Alexandra Alter

The ideal Vastu home is square and aligned with the cardinal directions, reflecting the Vedic concept of the universe. The centre of the house should remain empty to honour the sacred centre, or abode of the god Brahma, while the southeast is connected with Agni, the god of fire, making it an ideal locale for a kitchen in a home or sacrificial fire in a temple.

But among Vastu consultants in the West, there’s disagreement as to whether such principles are unyielding. Wh-ile Vastu decorators say simply honouring the elements in your home can improve its Vastu, others insist that a home must be constructed with Vastu principles in mind.

According to Michael Borden, an architect in Fairfield, Iowa, Vastu works like a tuning fork to create a geometric stru-cture that resonates with the cosmic energy of the universe.

"There’s nothing in the Vastu shastras about how to redesign a building or rearrange your furniture," said Borden, who studied Vastu in Tamil Nadu, India, and has used Vastu with 35 of his clients.

Other Vastu architects agree. Victor Ramos, an architect from Gainesville, Florida, who began studying Vastu in Delhi in 1980, said the perfect Vastu house has to be built from the ground up. Attempts to improve Vastu in an existing structure by altering the interior in small ways, such as putting a candle in the southwest corner of a room to appease the element of fire, are largely ineffective, Ramos said.

"Vastu is a design principle you have to incorporate from the beginning," he said. "According to the Vastu scriptures, if the house is oriented correctly, the person living in it is more in tune with the laws of nature." —