Controversy as evidence for ancient Indian Aviation Technology to be examined at Science Congress
The Indian Science Congress hosted at Mumbai University on January 3, which includes six Nobel laureates and four recipients of prestigious scientific prizes in its roster of speakers, will include a lecture examining ancient aviation technology in the Vedas, leading some scientists to argue that it undermines the empirical evidence on which the congress was founded.
The lecture will be presented by Captain Anand J Bodas, a retired principal of a pilot training facility, and Ameya Jadhav, a lecturer at the Swami Vivekananda International School and Junior College in Mumbai, who will draw upon the ancient Vedic texts to support the view that there was flying technology in ancient India.
"The Vedic or rather ancient Indian definition of an aeroplane was a vehicle which travels through the air from one country to another country, from one continent to another continent, from one planet to another planet," Captain Anand J Bodas told the Mumbai Mirror. "In those days aeroplanes were huge in size, and could move left, right, as well as backwards, unlike modern planes which only fly forward."
Captain Anand J Bodas draws upon the ancient Vedas for evidence of aviation technology
The Vedas are a large collection of Sanskrit texts originating in ancient India and constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. Some of the collection, such as the Samhitas, are known to date back to at least 1700 BC, although it is believed that many go back much further.
The subject of ‘flying machines’ has been a popular subject among ancient astronaut theorists, who argue that some extracts are evidence of extra-terrestrial visitations:
“The Pushpaka (flowery vimana) chariot that resembles the Sun and belongs to my brother was brought by the powerful Ravana; that aerial and excellent chariot going everywhere at will… that chariot resembling a bright cloud in the sky... and the King (Rama) got in, and the excellent chariot at the command of the Raghira, rose up into the higher atmosphere.” (Ramayana)
However, Captain Bodas said that ancient Indians invented the technology and that it was later forgotten because of the passage of time, foreign rulers and things being stolen from the country.
The Mumbai Mirror says that the lecture is “inconsistent with the tradition of scientific method, testable methods and primacy of empirical evidence on which the 102-year-old was founded.
Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) is a premier scientific organisation of India with a membership strength of more than 30,000 scientists. It was founded in 1914 with the objective to “advance and promote the cause of science in India”.
Valedictory Session of the 100th Indian Science Congress in Kolkata (Wikimedia Commons)
The decision to include the lecture in the program has stirred up anger among some scientists. Former Director of National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Prof Roddam Narasimha, told the Mumbai Mirror, "There is no credible account of aviation in ancient India… The book Vaimanika Prakaranam or Vimanika Shastra has been studied in great detail and the accepted view in the scientific community is that the descriptions given in it are not scientifically correct."
However, Captain Bodas is not without his supporters.
"If we had chosen Sanskrit professors to talk about the references to aviation technology in Sanskrit literature, which includes information on how to make planes, the dress code and diet of pilots, the seven types of fuel used, people would have dismissed us,” said Professor Gauri Mahulikar, head of Mumbai University’s Sanskrit Department and coordinator for the session “but Captain Bodas is himself a pilot, and his co-presenter, Ameya Jadhav, holds an MTech degree besides an MA in Sanskrit.”
Dr S D Sharma, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at IIT-B, also supported the decision to include the lecture in the program for the Science Congress. "I would not dismiss the topic out of hand," he told Mumbai Mirror. "A purely mythological lecture comparing aeroplanes in Sanskrit texts to contemporary ones could be very interesting. However, there should not be any kind of story telling that is not backed by evidence."
Featured image: Krishna and Rukmini as Groom and Bride in a Celestial Chariot (Wikimedia Commons)