Saturday, April 11, 2015

War of the Worlds

It has been a long time coming for a new post and I apologize for my absence caused by the severe diversion of all my free time towards the book I was working on which is finally out in the market. However, now that things have settled down a little, I did manage to come up with a new post on a hitherto untouched topic and am more than glad to share it with you :)

My effort in the blog has always been to pick up a new topic in every post and try to relate it with a different branch of science and this time we would talk about the Art of Warfare. Mythological tales especially in India, have immense importance, so much so, that they still continue to shape and reshape values that we hold dear. For precisely this reason, the clash between forces of good and evil that forms such an important part of mythology, also offers the opportunity for an interesting scientific analysis.

With numerous gods, anti-gods, heroes and anti-heroes, the scriptures are full of epic battles of massive proportions. These could be in the form of younger gods replacing the older decadent ones viz Titanomachy between Greek Olympians and Titans or may take the form of a clash between two civilizations such as the Deva-Asura conflicts mentioned in the Vedas. Sometimes, members of the same family might indulge in a battle of supremacy such as the fraternal rivalry between Pandavs and Kauravs of the Mahabharat and the Theomachy among the Olympians. 

Titanomachy and Mahabharat
 {Image courtesy - Gods of war}
{Image courtesy - 18 Days}

Since these wars involve beings with superhuman powers, they also speak of weapons with unparalleled potential to cause devastation. The descriptions of celestial weapons that can crack thunder and consume entire cities with their power, bring to mind modern weapons of mass destruction or WMDs. It comes as no surprise that Robert J. Oppenheimer, the father of the Atomic bomb, thought of the now famous quote from the Bhagavad Geeta on witnessing its first successful detonation - kālo'smi lokakṣayakṛtpravṛddho lokānsamāhartumiha pravṛttaḥ  [B.G. XI, 32]





According to ancient Hindu scriptures, it is indeed the greatest Kshatriya desire to possess a magical weapon of the gods and it was considered feasible as well since the gods themselves were willing to support one side or the other most of the times. Warriors would undertake pilgrimages and perform strict penance to fulfill this desire and Arjun, the hero of Mahabharat does much the same.



Divya Astras in Mahabharat

When the Pandavs are thrown out of their kingdom through cheating in the game of dice, Rishi Ved Vyas advises Arjun to utilize this time and procure Divine WMDs from the gods for they would surely need them at the end of the exile. 

Accordingly, Arjun walks away from the group reaching Indrakeel (modern day Sikkim) and manages to please Lord Shiv gaining access to his fabled Pashupat Astra followed by the weapons of Ashta-digpals or guardian gods. The entire episode is mentioned in Vanaparva as the Kirātār­junīyam episode of the third book and you can read the details here: {http://sacred-texts.com/hin/m03/m03038.htm}

In Mahabharat 5.166, Pitamah Bhishma describes to Duryodhan the might of Arjun and enumerates the weapons he has gained access to –

‘Arjuna’s again, is that celestial bow called Gandiv, he owneth those steeds fleet as the wind; his coat of mail is impenetrable and of celestial make; his two large quivers are inexhaustible; his arms have been obtained from the great Indra, Rudra, Kuver, Yama and Varun; and upon his car, again, are those maces of frightful mien, and diverse other great weapons having the thunderbolt amongst them!’

Pitamah Bhishma announces the beginning of Mahabharat
{Image courtesy - 18 Days}

Anyone who has read or watched the Mahabharat on television would remember the power of Arjun’s legendary bow Gandiv. Arjun faced and defeated huge number of enemies alone with it and even dared to face Lord Shiv in a case of mistaken identity that I would share later. But was this precious Gandiv just a bow or something more advanced?

Book 9 Section 16 also mentions another weapon in possession of the eldest Pandav –

‘King Yudhishthir the just, took up a dart whose handle was adorned with gold and gems and whose effulgence was as bright as that of gold. The illustrious chief of the Kurus then hurled with great force at the king of Madra that blazing dart of beautiful and fierce handle and effulgent with gems and corals. All the Kauravs beheld that blazing dart emitting sparks of fire as it coursed through the welkin after having been hurled with great force, even like a large meteor falling from the skies at the end of the Yuga.

So what do we make of this? Poetic license or ancient science-fiction or maybe... just maybe... pointer to a scientifically more advanced civilization?


Divya Astras in Ramayan

Valmiki Ramayan contains what is perhaps the oldest description of Divya Astras in world mythology. When Brahma-rishi Vishwamitra takes the young princes of Ayodhya to the jungle to help him get rid of the Asuras disturbing his penance, he shares his own knowledge of Divine weapons with the two sons of King Dashrath that help them destroy many demons in their sojourn. I myself have used this description in Adhyaye 19 of my book (available here - Vishwamitra) where the king receives Divine Weapons from the gods.




It was actually in the course of researching for my book that I came across these descriptions and thought of putting them down in a detailed article. These include weapons such as the Narayan-Astra, Agneyastra, Brahmashira, Vayavastra, Tejprabha, Shishira, Shiteshu, Varshana etc. that were variously capable of setting inexhaustible fire to everything, reducing cities to rubble, creating cyclones, freezing the enemy, drowning it in torrential rain and other such calamities. Shri Raam ultimately applies this knowledge learnt from Vishwamitra to get rid of the demon Ravan.


Shri Raam destroys the arrogant Ravan using Divya Astras


While Chapter 27 of the Baal Kand lists out these missiles while the next one gives an account of some counter-attack missiles, called Upasamhara astras that could nullify the enemy’s missiles much like our very own Prithvi and Ashwin that are a part of the Indian Ballistic Missile Defense System

Even though there is a mention of many such weapons in mythology, what is lacking in the descriptions is objective precision since these are, by definition, weapons of a bygone era. Yet, just picturing these with our own modest knowledge of science today, can help understand them better and perhaps even inspire the invention of ultra-modern weaponry. Let us delve deeper into this world of ancient weaponry and get introduced to some fascinating designs of primordial artillery. 



Some popular Divya Astras

Let us see how some of these celestial weapons could look if we compare it with today’s technology:

1.    Agneyastra – set fire to everything in front of it. Perhaps the simplest of the celestial weapons that contained the essence of the Fire-god and could set fire to the target immediately; could be similar to current gun-powder based artillery which may be as powerful as the bazookas of today.

2.   Varunastra – counters the Agneyastra and releases torrential rains hence could be used in two ways – one, to drown the enemy army and second, to extinguish the wide fires set alight by Agneyastra. Sounds somewhat similar to artificial rain-creation methods or cloud-seeding done in drought situations which is done using planes or ground generators.




The most common chemicals used for cloud seeding include silver iodide, potassium iodide and dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) and it is most likely that this particular Astra used some such material to induce rains though it has to be shot to a high level using rockets and has been done by many countries including China, US and UAENeedless to say, this weapon would not be a simple arrow but a massive rocket or ion launcher that could do the job effectively and am sharing the image of a Chinese cloud-splitter to give the idea.






3. Vayu-Astra – Harnessing the power of wind, it would bring about a gale capable of lifting armies off the ground. This would have to be something similar to our storm-troopers above. Most of us know that tornadoes are unpredictable, uncontrollable, and dangerous but what if we could actually generate one at will?





Scientists believe we can harness a lot of electricity from such artificially generated storms and turn it into an alternative source of power for our planet and a Canadian electrical engineer Louis Michaud, is developing what he has branded the Atmospheric Vortex Engine (AVE), that promises to be literally a tornado in a bottle with the top uncorked.

Michaud has built a prototype of what he calls a vortex engine--a plywood contraption just 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide that is capable of whipping up tiny vortexes and scaled up versions of these would enable creation of bigger tornadoes! {http://www.21stcentech.com/energy-update-artificial-tornado-to-generate-electricity/}

4. Parvatastra - Would cause a Parvata/mountain to fall on the target from the skies which sound so sci-fi that just reading the description makes me think of movies like Armageddon! I assume such a weapon would cause a rain of meteors or asteroids or remotely triggering an object stationed high in the atmosphere (not necessarily a satellite) to drop heavy duty load on the head of the enemy. Man I could use some of this stuff on certain people I know ;o)

5. Manavastra – The weapon created by Manu, the first man which could overcome supernatural protections and carry the target hundreds of miles away. It was used by Shri Raam with the help of Brahma-rishi Vishwamitra to tackle Ravan’s uncle Mareech who was thrown thousands of kilometres away into the sea like a projectile.

The Shaurya missile we have today is a canister launched surface-to-surface ballistic missile used by the Indian Army. Capable of hypersonic speeds, it has a range of 600 km and is capable of carrying a payload of one-tonne conventional or nuclear warhead and I assume that would be somewhat equivalent to the weight of a giant Asura! The Agni Missiles can also do the job quite well and take the target further ahead and I am sharing the range of different versions here.




Sadly none of the modern weapons possess the ability to keep the target alive since they focus more on destroying rather than preserving - says something about the current state of Manavta or Humanity!

6. Naagastra/Naagpash – binds the victim like a serpent and releases slow poison into his system. I don’t see any modern weapon of combat come close to this ingenious device for it immobilizes the quarry and makes them sitting ducks while you go about having your way with them! It was used in the Mahabharat by Arjun to bind an entire division of Kaurav army to disastrous effects and even used by Ravan’s son Meghnaad to bind Shri Raam and Lakshman.




7. Garudastra – counter to the Naag pash and could dissolve or release the bonds. It was probably named so because of the historical enmity that Garud, the avian vehicle of Lord Vishnu had with the serpents whose mother Kadru had enslaved his mother Vinta. But that’s a story for another time! 

8. Vajra – Equivalent to Thor’s hammer or Zeus’ thunderbolt, it is one of the most powerful weapons known to the demigods. Made of Rishi Dadhichi’s bones and shaped like a double ended mace, it was supposed to have been made by the divine architect Tvaṣṭar or Vishwakarma for Indra to fight the dragon Vṛitra.

Indra riding the Airavat with Vajra in his right hand

Closeup of the Vajra


Thunder and lightning may occur without rain, but they never occur without each other and significantly both of them are associated with Indra. Scientifically, a Van De Graaf generator is capable of generating up to two million volts of potential between two metal spheres. This results in an arc up to about 15 feet long between the two spheres. Such a generator is on display at the Museum of Science in Boston. Check this image out and you will see why a Vajra is described as a club!

Van de Graaf lightning generator


That the modern scientific instrument to create lightning bolts is also shaped like a club or rather two clubs, I am inclined to believe that the description of Vajra in Hindu scriptures could be more accurate than the zigzag bolts of lightning shown in the hands of Zeus!

9. Vasavi Shakti – Infallible dart of Indra that once fired would come back only after seeking its target sort of like a laser-guided missile but the flip side was that it could be used only once. The same was used by Karna to dispose of Ghatotkach in the battle of Mahabharat.


{Image courtesy - 18 Days}

Supposed to be shaped like a spear or javelin, it resounds very well with the modern weapons of similar nature. Even the Indian Army uses the indigenously developed Sudarshan laser-guided bomb today.




10. Paashupat Astra – is the much-guarded favorite weapon of Shiva which could destroy target completely, irrespective of target's nature. It had to be obtained from Shiva directly. Infallible, though can be nullified only by any other astra of Lord Shiva or by an astra of Lord Vishnu.

In Mahabharat 3.41.7–10, Arjun requests Shiva to grant him the weapon thus –

“O illustrious god having the bull for thy sign, if thou wilt grant me my desire, I ask of thee,  lord that fierce celestial weapon wielded by thee – that weapon of terrible prowess which destroyeth, at the end of the Yuga the entire universe – that weapon by the help of which, O god of gods, I may under thy grace, obtain victory in the terrible conflict which shall take place – that weapon by which I may consume in battle Danavs and Rakshasas and evil spirits and Pishachs and Gandharvs and Naags – that weapon which when hurled with Mantras produceth darts by thousands and fierce-looking maces and arrows like snakes of virulent poison.”

From the above fragment it is evident that Pāśupat is not an ordinary weapon, but one that could cause catastrophic effects much like the planet killer Death Star from Star Wars or the Tessaract or Cube from Comic lore. Scientifically, I would assume it corresponds to a Hydrogen  bomb which is perfectly capable of destroying a fairly large chunk of area!

The U.S. tested a Hydrogen bomb on November 1st, 1952 in the Bikini Atoll and all people had to be evacuated 40 miles away. The explosion produced an equivalent of 10.4 million tons of TNT, vaporized the island of Elugelab and a .5 mile deep crater which was 2 miles wide was left in its' place!



11. Narayan Astra – This astra fires a powerful tirade of millions of deadly missiles simultaneously and the intensity of the shower increases with resistance. It is considered one of the most dangerous weapons of Mahabharat and was used by Ashwatthama to wipe out an entire section of Pandav Army when he learn that his father Dronacharya had been killed by Dhristadyumna [Narayanastramokshaparvan MBh.7.166.44]. 

It is said that the Eleven Rudras (gods of destruction) appear when this weapon is launched implying that it wreaks havoc on the enemy and is most likely to be a thermonuclear weapon. In the Bhagvat Puraan it is mentioned that Dhruv Maharaj had used it against the Yakshas who had killed his brother and the astra multiplied from 1 to 2 to 4 to 8 to 16 etc just like a nuclear fission reaction!





Pandavs were able to withstand it only because of the presence of Krishna who Himself is a Vishnu Tattva.

12. Brahmastra – One of the most potent Divine WMDs that could also counter most other astras. In the Mahabharat, it is said that the weapon manifest with the single head of Lord Brahma as its tip and is the only weapon capable of piercing the Brahma Kavach (invincible armour of Lord Brahma) which suggests that even the strongest of defenses could be breached by this particular missile!

In Ramayan, Atikaya, one of Ravan's sons possessed the invincible armour of Lord Brahma that could only be pierced by a Brahmastra and hence was killed by Lakshman using the same. It is said that when a Brahmastra is discharged, there is neither a counter attack nor a defense that may stop it and it is believed that this missile never misses its mark and must be used with very specific intent since the target will face definite and complete annihilation!


{Image courtesy - 18 Days}

Valmiki has described the strong vibration created from the tightened string tied to the bow of Ram, causing great fear and disturbance among living and non livings, in these words: 

‘When Ram could not find any means to make a path through the ocean to reach to Lanka with his whole army, he decided to do so by drying the ocean. In order to do this ‘he fixed Brahmadand charged with Brahmastra on the string of his great bow and stretched it with full force for its final operation. This created so much fear all over that heaven and earth started shaking with its mountains and rivers. Lakes and rivers agitated. Sun and moon changed their way. The ocean, with the mass of its water and waves surged beyond its confines to the extent of about eight miles. Finally on the request of the ocean he turned the direction of his arrow and released it, causing a huge part of ocean turned into a desert.’

If this isn't the classic description of the power of an Atomic weapon I don't know what is!
{Image courtesy - Ramayana 3392 A.D.}


13. Brahmashira - It is thought that the Brahmashira is the evolution of the Brahmastra and is 4 times stronger than Brahmastra. Consequently, it manifests with the four heads of Lord Brahma as its tip. Brahmaśiras and Brahmāstra were both given to Agastya by Lord Shiv. Later Agastya gave it to Agnivesh who passed it to Droṇacharya who finally handed it to Arjun and his own son Ashvatthama instructing them about its use (MBh 1.128.18).


Both Brahmastra and Brhamshira contain the essence of Brahma





You got missiles, but how do you launch them?

Now that we have seen some of the missiles, let us also look at some of their launching technologies.

Pinaka/Pinaak – Also called as Shiva Dhanush, was the bow of Lord Shiva, which he used to launch all these missiles and killed countless Asuras in battle. The same had been passed down to King Janak, the father of Devi Sita, and was later broken by Lord Ram in her Swayamvar.

Could any bow in reality be that heavy that it would require 5000 able-bodied men to move it from its place as described in the Ramayan that too on an eight-wheeled carriage? {http://www.valmikiramayan.net/bala/sarga67/bala_67_prose.htm}. Isn't it more likely that it was a mobile weapon-launcher for many of these missiles we have read about above?

Not surprisingly, in today’s day, our naval forces use the term Dhanush to denote a system consisting of a stabilization platform (Bow) and the Missile (Arrow). It is intended for the Indian Navy, to be fired from ships against other ships or land targets and can fire modified versions of Prithvi-II or Prithvi-III.


{Image courtesy - 18 Days}


Vijaya - was another bow of Lord Shiv and scriptures say that its string could not be broken by any kind of astra (weapon) or divya astra (divine weapon) probably implying that it was well-armored and it was supposed to be so heavy that a normal person in any yuga cannot not lift it. It was passed on from Lord Shiv to Parshuraam and from him to Karna who used it to counter Arjun’s Gandiv in the Mahabharat War. Every time an arrow is released from this bow, it created a terrible twang, which is said to be loud as thunder causing terrible fear in enemies and produced flashes of light as brilliant as lightning, which blinded the enemy. 

If this is not the description of a rocket or missile launcher pray tell me what it is!!


Gandiv – The most famous bow of Mahabharat is actually extra-terrestrial in origin! The scripture mentions that in olden times Brahma carried it for one thousand years and then for five hundred and thee years it was with Prajapati. Indra kept it for eighty-five years, and after him it was with the moon-god Chandra for five hundred years. Lord-of-water, Varun carried it for one hundred years before he gifted it to Arjun on Agni’s recommendation.

It was coupled with two quivers that would never get empty and according to Mahabharat, Viraatparva: Chapter 43, Verse 5-6 it also needed special chariot to carry in the war- field which had also been gifted by the benevolent demigod. Needless to say the descriptions turn more and more towards a specialized missile launcher than a simple wooden longbow!



What is most interesting is that just like modern nuclear weaponry, each of these required a specific code for activation in the form of a Mantra! Each weapon was used with its specific mantra which in turn had a definite set of frequencies for recitation that produced the intended effect. Those mantras were never written for the sake that they never get into wrong hands. The mantras were just passed on orally from a teacher to a student. 




Activation Codes for Divine WMDs

So it was a culmination of the mental powers along with the art of Spiritual warfare that decided who would be the winner in the end. Jarrod Whitaker in his paper titled Divine Weapons and Tejas in the Two Indian Epics (Indo-Iranian Journal 43: 87–113, 2000) talks about the differences between Mahatejas and Alpatejas vs. Brahmatejas against Kshatriyatejas each being different spiritual advancement levels of an individual but we wont get into its details here. 

What we should remember though is that the person endowed with the responsibility of bearing these weapons had an obligation NOT to use them indiscriminately and was required to remember both the Activation as well as Deactivation codes for these otherwise the entire creation could be in jeopardy. A paper titled ‘The glimpses of chemistry and technology in Vedic literature’ was presented in the National Conference on Emerging trends in Nuclear and Chemical technology in 2012 by Mr K.V. Murali Krishna, chemistry lecturer at Silver Jubilee Govt. College, Kurnool in which he mentions -

“Though it is evident that a knowledge in nuclear science existed in ancient India, people should also realise that their use was bound by high values of ethics. (It) calls for only ‘favourable’ and ‘protectional’ use of such extreme energy,” [Source - Deccan Chronicle, April 4, 2012]

This point is abundantly evident from the tale of Ashwatthama, the son of Dronacharya who had hurled the Brahmashira at the unborn fetus in the womb of Abhimanyu’s widow. He was unable to recall the weapon once it was discharged and it could ultimately be stopped only by the intervention of Krishna who cursed him for this reckless act to wander on the earth for all eternity covered in boils and sores.




This incident from an ancient epic, shows that even for those bygone generations, these weapons were not meant to be used lightly - a lesson our modern day decision makers would do well to remember!! Hope you liked my latest offering covering yet another aspect of mythology from a scientific perspective and let us hope that drawing from the vast mythologies of the world, contemporary scientists find inspiration not only for the conduct, purpose, and carriage of their wars but also the quest for peace. 


Aum Shanti: Shanti: Shanti:
..
.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Vishwamitra - The Man who dared to challenge the Gods!

Alright so a lot of people have been asking why I haven't been active on the blog since more than a year and I am glad to say that finally I can share the answer with you guys!! As you might know I have a full-time job and whatever spare time I got was being used for my book which is coming out by the end of this month!

So I thank all of you who have been posting comments and sharing ideas all this while and I have made sure I replied to your comments and suggestions even if I couldn't devote enough time for a new article! Here's the cover of my soon-to-be-launched book which is a fictional account of the story of Brahmarishi Vishwamitra.





For any writer, his first book holds special value since it is as much a labor of love and sweat as an exercise in discovering one’s own latent potential and this book is my labor of love and sweat in more ways than one.

Vishwamitra isn’t a religious book, nor a book on spirituality. It’s neither completely fiction nor entirely based on reality. Yet, it holds an important message, for it is the life story of an ordinary human who rose above the confines of his physical and mental boundaries to fight fate and take charge of his own destiny.

Unlike the Devas, Gandharvas, Vidyadhars, Siddhas, Arihants, Bodhisattvas and other assorted divine beings from our scriptures, we, the ordinary Manavs (the Sanskrit term for Man) are considered to have limited capabilities. Yet, we see people in a variety of disciplines seeking to breach that barrier every day. These are the people who challenge the norms set by the society and set new milestones for the rest of mankind. This story is an ode to one such man.

Vishwamitra’s life is the perfect example of how far a man can go in order to obtain what he truly desires. Many may know of him as one of the greatest rishis of Vedic times and some may even remember the role he plays in the Ramayan. But even those who are familiar with his name may not know that Vishwamitra was born a prince and became a Brahmarishi purely by virtue of his own efforts. You may be further surprised to know that he is also the discoverer of the Gayatri Mantra, the most popular hymn chanted by millions of Hindus all over the globe every day.






Born into a Kshatriya family, divine providence blessed him with a potent spiritual streak that fuelled his quest to become the highest of the high priests of ancient India. History identifies him as the only Kshatriya king to have achieved the impossible task of becoming a Brahmarishi and recognizes him as the human architect of no less than a star system!

This book is a chronicle of the trials and tribulations faced by a man torn between duty and desire, and the vicissitudes and failings of human condition. Yet, at its heart, it is a story of HOPE - hope that makes a human being challenge his destiny with random acts of free will; hope that makes a king leave all his possessions and turn into a hermit; hope that fuels the desire for being remembered in spirit, even after the body has perished in dust.

This, thus, is the narrative of a brave king of Aryavarta, who not only attained fame through his military conquests but, through his intense spiritual quest, also became one of the most well-known sages of all time. It is the story of a man who dared to challenge the gods.

I also hope to bring more such hidden stories from our mythologies to my dedicated audience and I sincerely HOPE you guys like the book! Sharing the flipkart and amazon links for your convenience:





May Brahma-rishi Vishwamitra's blessings be with us all!


Aum Shanti: Shanti: Shanti:



Saturday, June 1, 2013

U.F.Os and Vimanas

O Rama of unequaled prowess,
This aerial car shining like the sun, 
Moves as one pleases, wonderful and excellent;
This Pushpak of Kuber, robbed by Ravan in battle,
Is retained here for your sake;
The yonder aerial car, looking like a cloud, 
Stands here and by which transport, 
You can reach Ayodhya without any trouble.
May prosperity attend you! 

- Valmiki Ramayan [6.121.9-11]

The above verse describes the Pushpak Vimaan, perhaps the most famous airship mentioned in the ancient Hindu literature. Many Sanskrit epics contain references to such flying machines called the Vimaans/Vimanas. These Vimaans were said to be able to travel into space between different planets and were used by various denizens of the higher Lokas. In this post, we shall analyze the evidence in favor of such flying machines being available to the ancients and their similarities to the modern aircrafts.



Vimaans in literature

There are many descriptions of flying machines that broadly fall into two categories: 

(1) Manmade aircrafts that resemble our modern airplanes, and 
(2) Alien structures that are generally built by either the architects of Devas or Asurs and resemble the modern perception of UFOs. 

The FIRST of this category are described mainly in medieval Sanskrit literature dealing with architecture, siege engines, and other mechanical contrivances. Those in the SECOND category are described in ancient works such as the Rig Veda, the Mahabharat, Ramayan, and various Puraans, and have many features reminiscent of UFOs.






We will deal with the second category first as their references are more in number, and seem to be more authentic as well. Perhaps everyone who knows anything about Hinduism, or has heard/read the Ramayan, would know about Pushpak Vimaan, the aircraft which belonged to Ravan, the king of Lanka. 

Not many, however, would have heard about the architect of this aircraft - Maya Danav


Maya, the gifted Asur conjurer


Maya was the foremost of architects among the Asurs and a formidable rival to Vishwakarma, the architect-of-the-gods. He was the father-in-law of Ravan and is credited with marvelous feats of engineering performed not only for the demons but also for Devas and humans. To list a few of these, Maya built the:
  • Three flying cities of Tripura for the sons of Tarkasur,
  • The island city of Lanka for Kuber and 
  • the Palace-of-illusions for the Pandavs at Indraprastha
Besides these architectural wonders, he also wrote the astronomical treatise called the 'Surya-siddhant' that forms the basis of Indian astronomy even today! Combining his knowledge of all these principles, he perhaps took the next step and created the flying vehicles or Vimaans. Maya himself, is believed to have possessed a Vimaan measuring twelve cubits in circumference, with four strong wheels. 


The Pushpak Vimaan

Pushpak was originally designed for Kuber, the god-of-wealth, but was usurped by his half-brother, Ravan along with his island city of Lanka. There are various passages in the Ramayan that talk about the wonderful qualities of this aerial vehicle:


कांचनम् रथम् आस्थाय कामगम् रत्न भूषितम् |
पिशाच वदनैः युक्तम् खरैः कनक भूषणैः || ३-३५-६
मेघ प्रतिम नादेन स तेन धनद अनुजः |
राक्षसाधिपतिः श्रीमान् ययौ नद नदी पतिम् || ३-३५-७

That chariot which is decorated with golden ornaments, yoked with monster-faced mules that have gem studded trappings is ride-able by the wish of the rider, and sitting in such a chariot which is wholly golden and which rides with a sound like the pealing of thunder, that celebrated Ravan, the brother of Kuber and the lord of demons, traveled towards the lord of rivers and rivulets, namely the ocean.

So, the Pushpak was an aerial vehicle, navigable by thought, shimmering like the Sun, with a thunderous noise and could travel anywhere across the globe. Sounds like a cross between a UFO and one of our modern supersonic planes!



An alleged UFO sighting in Mexico



The special characteristic of this vehicle seems to be that whatever may be the number of people sitting inside the plane, there would always be one seat vacant! In other words, if N number of people want to board the plane, there would still be (N+1) seats available. This prodigious capacity is mentioned to in the following verses:

प्रियाअत्प्रियतरं लब्धं यदहं ससुहृज्जनः || ६-१२२-२२
सर्वैर्भवद्भिः सहितः प्रीतिं लप्स्ये पुरीं गतः |

Shri Raam said - Something more dearer than everything dear will be achieved by me, if I reach Ayodhya with the host of my friends along with all of you, for, I shall feel delighted.

This is when Vibhishan, the brother of Ravan and the newly crowned king of Lanka tells the Lord, that the aircraft can carry as many people as the Lord would want to accomodate!

ततह् स पुष्पकं दिव्यं सुग्रीवः सह वानरैः || ६-१२२-२४
आरुरोह मुदा युक्तः समात्यश्च विभीषणः |

Thereupon, that Sugreeva along with the monkeys gladly ascended that wonderful Pushpaka, the aerial car. Vibhishan together with his counselors also ascended it.

तेष्वारूढेषु सर्वेषु कौबेरम् परमासनम् || ६-१२२-२५
राघवेणाभ्यनुज्ञातमुत्पपात विहायसम् |

When all of them ascended, that excellent aerial car, belonging to Kuber, flew into the sky, after having been duly authorized by Rama.



 Pushpak Vimaan - Pahari miniature painting


खगतेन मिवानेन हंसयुक्तेन भास्वता || ६-१२२-२६
प्रहृष्टश्चप्रतीतश्च बभौ रामः कुबेरवत् |

Feeling greatly rejoiced and satisfied while travelling in that splendid aerial car, which was now in the air and was provided with the image of a swan, Rama shone like Kuber.

ते सर्वे वानरर्क्षश्च राक्षसाश्च महाबलाः || ६-१२२-२७
यथासुखमसंबाधं दिव्ये तस्मिन्नुपाविशन् |

All those mighty Vanars, bears and demons sat comfortably and spaciously in that wonderful aerial car.

Another such description is found in the Ayodhya Kand [XVI, pp. 235-236]-

The splendid chariot, made of silver, and bright like the fire itself, making a noise like the roaring of the clouds; defying all obstacles, adorned with jewels and gold, dazzling to the eyesight and bright, went speedily on, making space resound like unto the muttering cloud in the sky. He issued out of his abode like the beautiful moon passing through a huge cloud.

As mentioned in the post {Rama - The Historical Perspective}, in Sri Lanka, the Pushpak Viman is referred to as the Dhandu Monara or the Flying-Peacock and even today there exists a place called Weragantota in Lanka whose name implies 'The-Landing-Place-of-Aircraft'!! Not far from there is another place called Gurulupotha (parts-of-birds) where he is supposed to have the aircraft-repair center! 



One of the 6 airports of Ravan - Weragantota


 
This implies that it is more than likely that the Pushpak Vimaan DID actually exist and was perhaps the last aircraft of its kind before the advent of our so called modern age.





Other References to Vimaans

The Pushpak is not the only aircraft mentioned in so much detail. The Mahabharat mentions such celestial crafts in many passages as well!

During his quest for celestial weapons before the Mahabharat War, Arjun was invited by Indra to spend some time in Amravati. Indra's charioteer Matali came to pick him up and this is how the description goes:


And on this sunlike, divine, wonderful chariot the wise disciple of Kuru flew joyously upward. When becoming invisible to the mortals who walk the earth, he saw wondrous airborne chariots by the thousands.

And the celebrated Arjun, having passed through successive regions of the heavens, at last beheld the city of Indra. And there he beheld celestial cars by thousands stationed in their respective places and capable of going everywhere at will, and he saw tens of thousands of such cars moving in every direction!

- Mahabharat Indralokgamana Parv

While in heaven, Arjun helped Indra curb the Asur menace and assisted his father in a few battles:

When the Daityas were being slaughtered they again took to their vimana and, employing the Danava science, flew up into the sky . . . I (Arjuna) assaulted their vimana . . . Wounded by the flight of deadly-accurate iron missiles, the Asura vimana fell broken to the earth . . . Matali swiftly descended earthward, as in a steep dive, on our divinely effulgent car.


Deva-Asur celestial war



Again, in the Swargaohan Parv, when Indra's spacecraft comes to pick up Yudhhishthir, this is the description given:

Then Dharma and Indra and the other deities, causing Yudhishthira to ascend on a car, went to the celestial region. Those beings capable of going everywhere at will, rode their respective aerial cars. King Yudhishthira, riding on his car, ascended quickly, causing the entire sky to blaze with his effulgence.

If these passages do not talk about aircrafts or space-ships, what do else do they refer to??
 
Further support for the Vimaans comes from the Puraans like Shrimad Bhagvat Puraan. There is an entire battle that rages at the port city of Dwarka which is caused by a disgruntled king called Salva and his out-of-the-world airplane:

Lord Siva said, "So be it." On his order, Maya Danava, who conquers his enemies' cities, constructed a flying iron city named Saubha and presented it to Salva.
[SB 10.76.7]


This unassailable vehicle was filled with darkness and could go anywhere. Upon obtaining it, Salva went to Dvaraka, remembering the Vrishnis' enmity toward him.
[SB 10.76.8]


At one moment the magic airship built by Maya appeared in many identical forms, and the next moment it was again only one. Sometimes it was visible, and sometimes not. Thus Salva's opponents could never be sure where it was.
[SB 10.76.21]

From one moment to the next the Saubha airship appeared on the earth, in the sky, on a mountain peak or in the water. Like a whirling, flaming baton, it never remained in any one place.
[SB 10.76.22]


There are other such passages too concerning other characters from the Puranic history:

Having spoken thus, Maharaja Nriga circumambulated Lord Krishna and touched his crown to the Lord's feet. Granted permission to depart, King Nriga then boarded a wonderful celestial airplane as all the people present looked on.
[SB 10.64.30]

As soon as the symptoms of his liberation were manifest, he saw a very beautiful airplane coming down from the sky, as if the brilliant full moon were coming down, illuminating all the ten directions.
[SB 4.12.19]


A spacecraft Out-of-this World




Dear King Dhruv, neither your forefathers nor anyone else before you ever achieved such a transcendental planet. The planet known as Vishnuloka, where Lord Vishnu personally resides, is the highest of all. It is worshipable by the inhabitants of all other planets within the universe. Please come with us and live there eternally.

O immortal one, this unique airplane has been sent by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is worshiped by selected prayers and who is the chief of all living entities. You are quite worthy to board such a plane.

It may be difficult for us to believe that such technology existed in those ancient times because we have been conditioned to believe that modern time is the 'Golden age of science'. But, what if our ancients were more advanced than us?? 




Were the ancients more advanced?

The natural question that comes up is that if this were so, where did all that technology vanish? My guess would be that the Mahabharat War was NUCLEAR in nature and the use of all those divine Astras (aka Nuclear weapons) led to the decimation of not only a large portion of the world population but also the technology and civilizational progress that mankind had achieved till then.







Imagine if such a war breaks out today, what would be the condition of humanity in the decades to come? Granted that unlike pre-historic times, humans now exist at all possible latitudes on the planet, it might not lead to a complete loss of development but the scientists at the cutting edge of technology, living and working in the US or Europe or China would suffer a great loss. 

The people remaining behind would remember the 'supersonic planes' and 'patriot missiles' and 'submarine rocket launchers' but may not necessarily have the technology to build them! And to someone from a future generation, these technological advances would then seem like fables; stories passed down from one generation to another, just as the Pushpak Vimaan or the Divine Astras seem to us now!

One such criticism of the Vimaans is that they were said to be drawn through the sky by “celestial steeds” (whether horses, swans, asses, or elephants). But the answer to that lies in this sentence from a Sanskrit text called Samarangana Sutradhara which states quite unequivocally - 'Manufacturing details of these machines are withheld for the sake of secrecy, not out of ignorance!'

Probably, the propulsion units were deliberately constructed to resemble these animals! This particular book is an encyclopedic work on classical Indian architecture (Vastu Shastra) written by Raja Bhoj of Dhar (1000-1055 AD). In 83 chapters, he covers subjects ranging from town planning, house architecture, temple architecture, sculptural arts, painting, and a chapter on the art of mechanical contrivances, called the YANTRAS.




The  chapter on yantras is most intriguing as its verses 95-100 mention bird-shaped aerial cars (Vimanas), and verses 101-107 mention a sort of robots acting as guards!! It contains 230 stanzas that are devoted to flight. It describes in detail, every possible aspect of flying. 

Sample some excerpts -

'The aircraft which can go by its own force like a bird - on the earth or water or through the air - is called a Vimana. That which can travel in the sky from place to place is called a Vimana by the sage of old.'

'The body must be strong and durable and built of a light wood [Lagha-daru], shaped like a bird in flight with wings outstretched [mahavinhanga]. Within it must be placed the mercury engine, with its heating apparatus made of iron underneath'.

'The iron engine must have properly welded joints to be filled with mercury, and when the fire is conducted to the upper parts, it develops power with the roar of a lion. By means of the energy latent in mercury, the driving whirlwind is set in motion, and the traveler sitting inside the Vimana may travel in the air, to such a distance as to look like a pearl in the sky'.
 
Either this guy was the precursor of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells or what he wrote did make some sense even in those times! It may be that the book was not actually written by the king himself but was compiled by the experts from each discipline and given his name as a show of courtesy. Even so, the person who wrote about the aircrafts would at the least have had a very fertile imagination!!

Another popular book for the study of Vimaans is the Vyamanika/Vaimanika Shastra. It is an early 20th century Sanskrit text about the science involved with the study, design, and manufacturing of fly-able machines and flying them. 




The text was translated in 1952 by G. R. Josyer, according to whom it's credit goes to Pandit Subbaraya Shastry, who dictated it in 1918-1923. It has 3000 shlokas in 8 chapters and under the direction of Pandit Shastry, illustrations were drawn for Vaimanika Shastra by a certain T. K. Ellapa. 



 Illustrations based on Vaimanika Shastra



The text was then published in Hindi in 1959 and then in 1973 into English by G.R. Josyer while Ellappa’s illustrations were added only in the 1973 edition and were not included in 1959 publication. Here is a list of some topics shared in the Vaimanika Shastra:
  • secrets for the construction of airplanes, how to avoid break them, cut them, set them on fire and destroy them;
  • secret to immobilize the airplane;
  • secret cloaking technology for the airplane;
  • secret to ascertain the direction of an aircraft approaching enemy;
  • secret of destroying enemy planes.
There are many websites and blogs dealing with this particular treatise and you can find plenty of details about the same quite easily. What you may not find is the mention of the FIRST INDIAN MAN to create an unmanned aircraft based on this book, and the recording of this event 8 years before the Wright brothers!

The man, Shivkar Bāpuji Talpade, was a friend and disciple of Pandit Subbaraya Shastry and is believed to have constructed and flown India's first unmanned airplane in the year 1895 to a height of 1500 feet based on the principles in the Vaimanika Shastra!

Talpade's airplane was named Marutsakhā, literally, 'Friend-of-the-air' and the machine flew upto a certain height before crashing down at Chowpatty. Lack of funds halted further research into the improvement of this machine by Talpade but its fateful flight was recorded by Kesari, the newspaper run by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1895!

One of Talpade’s students, P. Satwelkar, is believed to have recorded that the unmanned plane flew a few minutes and then crashed. The veracity of these claims is difficult to prove today but since the event was witnessed by none less than a Maharaja (of Baroda), the issue remains inconclusive at best.



A London Times article discussing the issue



More than these relatively recent developments however, my focus is on the ancient texts such as the ones shared earlier for they corroborate what we have already discussed and reasonably concluded in an older post titled {Lokas or Planets of Advanced Aliens}.

Could the multi-limbed gods and goddesses with super-human abilities, space-crafts and atomic weaponry, actually be ALIENS with a keen interest in our world? If that were true, the existence of this technology at a time when human science was not that advanced would make sense. 

Another aspect that would be covered is the mention of Maya Danav as the designer and manufacturer of these planes since the Danavs are supposed to live on the planetary system called Bila-swarga which is even more advanced than the Swarga of Indra.

Whether we consider them advanced aliens or demi-gods, these beings are far superior to us in scientific as well as spiritual pursuits and the goal of sharing this knowledge is to follow the path of Gyaan-yoga and detach oneself from attachment to this mortal body and its entrapments.

All planets, star-systems, nebulae, galaxies, black-holes, universes, multiverse etc. are nothing but emanations from Shri Hari Vishnu. Eternity manifests itself in endless ways and Arjun got a rare glimpse of this vision in the Virat Roop of Lord Krishna at Kurukshetra when he witnessed the entire 14 planetary dimensions composed of numerous Suns, Moons, Planets and Galaxies from Past, Present as well as the Future encompassed in the body of the Lord


The Supreme Lord's Virat Swaroop
 Zillions of Universes emerging from Lord Maha-Vishnu's body pores


I conclude this post remembering the same Virat Roop of the Supreme Lord and joining hands in supplication for deliverance from this never-ending cycle of Birth and Death.

Isvarah paramah krishna sac-cid-anand vigrahah
anadir aaadir govindah sarva kaaran kaaranam    . Aum Shanti: Shanti: Shanti: .






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