Ancient scientists knew 'plane' truth

Ancient scientists knew 'plane' truth

Their ideas yet to take off so far due to inadequate understanding of terminology

Ancient scientists knew 'plane' truth

However, what eventually became a “Western Invention” with the Wright Brothers flying the first plane, could have very well been India’s if the country had better research, some experts believe.

Claims by scientists

Among several claims that Indians in ancient times had ideas about aeroplanes (Vimanas) and that there were mentions of it in several texts, Maharshi Bharadwaaj’s Vymanika Shastra (science of aeronautics), which was recovered from an ancient temple sometime between 1860 and 1865, stands proof to the kind of exposure Indians might have had in the field of aeronautics.

The hand-written Sanskrit manuscript, translated into English by G R Josyer, Founder-Director of International Academy of Sanskrit Research, had concept and development of aviation technology that was quite advanced.

A variety of flying machines with application-specific on-board systems had been conceived and developed. In fact, they stretched into full-fledged military applications more than mere mundane air transportation.

‘How to fly’

It prescribes 32 secrets a plane should consist of, has descriptions of the different layers of the atmosphere, usage of various energies, including light to kill “enemy vimanas”.

Bharadwaaj has mentioned even the ability of such planes to have an auto-pilot mode, which the modern world got only a few decades ago.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Kota Harinarayan, considered the father of light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas, which after having faced several hurdles is finally nearing its final operational clearance, conceded: “There is not enough understanding of the kind of technology that he (Bharadwaaj) is talking about.”

Although there has been some synthesis, Kota felt, it is not enough to make appropriate use of what can be adopted in modern aeronautics.

“Lack of understanding of the terminologies used, unavailability of a good dictionary and translators have all affected conversion of such theories into aircraft. We can’t make much progress if we translate words literally,” he opined.

Not enough practice

A set of experts have argued that lack of effective research practice has also hampered such developments in India, which, on the record, is still struggling to complete the development of an aircraft engine.

A project study conducted by Wing Commander M P Rao and others of Aeronautical Society of India on behalf of Aerospace Information Panel of Aeronautics Research and Development notes: “The transcript did not find recognition till the end of British rule in India. Follow up studies started only later.”

The study, stating that foreign researchers did not show inclination till late seventies and that they had “shown disdain at the mention of the work,” indicates the kind of loss for the aviation sector in the country, which could have benefitted if researchers had shown inclination in the early days.

Aerial combat

Bharadwaaj, the study notes, had made appropriate references even to aerial combat features, evasion tactics, support systems and air-defence techniques through enemy detection, all features that our modern planes are thriving to achieve with perfection.

It further notes that it’s important to analyse the text scientifically and through the eyes of a probable user and invites Air Marshal Matheswaran, to make his observations on Vymanika Shastra when he was a Group Captain.

He noted: “Most of the details are short and appear to be introductory descriptions. I presume greater details will be available in subsequent chapters. These need to be analysed in depth and arrive at a logical conclusion.”

In all, despite India completing the struggle to commission Tejas, the country’s proud LCA and beginning to take baby steps towards manufacturing a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) with Russia, a feeling that we could have been pioneers in all this will continue to haunt aeronautics experts and scientists.

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