Posted by Roger Mallett Posted on 13 June 2020

VIMANA: The Ancient Indian Aerospace Craft

EARLY MATHEMATICAL CONCEPTS

India is known to have given to the world most major concepts of mathematics, some as far back as 1200 BC. Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, and Bhaskara were famous mathematicians of the period 400 to 1200 AD. The concept of zero, the decimal system, negative numbers, arithmetic and algebra were Indian contributions. Trigonometric functions sine and cosine were added by ancient Indians. Even practical mathematics covering measures of length, proportions, ratios, weights, geometric shapes were also evolved. Large numbers from 100 to a trillion were in use in Vedic period. For construction those days Pythagorean Theorem and geometric area equivalence were used. India is estimated to have about thirty million manuscripts dating back to 700 BC. The knowledge of Mathematics was germane to scientific research.

THE ANCIENT REFERENCES

The Sanskrit word ‘Vimana’ (meaning a part that has been measured and set aside) first appeared in Vedas with several meanings ranging from temple or palace to mythological flying machine. References to these flying machines were common in ancient Indian texts, even describing their use in warfare, and being able to fly within Earth’s atmosphere. Vimanas were also said to be able to travel into space and under water. The Sun and Indra and several other Vedic deities were transported by flying wheeled chariots pulled by animals, usually horses, but others like the “agnihotra-vimana” (Agni means fire) with two engines and the “gaja-vimana” (Elephant powered) were known. Rigveda also talks of “mechanical birds”. Later texts around 500 BC talk of self-moving aerial car without animals. In some modern Indian languages, the word vimana means aircraft.

As per Ramayana Pushpaka (the flowery Chariot) was originally made by Vishwakarma for Brahma the Hindu god of creation. Brahma gifted it to Kubera, the God of wealth, but was stolen, along with Lanka, by his half-brother, the demon king Ravana. It reportedly resembled the sun, and could go everywhere at will. There are mentions of Lord Rama using it, and under the command of Raghira (Captain), the chariot reportedly rose up into the higher atmosphere. This celestial self-propelled car was large, had two stories and many chambers with windows, and was draped with flags and banners.

By the time of the Mahabharata (400 BC), these flying chariots had grown in size but they never lost the large wheels. Mahabharata mentions the genius Yavanas as creator (Chief Designer) of a finite dimensioned Vimana with four solid wheels owned by Asura Maya. Jain literature talks of the various Tirthamkaras flying different types of flying machines. Starting from the 4th tirthamkara travelling in Jayanta Vimana, to the very famous 24 th Tirthamkara Mahavira emerging out of a great Vimana Pushpa-uttara.

RECENT STUDIES

Mr. G. R. Josyer, former Director of the International Academy of Sanskrit Research in Mysore, claimed that the Academy had collected manuscripts that were compiled by ancient rishis thousands of years ago. One manuscript dealt with Aeronautics, construction of various types of aircraft for civil aviation and for warfare. Designs and drawing of a helicopter-type cargo plane, specially meant for carrying combustibles and ammunition, and a double and treble-decked passenger aircraft carrying 400 to 500 persons were recorded.

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