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Thursday, 22 January 2015

कुमार अंबुज की कविताओं की एक शाम




[ गोष्ठी रपट, कुमार अंबुज की कविताएं, चित्र “समकालीन तीसरी दुनिया” में प्रकाशित हैं । यहां उद्देश्य इन्हें शेयर करना है ।]

 

नई दिल्ली के गांधी शांति प्रतिष्ठान में 29 नवंबर को ‘नव सर्वहारा सांस्कृतिक मंच’ द्वारा अंधेरे के विरुद्ध कविता पाठ का आयोजन हुआ। इस अवसर पर एकल कविता पाठ कुमार अंबुज ने किया जिसकी अध्यक्षता प्रसिद्ध प्रगतिशील आलोचक प्रो- कर्ण सिंह चौहान ने की और संचालन रवीन्द्र के- दास ने किया। 

आरंभिक वक्तव्य शिवमंगल सिद्धांतकर ने दिया। 

फिलिस्तीनी जनता के साथ अंतर्राष्ट्रीय एकता दिवस पर कॉमरेड विनीत तिवारी द्वारा तैयार प्रस्ताव का पाठ आनंद स्वरूप वर्मा ने किया। अंतर्राष्ट्रीय एकता दिवस पर पारित प्रस्ताव में फिलिस्तीनी जनता के न्यायपूर्ण संघर्ष में उनका साथ देने का संकल्प व्यक्त करते हुए ‘दुनिया के तमाम मुल्कों में रह रही अमन और इंसाफ पसंद जनता से, इन मुल्कों की सरकारों से और खुद अपने देश की सरकार से अपील की गयी कि फिलिस्तीनियों के अपने हक की लड़ाई में उनका साथ दें और इज़रायल द्वारा किये जा रहे अमानवीय और बर्बर व्यवहार की निंदा करें।’ कवि कुमार अंबुज ने फिलिस्तीनी कवि महमूद दरवेश की एक कविता का पाठ किया। 

अपने आरंभिक वक्तव्य में शिवमंगल सिद्धांतकर ने ‘अंधेरे के विरुद्ध’ कविता पाठ का महत्व रेखांकित करते हुए कहा कि कविता मानवता के कुछेक पर्यायों में से एक है। इसलिए नए फासीवादी अंधेरे के विरुद्ध मानवता के पक्ष में कविता को खड़ा होना होगा। उन्होंने मार्क्स के कथन ‘कविता मनुष्यता की मातृभाषा है’ का उल्लेख करते हुए कहा कि ‘‘इसीलिए मनुष्यता विरोधी फासीवादी शोषण और दमनकारी अंधेरे के खिलाफ कविता को खड़ा होना होगा। अंधेरे द्वारा पैदा अनेक प्रश्नों का जवाब कोई दर्शन या सिद्धांत दे अथवा न दे किन्तु हर प्रश्न का उत्तर कविता देगी इसलिए कविता को अंधेरे के खिलाफ खड़ा होना होगा। उन्होंने कहा कि आज का नया फासीवाद हिटलर और मुसोलिनी वाला फासीवाद नहीं है, वह विनाशकारी पूंजीवाद और साम्राज्यवाद के चरम की कोख से पैदा हो रहा है इसलिए हमारी कविता को साम्राज्यवाद के नये युग के चरम के खिलाफ खड़ा होना होगा। इसी उद्देश्य से हमने नव सर्वहारा सांस्कृतिक मंच की ओर से ‘अंधेरे के विरुद्ध’ कविता पाठ का सिलसिला शुरू किया है। हम इस संघर्ष में पुराने शस्त्रगार से प्रासंगिक औजार भी लेंगे और नये औजारों का निर्माण भी करेंगे जिसे किसी गुप्त प्रयोगशाला में निर्मित करने की बजाय खुले तौर पर हम संघर्ष के मैदान में निर्मित करेंगे जो अंधेरे को चीर कर नयी राह बनायेगी। जनतंत्र के नाम पर जिस तरह से सत्ता और संस्कृति पर कब्जा अंधेरी ताकतों द्वारा किया जा रहा है उसमें निश्चित तौर पर विपरीतों का सामंजस्य दिखलाने की कोशिश की जा रही है किंतु सर्वहारा और नव सर्वहारा जनवाद इस सामंजस्य को अंतर्विरोधों के औजार से नेस्तनाबूद करेगा; मौजूदा नई सत्ता जिनके बल पर टिकी हुई है वही उसे उखाड़ फेंकेंगे जिसमें मानवीय आरै मनुष्यता की पक्षधर कविताएं आजै शर बनेंगी और नए फासीवादी शोषणकारी और दमनकारी सत्ता को उलटकर नई सर्वहारा सत्ता के निर्माण में महत्त्वपूर्ण भूमिका अदा करेंगी। आप जानते हैं कि सभी वर्ग अलग-अलग अपनी मुक्ति चाहते हैं किंतु सर्वहारा सभी वर्गों की मुक्ति को सुनिश्चित करता है जिसे हमारी कविताएं उजागर करेंगी। इन्हीं शब्दों के साथ मैं संगठन की ओर से इस सिलसिले को जारी रखने का संकल्प दुहराता हूं।’’ 

लगभग एक घंटे तक कवि कुमार अंबुज ने अपनी अनेक चर्चित कविताओं और कुछ हाल की लिखी नयी कविताओं का पाठ किया। 

काव्यपाठ के बाद कवि के साथ कविता पर जीवंत चर्चा हुई।

अध्यक्षीय वक्तव्य में प्रोफेसर कर्ण सिंह चौहान ने कुमार अंबुज की कविताओं पर बोलते हुए कहा कि रचना में अप्रत्याशित होना आवश्यक है और कुमार अंबुज की कविताओं में अप्रत्याशित चीजें हैं। ऐसा दुहराव इनकी कविता में नहीं है जिसको एक बार पढ़ कर, सुनकर ये धारणा बन जाये कि इस कवि का दायरा ये है रचनात्मकता में, विषय में, शैली में। 

आज के सहित्यिक-सामाजिक हालात पर बोलते हुए उन्होंने कहा कि कविता को लेकर सवाल अक्सर उठते रहते हैं। ये कहना मुझे कभी सत्य नहीं लगा कि अच्छी कविता की जगह समाज में कम हुई है। कविता की जगह समाज में कम नहीं हुई है। पाठकों का दायरा बढ़ा है, घटा नहीं है। हुआ ये है कि हमने अपना दायरा संकुचित कर लिया है। पाठकों के मन में कवि के लिए जिज्ञासा कम हुई है ऐसा मुझे नहीं लगता है। बार-बार कहा जाता है कि अच्छी आलोचना नहीं हो रही है। ऐसा नहीं है। आलोचना नहीं होती तो मंचीय कविता और इस कविता का फर्क कौन करता। आलोचना है तभी मंचीय कविता और इस कविता में फर्क मौजूद है। तमाम लोकप्रियता के बावजूद मंचीय कविता इस कविता को स्थानापन्न नहीं कर पाई है। 

कविता और साहित्य में आ रहे नये विमर्शों पर बोलते हुए उन्होंने कहा कि इस देश में जन्म से ही कई तरह के फायदे व्यक्तियों और कवियों को हो जाते हैं। उच्च कुल में पैदा होने, मानव योनि में पैदा होना और मानव में भी पुरुष होना। ये फायदे हैं जो जन्म से हो जाते हैं। लेकिन समय चीजों को तय करता है। केवल कवि ही चीजों को तय नहीं करते हैं। समय के अनुसार समाज में साहित्य का मुहावरा बदला है। समय के मुहावरे के कारण भी बहुत सी चीजें सामने आती हैं। आज मुहावरा बदल चुका है। आज विमर्शों का जमाना है, अस्मिताओं का जमाना है, आज आधुनिक विचारों- चाहे वो मार्क्सवाद का विचार हो, मनोविज्ञान का विचार हो, समाज शास्त्र का विचार हो, इन विचारों को अस्मिताओं ने स्थानापन्न कर दिया है। 

उन्होंने कहा कि नई नई अस्मिताएं आ रही हैं और बहुत सी आने को बेताब हैं। ये अस्मितायें पूरे के पूरे दृष्टिकोण और साहित्य को पुनर्परिभाषित कर रही हैं। एक जमाने में अनुभव की प्रामाणिकता का सवाल मध्यवर्गीय बुद्धिजीवियों के बीच से उठा था। लेकिन आज अस्मिताओं ने इस पर प्रश्नचिन्ह लगा दिया है। नारी की पीड़ा को आप सहानुभूति दे सकते हैं, संवेदनशील तो हो सकते हैं, हमसफर तो हो सकते हैं लेकिन बिना नारी हुए नारी की पीड़ा को आप नहीं समझ सकते। नारी के द्वारा आने वाली रचनाओं में हो सकता है कि उतना ज्यादा काव्य कौशल न दिखाई दे मगर इन्होंने अपनी जगह बना ली है। कई लोग कहते हैं कि समाजवाद का पराभव हुआ है जिसके कारण कविता में ऐसी चीजें हो रही हैं। मार्क्सवाद से हम अद्भुत चीजें कर सकते थे लेकिन हम मार्क्सवाद को लेकर बैठ गये। समाजवाद का पराभव अगर नहीं हुआ होता तब भी ये चीजें आतीं। मार्क्सवाद कोई केंद्रीय विमर्श में रहने वाली चीज नहीं थी क्योंकि मार्क्सवाद आधुनिक ज्ञान-विज्ञान से पैदा हुई चीज है जो अस्मिताओं के इस दौर में हाशिये पर चले गये हैं। यह खाली जगहों को समझने की चीज है जिन्हें ये आधुनिक विचार नहीं समझ पाये। 

उन्होंने कहा कि कवि में हेकड़ी अगर रहती और रहे तो कविता होती है। दिक्कत ये है कि कविता एक एक्सट्रा करिकुलर ऐक्टिविटी की तरह हो गयी है। कविता पार्ट टाइम जॉब की तरह हो गयी है। हम कहते कुछ हैं और लिखते कुछ हैं। आज की कविताएं अपने से लड़ने वाली कवितायें है। यह अपराधबोध से पैदा होने वाली कवितायें हैं क्योंकि समाज में मनुष्य के खिलाफ होने वाले अपराधों में हम कहीं न कहीं शामिल हैं। सकारात्मक बोध से उपजी कवितायें नहीं हैं। हमारे व्यवहार में और हमारे विचारों में फर्क है। हम पूंजीवाद को बढ़ावा दे रहे हैं और पूंजीवाद के खिलाफ कवितायें लिख रहे हैं। आते हुए फासीवाद के लिए जिम्मेदार हम हैं, हमारा व्यवहार इसके लिए जिम्मेदार है। अपनी जड़ता को हम अपनी प्रतिबद्धता माने हुए हैं। अब आत्मालोचना करने की आवश्यकता है। हिन्दी भाषा में विमर्श की गुंजाइश नहीं बनी है। हम थोड़े अंधविश्वासी हैं। ये अंधविश्वास केवल भाजपा, आर एस एस, दक्षिणपंथी और भक्त लोगों का नहीं है। हम भी तुलनात्मक रूप से उतने ही अंधविश्वासी और स्वार्थी हैं। अब चीजों पर पुनर्विवेचन करने की जरूरत है।
इस अवसर पर प्रसिद्ध कवि मंगलेश डबराल, पंकज सिंह, सुरेश सलिल, सुमन केशरी, मदन कश्यप, मुकेश मानस, विनीत तिवारी, पत्रकार पुण्य प्रसून वाजपेयी, शम्भू यादव, अंजू शर्मा, सरिता दास, नित्यानन्द गायेन, आशीष मिश्र, सुलोचना वर्मा, नरेंद्र, विनोद पराशर, रवीन्द्र प्रताप सिंह आदि समेत कई महत्वपूर्ण लोग उपस्थित थे।

रिपोर्ट: नित्यानन्द गायेन और मुकेश मानस / चित्र : राजीव तनेजा



कुमार अंबुज की कुछ कविताएं

क्रूरता

धीरे धीरे क्षमाभाव समाप्त हो जाएगा
प्रेम की आकांक्षा तो होगी मगर जरूरत न रह जाएगी
झर जाएगी पाने की बेचैनी और खो देने की पीड़ा
क्रोध अकेला न होगा वह संगठित हो जाएगा
एक अनंत प्रतियोगिता होगी जिसमें लोग
पराजित न होने के लिए नहीं
अपनी श्रेष्ठता के लिए युद्धरत होंगे
तब आएगी क्रूरता
पहले हृदय में आएगी और चेहरे पर न दीखेगी
फिर घटित होगी धर्म-ग्रंथों की व्याख्या में
फिर इतिहास में और फिर भविष्यवाणियों में
फिर वह जनता का आदर्श हो जाएगी
निरर्थक हो जाएगा विलाप
दूसरी मृत्यु थाम लेगी पहली मृत्यु से उपजे आंसू
पड़ोसी सांत्वना नहीं एक हथियार देगा
तब आएगी क्रूरता और आहत नहीं करेगी हमारी आत्मा को
फिर वह चेहरे पर भी दीखेगी
लेकिन अलग से पहचानी न जाएगी
सब तरफ होंगे एक जैसे चेहरे
सब अपनी अपनी तरह से कर रहे होंगे क्रूरता
और सभी में गौरव भाव होगा
वह संस्कृति की तरह आएगी उसका कोई विरोधी न होगा
कोशिश सिर्फ यह होगी कि किस तरह वह अधिक सभ्य
और अधिक ऐतिहासिक हो
वह भावी इतिहास की लज्जा की तरह आएगी
और सोख लेगी हमारी सारी करुणा
हमारा सारा श्रृंगार
यही ज्यादा संभव है कि वह आए
और लंबे समय तक हमें पता ही न चले उसका आना।

किवाड़

ये सिर्फ किवाड़ नहीं हैं
जब ये हिलते हैं
मां हिल जाती है
और चौकस आंखों से
देखती है-‘क्या हुआ?’
मोटी सांकल की
चार कड़ियों में
एक पूरी उमर और स्मृतियां
बंधी हुई हैं
जब सांकल बजती है
बहुत कुछ बज जाता है घर में
इन किवाड़ों पर
चंदा सूरज
और नाग देवता बने हैं
एक विश्वास और सुरक्षा
खुदी हुई है इन पर
इन्हें देखकर हमें
पिता की याद आती है
भैया जब इन्हें
बदलवाने को कहते हैं
मां दहल जाती है
और कई रातों तक पिता
उसके सपनों में आते हैं
ये पुराने हैं लेकिन कमजोर नहीं
इनके दोलन में एक वजनदारी है
ये जब खुलते हैं
एक पूरी दुनिया हमारी तरफ खुलती है
जब ये नहीं होंगे
घर
घर नहीं रहेगा।

तुम्हारी जाति क्या है?

तुम्हारी जाति क्या है कुमार अंबुज?
तुम किस-किस के हाथ का खाना
खा सकते हो
और पी सकते हो किसके हाथ का पानी
चुनाव में देते हो किस समुदाय को वोट
ऑफिस में किस जाति से पुकारते हैं
लोग तुम्हें
जन्मपत्री में लिखा है कौन-सा गोत्र
और कहां ब्याही जाती हैं
तुम्हारे घर की बहन-बेटियां
बताओ अपने धर्म
और वंशावली के बारे में
किस मस्जिद किस मंदिर किस गुरुद्वारे में
किस चर्च में करते हो तुम प्रार्थनाएं
तुम्हारी नहीं तो अपने पिता
अपने बच्चों की जाति बताओ
बताओ कुमार अंबुज
इस बार दंगों में रहोगे किस तरफ
और मारे जाओगे
किसके हाथों?

गांव की याद में एक गीत

चीटियां आओ
कतार में
दहलीज से गुजरो
मुंह में अन्न दबाओ!
गाय आओ
अलस्सुबह रंभाओ
लिपे ओसारे में
लार टपकाओ!
कुत्ता आओ
पंजों से
अपनी रोटी के लिए
किवाड़ बजाओ!
कौआ आओ
सुबह की धूप में
घर की फुनगी पर
पंख खुजलाओ!
पीपल आओ
दुपहरी में
पत्ते हरे-पीले
आंगन में गिराओ
बच्चो आओ
नाक पोंछते
दौड़ गली में
शोर गुंजाओ!

खाना बनातीं स्त्रियां

जब वे बुलबुल थीं उन्होंने खाना बनाया
फिर हिरणी होकर
फिर फूलों की डाली होकर
जब नन्ही दूब भी झूम रही थी हवाओं के साथ
जब सब तरफ फैली हुई थी कुनकुनी धूप
उन्होंने अपने सपनों को गूंधा
हृदयाकाश के तारे तोड़कर डाले
भीतर की कलियों का रस मिलाया
लेकिन आखिर में उन्हें सुनाई दी
थाली फेंकने की आवाज
आपने उन्हें सुंदर कहा तो उन्होंने खाना बनाया
और डायन कहा तब भी
उन्होंने बच्चे को गर्भ में रखकर खाना बनाया
फिर बच्चे को गोद में लेकर
उन्होंने अपने सपनों के ठीक बीच में खाना बनाया
तुम्हारे सपनों में भी वे बनाती रहीं खाना
पहले तन्वंगी थीं तो खाना बनाया
फिर बेडौल होकर
वे समुद्रों से नहाकर लौटीं तो खाना बनाया
सितारों को छूकर आईं तब भी
उन्होंने कई बार सिर्फ एक आलू एक प्याज से
खाना बनाया
और कितनी ही बार सिर्फ अपने सब्र से
दुखती कमर में, चढ़ते बुखार में
बाहर के तूफान में
भीतर की बाढ़ में उन्होंने खाना बनाया
फिर वात्सल्य में भरकर
उन्होंने उमगकर खाना बनाया
आपने उनसे आधी रात में खाना बनवाया
बीस आदमियों का खाना बनवाया
ज्ञात-अज्ञात स्त्रियों का उदाहरण
पेश करते हुए खाना बनवाया
कई बार आंखें दिखाकर
कई बार लात लगाकर
और फिर स्त्रियोचित ठहराकर
आप चीखे-उफ, इतना नमक
और भूल गए उन आंसुओं को
जो जमीन पर गिरने से पहले
गिरते रहे तश्तरियों में, कटोरियों में
कभी उनका पूरा सप्ताह इस खुशी में गुजर गया
कि पिछले बुधवार बिना चीखे-चिल्लाए
खा लिया गया था खाना
कि परसों दो बार वाह-वाह मिली
उस अतिथि का शुक्रिया
जिसने भरपेट खाया और धन्यवाद दिया
और उसका भी जिसने अभिनय के साथ ही सही
हाथ में कौर लेते ही तारीफ की
वे क्लर्क हुईं, अफसर हुईं
उन्होंने फर्राटेदार दौड़ लगाई और सितार बजाया
लेकिन हर बार उनके सामने रख दी गई एक ही कसौटी
अब वे थकान की चट्टान पर पीस रही हैं चटनी
रात की चढ़ाई पर बेल रही हैं रोटियां
उनके गले से, पीठ से
उनके अंधेरों से रिस रहा है पसीना
रेले बह निकले हैं पिंडलियों तक
और वे कह रही हैं यह रोटी लो
यह गरम है
उन्हें सुबह की नींद में खाना बनाना पड़ा
फिर दोपहर की नींद में
फिर रात की नींद में
और फिर नींद की नींद में उन्होंने खाना बनाया
उनके तलुओं में जमा हो गया है खून
झुकने लगी है रीढ़
घुटनों पर दस्तक दे रहा है गठिया
आपने शायद ध्यान नहीं दिया है
पिछले कई दिनों से उन्होंने
बैठकर खाना बनाना शुरू कर दिया है
हालांकि उनसे ठीक तरह से बैठा भी नहीं जाता है।

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Critical Study of ‘Vimāna’ (airplanes) as described in Ancient Indian epics: ‘Rāmāyana’ and ‘Mahābhārat’ Karan Singh Chauhan*



Critical Study of ‘Vimāna’ (airplanes) as described in Ancient Indian epics: ‘Rāmāyana’ and ‘Mahābhārat’
Karan Singh Chauhan*
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
Abstract
             Ancient Indian literature beginning from Vedas, old scriptures to great epics of ‘Rāmāyana’ and ‘Mahābhārat’ present a vast horizon of every sphere of human life. These are not only the outcome of a great civilization and its wonderful achievements, but are the only historical evidences into those times, as historical records in the contemporary sense of the term do not exist in ancient India. This rich heritage is full not only of wonderful human imagination and natural descriptions but contain exposition of knowledge in all fields, which sometimes present a problem for present day researchers to acknowledge its authenticity, keeping in mind the circumstances and limitations of  its time. There is a tendency on the part of nationalists to glorify everything ancient and undermining the efforts of modern science in unlocking the potentialities of humankind. In the Same way, there is a tendency among the modern scholars to undermine everything connected with ancient sources as retrograde. In this given context, no objective inquiry of the issues raised in this literature is possible. One such issue is the description of ‘Vimān’ (airplanes or aeronautics) in two of the epics. In this paper, a beginning is made to put the bare facts of the issue in a most dispassionate way.
            Key Words: Vedas, Civilization, Rāmāyana, Mahābhārat, Purāna, Vimāna, Shastra, Devtās,  Rākshas, mythology, classical, transportation, chariots, aeronautics.

____________________________
·      Karan Singh Chauhan Ph.D., is Full Professor at the  Department of Indian Studies, HUFS, Phone : 010-4931-0106 e-mail : karanchauhan@hotmail.com


Introduction

Rāmāyan’ and ‘Mahābhārat’ are the two most important ancient epics Indian civilization produced and as ‘Vedas’ are the basic source for religious-philosophical-civilizational issues, these two great epics provide insights into ancient India’s culture and life. ‘Rāmāyana’, the story of lord Rām,  consist of 24,000 verses in Sanskrit or 50,000 lines in seven books (Kandas) and 500 cantos. This is composed by the first poet of India, Vālmiki probably between 2000 to 400 BC. ‘Mahābhārata’ (great tale of Bhārat dynasty) is another epic written after Rāmāyana ascribed to seer Vyāsa. It has about one hundred thousand verses, long prose passages and about 1.8 million words in total making it the longest epic poem in the world, roughly ten times the length of Iliad and Odyssey and four time of ‘Rāmāyana’. Both these epics provide vast information about the history and culture of the country besides being masterpieces of literature. The description of these epics thrown hundreds of mysteries to be solved by antiquity, one being the references and evidences of ‘Vimāns’ (airplanes), which we intend to discuss in this paper. 

Before we take up the subject of our study in this paper, few things needs to be clarified. One is the term ancient and traditional as they are used in western tradition and other present day academic discourses. When we talk about ancient Indian classics or thought processes, it is not something of Museum or archeological interest or merely for reference points. They are very much alive in modern day life of the people and society. For instance, Harappa civilization is not a civilization of bygone days well past, it is very much there in the lives of the people where houses are designed in the same pattern, pots are produced in the same process and implements are used in the same way. May be the landscape in cities and western educated population is changing but rural India (and it is sizable number compared with any other society) still to a great extent follow some basic tenets of these civilizational peculiarities. This is a living tradition. Because of this, even in modern times, Gandhi was to present himself as one of the ‘rishis’ (seers) in ancient tradition and challenge the British empire from a remote ‘Ashram’ (his dwelling). He was well versed in the nature and living qualities of this civilization to know that it is basically austerity oriented.
Same is true of its intellectual or literary tradition. The events and issues of the classical literature and scriptures are very much alive in day-to-day social and political life of the nation. Numerous instances can be quoted from modern day India where these events and issues have become central focus of the political debate. Ayodhya (capital of Lord Rām), ‘Rām Temple’ (Birth Place of Rām) and issues of ‘Sethusamudram’ (stone formation in sea between India and Sri Lanka believed to be made by Rām as a bridge to cross to Sri Lankā), ‘Mathurā’ (the birth place of Krishna) are issues most debated during the last few decades in Indian politics. Keeping this context in mind it is suffice to say there is no break in India’s intellectual or cultural history as seen in many civilizations of the world. Is it good or bad for the nation and people is altogether separate issue outside the preview of this paper.

Background of the issue

As ‘Vedas’ are the source of religious or cultural life of India, epic books ‘Rāmāyana ’ (story of Lord Rām) and ‘Mahābhārata ’ (The great India war) are the sources of all kinds of mythological stories and way of living and thinking of the people. What we will be discussing in this paper is just a tiny issue of transportation mentioned in these epics, namely air route. There are all kinds of modes of transport mentioned and described in both, specially land, water and air. Out of this, land and water transport system mentioned simply provide the factual knowledge about these systems and also of conditions prevailing in those times and their level of technical and scientific development. For example, the water transportation described provides information about simple boats of various sizes and capacities sailed mostly by the ‘Nishads’ (a sailing expert community). In these descriptions, a boat can be of huge size with carrying capacity of even few hundred and some are decorated with gold, oars, bells, flags and flowers and have comfortable beds for special passengers. But the evidence catalogued on water transport is extremely meager. It seems that water transport was not a commonly used or known form of transport. Although there are big rivers in India and subcontinent is surrounded by sea on three sides and people used to dwell on the banks of the rivers and sea, they never thought of constructing ships or sailing boats or any advancement in technology of water transporting.
In contrast, lot of references is available about land transport where elephants, horses, oxen, cattle and camels were used for the purpose. There is mention of various kinds of carriages, carts and chariots. Except for some chariots, there is nothing extraordinary in the description of these modes of land transport. The chariots were according to the status of the person with a driver (sarathi), run by many horses and some other horses accompanied the chariots for change or emergency use. They were decorated. There is a detailed description of these chariots, especially of the one which Krishna drove (as Sarathi for Arjun) in the battle of ‘Mahābhārata’. Not only ‘Devtas’ (Gods) and ‘Rakshasas’ (demons) have these chariots but humans also use to have these chariots. This description again is informative and usual, with the only exception of one used by ‘Rāvana’ (the demon king of Sri Lanka in Rāmāyana). It is as huge as a city of Gandharvas (a community) and the earth thundered and echoed as it was driven. And the most important point of description is its comparison to ‘lightning’, the ‘sun’ and to a ‘vimāna’ (aircraft). At another place, while describing Yudhisthira’s (eldest of Pandavas in Mahābhārat) chariot, it is said that it had an exceptional quality of travelling four fingers above earth. Not only four fingers above the earth, some chariots possessed the exceptional property of travelling on the earth and in the air as well. For example, God Indira’s chariot in Mahābhārata and Rāvana’s son Aksa’s chariot in Rāmāyana. The interesting point is that although these vehicles were described as chariots (ratha), the description of them is very similar to the description of ‘vimānas’,  which is the topic of discussion in this paper.

Constrains of an objective view on the topic

The uppermost constrain is the very nature of epic poetry normally indulging in extreme hyperbole and overblown phraseology with its heroes and other charactors performing superhuman exploits. Another thing is that the purpose of epic poetry is different from historical literature. Many scholars of repute has come to grief trying to prove the accuracy of evidences of epic literature
Another constrain is local in nature. Since everything is immensely connected with the present and future direction the country will take, or in other words with politics, the ‘objective analysis’ of the problem becomes problematic. In whatever way one collects data, analyze it and conclude, it ultimately get mingled up with this or that view. That is why most of the issues related with classical or ancient evidences are never settled with a professional academic approach. Simple issues like transportation, as depicted in literary or mythological literature meet the same fate. Opinion is so divided that  one is unable to convince opposing viewpoints that there can be objectivity beyond these partisanships. That is why no consensus is reached on any of the issues.
To put things in a nutshell, the broad division in India today is on the lines of the definition of Indianness, which is defined as ‘Bharat’ (original name of the country) and ‘India’ (the name given by British). They represent two diversely opposing attitude towards everything. No doubt, there are third groupings also who are called centrists and who side with this or that opinion on issue to issue basis according to its own interests. These two opposing opinions keep on changing names and thrust of argumentation and their attack according to the times. At one time, they were called progressives and reactionaries, at another they were secular and communal, left and right, nationalists and internationalists, moderns and orthodox, and so on. Their basic approach in defining India and its future is roughly based on this. On one side are the ones you can call moderns, progressives, seculars, leftists, liberals etc. and the others are what may be called as rightists, believers in Hinduism and its traditions, basing their vision on past, revivalists, nationalists etc.
Because of this rigid division, no consensus is reached on any issue of theoretical nature. To provide a glimpse in this blame-game, I quote here a remark by one professor Kapoor of JNU about the tendency prevalent among modern and educated Indians:
 …the educated Indian has been de-intellectualized. His vocabulary has been forced into hibernation by the vocabulary of the west. For him, West is the theory and India is the Data. The Indian academy has willingly entered into a receiver-donor relationship with the western academy, a relationship of intellectual subordination. This ‘de-intellectualization’ needs to be countered and corrected by relocating the Indian mind in the Indian thought….Europe’s 13th century onward successful venture of relocating the European mind in its classical Greek roots is lauded and expounded in Indian universities as ‘revival of learning’ and ‘renaissance’. But when it comes to India, the political intellectuals dismiss exactly the same venture as ‘revivalism’ or ‘obscurantism’.” 1
Same is the case on the other side. Modernist, secularist and progressives have an allergy to any kind of mention of past Indian glory or its Ramifications. To highlight the point we quote from one such writing in which the writer criticizes everything with dsdain:
The roots of "Vedic science" can be traced to the so-called Bengal Renaissance, which in turn was deeply influenced by the Orientalist constructions of Vedic antiquity as the "Golden Age" of Hinduism. Heavily influenced by German idealism and British romanticism, important Orientalists including H.T. Colebrooke, Max Mueller and Paul Deussen tended to locate the central core of Hindu thought in the Vedas, the Upanishads and, above all, in the Advaita Vedanta tradition of Shankara. Despite the deeply anti-rational and idealistic (that is, anti-naturalistic) elements of Advaita Vedanta, key Hindu nationalist reformers - from Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee to Swami Vivekananda - began to find in it all the elements of modernity.2

Because of this war like situation, people are also divided sharply and no dialogue or argumentation is possible. While one section rubbishes all talk of great scientific or technological advancement in ancient India without going into the actual details or fact finding inquiries, the other will glorify it so much that it goes beyond the advances made by science and knowledge even today. Both ignore facts and do not care to check the ground realities of the case. Thus a non-academic unprofessional approach is prevalent.

The question of ‘Vimān’ (aircraft) in Indian classical epics and other religious-philosophical literature is one such case, which is problematic. Most of the population (who seldom read the original books or their scholarly reviews) is tutored to believe in the super-human achievements of Indian civilization in the past. The past is superimposed on any current scientific achievement in such a way that the resultant conclusion establishes that this discovery was already present in old classics.  There is no need for any proof or investigation. According to this belief system, not only ancient Indian civilization was well aware of the technology of the aircraft, but was well trained in the technology of producing atom bomb. This is also corroborated with the description of weaponry in these two epics which not only gives impression of atomic power but also of automation. They firmly believe that during their occupation of India during 17-19 centuries Europeans somehow procured this knowledge from our sacred books and manuscripts and developed the new scientific discoveries and technologies in their own countries. This is but one example of such beliefs widespread among the common people of India. Over and above this, there are die-hard nationalists and revivalist Hindu organizations that would not let you analyze anything related to India objectively. Some international groups have lent their support to these national organizations. On the other side are the progressives of all kind who will brand you as revivalist if your inquiry into ancient evidence results in some kind of affirmative findings.

In such a strictly divided situation, the thrust of the paper would be just to explore all possibilities connected with evidences and leave it to the reader to make their own opinions.

Categories of ‘vimāns’ (aircrafts)

In both epics and in some ‘Purānas’ (old scriptures), various names and categories of Vimāns are mentioned. In Vana Parva (chapter of forest) of ‘Mahābhārata’ there is a description of a huge Vimān, ‘Saubha’ owned by Brahma (creator God of universe). On his trip to Amravati, Arjun (one of the Pandavas) saw another Vimān of the size of Saubha which was known as ‘Hiranyapura’. Their size must be so huge that they are referred to as ‘nagar’ (cities).3 In Rāmāyana, many references are of a huge ‘Pushpak Vimān’ which had numerous rooms and secret cells and was as large as mountain peak.4 A large number of people including Rām, his brother Laxman and wife Sita travelled in it from Sri Lankā to Ayodhyā after the victory of Rām over Rāvana. During his heydays, Rāvana, the King of Sri Lanka also used ‘pushpak vimāna’ to abduct hundreds and hundreds of women.5 This is indicative of the huge capacity of the aircraft. Names of only these three aircrafts are specifically mentioned to highlight their size, capacity and costly decoration. For example, aircraft pushpak was decorated with gold, jewels and flags and its many rooms had golden lotuses, golden windows and beautiful statues.6 The pillars and stairs and seats of the aircraft were all made of gold.7 Aircraft was air-conditioned to regulate the temperature.8 These aircrafts were used both as carriages and as fighter aircrafts also. Names of the aircrafts used for these two purposes are not specified as they are simply termed as ‘vimāns’.
While civilian aircrafts are categorized according to their sizes and decorations, combat aircrafts were described just for their strong qualities. Although there are lengthy description of wars using fighter aircrafts, the one between ‘devas’ (Gods) and ‘asuras’ (demons) is of much interest. This war is known as star war (TārakāMāyā Samgrām) and was fought after one of demons, named ‘Vrtra’, who was killed by God Indra. In this war, Māyāsur (a she demon) fought from an aircraft and its thunder was like a hundred cloud bursts.9 During the course of fighting, soldiers of two armies attacked each other from speedy aircrafts.10The sky was all in flames and lot of thunder and lightning from combat. Some aircrafts took sudden downward curves and flew up again11  and some fell on the earth. Pieces of broken aircrafts were scattered in all directions.12
To back up the knowledge of the aircraft technology in ancient India, there was a book named ‘vaimānik Shāstra’ (the science of aeronautics) whose existence was revealed in 1952 by one G.R. Josyer. According to Josyer, it is due to one Pundit Subbaraya Shastry, who dictated it in 1918-23 to a person named Sharma, whose Hindi translation was published in 1959, 13 the Sanskrit text with an English translation in 1973.14 It has 3000 ‘slokas’ (couplets) in eight chapters and was attributed by Shastry to an ancient ‘rishi’ (seer) Bharadwaj and others, 15 which makes it of purportedly ancient origin, and hence it has a certain notability in ancient aeronautic theories. Josyer’s edition in English also added some illustrations drawn by one draughtsman T.K.Ellappa, a draughtsman at a local engineering college in Bangalore. The topics covered in the book  include definition of an aircraft, a pilot, aerial routes, food, clothing, metals, metal production, mirrors and their uses in wars, varieties of machinery and ‘yantras’(machines), planes like ‘mantrik’, tantrik’ and ‘kritak’. The four types of planes are called ‘Shakuna’, ‘Sundara’, ‘Rukma’ and ‘Tripura’ are described in great details. This text is supposed to be only a small portion of a larger work ‘Yantra Sarvashwa’ (All about machines) composed by Maharishi Bharadvāj and other sages for the benefit of all mankind.16 
Characteristics of ‘vimāns’ (aircrafts)

As per the dictionary meaning of Sanskrit word ‘vimāna’ it has two connotations. One is ‘vi’ (bird) and ‘mān’ (measurement) or like a bird. The second being ‘vi’ (sky) and ‘mān’ (noise) or roar in the sky. One sage, named Bharadvāja wrote a text known as ‘vaimānika sāstram’ (the knowhow book of aircraft) in which he gives a specific definition of aircraft:
‘pr’thviyapsvantariksesu khagavadvegatassvayam
Yassamartho bhavedvantum sa vimāna iti smrtah…..
DesāddesāntaRām tadvaddvipāddvipāntRām tathā
LokāllokāntaRām cāpi yohambare gantumarhati
Sa vimān iti prābho khetasāatravidam varaih.’17
(A vimān is that which can travel through the water, the land and the air on its own power like a bird. Which can travel from one land to another and from one world to another through the sky?)
If we take into account all the qualities found in the descriptions, the following characteristics of an aircraft are clear: Its sparkling brightness, its thunderous roar, their supersonic speeds and their capability to go anywhere.
From various accounts of aircrafts it seems Mount Meru (or Sumeru as given in Buddhist scriptures) was a favorite landing spot for aircrafts. Sage Markandeya while engaged in meditation on Mount Meru saw an aircraft coming to him from northward side of the mountain which was so bright with its own energy that it brightened the entire sky.18 In the description of aircrafts; fire and sun were used as similes. In ‘Rāmāyana’, Lord Indra’s aircraft is compared with sun and Kuber’s aircraft was so bright that it lit up the four worlds.19 Apart from brightness, thunderous roar while ascending or descending was also one of the characteristics. When Indra’s aircraft descended with arjun as a co-traveler, its tremendous speed split the clouds and thunderous noise echoed in all directions.20 When ‘pushpak vimān’ ascended in its flight to Ayodhya with Rām, Laksmana and others it made a tremendous noise as it took off.21 These aircrafts were very fast, ‘pushpak vimān’ was as fast as the speed of thought.22 Sometimes wind is also mentioned to depict fast speed. The other quality of an aircraft was its capacity to travel anywhere. One important thing is that there is no reference to a pilot (sārathi) while describing a ‘pushpak vimān’. In other aircrafts there was the mention of a pilot (sārathi or sutas). Indra’s aircraft had a pilot named Mātali. Not only pilots, some aircrafts had apsarās and gandharvās (can be termed as stewards and airhostesses to entertain the passengers).23 It seems, this aircraft was on auto-pilot. After reaching Ayodhya, lord Rām asked it to ascend and it did so (rāmābhyanujnatam).24 Later on, he asked it to return northward to Kuber (who was the owner of the aircraft) and it returned to Kuber.25 In one of the later chapters of ‘Rāmāyana’ Kuber sent the aircraft back to Rām with a message which it gave to him from the sky over Ayodhya.
Beside this description, in some of the Purānas (old treatises) the airway specific routes followed by the aircrafts are also given, as in ‘Harivansa Purān’ Narad told Krishna that these airways had been purified and all impediments to journeys had been removed. As pointed out before, there were some landing strips for these aircrafts. The most mentioned one is Mount Meru. Brahma’s ‘Saubha’ aircraft was itself on Mount Meru where was the ‘Sabhā’ (a space for parking the aircrafts) of Brahma. The station was spread in over fourteen thousand ‘yojanas’ (meaning one hundred and twelve thousand miles). It seems a huge space station built by Vishvakarmā, the architect of Gods. And from various references made to this ‘Sabhā’ on different locations; it seems that it was a huge moving aircraft station. There were references to other stations made in the books.26
Ownership of the aircrafts
About the ownership, one thing is very clear that these aircrafts were mostly owned by Gods or their half-brother demons. (This is another riddle in Indian mythology whether they were real brothers who fell apart on some basic issues of morality and behavior. Some regard them as two separate species altogether. Whatever the case may be, their co-existence in peace  and war times is ever present in all religious, mythological, classic literature). Humans rarely used these aircrafts. If there are references of humans using these aircrafts, it is given that they got these aircrafts from either Gods or demons. This kind of transfer we also see in case of special weapons, which were given to humans by Gods or demons after  they performed rigorous austerities (sometimes mentioned even of thousand years) to get them. All the main Gods had these aircrafts which they use for transportation, going from one ‘lok’ (world) to another, meeting each other, attending the gatherings organized by other Gods or sometimes demons or powerful humans. Most of the time they were used for travels performed for watching special events happening on earth. Like, when the war between Rām and Rāvan was going on, Gods watched all the proceedings from their aircrafts in the sky. When Sitā (wife of lord Rām) was put to ‘agnipareekshā’ (evidence before fire), Gods watched the happenings from their aircrafts. They watched the whole Mahābhārata war in ‘Kurukshetra’ (place of the war) from their aircrafts for many days. Whenever there was a victory of good over evil or of Gods over demons, they were always present in big numbers throwing petals and flowers from their aircrafts.
All accounts of ownership indicate that only Gods and demons owned these aircrafts.
Sometimes the word ‘ratha’ (chariot) is also used for aircraft. Some of the chariots were equipped with the qualities and facilities of aircrafts. When Arjun (Pandav hero of Mahābhārata) was travelling with God Indra in his aircraft (rath) to ‘svargalok’ (heaven), he saw many aircrafts on the way belonging to other Gods; some were stationary while others were moving.27
‘Danavas’ (demons) also possessed aircrafts and the description of ‘danav vimāns’ clearly establishes the superiority of these aircrafts over aircrafts owned by Gods. In comparison to these aircrafts the ones owned by Gods are small entities. These were really huge as if the entire city is lifted to the sky. ‘Hiranyapura’ was such an aircraft. This was technologically much more advanced as it could remain stationary in the sky and move down, backward and forward or in curved motion.28 It could travel underwater. The aircrafts of demons were manufactured by ‘Māyā’, a demon herself. Demons were so advance in technology that if they wanted to travel alone in the sky they did not need even an aircraft. They simply lifted themselves up and they could fly like birds. In many a wars they fought from sky like this. In Mahābhārat they watched the fight between Arjun and Karna (who was step brother of Pandavas but fought from the side of Kauravas) like this from sky.
It is clear proof that in technology and crafts demons were much cleverer, skilled and advanced than their counterpart Gods. While Vishvakarma was the chief architect of Gods, Māyā was the chief architect of demons and he was no match for her skills in manufacturing, crafting and architecture. This superiority is clearly evident in Mahābhārat where she built a marvelous city under water.29 There are numerous examples to show that demons were a more advanced civil society living in big cities and having superior architecture in comparison to Gods. Gods were somehow lived in scattered places and most of the time were destroying cities (as Indra was called ‘Purandar’, the destroyer of cities). This again, is very interesting topic to research, but presently we would leave the temptation and focus on out main topic. This is just to show that the aircrafts owned by demons were superior in all respect in comparison to the ones owned by Gods.
Human beings rarely owned or used these aircrafts.  There are only few instances when humans got these as gifts from Gods or demons or were given by Gods or demons to perform some specific tasks. In ‘Aādi parva’ (beginning chapter) of Mahābhārat there is a reference that after a hard penance, Uparicara obtained an aircraft from Indra as a gift and he was told that he was the only human who posses an aircraft.30 Kuber, another human being got an aircraft  from Indra and other Gods after performing hard penance for thousands of years. Once he got this ‘pushpak vimān’ he was elevated to the ranks of the Gods.31  It is another matter that it was forcibly taken by demon Rāvan from him. Two other women named Pulomā and Kālkā, belonging to demons obtained an aircraft from God Brahmā after performing hard penance for three thousand years.32 Rām in human incarnation in Rāmāyana was given the temporary possession of the aircraft to fight the battle with demon king Rāvana and Arjun in Mahābhārat was given such temporary possession to fight ‘nivātakavacas’. Except for these few specific instances, human’s use of the aircrafts is non existent.
Analysis of inner and outer evidences
On the basis of this evidence material on the aircraft and its various forms, characteristics, uses, ownership and other related issues in two most important epics of India, one can safely conclude that this is a authentic and conclusive evidence to prove the existence of this object. At least, the whole subject matter merits a serious inquiry into all aspects of these inner and outer evidences. In this paper we can deal in short with some of the basic things only with minimum details and references possible.
The first most important outer evidence is the so-called book on aeronautics science and technology named ‘vaimānic shāstra’ (the science of aeronautics) dictated by one Subbaraya Shastry in twentieth century and attributed to the ancient ‘rishi’ (seer) Bharadwaj.33 As soon this book came to light, it generated lot of interest among whole lot of groups active in India and abroad engaged in the studies of ancient sciences, evidences of ancient human achievements and Indologists of all sorts. Tremendous enthusiasm was also evident among section of scholars and groups wanted to prove superiority of Indian civilization. Some international groups related to UFO research also took up the issues raised in the book to re-affirm their thesis of objects from other civilizations. Like one of the modern UFO enthusiasts Desmond Leslie, who co-authored with George Adanski in 1953 one book on UFO entitled ‘Flying saucers have landed’ pointed to the ‘vimāns’ as evidence for advance technological civilizations in the distance past.34 A symposium on ‘science and technology in ancient India’ was organized in December 1990 at B.M. Birla Science Center at Hyderabad, India in which many topics of ancient Indian aeronautics were discussed. Italian ufologist, Robert Pinotti presented a paper on ‘Aeronautics in ancient India’ in the world space conference conducted at Bangalore, India. He told the conference that those aircrafts were similar to modern jet-propelled airplanes. Others such as Dileep Kumar Kanjilal in ‘Vimāna in ancient India: Airplanes or flying machines’ (1985)35 affirmed this attitude. David Hatcher Childress has written about ‘Ancient Indian aircraft technology’ and ‘Vimān aircraft of ancient India and Atlantis’36 and Stephen Knapp endorsed this concept in his ‘secret teachings of Vedas’.37

No doubt, this book generated a fresh interest in the ancient evidences about aeronautics present in ancient scriptures, religious books, classics and other archeological surveys. Lot of enthusiasts and supporters of sciences of the ancients were active with this fresh evidence. I have personally seen at least hundred sites and blogs where this book is shown and is the basis of hot discussion. 

There is no doubt that if the authenticity of the book was proved beyond any doubt, then the riddle surrounding this whole description of aircrafts in ancient scriptures and epics would have been solved for good and researchers would have concentrated on other more positive issues of the case. But, the authenticity of the book became suspicious in the very beginning of the publication. As the manuscript of the book was not found but was revealed and dictated by Mr. Shastry to one Mr. Sharma by mental channeling and through some mystic powers between 1900-1923. Revealer of the book, Shastry died in 1941 and there was no scope to confirm or ascertain the source of the book. Then the book appeared at Rajkiya Sanskrit Library, Baroda, India in 1944. The text was published in 1959 in Hindi and later Josyer (who by this time founded ‘International Academy of Sanskrit Research’ in Mysore, India) published the book in English translation with original Sanskrit text in 1973 with his forward. From his press release a controversy started. Because of the peculiar authorship and events leading to its publication, the very existence and authenticity of the book became suspicious.
Keeping in mind the importance of the issue and suspicions surrounding the book, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India appointed a review committee of five eminent scientists and Sanskrit scholars (H.S. Mukunda, S.M. Deshpande, H.R. Nagendra, A. Prabhu and S.P. Govindaraju) to go into all the aspects of the book in 1974. The committee interviewed all the available persons connected with the book, went into the personal life details of its revealer, and studied the book with linguistic and scientific angle. A detailed report was submitted by this committee announcing that the people connected with the publication, directly or indirectly, are solely to blame either for distorting or hiding the history of the manuscript. The kind of Sanskrit used in the book proves beyond doubt that it is of recent origin and has nothing to do with Bharadwaj or any ancient ‘Rishi’ (seer). After the detailed study of its aeronautics content, the report was categorical that this is a poor concoction, none of the described and graphed planes has properties or capabilities of flying, the text and drawings are inconsistent. It also established from the personal data of the life of Mr. Shastry that the person was not educated, was having unstable life. It also passed comments on Mr. Josyer’s wrongdoings in the whole affair.38
When the most important theoretical work on the subject becomes suspicious, the subject itself to a great extent becomes suspicious. Taking advantage of the situation, critics of past glorification started brandishing every old and new evidence as of doubtful nature. Once the so-called book of Maharishi Bhardwaj (or of Mr. Shastry) on aeronautics was discarded as fake by scientific community, the whole attention was diverted towards it and other evidences were ignored. In the first place, making this book as the main evidence was in itself wrong and motivated. It was never the main evidence; it came into limelight because of some manipulations. This was only a supportive evidence of the descriptions of the aircrafts in the epics of Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata. If the external evidence is unavailable or is of doubtful character, does it follow that the main evidence of the epics becomes doubtful!
Then there are lacunas in proving the renderer of the book incapable and building conspiracy theories behind the publication. The main script is in Sanskrit and deals with a highly technical subject. A person of unstable mind and not sufficiently educated and proficient in the highly sophisticated structure of Sanskrit language can not dictate such a manuscript from memory. There are some excesses done by the scientific community to prove this manuscript suspicious. To say that the descriptions and designs of the airplanes violate Newtonian law of gravity was at one time to pronounce a sentence to someone. But not any more. In twentieth century, with the advent of non-linear views and quantum mechanics doubts about Newtonian deterministic and deductive views arose among scientific community. It began to grow clear to many scientists that things may not be as deterministic as they seemed up to now. With this, concept of chaos emerges with theories of catastrophe and unpredictability. That is why terming something on the basis of old scientific prejudices is not very rational.
But once, this book became controversial (rightly or wrongly); we can not take it as one of the strong evidences for our subject.
In the early part of the paper we have quoted the references of aircrafts from the two important epics of India about whose authenticity no one ever has raised any doubts. In these epics, the description of ‘vimāns’ is quite elaborate and matching the qualities of modern day aircrafts. They are bright, made of metal and shine in the sky with sunlight, make exceptional noise when taking off or landing. Planes are of various types, some very huge with decorations and VIP facilities like air-conditioning, stewards and airhostesses. They are driven by pilots and have variable speeds. There is also description of air-strips, some are as big as cities and can park hundreds of aircrafts. These aircrafts are used for civilian and military purposes. Their designers (Vishvakarma for Gods and Māyā for demons) are specialists in this technology.
Not only this, some descriptions are beyond the reach of modern aeronautic technology. Like some special airplanes of important personalities are like huge cities. As regards automation, it is depicted as some aircrafts (for example ‘Pushpak’ aircraft given to Rām for fighting Rāvana) is without pilot and can obey any verbal orders of flight. These airplanes can run in space, water and land.
To co-relate all this description with the ancient times of these epics is mind boggling because it is just impossible to draw such an advance picture. Not that this description itself is absurd, as sometimes we see in science films going far beyond any recognizable limits. In our times, we have well developed technology of aeronautics and have aircrafts of many varieties with different purposes. All the above description is not of something impossible. The real problem is of time. We can not relate it to the ancient time of these epics. Then what to make out of all this inner evidence!
The best course is simply to dismiss all this description of ‘vimāns’ as figments of poetic imagination. This position can be tolerated by all and forgiven, as being epics, these books show great poetic imagination in describing the events and other mythological stories. Description of airplanes can be put in that category.
But, immediately the question arises why was this poetic imagination so extraordinary in describing the air transport! In other transport mediums of land and water, no such imagination is evidenced! Why did poetic imagination not think something equally fantastic and wonderful in the case of underwater transport! India of old times also was surrounded by sea on three sides and it had a net of many big rivers crossing the length and breadth of the country. If this was a question of simple imagination then it should have been equally visible in descriptions of land and water transport.
Then arises the question of imagination. Can any imagination go so far beyond the experiences and advancements of reality that it does not relate to it even remotely! Theoretical questions of defining dreams and imagination also become relevant here. Imagination and dreams can not be as unrelated to reality as this description of airplane seems from the reality of those times. Jumping of monkeys and flying of birds can give birth to some imaginative jumps and flying and can create myths as in case of Hanumān (a monkey devotee of Rām) who can cross ocean in one jump or as in western literature Daedalus and Icarus who put wings for flying. But the description of aircrafts in Rāmāyana and Mahābhārat do not belong to the category of myth making.
Then do we accept this description as the proof of scientific advancement of these ancient times!
The question is not to decide the issue this or that way. This can not be done in an academic paper. The effort in this paper is simply to rid this description from the prejudices and pre-conceived notions of this or that side or group and put it in its factual form without hiding or manipulating facts and evidences. If one accepts this evidence as the proof of aircraft technology, then one has to put a hypothesis that such an advanced civilization who can conceptualize such an advance technology deteriorated over a time or some catastrophic happening ended the era of that civilization and its advanced scientific and technological knowledge met a sudden tragic end. No such historical evidence is available to prove any catastrophic happening. There are references of ‘Pralaya’ (deluge) in Pauranic literature, but there are no corroborating evidences to prove or disprove it. In one of the modern Hindi epics ‘Kāmāyani’ poet Jay Shankar Prasad taking mythological metaphors depicts the great deluge, as described in ‘Satpath Brahman’ (old scripture). In this epic three main characters, Manu, Shradhā and Irā are Vedic characters and Manu is depicted as the only survivor of Gods from deluge. There is some indication of some highly advanced civilization of Gods, but one can not base serious investigation on mythological references. So we leave this aspect at it.
 Nowhere, in the inner descriptions or outer evidences, the construction of ‘vimān’ is explained or mentioned. It can be said that since these vehicles were not made or used by humans, they did not know anything about their construction. Even otherwise, in Indian tradition, all such knowledge is secretive and known to only the specialist. He/she shares this knowledge with the ‘Shisya’ (pupil) or a family member at the time of his/her death in private, so the purity and secrecy can be maintained.
To sum up, it can be said that this description clearly points out that some kind of knowledge of space travel existed in the times of these epics. It is difficult to say whether this was present at the time of writing these epics or it was just reminisces of some old civilization which met a tragic end somewhere in the past. The ownership of these airplanes is supposed to be not with humans but with otherworldly beings called ‘devas’(Gods) and ‘Asuras’ (demons), who were like human beings and also use to interact with them but not one and the same. They are depicted as much more advanced detachments. To decipher that one has to go into the details of Gods and demons and different worlds (lok) described in reference to different otherworldly beings.
                                                  ____________

[ Published in Fall 2010 in “International Area Studies Review”**]

** International Area Studies Review (IASR) is the quarterly peer-reviewed publication of the Center for International Area Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).
IASR publishes high quality theoretical, analytical, and empirical works on international politics, economics, culture, sociology, law and the arts contributing to the development of international area studies. The IASR actively encourages both theory-oriented and applied research to help close the gap between pure theory and practice.

Notes and References

1.                  Kapoor, Kapil (2001). Eleven objections to Sanskrit literary theory: A rejoinder. This is the pāth (expanded version) of the lecture delivered at Dhvanyaloka (the institute founded and headed by venerable Prof. C.D. Narasimhaiah) on June 11, 2000. Its laghu pāth (smaller, condensed, version) is likely to appear in the Dhvanyaloka journal Literary Criterion in its January 2002 issue. A brihat pāth is needed with commentary (bhasya) and may get composed later.    
2.                  Meera Nanda (2003). Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism, Rutgers University Press.   
3.                   The Mahābhārata, (1968). Vana Parva, 22/various slokas, 172/various slokas, Aryashastra edition, Calcutta, India
4.                           The Rāmāyana, (1968). Yudh Kandam, 121/24), Aryashastra edition, Calcutta, India
5.                           The Rāmāyana, Uttara Kāndam, 24/2-3 and 6 slokas
6.                           The Rāmāyana, Sunder Kāndam, 8/ various slokas
7.                           Ibid, 15/39
8.                           Ibid, 15/42
9.                           The Kurmma Purāna, Purvabhāga, adhyāya 16
10.                        The Harivansa, Harivansa Parva, adhyāya 43
11.                        Ibid, adhyāya 42, sloka 16
12.                        Ibid, adhyāya 46
13.              Swami Brahmamuni Parivrajaka (1959). Brihad Vimana Shastra, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha. Dayanand Bhavan, New Delhi.
14.              A.S. Shastry, G.R. Josyer(1973). Vymanika Shastra - Pronouncements of Maharshi Bhradwaja, International Academy of Sanskrit Research, Mysore.
15.              The Vaimanika Shastra: it is an alleged ancient text on aeronautics, "channeled" in 1918-1923, and published in 1973, which started the enthusiasm for "Vedic UFOs".
16.              H.S. Mukunda, S.M. Deshpande, H.R. Nagendra, A. Prabhu, and S.P. Govindaraju (1974). A critical study of the work “vymanika shastra”, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
17.              A.S. Shastry, G.R. Josyer(1973). Vymanika Shastra - Pronouncements of Maharshi Bhradwaja, International Academy of Sanskrit Research, Mysore.
18.                       The Harivansa, harivansa parva, adhyāya 17
19.                       The Mahābhārat, vana parva, 41, various slokas
20.                       Ibid, 42, various slokas
21.                       Ibid
22.                       The Rāmāyana, uttara Kandam, 15/39
23.                       The Harivansa, bhavisya parva, adhyāya 132, sloka 33, 39 and 43.
24.                       The Rāmāyana, yudha kāndam, 127/38
25.                       Ibid, 127/60-62.
26.                       The Harivansa, vishnu parva, adhyāya 39, sloka 66.
27.                       The Mahābhārat, vana parva, 42/31-34, 43/9, 168/41-43.
28.                       Ibid, 173/1-14, 24-30, 64-65.
29.                       Ibid, 168/71-72
30.                       Ibid, ādi parva, 63/14
31.                       The Rāmāyana, uttar kandam, 3/19-20
32.                       Ibid, 172/various slokas.
33.              A.S. Shastry, G.R. Josyer (1973). Vymanika Shastra - Pronouncements of Maharshi Bhradwaja, International Academy of Sanskrit Research, Mysore.
34.              Desmond Leslie and George Adamski (1953). The Flying Saucers Have Landed, British Book Centre.
35.                       Kanjilal, Dileep K., (1985). Vimanas in Ancient India, Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, Calcutta.
36.              Childress, David H., (1991).Vimana Aircraft of ancient India and Atlantis, Adventures Unlimited, Stelle, IL
37.              Stephan Knapp, (1986).The secret teachings of Vedas, The world relief network, Detroit, Michigan, US
38.              H.S. Mukunda, S.M. Deshpande, H.R. Nagendra, A. Prabhu, and S.P. Govindaraju (1974). A critical study of the work “vymanika shastra”, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.