For Wealthy Indian Family, Palatial House Is Not a Home

MUMBAI, India — When India’s richest man completed his extravagant 27-story new house here last year, it incited a public debate along the lines of “What’s he trying to prove?”

Vastu, a philosophy particularly significant in Hindu temple architecture, emphasizes the importance of directional alignments that create spiritual harmony. Many Hindus believe that living in a building not built according to vastu principles brings bad luck.

Basannt R. Rasiwasia, a Vastu expert whose clients include prominent businessmen and their families — although not Mr. Ambani — said Antilia appeared to run afoul of one of the key principles of Vastu: the building’s eastern side does not have enough windows or other openings to let residents receive ample morning light.

“From the outside what I see is that the eastern side is blocked while the western side is more open,” he said. “This always leads to misunderstanding between team members or sometime may create issues. This also indicates more hard work to achieve moderate success. There is more negative energy coming from the western side.”

Mr. Rasiwasia cautioned that he could not provide a full analysis since he had not been inside the building, which was designed by the architectural firm Perkins & Will and the interior design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates, both American. Officials from the firms declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements.

Even before it was built, Antilia was clouded by controversy. Mr. Ambani acquired the plot where the tower sits, on Altamount Road, in 2002. He bought it for 215 million rupees ($4.4 million) from a Muslim charitable trust that elsewhere operated an orphanage.

Muslim political leaders and other critics said the land was sold for only a small fraction of its market value. Mr. Ambani acquired the property in an auction, and his spokesman has denied allegations that he paid less than the land’s market value.

Last year, as Antilia was nearing completion, many Mumbai residents criticized the building as an ostentatious display of wealth in a country where most people live on less than $2 a day and a city where more than half the population lives in slums. Many domestic and foreign newspapers — including The New York Times — wrote about those sentiments, which one friend said upset the Ambanis.

Gyan Prakash, a history professor at Princeton University who wrote the book “Mumbai Fables,” said the criticism could have influenced the family’s decision not to make Antilia their full-time residence.

“It is one thing to brashly announce your arrival in the billionaire’s club by looking down on the rest of the city from your gated community in the sky,” he said via e-mail, “but then you may realize that it is lonely at the top!”

Even if the Ambanis now have reservations about Antilia, the building appears to have some admirers. A half-mile away, in the waterfront Breach Candy neighborhood that is home to the American consulate, another rich Mumbai business clan, the Singhania family, is building a tower with cantilevered floors. Many say it resembles Antilia.