Understanding Directions and Vastu
Direction is the distance-independent relationship between two points. Points are infinite and so are the directions. Direction is sought when we need to gain some benefit from any thing. We must sit facing a TV or movie screen, if we want to enjoy a movie.

In larger scale, to have a common understanding and communication, we have limited the number of direction and defined them. Like the direction in which sun rises or the direction in which shines the polar star or direction towards which a magnetic needle points. For Muslims the most important direction is the orientation towards which the Holy Kaba is located.

Celestial body leaves influence over us; so is their direction. It is important that we reap maximum benefit from  knowledge of directions. The direction while seeing, listening, travelling, sleeping, breathing, talking, sitting eating, all are important. That is why people design their houses, too, according to in certain direction.

There are 4 cardinal directions: North and south. East, West. The north and south are defined by the axis of rotation of the earth. East and west are at right angles to north and south, with east being in the direction of rotation of the earth and west being directly opposite.

Hindu System has 10 directions:

  • Purva (East): belonging to Lord Indra (Rain Water Deity who is also the king of all deities), It is considered most auspicious & holy of all directions. While sleeping your legs should not face east.
  • Paschim (West): Lord Varuna (Ground Water Deity) lives in this direction. This direction is not considered auspicious. You may plant long tree in the west.
  • Uttar (North): belonging to Lord Kubera (Treasurer of Deities). A house entrance facing north brings prosperity.
  • Dakshin (South): Lord Yama (Death Deity), is presumed to be the lord of the south direction. Houses with entrance doors in the south bring ill-luck to the occupants. While sleeping your legs should never face south.
  • Ishanya (North-East): Ishan the fifth head (the top head symbolising sky or space) of Shiva (The Supreme God) governs this direction. A pooja (worship) room should be kept in the north-eastern direction. House entrance placed in this direction brings prosperity, knowledge peace & progress.
  • Agneya (South-East): Lord Agni (Fire Deity) is supposed to be the lord of this direction. The kitchen of the house should be situated in this direction. For ensuring their durability, electronic gadgets & appliances should be kept in this direction.
  • Nairutya (South-West): ‘Nairuti’ (a Demon) has the authority to this direction. Therefore, it is banned for all auspicious functions. This direction should be filled with heavy unmovable
  • Vayavya (North-West): Lord Vayu (Air Deity) is stated to be the Swami (owner) of this direction. This direction is favoured by Lord Hanuman (Monkey God, son of Vayu). For immediate & certain success, this direction is chosen as the point of beginning in any undertaking.
  • Urdhwa/Akash (Skywards): Further sub divided into seven parts depending upon the height.
  • Adharastha/Patal (Downwards): Also sub divided into seven parts depending upon depth.

Hindus believes that all matters, including our body, are made up of five basic elements viz.  Earth(Solids), Sky(Vacuum, space, ether), Water (Liquids), Fire (Energy, heat, radiation, photons, plasma) and air (gases). You may see that each of these is governed by one of the deities of the 10 directions.
Each direction has its own favourite colour.

Some scientific facts about directions:

The sun rises in the east: It is true but not 100%. This is because the plane in which the earth revolves around the sun (orbit of 365.26 days) and rotates (in 24 hours) are not the same but are inclined to each other at an angle of about 23.44 degrees. So only on two days in a year (equinoxes, spring around March 20 and autumnal around September 23) the sun rises on the true east, if we see it from the equator. On other days it is slightly off the east or west(up to 23.44 degrees). For people leaving away from equators these two days fall on some other days of calendar. However, for those living beyond 23.44 degrees latitudes south or north of equator (e.g. Delhi London, Sydney etc.) the sun rise is never in true east.

The Compass points towards north: yes but not exactly, because:

i. The Magnetic North Pole is not exactly towards the True North, but is slightly away (about 7.7 degrees in 2004) from it. Its position is also changing every year at slow speed which at  present  is about 40 km per year from Canada towards Siberia.

ii. Magnetic North Pole and Magnetic South Pole (26.5 degrees away from true south in 2004) are not diametrically opposite.
iii. The location of magnetic north pole also swings around true north.
iv. North Pole and South Poles too undergo reversal and north becomes south and vice versa. The period of reversal is random may vary from less than 100 thousand year to over a  million year. The last reversal took place about 780000 years ago.
v. Even a compass needle do not points exactly towards the magnetic north pole. but shows a slight declination which varies from place to place, It is like when you are moving in car on a  road towards London your car may not always be pointing towards London but  slightly off due to curves along the road. Similarly all magnetic lines joining south and north poles are  not straight but having slight curvatures (magnetic declination) depending upon local factors.

The Polaris (the current north pole star) is at the north celestial pole: for most practical purposes yes, but not exactly. Because our north pole is also rotating in a small arc completing one cycle in about 25700 years (earth’s precession). About 5000 years ago the North Pole was towards the star Thuban. At present Polaris is 42’ (i.e. about 3/4th degrees) away from true North Pole and due to rotation of the earth the Polaris also appears to be making a very small circle around North Pole once in 24 hours. Therefore, you may find it exactly towards line of true north twice in every 24 hours. Polaris will come closest to North Pole after 5000 years from now.

India’s ancient sages have applied their knowledge of direction and developed a science of Vastu Shstra to get the natural benefits freely offered by the universe in which we all live. It is widely applied today in architectures and its principles are based on becoming one with nature. Like astrology and palmistry Vastu is a vast science which has some concepts similar to Feng shui which originated in China.

Vastu is a part of Vedas, which are believed to be four to five thousand years old. The art of Vastu originates in the Stapatya Veda, a part of the Atharva Veda
Ancient scriptures on Vastu Shastra define Vaastu on the basis of two forces – positive and negative which are on constant interaction with each other on the surface of the land. These forces or energies get disturbed whenever a new structure is constructed on a vacant piece of land. Vaastu Shastra is basically the art of correct placement so as to maintain a balance between the forces and derive maximum benefits. The dominance of positive energies (forces) than the negative energies facilitated by Vaastu Shastra would result in a more successful, healthy, prosperous and satisfying life for the occupants and vice versa in case of dominant negative energies.

Another interesting aspect of direction is the circular direction which is clockwise and anti/counter clockwise. In a 3 dimensional arena, this would also depend upon whether you are looking at this motion from front or back. Some more interesting facts are given below.

All planets orbit the sun in same direction (you may presume it to be counter clock wise if observing from the north pole star), and also spins spin the same way as their orbits (counter clockwise), though Venus, Uranus and the Pluto all spin in a separate direction (clock wise ) to the other planets.

For some unknown reason, most Mollusks (e.g. conch) shells screw on clockwise (right-handed) or dextral. The left handed (Daksinawarti) or sinistral are very rare except in some species. Conch shell Turbinella pyrum (Shankh) is a symbol of the god Vishnu. Hindus do parikramas or Arati clock wise.