Flights of fancy? (Part X of XII)

Publication: The Week
Date: June 24, 2001

In the early 70s, G.R. Josyer of the International Academy of Sanskrit in Mysore brought out the English translation of a Sanskrit work, Vymanika Shastra. It describes different types of aircraft with drawings, metals used for their production, mirrors and their use in wars and varieties of machines and yantras.

The book was supposed to be only a fortieth of the Yantra Sarwasa by Sage Bharadwaja. A Hindi translation of the book titled Brihad Vimana Shastra by Shri Brahmamuni Parivrajaka was published earlier in 1959. This, however, did not have mechanical drawings.

Brihad Vimana Shastra was written on the basis of two manuscripts-one at Rajakiya Sanskrit Library, Baroda, in 1944 and another with a signature of Go Venkatachala Sharma with dates 19.8. 1919 and 3.6. 1919 inscribed on it.

Josyer, in his introduction to Vymanika Shastra, states that Pandit Subbaraya Shastry of Anekal dictated the verses to G.V. Sharma. Shastry apparently was endowed with mystical powers. An Air Commodore called Goel procured the manuscript for the Baroda University Library in 1944 and it was featured at an exhibition of rare manuscripts in Mysore in 1951. Josyer bought it and brought out a translation. He mentioned in his introduction that the work was several thousand years old.

Prof. H.S. Mukunda and his team from the departments of aeronautical and mechanical engineering of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore traced Shastry's adopted son. They learnt that Shastry had also written his autobiography, apparently inspired by the famous scientist J.C. Bose.

Shastry's early life was full of misery. He was born in Hosur and having lost his parents, he had to take care of his siblings. Circumstances forced them apart and a fatal illness almost crippled him. Starvation drove him to Kolar, where a great saint cured him of his illness. Initiating him to spirituality, the saint revealed to him the secrets of shastras like Vimana Shastra, Bhautik Kala Nidhi and Jala Tantra.

Shastry made several trips to Mumbai and dictated many parts of Vimana Sastra there. He got the drawings of the aircraft made by a draughtsman called Ellappa between 1900 and 1919. Shastry, who had no formal schooling, learnt to read and write Telugu and Kannada only after meeting his guru.

Mukunda and team, who published their report in 1974, found that the author showed a complete lack of understanding of the dynamics of flight. The aircraft were poor concoctions rather than expressions of anything real.

The drawings of Shakuna Vimana, in the shape of a bird, show parts like a cylinder, piston worm gear and pumps which seem entirely beyond the 18th century. As for the function of the wings and tail, the Sanskrit text gives great importance to the tail portion for the generation of lift whereas it is the wings that contribute to the lift and the tail to its controllability.

The Sundar Vimana, described in detail, has no basic principles of operation mentioned. And whatever has been inferred from the drawings and the descriptions of the machinery defies the laws of Newton.

The Rukma Vimana was the only one which made sense. It had long vertical ducts with fans on the top to suck air from the top and send it down the ducts, generating a lift in the process. The Tripura Vimana is supposed to fly in air and move over water and land. When moving over water the wheels are to be retracted.

The scientists concluded that none of the planes had properties or capabilities of being flown.

Back                          Top

This site is part of Dharma Universe LLC websites.
Copyrighted 2009-2011, Dharma Universe.