Select Your Favourite
Category And Start Learning.

Aeronautics in Ancient India (PART 1)

Aeronautics in Ancient India

Synopsis:  There are several references of flying devices in ancient Indian texts. The article explores the “science of aeronautics”, instruments used in those planes and code of conduct prescribed for the pilots.

Per our modern belief, introduction to aviation is credited to the Wright Brother’s.  We are gradually re-discovering the fact that humans had already perfected the concept of ‘flying like a bird’, approximately 7000 years ago.

According to the historians, the world’s first plane was invented by the Hindu sage Maharshi Bharadwaj. The ancient planes were far more advanced with many features that is still beyond our comprehension. They had 40 small engines, a flexible exhaust system that modern aviation  has yet to understand and create.

The Vaimānika Śāstra  “science of aeronautics”, by  is an early 20th-century text in Sanskrit. It mentions that there were Vimāns (aircrafts) in ancient times which were very advanced aerodynamic flying vehicles.

We will be covering a lot of these details in this article. The article is divided into two parts. In the first section we will cover the different types of aircrafts, Instruments used in the aircrafts and a brief look on the codes for the pilots. The second section will cover the Sources of energy used to fuel the aircrafts and the Materials used in these flying machines.


Types of Aircrafts

According to studies by the Indian Institute of Science and Aeronautical Society of India, Vymānika Shāstra (science of aeronautics) is a pioneering work on aircraft and other flying devices. It includes information on the mechanism, detecting and attacking an enemy aircraft, using poisonous gases as aerial weapons and much more.

It also has descriptions of different layers of the atmosphere and use of various energies, including light as weapon, to destroy  enemy planes. The scriptures also mention aerial combat features, evasion tactics, support systems and air defense techniques through enemy detection.

Ancient scholar of aeronautics, Maharshi Bharadwaja has listed different types of aircrafts used in different periods in times

  • The Mantrika type aircraft, had a mixture of physical and the mental powers. These were prevalent during the the Satya Yuga and the Treta Yuga. It has reference to 25 kinds of planes during that period.
  • The Tantrika types of airplanes were used during the Dwaparyug. There were about 56 types of tantrika vimāns (aeroplanes).
  • The Kritika type of machine-driven planes were used during Kaliyug. It describes about 25 different types of these aircrafts. To name a few important ones : Shakun, Rukman, Hunsa, Pushkar, Tripura, etc.

Vālmiki Rāmayana mentions the use of Pushpaka Vimān, while Ṛgveda has no less than 100 – 200 references to airplanes. After a detailed study, it has been concluded that there were at least 8 categories of flying devices in that period :

  • Shaktyudgum  :   This used to run on Electricity
  • Bhōt Vāh  :   This plane used to run on Fire, Water and Air
  • Dhumyān  :   It was fueled by Gas
  • Shikodgum  :   This used Oil or Mercury
  • Ansh Vāh  :   Solar Rays were used to fuel this aircraft
  • Tāra Mukh  :   This used Magnetic power for fuel
  • Mani Vāh  :   This plane used to run on precious stones and jewels
  • Marutsakhā  :   It was fueled by Air

Out of the 56 main types of aircrafts mentioned in the scriptures, the following are the four main ones :

  • Rukman Vimān : It was a cone shaped flying machine, which was golden in color
  • Sundar Vimān : These were Red in color and had the shape of a rocket
  • Tripura Vimān : These aircrafts were built in three tiers
  • Shakun Vimān : These had wings and were shaped like a bird
Rukman Vimān
Sundar Vimān
Tripura Vimān
Shakun Vimān

Instruments Used in the Aircraft

The scriptures describe the exact location of 31 types of instruments in an aircraft.

Viśva kriyā darpaṇa : The movements around the aircraft was visible to the pilot with the use of this instruments. Mica and Mercury were used to build Viśva kriyā darpaṇa.

Śabdākarṣaṇa Yantra :  Any sound within the radius of 26 kilometers were made audible to the pilot by this instrument. It helped the pilot to hear the sound of the birds and avoid mid air crash.

Guhagarbha Yantra : This instrument was used to trace explosives under the ground successfully.

Śaktyākarṣaṇa Yantra

Śaktyākarṣaṇa Yantra : With the help of this instrument, the toxic rays from the environment were collected and converted into safe temperature, which was then released in the environment.

Diśādarśī Yantra : This was a very important navigation tool in the aircrafts.

Vakraprasāraṇa Yantra : This instrument made it possible to reverse the aircraft and fly backwards, if the enemy aircraft suddenly came in front.

Apasmāra Yantra : This was used to release poisonous gases as weapons during warfare.

Tamogarbha Yantra : Any aircraft could be made invisible to enemies through smoke screens, during war with the use of this instrument. The principal material used in this instruments was Tamogarbha Iron.

Code for the Pilots

According to Sage Bharadvāja, only pilot who knows all the 32 points of mechanism and flying is eligible to fly an aeroplane. A person with the knowledge of the construction, take off and landing, flying, stopping, flying in zigzag manner, control the speed and many other skills, is equipped and qualified to fly a aeroplane.   –  Bhā.me. vijñā. ujja. par. Ch.7 p.50

The planes and the pilots were very well equipped and trained as fighter jets and pilots.

There was a rigorous training period for the pilots to be able to use these very advanced machines, skillfully. The above are just a few of the many qualities suggested by sage Bharadvāja to be a qualified pilot.

Vymānika Shāstra  gives a description of the kind of food suitable for a specific season. The airplanes at that time could land anywhere. Hence, if during a war, they had to land in a forest, then the pilots were properly trained on how to survive in different circumstances. A proper description of 100 vegetables on which an individual could survive for 2-3 months is provided in the text.

Check out Aeronautics in Ancient India (PART 2) of the Article

Another significant thing that has been said in the Vymānika Shāstra is that a pilot should not fly a plane on an empty stomach as it affected their memory, concentration and agility.

The second part of the article includes : Sources of energy used to fuel the aircrafts and the Materials used in these flying machines.

Add a public comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *