An 'ancient' treatise no older than 1904

Aircraft based on drawings and text of Vyamanika Shastra cannot fly...

January 11, 2015 12:51 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:36 pm IST

Vymanika Sastra, the “Vedic” aeronautical treatise by an ancient Rishi describing giant indigenous airplanes that travelled between cities and continents 7,000 years ago, it turns out, is no older than 1904, the year of the Wright brothers’ first successful flight.

Aeronautical engineers of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), who, in a 1974 paper, scrutinised the Sanskrit text and its Hindi and English translations, concluded that the work had neither Vedic origins nor scientific credence. The Vymanika Sastra, however, does betray “knowledge of modern machinery,” they say in the paper published in Scientific Opinion decades ago.

At the 102nd Indian Science Congress held earlier this month in Mumbai, retired pilot Captain Anand J. Bodas presented a paper on “Ancient Indian aviation technology” and spoke of India’s ancient aircraft described in the Sanskrit text by “Maharshi Bharadwaja.” The giant 60X60-ft airplanes with 40 engines and a radar system, “rooparkanrahasya”, could travel between cities, countries and planets, he said raising considerable controversy at the conference.

In a 1974 paper, IISc scientists found Vymanika Sastra has neither Vedic origins nor scientific credence.

The scientists looked at four airplanes described in the Vymanika Shastra and studied them for their aeronautical principles, geometry, materials, chemistry and operational data: Shakuna Vimana made from “prana kshara” (ammonium chloride), Bengal gram, mercury, borax, mica, silver and ‘panchamrita’; Sundara Vimana comprising five tiers and capable of flying at 12,800 mph on electricity produced in vessels containing, among other concoctions, cow and elephant urine; Tripura Vimana that could fly in air and also move in water and on land; and Rukma Vimana.

They concluded that “It appears that his work cannot be dated earlier than 1904 and contains details which, on the basis of our present knowledge, force us to conclude the non-feasibility of heavier-than[-air] craft of earlier times.”

Co-author of the scientific paper, S.M. Deshpande, a former Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the IISc told The Hindu : “In the course of our research, we found quite conclusively that the text was written by Subbaraya Shastry from Anekal — not by a Rishi Bharadwaja — and no earlier than 1904.” Shastry dictated the text during “trance-like spells” in the form of shlokas to a scribe and commissioned drawings from a draughtsman from an engineering college, Professor Deshpande said.

The illustrations “definitely point to a knowledge of modern machinery,” says their paper. “This can be explained on the basis of the fact that Shri Ellappa who made the drawings was in a local engineering college and was thus familiar with names and details of some machinery.” The scientists add: “What we feel [is] unfortunate… is that some people tend to eulogise and glorify whatever they can find about our past, even without valid evidence. In the absence of any evidence, efforts will be made to produce part of the evidence in favour of antiquity.”

Professor Deshpande said he and his colleagues were, 40 years ago, “driven by scientific curiosity” to study this work to see if it was possible to create an aircraft based on the text from an aeronautical point of view. “But we were disappointed.”

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