Directions and Five Elements Identification Method
Today we use magnetic north as north and deduce other directions. The question is whether our ancestors used the same method? No they used the geographical directions, as they may have been ignorant of magnetic properties. There are two camps today, one of the camps believe that we should only use geographic directions as used by early astrologers, and the other camp believes that we should use magnetic directions. But before deciding which group may be right, let us consider first the difference between the two.
Today it is easy to use magnetic north, because a magnetic compass shows directly the north-south direction. From that we can easily deduce the other directions. Few decades ago, we assumed that the magnetic compass was the most accurate method. Because even though we knew that the pole was changing we believed that it would take too long to change, and hence negligible. But the present scientific survey shows that it changes about 34-37 miles in a year. (In 2001 it was at North Canada 81.03 N and 110.8 W and in 2012 it is at 85.9N 147.0 W). That means it is not an accurate method.
Now coming to our ancestral method, they suggested to first level the site perfectly using water level. That is lay four stones or bricks of same height and perfectly leveled, at four corners of your site. Take one transparent flexible tube and mark its both ends at same length. Fill water in it and check the level of the bricks and adjust so that it perfectly matches. Then fill up the site to the same level to cover the stone or brick. Then at the center of the site lay down a stick of 18 inches height, 6 inches inside ground. The diameter of the stick is ideally 2 inches. So now stick is 12 inches above the ground. It is called as Shankhu. Now take a thread of 24 inches and draw a circle round the stick. Mark the shadow of the stick on the circle in the morning (sunrise) and evening (sunset). If you join the two points on the circle it is geographic East and West (Fig-1). Now draw a perpendicular line to it passing though the center it is North-South direction. Now if you divide the angle into half you will get other 4 sub directions. I feel it not necessary to explain how to do this today, since Geometry is well advanced and everyone understands how to do this. But it should be carried out on the day when Sun’s axis is aligned with the latitude of the place (geographical axis of the place). Our ancestors may not have had the conception of the latitude, and they suggested that the measurement should be done on the day when the Shadow of the Shankhu falls at its own bottom at the mid day — which we know now from science that it happens only when the Sun’s axis is aligned with the latitude. Here we must remember that for places beyond Summer or Winter solstice, Sun’s axis cannot be aligned with the place’s latitude as the Sun’s axis is only between Summer and Winter solstice. So for places located beyond the Summer and Winter solstice, they have to note down the shadow on equinox day and then move it to northward or southward so that it aligns with the center of the site, as shown in Fig 2 below.
The key thing to note here is that “Shankhu” should be erected perpendicular to the ground for this to work perfectly. Suns ingress into Cancer (summer solstice) and Capricorn (winter solstice) can make a difference of up to 47 degrees depending on where the Sun is and where the directions are measured. To avoid this, one should erect the Shankhu on equinox day. On this day Sun is at the equator, day and night are equal. (One should note that in places away from equator and solstices, the measurement will not be accurate). It is also worth noting that Earth’s declination is not constant and varies between 22-24 degrees. Hence if you know what correction needs to be applied, you can take the measurement on any day and apply the correction.
To figure out when the Sun aligns with your latitude, the calculation is done in the following way. The equinox day falls on March 21st of 22nd of any year and the Sun is at 0 deg latitude on this day. The Sun takes 91 or 92 days to reach 23 deg 35 min (summer solstice) which falls on June 22nd of any year. If you know the latitude of your place (for e.g. Bangalore India is at 13 deg latitude), you can calculate on which day the Sun will be aligned with your latitude.
Our ancestors have advised many methods to check the perpendicular state of Shanku. Out of which Triangular pendulum method is most accurate (Fig-3). Here an equilateral triangular frame is prepared with perfect smooth and leveled surface. One pendulum is hung in the middle so that it makes 90 degrees angle to the base. This method helps erect the Shanku perpendicular to the ground, and hence brings accuracy to the measurement of geographical directions. The usage of this method can be seen in the temples constructed 7-8 hundred years ago. In these temples, we can observe even today that the Sun’s light falls on the idol (God’s statue) always on a particular day of the year. This shows that the method of calculating directions was so accurate that it works accurately even today.
In olden days the person who was an expert in Shastras, Mathematics, Wood and Stone was called as Sthapathi. Expert in Geometry was called Soothradhari, Expert in plastering, and Colors was called Vardhin, Carpenter was called Takshak. These four people were very important in construction of a building or Temple.
If our location is beyond the Solstice (fig-2) away from the equator, we must remember that the East-West line (shadow) noted is below or the above the central line. We have to shift it North or South (based on where the shadow falls) so that it touches the center point in order to accurately note the sub directions. (If this is not done, the sub directions that are calculated may not be accurate). This correction is required to all places away from equator. Since Geometry is well advanced today, I feel it is not necessary to explain other methods described by our ancestor such as star method or otherwise.
Our ancestors have allotted Water element to North–East sector, Fire to South–East sector, Earth to South-West Sector, Air to North West sector. We can observe that this Geometrical method is accurate because, if we divide the earth geographically by two planes into 4 sectors, North-East sector has more water i.e. it has the deepest pacific ocean. (Pacific and north arctic region). However, we cannot ascertain other elements because no study has been conducted on this basis.