Superstition Keeps Richest Man Out of Billion-Dollar House

mukesh ambani
mukesh ambani

A year ago, we brought you the story of Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man, who built a Mumbai skyscraper for $1 billion and planned to use it as a private residence -- all 27 stories of it.

Well, looks like we jumped the gun a little. A report in the U.K.'s Daily Mail says that the building stands empty today because of the family's fears that living in it would bring them bad luck. The belief is based on the Indian system of vastu shastra, similar to the Chinese practice of feng shui. According to the Vaastu Shaastra website, "Vastu shastra relates to the universe, delivering peace, prosperity, health and happiness to the people."

Among other things, good vastu shastra requires that houses be constructed from the eastern portion first, that they must sit on a square or rectangular plot and that they can't share a wall with an adjacent property.

We're not exactly sure where Ambani's building, called the Antilla, ran afoul of the rules, but with its Lego-like layout -- the Daily Mail describes it as a "jigsaw-puzzle facade"-- and un-houselike features including three helipads and six stories of parking, Ambani isn't taking any chances. While he uses the place for parties and movie screenings in the private theater, he hightails it home to his nearby 14-story apartment building to sleep.

Or maybe, as The Wall Street Journal speculates, the real disruptive energy is coming from Ambani's neighbors, the citizens of Mumbai, who roundly criticized him for building such an expensive and ostentatious pleasure palace in a country where the average income is just over $1,000 a year.