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We did it first

India is not only a homeland for culture and tradition but also for science and technology. Many great sages authored vast literature of which the sage Bharadwaja’s Vaimaanika Shaastra (Ancient Indian Aeronautics) is one of the most renowned and relevant even for the current days. There is mention of the usage of aircraft in the Epics-Ramayana and Mahabharata. According

Indaram Srinivas Rao,
Lecturer in Sanskrit.

to Ramayana, Ravana used pushpakavimaana, which was captured from Kubera. However, Rama took charge of this aircraft, after killing Ravana and used it to reach Ayodhya along with Lakshmana, Seeta and his others. Gayopakhyaana, in Mahabharata, also talks of using aircraft.

Western science estimates the life of this aeronautical science to be of about 5000 years. The Indian scientists and critics have a different opinion about adjudging the number of years. They say that the aircraft was used extensively during Ramayana and Mahabharata time indicating that the aeronautics was a much developed branch by that time. This clearly indicates that the aircraft was developed much before.

Aeronautics or Vaimaanikashastra is a part of Yantra Sarvasva of Bharadwaja. This is also known as Brihadvimaana Shastra.

Vaimaanikashastra deals about aeronautics, including the design of aircraft, the way they can be used for transportation and other applications, in detail. The knowledge of aeronautics is described in sanskrit in 100 sections, eight chapters, 500 principles and 3000 slokas. Great sage Bharadwaja explained the construction of aircraft and way to fly it in air, on land, on water and use the same aircraft like a sub-marine. He also described the construction of war planes and fighter aircraft.

Vaimaanikashastra explains the metals and alloys and other required material, which can be make an aircraft imperishable in any condition.

Bharadwaja, in Brihadvimaana Shastra, mentions Narayanamuni, the author of Vimanachandrika, Shaunaka, the author of Vyomayana Tantra, Garga, the author of Yantra Kalpa, Vachaspati, the author of Yana Vindu, Chaakraayani, the author of Kheta Yaana Pradeepika, Dundi Natha, the author of Vyomayaanarka Prakasha and Lalla, the author of Yantra Kalpataru as the aeronautical scientists of ancient India.

The first principle of Vaimaanikashastra defines an aircraft.

Vegasaamyaat Vimaano Andajaanaam,which means Vimaana is the one which can fly in air like a bird. Subsequent principles explain the requirements for being a Vimaanaadhikari or pilot.

According to Bharadwaja, there are 32 secret techniques to fly an aircraft. They are Maantrika, Taantrika, Kritaka, Antaraala, Gooda, Drishya, Adrishya, Paroksha, Aparoksha, Sankocha, Vistrita, Viroopakarana, Roopantara, Suroopa, Jyotirbhava, Tamomaya, Pralaya, Vimukha, Taara, Mahashabda vimochana, Langhana, Saarpagamana, Chaapala, Sarvatomukha, Parashabda graahaka, Roopaakarshana, Kriyaa rahasya grahana, Dikpradarshana, Aakaashaakara rachana, Jaladaruja, Stabdaka and Karshana.

In jatyadhikarana, which classified aircraft says, Jaatitrividyam Yugabhedath Vimaanaanaam

The aircraft is classified in to three types- Mantrika, Tantrika and Kritaka, to suit different yugas or eras.

In kritayuga, it is said, Dharma was well established. The people of that time had the devinity to reach any place using their Ashtasiddhis.

The aircraft used in Tretayuga are called Mantrikavimana, flown by the power of Hymns(mantras). Twenty-five varieties of aircraft including Pushpakavimana belong to this era.

The aircraft used in Dwaparayuga were called Tantrikavimana, flown by the power of tantras. Fiftysix varieties of aircraft including Bhairava and Nandaka belong to this era.

The aircraft used in Kaliyuga, the on-going yuga, are called Kritakavimana, flown by the power of engines. Twenty-five varieties of aircraft including Shakuna, Sundara and Rukmavimana belong to this era.

According to Bharadwaja, Angaanyekaatrimshat, which means there were thirty one instruments to fly an aircraft, including Vishwakriyaadarpana, to see the surroundings from the aircraft and Shaktyaa karshanadarpana , to absorb Solar energy. Manufacture of different types of instruments and putting them together to form an aircraft are also described.

In Vastraadhikarana, the chapter describing the dress and other wear required while flying, talks in detail about the wear for both the pilot and the passenger separately.

Ahaaraadhikarana is yet another section exclusively dealing with the food habits of a pilot. This has a variety of guidelines for pilots to keep their health through strict diet.

According to the available historical evidences, Shivashankara Bapuji Tatpade designed the first aircraft. He designed an aircraft called Marutsaki in 1895, completely following the Vedic concept and flown it at Chaupati Maidan in Mumbai. Evan Koshtka, a historian, described Tatpade as the first creator of an aircraft in Times Weekly. The chronology clearly says Tatpade developed the aircraft much before Wright brothers could do it.

However, Bharadwaja’s Vaimanikashaastra is not as popular as Vaastu or Ayurveda due to various reasons. Vaimaanikashastra was never considered to be of much use in day to day life during ancient days and experimenting with the concepts was difficult due to the technicality and scientific nature. It was also considered that the Vaimaanikashastra would be misused if it was put to common man’s knowledge. Historians also quote yet another interesting reason of theft of the shaastra during invasions.

Today it is difficult to lay hands on the complete text of Bharadwaja’s work. However, this author could procure a part of the shastra in the form of a book, from which the above material has been summarised.

G R Josyar, director of the International Academy of Sanskrit Research, Mysore brought a part of the Shastra in the form of book. Subbaraya Shastri helped him in propounding the available Shastra to make it more understandable. Every Indian and believer of ancient literature should be thankful to both of them.

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