The part of the world which is known today as India had a rich
scientific tradition in the past. When we study the relics of the ancient
times—from the pre-Vedic Indus Valley civilization, through the Vedic
age and to the post-Vedic or Siddhantic period—we find evidence of this
scientific tradition. This land witnessed a gradual enrichment of human
knowledge about nature and the natural processes, each generation
building on the knowledge acquired by the earlier ones. In certain periods,
the social conditions and the prevalent philosophical outlook accelerated
the pace of development of science in this land, and in some other times
it retarded the process.
Yet, instead of being proud of this scientific heritage and building
on it, we are witnessing a disturbingly growing trend. The spread of
unscientific beliefs is on the rise and ludicrous claims are being made
about the achievements in of science in ancient India. In particular, a
fanciful picture of the Vedic period is being painted with the express view
to foment obscurantismand religious jingoism, which, if successful, will
strike the death knell of the development of a scientific culture in India.
Here we intend to do a thorough reality check. What were
the real contributions of this land in science? We approach this question
with an unprejudiced mind, and rely only on dependable and objective
evidence to piece together the achievements in different areas of science
and technology, in different periods of our history. We also examine the
credibility of the various myths being deliberately created and circulated
by passing off mythology as history.
We hope that these articles will contribute to creating scientific and
secular ethos in the country, left to us by the great personalities of the
Renaissance and the Indian freedom struggle.

Were there flying machines in ancient India?


In addition to the above, many other wild claims are being made in
different forums. Importantly, the following claims were made in the
Indian Science Congress held in Mumbai from 3rd to 7th January 2015.

1. Ancient Indian sages built cars and airplanes in Vedic period around
7000 years ago.
2. Those planes could move forward as well as backward and in left and
right directions.
3. The planes used mercury vapour, solar energy, as well as atmospheric
air as fuel.
4. These planes could travel not only from one country to other but also
to other planets.
5. Some of the planes were over 200 feet. Five-storied Sundara Vimana
could fly with a speed of 12800 mph with a fuel made of urine of cows
and elephants.
6. The pilots’ clothes were made of underwater vegetation.

These claims were made on the basis of a book titled Vaimanika
Shastra claimed to have been written by a mythological figure—Maharshi
Bhardwaj. Five scientists of the Aeronautical Engineering Department
of the Indian institute of Science, Bangalore—Prof. J. S. Mukund, S. M.
Deshpande, H. R. Nagendra, A. Prabhu and S. P. Govindraj—studied the
book carefully and wrote a research paper titled, ‘Critical Study of the
Work Vaimanika Shastra’, which was published in 1974. They proved that
the so called Vaimanika Shastra was not written 7000 years ago, rather
it was the brain-child of a Sanskrit scholar Subbaraya Shastri who wrote
it in 1923! This book was made public in 1951 by Sri A. M. Joysar, the
founder of International Sanskrit Academy ofMysore. The sketches of the
planes depicted in the book (some of which are shown in Fig. 6.2) were
drawn by Sri Alappa, a draftsman of an engineering college of Bangalore
and inserted in the English edition of this book in 1973. They proved
that it was not possible for those planes to fly according to the laws of
aerodynamics and Newton’s laws of motion; any plane manufactured
based on these ideas would surely have met with a horrible accident.
Earlier in his book Rigveda Bhaashya Bhoomika,MaharishiDayananda
Saraswati tried to establish that flying machines existed in India during
the Vedic period by citing the following mantra:

… Trayah skambhaasah skabhitaasah aarabhe
trirnaktam yaathastrirvityashwinaa diwaa…
(Rig. ashta 1; adh. 3; varga 4; man.2)
He translates it as “… going from one island to another with these (air-)
crafts in three days and nights …”


fig: The sketches of the so-called Rukma Vimana, Shakuna Vimana,
                                  Sundara Vimana, and Tripura Vimana.

While Dayananda Saraswati sees “aircraft” in the mantras, it is interesting
to see what the celebrated commentator Saayana had to say on this shloka:

“There are three wheels to your honey-bearing chariot as all
the gods have known it to be when attending the marriage of Vena, the
beloved of Soma; O Ashwins, there are three pillars fixed in the chariot
for support and in it thrice you drive by night and thrice by day.”

Dayananda Saraswati had wrongly translated the Sanskrit text to fit his
fanciful ideas.
If the claimed aeroplanes really existed at some time in the past, some
relics—metallic fragments of the engines, wings, and other components—
must be found in the archaeological sites. None has been found so far—
not a single broken piece. Again, if ancient India possessed planes and
modern war-machinery, why could it not defeat the invaders? There is no
answer to such natural questions.
The most important point is that the idea of a technological marvel
like an aeroplane does not emerge out of nothing. Only when our understanding
of the laws of thermodynamics, aerodynamics, metallurgy and a
host of other fields developed to a certain extent, the idea of construction
of a flying machine could develop. Ideas from all these fields go into the
making of an aircraft. Hence it is not possible for aircraft to exist in ancient
India unless the knowledge in these fields developed before that. There is
no evidence of any advancement in aerodynamics, thermodynamics etc.
in the Vedic literature (interestingly, the proponents have not claimed
that also).
Anybody conversant with rudimentary chemistry knows that the
urine of cows and elephants cannot be used as fuel. Mercury vapour
also cannot be used as fuel because it does not produce heat when it
reacts with oxygen. Air aids burning because of the presence of oxygen in
it, but cannot itself be used as fuel. Solar energy can provide power for
various purposes, but the rate at which solar energy is incident on the
Earth’s surface (about 1 kW/m2) is not sufficient to power aircraft made
with metal.
The drawings of the aircraft in the book Vaimanika Shastra (Fig. 6.2)
show propellers. Even if we assume that propellers had been invented by
the Vedic sages, they cannot work in vacuum. How can such aircraft fly to
other planets? Anybody conversant with anthropology knows that 7000 years ago
man was still in the stone age. Would the proponents have us believe that
the aircraft were made of stone?


*This article was published in the book “Science in Ancient India—Reality versus Myth” published by Breakthrough Science Society.

**Articles will be published one by one in the course of time.



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