Science of aeronautics in ancient India

Dr. G. Shreekumar Menon

Ancient Vimana

The title appears at once, bewildering and enigmatic. Contemporary knowledge states that it was on December 17, 1903, that, Wilbur and Orville Wright made four brief flights at Kitty Hawk with their first powered aircraft. The Wright brothers had thus invented the first successful airplane. Flying machines were fantasized by many intellectuals in different countries, at different periods in history, but it was the Wright Brothers, who successfully demonstrated a real flying machine. However, ancient history has countless baffling mysteries that defy logic and reason. Many, Hindu Scriptures abound with specific references to a variety of destructive weapons and technologies, including flying machines that are supposed to have been used, in remote antiquity. Hindus never doubted the existence of such weapons and technologies, and over the past thousands of centuries, dutifully transmitted this knowledge to successive generations. Foreign invaders, who came to India, could not comprehend the technologies and weaponry described in the Hindu Scriptures, as a vast majority of them were just illiterate soldiers, religious preachers and traders. They had their own religious propaganda to preach and spread, hence dubbed all Hindu scriptures as “mythology”. But there were many foreign intellectuals who spared their time to study these scriptures, translate them, and inform the global community, not only about the philosophical profundity in these Scriptures, but also the amazing technologies that were mentioned in them. One such amazing document that captured the attention of the scientific community around the world was Maharishi Bhardwaj’s ‘Vymaanika Shastra’.

This astounding work comprising 3000 shlokas spread over eight chapters, covering over 100 topics, and 500 Sutras, contains special mention of 32 different techniques for managing Vimana or flying machines!

The Maharishi explains Vimana to mean a very high moving object. The word Vimana is split as Vi + Mana, ‘Vi’ meaning very high or beyond reach and ‘Mana’ means a moving object.

What are these Vimana? The Maharishi’s explanation is simple and amazing. He states that Vimana is used for travelling from place to place, from one country to another country, and (hold your breath) from one planet to another planet! The Maharishi is clearly alluding to inter-planetary travel.

Very intriguingly, the Maharishi states that while Vimanas are man-made, there are other types of flying machines which fly in a mysterious manner and which are not made by human beings! This is a clear hint of existence of extra-terrestrials, Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO’S) and their unique motion, which differentiates them from those made by human beings.

The next classification is even more baffling. The Maharishi talks about Vimanas that are designed to fly in the Suryamandal or Solar System and another designed to fly in the Nakshatramandal or Stellar Region. This implies a very deep knowledge about the requirements of travel in the Solar System and another type capable for Interstellar Space travel. Going a step further, the learned Maharishi states that Vimanas cater to different requirements, there are Vimanas designed for warfare, and some which are like a flying city for indefinite stay in Outer Space!

The book describes exotic technologies like how to make a Vimana motionless in the sky, how to make a Vimana fly in backward motion, the technique to make Vimanas invisible, hearing conversations inside enemy Vimanas, technique of seeing images of the interiors of enemy Vimana, and the technologies to destroy enemy Vimana.

The Maharishi clearly mentions and acknowledges that references to Vimanas are to be found in a vast range of books belonging to different eras, starting with the Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Atharva-Veda, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Mayamatam, Satapathya Brahmana, Markandeya Purana, Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Rahasya Lahiri, and Samarangasutradhara.

In addition to the above, specialized texts about Vimanas are the Vimana Chandrika by Acharya Narayan Muni, Viman Yantra by Maharishi Shownik, Yantra Kalp by Maharishi Garg Muni, Viman Bindu by Acharya Vachaspati, Viman Gyanrka Prakashika by Maharishi Dundiraj. Thus India has a veritable treasure house of books on the subject pertaining to Vimana, which no other country can boast of.

The book ‘Rahasya Lahiri’ by Lalla, instructs about structure of the Vimana, how it lifts upwards, how it ascends into the sky, how to perform feats without crashing, and how to halt a Vimana.

Another amazing treatise is the ‘Samarangasutradhara’ which describes four different types of Vimanas, namely – Rukma Vimana, Sundara Vimana, Tripura Vimana, and Sakuna Vimana. The Rukma Vimana is described as being conical in shape and having golden colour. The Sundara Vimana is also conical in shape but of silver colour. The Tripura Vimana is said to be of three levels. The Shakuna Vimana is described as bird shaped.

The book goes on to describe the required attributes of a Vimana. “Strong and durable must the body of the Vimana be made, like a great flying bird of light material. Inside one must put the Mercury Yantra (engine?) with its iron heating apparatus underneath. By means of the power latent in the mercury which sets the driving whirlwind motion, a man sitting inside may travel a great distance in the sky.”

Further it says “The movement of the Vimana are such that it can vertically ascend, vertically descend, and move slanting forwards and backwards. With the help of the machine human beings can fly in the air and heavenly beings can come down to earth”

Very interestingly, ancient scriptures keep reiterating the presence of extra-terrestrials and their visitations.

Other knowledge contained in the book is about sixteen types of heat absorbing metals, seven types of yantras or engines, altitudes at which they work best, fuel for the Vimanas, special type of clothing for the men in the Vimanas, food recommended for long flights.

The equipment on board the Vimanas reveal a civilization which was technically advanced. An equipment called ‘Goodha’ used solar rays to hide the Vimana. The equipment ‘Dhrishya’ used mirrors and lenses to produce a ‘Maya Vimana’ or camouflaged Vimana. The equipment ‘Vimukha’ used a kind of air mechanism to make enemy pilots insensible. An instrument called ‘Roopakarshana’ enabled to see the inside of an enemy Vimana. Seven kinds of mirrors and lenses were installed on the Vimanas. The ‘Pinjula’ mirror protected the person steering the Vimana from being blinded by enemy rays. The ‘Marika’ rays enabled shooting down of enemy Vimanas. (Was it some kind of a laser technology?)

The ‘Stabdhak’ equipment was capable of releasing poison smoke to make people in enemy Vimana unconscious. The ‘Chaapla’ equipment generated atmospheric waves to destabilize enemy Vimana. The ‘Parashabda Graahaka’ was a sound capturing Yantra to hear talks inside enemy Vimana.

Some of the above technologies appear familiar to us, but some are still not within our technological grasp. Many scientists and Indologists have examined the various books connected with Vimanas, and they conclude that these are technologies that belonged to some ancient civilization. A famous Italian Indologist Dr. Roberto Pinotti, opines that Maharishi Bhardwaj “is a man attempting to explain an advanced technology”.

The Ramayana era is famous for the ‘Pushpak Vimana’, which is described elaborately in the Sundarakandam, Book 5, Chapter 4, and Verse 27. The Pushpak Vimana is called ‘Dandu Monara Yanthraya’ in Sinhalese language. The description of the Pushpak Vimana bears a striking resemblance to any modern passenger aircraft. It is described as cylindrical in shape, having lots of windows, and had two levels (double deck?), it rose up with a thunderous noise, could go in any direction, and moved at high speed. When high up in the atmosphere, it appeared like it was suspended in the air.

The Mahabharata era was also familiar with flying vehicles. Reference to flying vehicles occurs in 41 places in the Mahabharata. The aerial warfare directed by King Salva on Lord Krishna’s capital Dwaraka, is one of the important highlights of the epic battle. King Salva acquired the Saubha Vimana from Maya Danava an extraterrestrial who came from a distant cosmic world known as Taltala. This Vimana was considered as invincible and it was always shrouded in darkness, and it could travel anywhere as per the wish. The important feature of this aerial vehicle is “Kaamagam yaanam” which means “Vimana which could travel anywhere as per will”. (Sa labdvaa kaamagam yaanam Tamoo dhaama Duraasadam||
Yayow dwaaravateem Salvoo Vairam vrishni kritam smaran||” [1]
(10.76.8 – Srimad Bhaagavatam 1996: 171))

Other astonishing features about the Saubha are, “The Vimana acquired by King Salva was very mysterious. It was so extraordinary that sometimes many Vimanas would appear in the sky, and sometimes there were apparently none. Sometimes the Vimana was visible and sometimes not visible………..sometimes it was on the ground, sometimes flying in the sky, sometimes resting on the peak of a hill, sometimes floating on the water. The wonderful Vimana flew in the sky like a whirling fire – it was not steady even for a moment”.

The most notable feature is “Kaamagam yaanam” which means “Vimana which could travel anywhere as per the will”, this reminds us of the description of Pushpak Vimana in Ramayana which states “Tat pushpakam kaama gamam vimaanam” [2] (6-121-30 – Valmiki 1970).

This shows that both in Tretha Yuga and Dwapara Yuga there existed Vimanas which could fly based on thought power. This feature of Saubha Vimana can be compared with the concept of “Thought Powered Aircraft” as researched by Professor Bin He’s team from University of Minnesota in the year 2013. (LA fleur 2013). Had our students studied Sanskrit language and these Scriptures, they could have  propounded the concept of ‘thought powered aircraft’, much earlier.

Another very intriguing feature of the Saubha is that the occupants inside the craft were ‘Nivatakavachas’ – meaning they were clad in airtight armour. For any past civilization to speak about ‘air-tight armour’ speaks of a high level of scientific knowledge. It also means that those aliens who came from some distant place in the cosmos, could not adapt to the climatic conditions on Earth, and therefore needed full body armour like our astronauts who go into Space.

The Saubha caused lot of destruction and havoc on the Pandava forces. No weapon of any kind could destroy it and ultimately Lord Sri Krishna had to use the Sudarshan Chakra to destroy it.

Another alien spaceship that is mentioned in the Mahabharata is the ‘Hiranyapura’. The elaborate battle between Arjuna and this craft, reads as follows:

“Eluding Arjuna’s pursuit, the Space-City abandoned its position in outer space and landed on Earth. It then went underwater. Thereafter it went underground. Then as it took off for outer space, Arjuna destroyed it. Debris and bodies fell to the Earth”.

The kind of weaponry used in the Mahabharata war is often compared to modern day nuclear weapons. The Musala Parva Book 8 of the Mahabharata narrates the destruction caused by the Agneya Astra:

“It was as if the elements had been unleashed. The Sun spun around in circles. Scorched by the fearful heat of the weapon, the world reeled…. Water boiled, animals died…..The raging fire made the trees topple…..The corpses of the fallen were so mutilated by the frightful heat that they no longer looked like human beings. Never before have we seen such an awful weapon, and never before had we heard of such a weapon”.

The unknown weapon is radiant lightning, a devastating messenger of death, which turned all to ashes. Their calcined bodies were unrecognizable. Those who escaped lost their nails and hair….In a short time food became poisonous. The lightning subsided and became fine ash.

The above description bears striking resemblance to the descriptions of the destruction caused by the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hence many scientists speculate that there were civilizations in the ancient past, who were familiar with nuclear technology, and by misusing them got exterminated. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, strongly believed that ancient Indians were familiar with nuclear technology. He believed that the deserts of today were the result of nuclear warfare. In a speech at Princeton University, he disclosed that German scientists got the idea of atoms and nuclear energy, from the study of Vedanta! Another Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Brian David Josephson, said that the Vedanta and the Sankhya systems, hold the keys to the laws of mind and thought process, which are co-related to the Quantum Field i.e. the operation and distribution of particles at atomic and molecular levels.

The role of extraterrestrials in the Mahabharata war, and the amazing similarity in the movements of their space vehicles, closely corresponds with that of present day sightings of UFO’s. Hindu Puranas also specify that there are over 400,000 human like beings who are spread out in the vast Universe. NASA’s Kepler Space Mission estimates that in the Milky Way Galaxy alone, there is a possibility of life existing in 500 million planets! The famous Drake Equation, proposed by Frank Drake, Professor of Astronomy at University of California, Santa Cruz, speculates about the possibility of millions of civilizations existing in our Galaxy.

Shivkar Bapuji Talpade (1864-1916)

A reasonable doubt would enter anybody’s mind as to why a Vimana could not be constructed by studying the Vymaanika Shastra’?  This is exactly what a Sanskrit scholar named Shivkar Bapuji Talpade (1864-1916) demonstrated. In 1895, eight years before the Wright Brothers performed their first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA, Talpade built an aircraft by studying the Vymaanika Shastra, and gave a demonstration flight at the Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai. The plane was named “Marut-Sakha” meaning ‘friend of the wind’. It is said that this demonstration was witnessed by Maharaja Sayaji Rao of Baroda, who sponsored the project, and Justice Govind Ranade. The British rulers were alarmed to read reports about this flying machine which attained a height of 1500 feet and thereafter crashed. They compelled the Maharaja to stop funding the project, and later a heart broken Talpade died at the very young age of just 53 years. His relatives sold the remnants to a British firm Rally Brothers, a leading British export firm in Mumbai. Thereafter nothing is known.

It is indeed very demoralizing that this great researcher and innovator is unknown in India. There is not a single university, national institution, engineering college, or airport anywhere in this country named after either Maharishi Bhardwaj or Shivkar Bapuji Talpade. In any other country they would have been national heroes, glorified and honored for their astounding contribution in the development of aviation science. Foreigners are amazed at the scientific erudition embedded in our scriptures. “We catch a glimpse of the great river of science, which never ceases to flow in India”, observes Kakuzo Okakura, a Japanese philosopher.

Writer, Dr. G. Shreekumar Menon IRS (Rtd), former Director General National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes & Narcotics can be contacted at

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