Architecture with a Hindu slant


HYDERABAD, INDIA — Satish Gottipati may be fed up with all the official hoops he is having to jump through to get permission to build his new factory, but there is one procedure he would not skip: a consultation with his Hindu “vastu” adviser.

Vastu is similar to “feng shui,” setting out architectural principles that harmonize human dwellings with the laws of nature to ensure the prosperity of an enterprise.

One recent morning Mr. Gottipati drove his vastu consultant, G. Thimmaya Chowdary, into the countryside to inspect the site of his proposed factory.

Mr. Chowdary – a white-haired, bespectacled man in his 70s – was dressed in a clean white dhoti and smock, with a large crimson and gold “tilak” dot on his forehead. He consulted a compass and began to consider the proposed building site. He perused the surveyor’s plans, asked a few questions, wandered around for a while, and then retired with Gottipati to the air-conditioned pre-fab building that houses the factory manager’s office for further discussion.

The planned factory was properly aligned north-south, it seemed, but Chowdary was concerned about the way the land sloped slightly. Not for any engineering reasons, but because the land sloped in an inauspicious direction.

Gottipati had been expecting this. When he built his first production line nearby three years ago, Chowdary had raised similar objections, and he had been forced to move a great deal of earth, at considerable cost, from one end of the building site to the other to create a suitable gradient.

It looked like he was going to have to do the same thing again. But there appeared to be limits to how far the businessman was ready to sacrifice economy for tradition. Chowdary was insisting that when the new shed was built, Gottipati should extend the access road around the far end of the complex to allow people to enter from the correct direction.

That would not be cheap. Would he follow the sage’s advice? Gottipati gave a noncommittal shake of his head. “I told him yes,” he said, “but then….”