Vimanas, Indian Flying Machines

Nearly every Hindu and Buddhist in the world – hundreds of millions of people has heard of the ancient flying machines referred to in the Ramayana and other texts as vimanas.

Vimanas are mentioned even today in standard Indian literature and media reports. An article called “Flight Path” by the Indian journalist Mukul Sharma appeared in the major newspaper The Times of India on April 8, 1999 which talked about vimanas and ancient warfare: according to some interpretations of surviving texts, India’s future it seems happened way back in the past. Take the case of the Yantra Sarvasva, said to have been written by the sage Maharshi Bhardwaj.

This consists of as many as 40 sections of which one, the Vaimanika Prakarana dealing with aeronautics, has 8 chapters, a hundred topics and 500 sutras.

In it Bhardwaj describes vimana, or aerial aircrafts, as being of three classes:

1. those that travel from place to place;

2. those that travel from one country to another;

3. those that travel between planets.

For instance, they had to be:

Impregnable, unbreakable, non-combustible and indestructible capable of coming to a dead stop in the twinkling of an eye; invisible to enemies; capable of listening to the conversations and sounds in hostile planes; technically proficient to see and record things, persons, incidents and situations going on inside enemy planes; know at every stage the direction of the movement of other aircraft in the vicinity; capable of rendering the enemy crew into a state of suspended animation, intellectual torpor or complete loss of consciousness; capable of destruction; manned by pilots and co-travelers who could adapt in accordance with the climate in which they moved; temperature regulated inside; constructed of very light and heat absorbing metals; provided with mechanisms that could enlarge or reduce images and enhance or diminish sounds.

Aerial battles and chases are common in ancient Hindu literature. What did these airships look like? The ancient Mahabharata speaks of a vimana as “an aerial chariot with the sides of iron and clad with wings.”

The Ramayana describes a vimana as a double-deck, circular (cylindrical) aircraft with portholes and a dome. It flew with the “speed of the wind”, and gave forth a “melodious sound” The ancient Indians themselves wrote entire flight manuals on the care and control of various types of vimanas. The Samara Sutradhara is a scientific treatises dealing with every possible facet of air travel in a vimana. There are 230 stanzas dealing with construction, take-off, cruising for thousands of miles, normal and forced landings, and even possible collusions with birds!

In 1875, the Vymaanika-Shaastra, a fourth century BC text written by Maharshi Bhardwaj, was discovered in a temple in India. The book dealt with the operation of ancient vimanas and included information on steering, precautions for long flights, protection of the airships from storms and lightning, and how to switch the drive to solar energy, or some other “free energy” source, possibly some sort of “gravity drive.”

The ancient Indian epics go into considerable detail about aerial warfare over 10,000 years ago.

So much detail that a famous Oxford professor included a chapter on the subject in a book on ancient warfare!. According to the Sanskrit scholar V.R.Ramachandran Dikshitar, the Oxford Professor who wrote “War in Ancient India in 1944 “,  no question can be more interesting in the present circumstances of the world than India’s contribution to the science of aeronautics. There are numerous illustrations in our vast Puranic and epic literature to show how well and wonderfully the ancient Indians conquered the air.

The description of these machines in old Indian texts are amazingly precise.

There were 113 subdivisions of these four main types that differed only in minor details. The position and functioning of the solar energy collectors are described in the Vaimanika Shastra. It says that eight tubes had to be made of special glass absorbing the sun’s ray. A whole series of details are listed, some of which we do not understand. The Amaranganasutradhara even explains the drive, the controls and the fuel for the flying machine. It says that quicksilver and ‘Rasa’ were used. Unfortunately we do not yet know what “Rasa’ was.

Ten sections deal with uncannily topical themes such as pilot training, flight paths, the individual parts of flying machines, as well as clothing for pilots and passengers, and the food recommended for long flights.

There was much technical detail: the metals used, heat-absorbing metals and their melting point, the propulsion units and various types of flying machines. The information about metals used in construction name three sorts, somala, soundaalika and mourthwika. If they were mixed in the right proportions, the result was 16 kinds of heat-absorbing metals with names like ushnambhara, ushnapaa, raajaamlatrit, etc. which cannot be translated into English.

The texts also explained how to clean metals, the acids such as lemon or apple to be used and the correct mixture, the right oils to work with and the correct temperature for them. Seven types of engine are described with the special functions for which they are suited and the altitudes at which they work best.

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