Snobbery by Geography

Indian Mythology 13 Comments

Published in Devlok, sunday Midday, November 14, 2010

Mumbaikars are generally considered to be more down to earth as compared to their Delhi counterparts. However, Mumbai’s snobbery explodes when there is talk of location and addresses in the city. South Mumbai is considered superior to North Mumbai, the Western suburbs are considered more ‘happening’ than the Eastern suburbs. It is a case where geography provides the lever to feel superior in a crowd. One can have acres of land for one’s mansion in the northern or eastern part of Mumbai, but no, we want tiny flats in the narrowest corner of the south or west. Arguments offered are always logical (electric supply, malls, cleanliness, traffic) but the reasons are actually emotional. When I live at the right address, I feel good about myself, I feel elevated as I belong to a more special group or place, never mind if it means being trapped in traffic for hours on the way to the office, or the roads outside my window are so noisy. And it is this desire to feel significant through our apartments that pushes the realty prices even higher.

Humans have always given meaning to directions and locations. In fact, this is what gives rise to the occult art of geomancy or Vastu-shastra, where directions are associated with power.

It all begins with the Pole Star, the one star around which the whole sky moves. It is the only thing stationery in our gaze. It marks the northern direction which then comes to symbolize steadfast and still spiritual reality. This is why Shiva, the ascetic form of God, sits  in the North, facing the south which is why he is called Dakshina-murti. He is attended by Kubera, the king of Yakshas, who serves as the local Diggapala or guardian of the direction.

South then becomes the direction of change and death and is associated with Yama, god of death. In cities, crematoriums were traditionally kept to the south. South is also the realm of the Goddess. From the south she comes which is why she is called Dakshina-Kali. Her father, Daksha, sits in the south, facing north, performing yagna, enjoying the impermanence of worldly life.

In the Ramayana, Ram’s journey from North to South can also be seen metaphorically, though many prefer to see it as literal. Metaphorically it is the movement of God from the land of the Pole Star down towards the realm of the Goddess, where flows the Milky Way. As he moves south, animals discover divinity, a monkey becomes Hanuman. In the end, he returns north and she returns south. It is the movement from stillness to movement, from movement back to stillness, from soul to flesh and then back to soul. Thus geography provides vocabulary to express ancient Indian metaphysical ideas.

East has Indra as the Diggapala; it is the land of the rising sun. Indra is associated with rain and fresh water. West is the land of the setting sun and is governed by Varuna, the god of the sea, hence salt water. Lakshmi is born in the West in the sea and moves towards the East where there is fresh water to irrigate fields.

North associated with Kubera and Shiva and the Pole Star thus represents stillness and East associated with Indra and the rising sun and fresh water represents growth. This makes North East the direction associated with permanence (North) and growth (East). North East then becomes the most sacred direction in the mythic landscape of India – the Ishanya-Kona. Will Mumbaikars take this thought metaphorically or literally, I wonder?

  • New perspective over this one. Will surely add a grain of salt to the thought of intellectual mumbaikar.

  • Vijaya

    Refreshingly new outlook!

  • Sandeep

    Beautiful insight into the significance of the directions of the Vaastu.

  • ashim

    Hush … the builders/promoters and real-estate developers (and of course the ‘honest’ politicians will now use this information to dupe more stupid, egoistic clients !!!

    A beautiful insight into Vaastu principles.

    • Rashmi

      @Ashim – I agree!! :)

  • a l mohan

    the observations of devdutt that mumbaikars are more down to earth than delhi’tes and talk of location and addresses in mumbai as snobbery are far fetched and could be an illusion.growth of mumbai,for that matter any metropolis from north to south or vice versa could be incidental than due to vasthu.

  • Dear Devdutt Ji,

    This is a highly enlightening article for a person like me. I only knew that East and North are good, and South and West are not so good, as per our ancient Vastu-Shastra. But the “WHY?” part of it, was not known to me. You have so beautifully explained the significance of it. Thanks a million for that!

    But, still one doubt remains. I used to hear that the above rules apply to a house, or a property. Please inform whether they are applied to a city or town also. And further, can you inform whether we have any city, which is planned and developed 100% as per vastu? Chandigarh was the first planned city in our country, planned and designed by the great world-renowned architect, Le Corbusier. Was it planned as per Vastu?

    Secondly, it is the latent feeling of ego, the highbrow mind set, the “holier-than-thou attitude”, and “I am always one-up” bent of mind, which is there in all human beings (of course,in varying degrees) that prompts people to always go to 5-star hotels, live in costliest areas, move with only big shots, not talk to lesser mortals, even at the cost of paying heavy price for all these, and bearing with many consequent inconveniences, such that we are also counted as one with them. But, in my opinion, it is all on account of the inferiority complex suffered by the people. All the show-business is to cover up the same. It is nothing but delusion, cheating ourselves and a VANITY FAIR. Mirza Ghalib has so rightly said, ” Dil ke bahlaane ko Ghaalib yeh khayaal achcha hai”

    • Kaustubh Zore

      As far I know, the 100% Vaastu Complient place in India is Balaji Temple. It has all the characteristics of Indian Vastu shashtra and sure it shows how Indian vaastu shastra works with amount of devotees and money temple generates. Some people claim to feel that Vishnu himself sits there no wonder!! US is country which dominates due to its geography as per Indian vaastu shatra while India will always be respected across the globe by geography by vaastu shatra. I hope Devduttaji will write some article about countries by vaastu shastra.

  • Sanket

    Superlative . It has increased my desire to know More More More

  • Raja

    Whatever the directions of the home, the fate of its residents is driven solely by their thoughts and actions.

    • a l mohan

      absolutely true!

  • KVN Patnaick

    Informative article.Is there a similiar case for Delites?

  • A’isha Be

    One – no two words….three words… no i need five.
    So True and Simply enchanting!