The Vasthu Vibe
Keeping the gods happy is the key to designing flowing, open spaces that swirl with good energy
"Over my dead body," I said as I walked into the apartment that my husband was proposing we buy. "This is simply not acceptable. The Vasthu is all wrong. The bathroom is where the kitchen should be and the kitchen is where the bathroom should be."
"We'll fix it," my husband said soothingly. "We'll get a contractor in, draw up some estimates and change the location of the bathroom and the kitchen."
Famous last words. We were novices, my husband and I, in the volatile, subterranean world of Manhattan co-ops, where committees decide if you can remodel your apartment and contractors walk out at the drop of a hammer. We had wool over our eyes and flowers behind our ears, suburbanites that we were, fresh from the world of independent lawn mowing, snowplowing and deciding our home's destiny. Little did we know that in Manhattan, remodeling was less about choosing cabinets and more about kissing up to recalcitrant board members and contractors with attitude.
Fast forward to a year later. Remodeling was clearly out. The board hadn't approved, the contractor's estimates were sky-high, and we had a new baby. Vasthu or not, the kitchen and bathroom would stay where they were.
Vasthu is Indian feng shui. It is the art and science of designing flowing, open spaces that swirl with good energy. Indian Maharajas and Moghul Emperors used Vasthu when they built their symmetrical palaces, artificial lakes, and geometric courtyards that thirstily absorbed positive energy.
Like feng shui, Vasthu is based on an octagon with the four directions being the anchors. Hindus believe that gods live in each of the quarters of the house, and govern the rooms, possessions, and activities in these locations.
Indra, the god of gods, is positioned to the East. The East is where it all begins in Vasthu. When people build their homes, the main door or the entrance is always facing the East. The eastern direction is the harbinger of good luck, which comes into the house through the door. In our Manhattan apartment, the previous owners had built a convenient computer cabinet in this position, which I loved. The main door was to the right of this computer cabinet. We tricked the Vasthu gods by stenciling a door on the back of the computer cabinet. Let them think that it was the main door.
Kubera, the god of wealth, resides in the north. This would be a good location to keep the household checkbook and the money we keep in the house. My aunt literally has a pot of gold in Kubera's position at her home in Madras. In Kubera's quarter of my Manhattan apartment, I placed my funky coin sorter that I got for $29.99 at Brookstone. I hoped that by keeping my coin sorter in Kubera's position, the money would never run out. My husband said that he didn't much care for coins, he would much rather have bills instead. So we added a billfold next to the coin sorter.
The Northeast is the position for Dharma, the god of righteousness. Hindus typically keep their puja rooms in this position. Since the master bedroom was in the northeast corner of our apartment, I kept a small altar with various gods in the northeast corner of the master bedroom.
Agni, the god of fire, lives in the southeast corner. This presented a considerable challenge. The guest bathroom lies squarely in the southeast corner of our apartment--exactly in Agni's position. If there's anything that the Vasthu rules are strict about, it is that the kitchen be situated in the position of the god of fire. Ancient texts say that locating the kitchen in the seat of Agni ensures 'that the women of the house remained cheerful and of good disposition.' Was this the reason I was so irritable? Though my husband assured me that my irritability had nothing to do with Agni, the thought lingered.