Why modern scientists shouldn’t dismiss Vedic knowledge of air travel

Why modern scientists shouldn’t dismiss Vedic knowledge of air travel

The claim that ancient Indians had airplanes and that their science is described in Maharshi Bharadvaja’s Vimana Shastra has been refuted many times. Scholars believe that this book is a late 19th century forgery.

The reason why this claim gets published in the Indian press from time to time is due to the workings of Gresham’s law according to which “bad currency drives out good”. Indian universities have generally neglected the study of the history of Indian science, and have ceded this space to amateurs. The lesson to be drawn in such outrageous claims is that major Indian universities should run academic programs in the history of Indian science.

Some argue that study of Indian science is time wasted. This view is wrong for many reasons. Indians did make amazing contributions to mathematics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, and other disciplines, and it is good to know for these contributions are now a part of the world scientific heritage. Indian sciences of the mind may still have lessons for the modern scientist. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Indian tradition is its deep consideration of the problem of consciousness, which for us moderns is the frontier of science.

Indian texts are also impressive for what may be termed the equivalent of science fiction, and in this they are unique in ancient literature. The Mahabharata speaks of an embryo being divided into one hundred parts each becoming, after maturation in a separate pot, a healthy baby; this is how the Kaurava brothers are born. In the story of Balarama, the embryo is transplanted from one womb to another which makes him a brother to Krishna, although he was born to Rohini and not to Devaki.

The Ramayana has its Pushpaka Vimana. The Mahabharata has mention of space travelers wearing airtight suits. According to the well-known Sanskritist JAB van Buitenen, in the accounts in Book 3 called “The Razing of Saubha” and “The War of the Yakshas” (translation published by the University of Chicago Press in 1975):

The aerial city is nothing but an armed camp with flame-throwers and thundering cannon, no doubt a spaceship. The name of the demons is also revealing: they were Nivatakavacas, “clad in airtight armour,” which can hardly be anything but space suits.

In modern science, the idea of exoplanets that can support life is less than 20 years old. But many such worlds are described in the famous episode of Indra and the ants in the Brahmavaivarta Purana. Here Vishnu, in the guise of a boy, explains to Indra that the ants he sees walking on the ground have all been Indras in their own solar systems in different times. These flights of imagination were part of an amazingly sophisticated tradition of cognitive and analytical thought.

The context of modern science fiction books is clear: It is the liberation of the earlier modes of thought by the revolutionary developments of the 20th century science and technology. But how was science fiction – if that is what we choose to call it — integrated into the mainstream Indian literary tradition two thousand years ago? What was the intellectual ferment in which such sophisticated ideas arose?

Have your say. You can comment here.Students of scientific creativity increasingly accept that conceptual advances do not appear in any rational manner. Might then one accept the claim of Srinivasa Ramanujan that his theorems were revealed to him in his dreams by the goddess Namagiri? This claim, so persistently made by Ramanujan, has generally been dismissed by his biographers. Were Ramanujan’s astonishing discoveries instrumented by the autonomously creative potential of consciousness, represented by him by the image of Namagiri?

It is in the study of creativity that Indian science continues to be relevant. If students had access to authoritative narratives of Indian science in the university, they would not pay attention to outlandish claims of ancient flying machines.

~ Subhash Kak, Regents professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Oklahoma State University and a Vedic Scholar.


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7 Responses to "Why modern scientists shouldn’t dismiss Vedic knowledge of air travel"

  1. Simha  June 26, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    I appreciate your article. It is time people take this knowledge seriously and give its due place. I have watched Star Trek series many times. Every time I watch I correlate to some Indian Mythology. It is amazing. Creatures taking any shape, being invisible, existing as pure energy, entering one body to another, bringing back dead to life, transporting one self (de-materializing and materializing), Non organic life forms, time travel… the list goes on & on. Our mythology has every one of these and much more. Assuming that the people who created Star Trek imagined all these based on extrapolation of current Scientific knowledge, would it not be logical to conclude that such knowledge existed thousands of years ago?

  2. charan  June 27, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    And still, we call it as “mythology”, instead of “history”.We never tried to ask right questions about Indian History, forget about answering them.If it is “just a part of poetic imagination”, then why did Valmiki—a noble soul with genuine thoughts–write about it? If it is just a “myth”, then why did we remember it for say, at least ,10000 years—remember, many so-called mythologies across all the cultures have been built for community-building purposes,but almost all of them have been forgotten; then, why did we remember, and have the memory in the most intact form, till today, even though we consider it as “mythological epic” ? Or have the modern human beings lost their brains completely, to understand “what really happened” ?
    Just look at how so many of the so-called Scientists and “intellectuals”(is there any value for this term ?) have reacted to that (not so unfortunate) event of Indian Science Congress, 2015; is there really any space for truth today, forget from the region and culture it is coming from ?

  3. Govindan  June 28, 2015 at 6:23 am

    Nobody knows what are the valuable records we lost at Taxila and Nalanda universities. More over whatever is left over has been taken away by British. Industrial revolution started in Briton after the occupation of India.So there is every possibility that they got the ideas from India

  4. Yma Sumac  July 6, 2015 at 7:31 am

    From the time I was introduced to the Mahabharata and the Upanishads (in English translation) I could discern that it was actual history. I was only 16, but had also been meditating formally for over two years. Though I do not consider myself a Vedantist in the religious sense, I am an ardent supporter for the exploration of all the ancient texts as history. I consider most mythology /anywhere/ to be historical in nature, but none so clearly and cleanly written as the Sanskrit. Forty years later, I remain convinced, and I have a pair of social science degrees (geography and anthropology) and one in English as well for support of my critical thinking regarding this matter. Thank you for a too brief but wonderful article 🙂 I will share this with friends.

  5. Aadhya Iyer  January 14, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Modern science is limited to its knowledge and it would take thousands of years to reach where Vedic science had reached years back. Vedic science has got the answer to all our mysteries unsolved and I would love to explore them. Thank you for this article as it supports my belief about ancient culture and knowledge on which my friends do not agree. I got to show it to them 🙂

  6. Marc  March 26, 2016 at 9:08 am

    From the very start, India, as well as Europe, were both probably influenced by Races and Cultures from outer Space. It would explain an IMMENSE NUMBER of “enigmas” and “mysteries”, concerning Indo-European Myths and Legends, and about our most distant Past and origins!… UFOs are almost certainly the same as ancient Vimanas!

  7. T  April 23, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    There is evidence of such a time of existence all over the world. Even the Australian aboriginal ‘dreamtime’ stories tell us that their ancestors were delivered from the stars upon a big silver bird, that landed on a plataeu in the Northern Territory.


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