details, is more or less strange compared with anything a would-be student has been familiar with, it would be a very great help if the Dictionary were well illustrated with small vignette insertions, showing, for instance the different types of pillars, mouldings, etc.

The Mānasāra, or “essence of measurement” probably written between A.D. 5oo and 700, which is one of the Śilpa-śāstras dealing with architecture does not confine itself wholly to that art, but, like the others, busies itself with many other things, such as the planning of towns, villages, and forts, the orientation of buildings, the classification of kings and their ceremonial rites, the manufacture of couches, cars and chariots, ornaments, jewels, etc.

The title would have been better ‘Hindu Architecture’, ‘since ‘Indian’ as now used, includes Muhammadan. Measurements are laid down for every detail both in architecture and sculpture so it is not to be wondered at that we find such sameness, stiffness and oft-repeated conventional forms in the old temples which are still standing, especially in mediaeval work. The advance of Islam gradually influenced later work and brought into it much that is not Hindu. Of civil buildings very few now remain, and it is on the ancient temples, with a few tanks and wells, that the student has to depend for his practical acquaintance with Hindu architecture. The ‘essence of measurement’ is brought out in all its scrupulous exactitude where every measurement in a building must be regulated upon one measure—that of the side of the shrine and nothing is left to the sālaṭ to express his own individuality. And the measure of the side of the shrine depended upon the length of the blocks that could be obtained from the quarry, for the shaft of every pillar was always a single stone from the top of the base to the neck of the capital: it was never built, as a rule, of more than one stone.

Professor Acharya does not confine himself to a description and summary of the contents of the Mānasāra, but gives us references to architecture in the ancient epics, the Purānas and other works and a resume of the contents of many other Śilpa-śāstras. He also ventures upon a long discussion about the similarity between the Mānasāra and Vitruvius, which he appears to think had some connexion the one with the other.

The index, which is practically a glossary, is good and full.

H. C.
(J. R. A. S., October, 1928.)

Dr. Acharya in this book (Indian Architecture) gives us a compact and interesting, though somewhat technical, treatise upon Indian Architecture in the literature of India. The standard work upon the subject is the Mānasāra, and a description of that work forms the kernel, so to speak, of Dr. Acharya’s book.

The author begins with a general survey of the references to architecture in literature, dealing first with Vedic and Buddhist works, then with the Purānas, Āgamas, and other works. In his second section he summarizes the Mānasāra and gives shorter accounts in turn of the following works: the Mayamata, the Amśumad-Bheda of Kasyapa, the Viśvakārmiyaśilpa, the Agastya, the Samgraha, and one or two others. Section III deals with the Position of the Mānasāra in Literature. Here, types of buildings are discussed, measurements, the five orders and the thre e styles.

In Section IV, Dr. Acharya discusses the possible relationship between the Mānasāra and the well-known treatise of Vitruvius. He deals at length with the similarities not only in contents and treatment, but also in style, between the two works, and declines ‘to attribute all these affinities to mere chance.’ This is a particularly interesting chapter.

Section V, Age of the Mānasāra, deals with various indications by which the date of the Mānasāra may be approximately fixed, and decides that it must have been written somewhere between A.D. 500 and 700. An appendix treats of certain features characteristic of the language of Mānasāra.

The book has an excellent index.

A work like this (A Dictionary of Hindu Architecture) which treats of ‘Sanskrit architectural terms, with illustrative quotations from Śilpa-śāstras, general literature and archaeological records’ will appeal probably to a comparatively small circle of students, but to them its value will be very great. Hitherto, there have been no dictionaries, even in Sanskrit, which have fully treated architectural terms, so that the present work, which has entailed enormous labour—the author tells us that he has gone through 50,000 pages of archaeological material—breaks entirely new ground. Dr. Acharya’s work has been the greater since, for his purposes, the term, ‘architecture’ must include everthing built or constructed, from a royal palace to a sewer, or a garden to a bird’s nest.

The work is based primarily on the Mānasāra, but its sources include all the architectural treatises of the Vāstu-śāstras, and those portions of the Āgamas and Purānas, etc., which deal with architecture. In addition, all the inscriptions published in such collections as Epigraphia Indica, the Indian Antiquary, and Epigraphia Carnatica, etc. have been taken into account.

Dr. Acharya has arranged his dictionary according to the Sanskrit alphabet. He gives, in English, a concise explanation of each term, followed by quotations sufficiently long to make clear the exact connotation of that term in its various uses. Not only are precise references given to passages in such works as the Indian Antiquary, when they have a bearing on the subject, but long and adequate quotations are given. The work is tremendously detailed: the entry Stambha, for example, occupying sixty pages. There are two appendices, the first of which gives a sketch of Sanskrit treatises on Architecture, and the second, a list of architects. Finally there is an index arranged according to the English meanings of the Sanskrit terms.

(Asiatica, June-July, 1929.)

A number of Sanskrit works have recently been published, and it had now become necessary to explain the expressions and terms to Europeans who have of late taken an interest in Hindu architecture. A number of European works have appeared but none has existed so far which elucidates these difficult terms. The work (A Dictionary of Hindu Architecture) is conscientiously carried out, as is shown by the fact that the author is not satisfied with merely giving the English terms, but quotes from the Sanskrit contexts in which the words occur.

As regards the second work—Indian Architecture according to the Mānasāra-Śilpaśāstra the author intended to issue it as an Introduction to his edition of the Sanskrit test and English translation which are in preparation. But in studying his subject he found the material increased considerably, and he has now produced a volume in crown 4to size of 268 pages. It is most gratifying that Indian scholars adopt the great care generally exhibited by European professors, and Mr. P.K. Acharya is one of them. The work is well divided; it gives a general survey of architecture from the most ancient times onward; it provides a summary of the various treatises on architecture, and finally subjects the Mānasāra to examination. Full references are also provided, and the index alone, beginning on page 215, is a most painstaking performance.

Both volumes will be welcomed by the increasing number of workers in and lovers of Indian art.

(Asiatic Review, April, 1928.)

The indigenous Indian literature on architecture has not received much attention so far. Ram Raz has published an Essay on the Architecture of the Hindus (London, 1834), which I am afraid, is very difficult of access, and some works were edited by Ganapati Sastri in Trivandrum Sanskrit Series. Besides that, we knew the portions dealing with architecture in the Purānas.

Now Prof. Acharya has been working on the subject for several years and has paid special attention to the principal work, the Mānasāra. In 1918, he graduated at Leyden with a thesis on this work whereafter he published in the Allahabad University Journal, a paper on its relation to Vitruvius. Now there comes a comprehensive treatise together with a Dictionary of the architectural terms and a survey of the literature, and an edition and translation of the Mānasāra are promised for a near future.

These works are to be greatly welcomed, making as they do, accessible for research a new province of Indian literature.

The author tries to prove that the Mānasāra in many respects is similar to the classical science of architecture as we know it from Vitruvius. Though his demonstration cannot yet be said to be definitive, yet he has succeeded to show so many coincidences that a connexion can hardly be doubted any longer. How this connexion has come about, the author has not tried to show, and perhaps, too, he has not thought it necessary. For, it is well known long since that classical architecture and fine arts have exercised a lasting influence on the development in North-West India. In that corner, Greeks and their half-breeds had settled for centuries, and it seems that in an Indian inscription of the second century there is even mentioned an architect (Navakarmika) with a Greek name viz. the ‘dasa Agisala’ of the relic casket of the Kaniska Stupa near Peshawar.

On the whole, it is only the edition that will enable us to form an opinion about these many questions raised by the author. But even now we are very much indebted to him, and particularly his Dictionary will be very welcome. It gives not only a copious list of technical terms of architecture more especially those to be found in the Mānasāra, but also circumstantial references to the literature as well as a survey of the indigenous Indian literature relative to the matter, which is for the greatest part only available in MSS.

Yet with pioneer work completeness must not be insisted upon, and what is being given to us we shall accept with sincere gratitude.

(Deutche Literatunzeitung, 1928 14 Heft 660—Extracts translated from the original German by Dr. Ludwig Alsdorf, PH.D.)

Dr. A.K. Coomaraswamy.—“ These two volumes, the latter (Dictionary) especially, are monumental works, and will be indispensable to every student of Indian architecture and realia. Only those who work along these lines will realize the great labour involved in the preparation of such books, especially when they are almost the first of their kind; the serious study of the Indian Śilpa-śāstra has been too long delayed, and a warm welcome may be extended to the Professor’s undertaking....

The following notes, however, are meant to be a further contribution to the subject and an acknowledgment of the value of what the Professor has already accomplished, rather than further criticism.”

(Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 250 fol.)

This dictionary owes its name to the University of London. A glossary of the architectural terms used in the Mānasāra, the standard work on Hindu architecture, was prepared for the author’s private use when he 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, 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.’ In this connexion there arose an occasion for the author 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 the epigraphical records, as well as in the extensive special branch of literature known as Vāstu-śāstras, more familiarly called Śilpa-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 the author as the person most immediately concerned and entrusted him with the task suggesting that he should ‘make a full dictionary of all achitectural 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 dictionary 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. To form even a faint idea of the herculean labour involved in bringing out this colossal work a perusal of the preface is necessary. This the first volume published embraces 882 pages, one more volume Indian Architecture according to Mānasāra Śilpa-śāstras has been published and two other volumes to complete the dictionary are in the Press. This dictionary is a veritable Encyclopaedia of Hindu architecture. It deals with some 3,000 terms, relating to architecture, sculpture and cognate arts, and covers a vast number of topics. Under each term is brought together useful information in the form of a short article, illustrated, with quotations from Śilpa-śāstras, general literature and archaeological records. It is a pioneer work. It is hoped that it may be instrumental in explaining many things hitherto left obscure in inscriptions and general literature. Two appendices enhance the utility of the work: in one appendix is given a sketch of the literature on the subject, while the other contains histories of ancient Indian architects, together with a short description of their works. Great has been the labour of the erudite author and he is to be congratulated on its successful issue, so also the publishers for the volume as regards its printing and general get-up is all that can be desired.

It (Indian Architecture) is a handbook of Indian architecture, sculpture and cognate arts. The author, Dr. Prasanna Kumar Acharya, I.E.S., is an Indian Sanskrit scholar who has been trained in Europe in scientific methods of criticism and who has given the substance of a number of printed works and manuscripts, belonging to libraries in India and Europe which have been visited by him. The book gives an account of the architecture of the Vedic, the Buddhist and the classical periods of India up to the Muhammadan age. An interesting feature is the comparison drawn between the Indian standard work Mānasāra and the European standard work of the Roman architect, Vitruvius. Striking similarities are shown to exist between Greco-Roman and Indian architecture.

(Indian Engineering, January 21 and 28, 1928.)

Dr. Kalidas Nag, M.A., D.LITT.—While Hindu Painting and Decorative art were hovering between hope and despair as to the chance of gaining occidental recognition (the only recognition that carried weight!) Hindu architecture attracted the notice of all experts by its undeniable grandeur and originality. Ever since the publication of the Essay on the Architecture of the Hindus by Ram Raz, published in London (1834), there was a steady increase in the appreciation of the Hindu style and of the stone epics of India. The monumental studies of Rajendralal Mitra on Orissan architecture, followed by the work of Manomohan Ganguli, have demonstrated that the interest in the subject was growing. The enormous documentation of Cunningham, Burgess, and others of the Archaeological survey challenged the attention of artists and archaeologists all over the world. But the indigenous tradition of India with regard to the science and art of Architecture did not receive the serious examination long overdue, before Dr. Acharya came forward to devote years of his academic studies to the elucidation of the problems of the Hindu Śilpa-śāstras. Accidentally coming across a copy of Mānasāra he plunged deeper and deeper into the intricacies of Hindu constructional science: the more baffling were the problems of the texts preserved in the ‘most barbarous Sanskrit,’ the more intense became his zeal which ultimately led to the development of this splendid Dictionary—the first of its kind—of Hindu architecture. Thanks to the comprehensiveness of Hindu masters of the science, Architecture in the work has been treated in its broadcast sense, implying practically everything that is constructed,—from buildings religious and secular to townplanning, laying out of gardens, making of roads, bridges, tanks, drains, moats, etc., as well as the furniture and conveyances. Thus the Dictionary of Dr. Acharya gives us for the first time in a handy volume a rich vocabulary hitherto unknown or only vaguely known. Dr. Acharya has earned the permanent gratitude of all Indologists by collating and collecting not only manuscripts (largely unpublished) but also the epigraphic data scattered in the bewildering documents of Indian inscriptions which have given a sureness of touch and a precision of connotation that are admirable. Dr. Acharya has spared no pains to put the meaning of the terms as much beyond doubt as possible, for he has placed the terms invariably in their organic context by quoting in extenso from the generally inaccessible texts. Thus the Dictionary will not only react in a wholesome way on our accepted notions of Hindu art and archaeology but also on the future compilation of a comparative lexicon of the Hindu technical terms our future Paribhāshendu- śekhara.

As a pioneer work, it will hold its place high amongst the recent publications of Indology. As a pioneer work again the author, let us hope, will take constant note of friendly suggestions with a view to enhance the scientific value of this lexicon. While comparisons with European treatises on Architecture (e.g. Vitruvius) are interesting it is more useful to make each term shine indubitably out of a comprehensive juxtaposition of pertinent texts found, published or noticed anywhere in India, with a special eye on local peculiarities and their correlation with regional style. Rich materials are still lying idle in the latest publications of the Trivandrum Sanskrit Series (e.g. Mañjuśri-mūla-kalpa or Tantra, translated into Tibetan) and in the Gaekwad Sanskrit Series (e.g. Samarangana- Śūtradhara and Mānasollāsa, etc.). So Laufer’s Monograph on Chitralakshaṇa seems not to have been utilized. But the more serious omission is perceptible in another field which has furnished some of the noblest specimen of Indian architecture. I mean the field of Greater India where we meet even today Borobudur proclaiming the titantic architechtonic genius of the Sailendra sovereign of Srivijaya (Sumatra, Java) and Angkor Vat, the soaring Vimāna of Vishṇu constructed by King Parannavishṇuloka of Camboj and designed by the master Architect Divakara. Let us hope that in his next edition Dr. Acharya will enrich his lexicon by incorporating the data imbedded in the epigraphic and monumental documents of Greater India.

Two appendices containing enumerations of the important Sanskrit treatises on Architecture and of historical architects, enhance the value of the book. May we request the learned lexicographer to add a special appendix of the technical terms and names scattered in the various living vernaculars of India where we find, as in Orissa (cf. Nirmal Bose: Konarak), native architects still constructing ace ording to their vernacular Vāstu-śāstras or even conserving a rich tradition in bhasā vocabulary (oral or textual).

This volume (Indian Architecture) incorporates the general problems, historical as well as textual, that form the introduction to Dr. Acharya’s Dictionary. In the first 30 pages the author gives a tantalising survey of the popularity of Architecture evinced by the Vedic, the Buddhist and the classical literature. We hope that the author will make the treatment more exhaustive. The next hundred pages are devoted to a very useful summarizing of the contents of the outstanding Śilpa-śāstras, e.g. Mānasāra, Mayamata, and such manuals ascribed to Viśvakarmā, Agastya, Kāśyapa, Mandana and others. The comparison instituted between Mānasāra and Vitruvius may or may not lead to a discovery of the order of that of a Romaka Siddhānta and Hora-śāstra, yet the similarities are striking. But the most important sections are the author’s discussions, relating to the three styles or orders of architecture Nāgara, Vesara and Drāvida representing the three geographical divisions of India. We recommend the books of Dr. Acharya to all Indologists and expect eagerly the publication of the two supplementary volumes now in Press.

(The Modern Review, February, 1928.)

(London Correspondent)

The two books recently written under instructions from the Government of India on Hindu architecture and published by the Oxford University Press, ought to be valuable not only to the student of architecture, but also to the student of peoples of the world, for architecture expresses almost more than anything else the ideals and ideas a people hold at any given time. For the scholar these two books should be invaluable, as they help to elucidate in architectural terms details of the distant past, that have hitherto been clothed in mystery. The texts of the Vāstu-śāstra have, as the author states in his preface, been waiting for hundreds of years to be unearthed from manuscripts, which are quite inaccessible without the guidance of a special dictionary. This is the task to which the author set himself, and those who are competent to express an opinion agree that he has amply fulfilled his mission and has brought to light many new things hitherto unexplained in inscriptions and general literature.

The second book is a handbook of Indian architecture and deals with the Vedic, Buddhist and classical periods up to the Muhammadan times.

Today there is in Great Britain an ever-increasing number of people to whom such books appeal, probably because of the work of the India Society and kindred bodies who have stimulated thought in this direction by persistent effort. It is, therefore, likely that the present books will find a considerable reading public here as well as in the East.

(The Leader, February 24, 1928.)

Dr. Beni Prasad, M.A., PH D., D.SC.—Dr. P.K. Acharya attempts to offer the results of his twelve years’ study of Hindu architecture in four volumes, two of which have just been published while the other two may soon be expected to see the light. They are based on Mānasāra, the standard authority, on a number of minor works and a host of chapters or references, legal, religious, and general literature, as well as i nscriptions. The Dictionary, in particular, a pioneer work, is a monument of diligent research and systematic arrangement. In words quoted in the preface, ‘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 single-handed, collecting the quotations and verifying references and meanings, making indices and lists of words, sorting and sifting an everincreasing 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.’ The series is addressed to scholars and advanced students but all interested in the scientific study of Hindu culture or in that of fine arts in general will find it instructive.

The Hindu Śilpa-śāstra or Vāstu-śāstra is a comprehensive but by no means unsystematic study. It deals with all kinds of buildings, town-planning, gardens, and market-places, ports and harbours, roads, bridges, gateways, etc., wells, tanks, trenches, drains, sewers, moats, walls, embankments, dams, railings, etc., furniture like bedsteads, couches, tables, chairs, baskets, cages, nests, mills, conveyances, lamps, etc., and even dresses and ornaments such as chains, crowns, headgear and footand arm-wear. The dominant topic, however, is architecture—the plan and erection of religious, residential and military edifices and their auxiliary members and component mouldings. The science which like the Dharma-śāstra, Artha-śāstra and Kāma-śāstra, professes to derive its first origins from Brahma himself, developed in the course of centuries and reached its culmination about the sixth century A.D. in the great treatise called Mānasāra probably after the name of its author.

Here as elsewhere in the domain of Hindu history it is difficult to determine how far the theoretical descriptions in literature correspond with the practical realities of life. A close comparison of architectural precepts with the details of archaeological finds and the narratives of foreign visitors like Yuan Chaung (seventh century A.D.) suggests that the former, while not literally true to facts are largely based on practice. It is interesting to infer that in ancient India in spite of all the other worldlincss of philosophers and spiritualists, those who could afford maintained a high standard of living. Thus from a passage in the Buddhist work Chullavagga, VI, 4, 10, we learn that houses comprised dwelling-rooms, retiring-rooms, store-rooms, service-halls, halls with fire-places, closets and cloisters, halls for exercise, wells and ponds, sheds for wells and open-roofed sheds, bath-rooms and halls attached to them. Of hot-air baths the following description was given by the late T.W. Rhys Davids on the basis of the Vinaya Texts III, 105-110, 297. ‘They were built on an elevated basement faced with brick or stone with stone stairs leading up to it, and a railing round the verandah. The roof and walls were of wood, covered first with skins and then with plaster, the lower part only of the wall being faced with bricks. There was an antechamber and a hot-room and a pool to bathe in. Seats were arranged round a fire-place in the middle of the hot-room and to induce perspiration hot water was poured from the leathers.’ Again, as we learn from the Dīgha Nikāya, there were open air bathing tanks, with flights of steps leading to the water, faced entirely with stone and ornamented with flowers and carvings. It is needless here to enter into the details of domestic furniture but it is interesting to note, inter alia that benches were made long enough to accommodate three persons, that couches were covered with canopies, and that there were several types of Asandis, such as sofas, armed chairs and cushioned chairs.

The plan of a village, outlined in the ninth chapter of Mānasāra, is theoretical for its details do not tally with any of the realistic descriptions by Greek, Chinese or Arab visitors. None the less, it is instructive. A village, we are told, should be surrounded by a wall or stone pierced by four main gates which should be connected by roads. The villages should thus be divided say into four principal blocks. A highway should also run round the village and public buildings be located on it. The whole inhabited area should be well-supplied by ponds and tanks. Caste which influenced all life and thought in ancient India did not leave town-planning untouched. It is proposed that the best quarters should be reserved for the Brahmans and that the Chandalas should live outside the limits of the village.

In the interests of sanitation and decency it is laid down that the temples of fearful deities and places for cremation should be situated outside the walls. Everywhere drains should follow the slope. The tenth chapter of Mānasāra sketches, plans for towns on similar lines, making special mention of parks, common shops, exchanges, temples, guest-houses, colleges, etc. and giving elaborate direction for their construction. It is impossible even barely to touch the fringe of the vast subject in the course of a short review. Those interested in this highly important aspect of ancient Indian culture will do well to consult Dr. Acharya’s detailed, well-documented and scholarly productions.

(The Leader, December 4, 1927.) I 4 A

Notable publications by the United Provinces Government

All students of Indian Art in England, and a good many in India, should be grateful to the U. P. Government for these excellent books. They contain the fruits of the labour of an Indian Educational Service officer, who has spent about 12 years on these works which, to say the least, are stupendous.

Except for an essay on the Architecture of the Hindus by Ram Raz published in 1 834, no attempt till now was made to present the Ancient Indian Architecture in a scientific, clear, and methodic way. To Professor Acharya, therefore, goes the credit of exploring this field of knowledge like a pioneer worker, and of bringing to light a branch of ancient Indian culture which contains interesting, even rather fascinating, materials.

A Wise Term

Śilpa-śāstra or Vāstu śāstra, which is conveyed by the term ‘architecture,’ is much wider than the English term. ‘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 marketplaces; making roads, bridges, gates; digging wells, tanks, trenches, drains, sewers, moats; building enclosure-walls, embankments, dams, railings, ghats, 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.’

Professor Acharya has divided his Indian Architecture into five parts which give us a very clear idea of the subject, its authorities and all that is generally required for a quick apprehension of the subject.

General Survey

In Part I Professor Acharya gives a general survey of the whole range of ancient Indian literature and bears out ‘that the authors of the Vedic literature were not ignorant of stone-forts, walled cities, stone-houses, carved stones, and brick edifices.’ The relics of Mahenjo-daro and Harappa unearthed by the Archaeological Department under the able guidance of Sir John Marshall give the same evidence of a time much earlier than the earliest Veda. The Buddhist and Jain literature is replete with reference to buildings, furniture and sculpture of a very high order, The classical Sanskrit literature bears the testimony of a very well-developed art in all these respects; several Purānas have an elaborate description of Śilpa and some of the Āgamas whose main objects is ‘to inculcate the mystical worship of Siva and Sakti ‘devote considerable attention to architecture.

The Mānasāra

In Part II he gives a very detailed summary of the Mānasāra which is his main study as also brief accounts of several other works of well-known authorities but which lie buried still in manuscript form. The Mānasāra contains seventy chapters, ‘the first eight are introductory, the next forty-two deal with architectural matter, and the last twenty are devoted to sculpture.’

Here we have what claims to have taken the whole manifestation of architectural art as its subject. It is up to the present moment, perhaps the most ambitious effort of the kind, and the author has spared no pains to make his work as complete and as illustrative as possible.

Part III described the position of Mānasāra in Hindu literature and gives certain interesting facts. The styles are fully described and discussed. We are told that, according to Mānasāra there are three of them, Nagara, Vasara and Drāvida, and that they apply both to architecture and sculpture.


Part IV compares Mānasāra with the well-known treatise of Vitruvius on architecture which belongs to the first century before Christ. Professor Acharya has been trained in scientific methods of criticism in Europe and in this part of the work we find a considerable scope for this training. The comparison is thoughtful, reasoned and balanced. The conclusions are cautious and well-supported. The author has clearly shown ‘that there are undeniable similarities between the two standard works and that their affinities do not seem to be accidental.’ He has wisely left the question of the debt of one author to the other or of both to some common source, quite open. In the present resources of our knowledge it is impossible to arrive at a more definite conclusion.

In Part V he collaborates in a scholarly way both the internal and external evidence for arriving at correct age of Mānasāra. Here we have ample evidence of Professor Acharya’s unrivalled grasp of the subject, his critical acumen and of his indefatigable industry and enthusiasm in having ransacked the whole of the ancient Indian literature covering thousands of pages in print and in manuscript. ‘The evidence submitted above would warrant the extent of the period of the Mānasāra from A.D. 500 to 700—by no means an unwarranted conclusion.

Defective Language

It is regrettable that the language in which this important work has been found is very defective and faulty and has been termed ‘barbarous Sanskrit’ by authorities like Dr. Bühler and Dr. Sir Ram Krishna Bhandarkar. It is all the more creditable for Professor Acharya to have taken pains and construed the text correctly. In the appendix the learned author has given us some idea of the defective language by collecting together the irregularities.

Professor Acharya’s Dictionary of Hindu Architecture is a monumental work, the first of its kind. It deals with three thousand words relating to architecture and sculpture and cognate arts. Under each term is brought together all the necessary informations in the form of a short article illustrated with copious quotations from the ancient printed books as well manuscripts, the general literature and the archaeological records. And this has been done with a thoroughness and accuracy which are the author’s own. Full quotations for bringing out each and every shade of the meaning of a word are given, in effect the Dictionary becomes more of an Encyclopaedia rather than a. Dictionary. The learned author has laid the scholars and the general public under the deep debt of obligation by removing a long-felt want.

(The Pioneer, February 13, 1928.)

(London correspondent)

Dr. Prasanna Kumar Acharya, I.E.S., Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Allahabad, is now recognized as one of the leading Indian authorities on his special subject, particularly in its relation to ancient architecture. He has recently written, under instructions from the Government of the United Provinces, two books that should be of considerable value to students, namely A Dictionary of Hindu Architecture and Indian Architecture according to Mānasāra Śilpa-śāstra—both published by the Oxford University Press. The U.P. Government have borne the expenses of both publications, which will be regarded by scholars as a contribution of permanent importance in the elucidation of the subjects discussed.

This is not the place in which to give a lengthy review of these two volumes the first of which runs to 861 pages. This book is a monument of erudition and patient industry. A man who can produce works of this order must be wholly immersed in his subjects. Existing dictionaries, in Sanskrit, English, or any other language, do not elucidate the architectural terms of a long distant past, and without such a survey as Dr. Acharya has undertaken there could be no proper appreciation of the ancient genius. The texts of the Vāstu śāstra, have, as the author stated in his preface, been waiting for hundreds of years to be unearthed from manuscripts which are quite inaccessible without the guidance of a special dictionary. This is the task to which the author has addressed himself, and those who are competent to express an opinion will agree that he has brought to light new things hitherto left unexplained in inscriptions and general literature.

The other work which is somewhat less voluminous, is a Handbook of Indian Architecture, Sculpture and cognate Arts. It gives an account of the architecture of the Vedic, the Buddhist, and the classical periods of India up to the Muhammadan age. Such a work should be of great interest to those in this country, as well as in the East whose attention has been drawn to these subjects by the publication of the India Society and kindred bodies. There is quite a large constituency nowadays to which works of this character, dealing with the ancient arts of India, afford a real attraction. An interesting feature of Dr. Acharya’s present study is the comparison which he draws between the Indian standard work, Mānasāra, and the European standard work of the Roman architect, Vitruvius. The book might have made a more popular appeal if the text had been interspersed with a few illustrative re-constructions in plans or drawings, of the architectural features described. This, however, was not the purpose of the author. Rather it was to provide a fount of information from which future seekers may gain knowledge of an art which can never entirely lose its place in human records. What the learned world demands from India is certainty of data in these matters, and this has been undoubtedly supplied by Dr. Acharya’s researches. In these volumes, and in others that arc still in the press, he has illumined a comparatively unknown branch of Sanskrit study, and the fruit of his long and arduous labours will assuredly be of abiding value to scholars everywhere.

(The Hindu, Madras, February 23, 1928;

The Tribune, Lahore, February, 28, 1928;

The Hindustan Review, April, 1928.)

Extract from the Annual Bibliography of Indian Archaeology, 1928, p. 61.


[Dr. Prasanna Kumar ACHARYA: A Dictionary of Hindu Architecture. Oxford University Press: 1927.] See An. Bill. I.A., 1927, no. 124.
Reviewed: Rüpam, nos. 3536, July-Oct. 1928, pp. 39 44, by Akhay Kumar MAITRA. FRAS, 1928, pp. 943f., by H. C.:... a valuable addition... careful and painstaking search... The printers, however, have not turned out the books so well as the subject matter deserves.”
The Asiatic Review, 1928, p. 349: “The work is conscientiously carried out...” Ind. Art. & L., vol. II, pp. g6f., by E. B. HAVELL: “... a monument of patient research which will be of invaluable help for the student.”
Dtsche Lit. Ztg., 1928, columns 659661, by Sten KONOW: “Bei Pionier-Arbeiten draft’ man... auf Vollstindigkeit nicht Anspruch machen, und was uns gegeben wird, werden wir mit aufrichtiger Dankbarkeit entegennehmen.”
RAA, 1928, pp. 56f., by Jean BUHOT: “... ouvrage teis digne d’eloges: en mame temps il n’est pas douteux qu’une edition ulterieure ne 1’amdilore.”
Asiatica, vol. I, pp. 225f.
The Pioneer, Allahabad, i3th Febr. 1928. Cp. below COOMARASWAMY, no. 162.


[ Dr. P.K. ACHARYA, I.E.S., M.A., D. LITT.: Indian Architecture according to Mānasāra-Śilpa-sdstra. Oxford University Press: 1927.] See An. Bibl. I. A., 1927, no. 125.
Reviewed: Rüpam, nos. 35 36, July-Oct. 1928, pp. 33 44, by Akhay Kumar MAITRA. The reviewer offers some criticisms while acknowledging the great merits of the work. FRAS, 1928, pp. 943945, by H. G.: “... a valuable addition....”
The Asiatic Review, 1928, p. 349: “It is most gratifying that Indian scholars adopt the great care generally exhibited by European professors, and Mr. P. K. ACHARYA is one of them.”
Ind. Art. and L., N. S., vol. II, pp. 96f., by E. B. HAVELL:... a safe foundation for future historians of Indian architecture.”
RAA, 1928, p. 57, by Jean BUHOT: “... ouvrage tres consciencieux.”