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                                                A N C I E N T   I N D I A N   V I M A N A S

By Ashini Pandit.

Did Rama truly board the Pushpak Vimana after winning the war with Ravana ? Did medieval saint Tukaram truly go to heaven without leaving his human body as is described in scriptures? He too was said to have boarded a Vimana. Such questions never bothered any of the scientific minded. Mythology was just that, a collection of myths and was not real history.

Then two writers opened our eyes to a very different possibility. Zecharia Sitchin and Erich Von Daniken introduced idea of outer space visitors. Suddenly everything that sounded fantastic and magical began to make sense even to a rational mind.

Here I have decided to put together various fragments of information available about Vimanas in Sanskrit books written over last 5000 years. Classical Sanskrit can be read as any other modern Indian language, and although it is no longer a spoken language, it was never completely forgotten. Plus oral traditions of all scriptures ensured that Sanskrit books survived even when invaders plundered and burned various libraries in ancient India.

When one considers Tukaram’s case in particular, what I have found interesting is that while describing his passage to heaven, none of the chroniclers look at it as magic or any unusual happening .Tukaram boarding a Vimana sent by “God” is described as a completely normal event. Did common people in those days have more information about such things than we do today? This is quite plausible, as most of the information regarding history, art, theology, and ancient technical advancements either went underground or was completely lost after last Hindu King on Deccan Plateau lost the battle against Alladin Khilji around 1305 CE.

To put things in perspective, by the 1600’s no-one any longer had any idea exactly where Ajanta and Ellora cave were located or how to read the edict of Asoka. It was only in the late 19th century that European scholars (predominantly German) began rediscovering this ancient knowledge.

First clear mention of interstellar travel and a Yana (Specifically NOT a Vimana) is made in Chandra Purana, one of the lesser Puranas. This verse clearly states that early dwellers of Planet Earth arrived here from outer space ( Brahmanda). It then goes on to describe in minute details how their Yana was built. Some things mentioned there make very little sense, but largely we can understand that this Yana was a spacecraft designed to escape gravity and reach outer space. It did not have a component that helps modern spacecraft to turn back and get captured again in earth’s gravity. Logically this Yana was not built for returning to wherever it came from.

Though this does not prove visit from outer space, it does raise many relevant questions, which get no satisfactory answers.

Sanskrit treatises on secular and technical subjects have survived mostly in the large temple towns of the South. This was home to Bhaskaracharya’s “Lilawati”, which gave the world our concept of zero and the decimal system of counting. The same temple libraries are also home to “Vaimanik Shashtra“ by Rishi Bharadwaj and “Vimana Bindu” by Acharya Vachaspati .Both sages said to lived between 870 and 700 BC and are quoted widely by Panini (who was the first scholar to codify the laws of grammar) and others .

“Vaimanik Shastra” describes in minute detail how to build a mercury vortex engine to propel aircraft, and also how to build the outer body of this craft. Eight years before the Wright Brothers, Shivkar Bapuji had successfully built an unmanned craft and even tested it. I have previously posted a complete article on this subject to the Book of Thoth competition.

“Vimana Bindu”, in contrast, talks about the maintenance of the aircraft, sourcing of fuel, spare parts, and the like.

Two more books devoted to same subject are “Vimanachandrika” by Acharya Narayanamuni and “Vimana Yantra” by Maharihi Shoumik. Both books are completely technical and do not tell any stories like Chandra Purana. Most of these crafts are described as based on a mercury engine. According to Indologist Stephen Knapp, the earliest details of such an engine are found in the “Samaranga Sutradhara” written by unknown sages around same time as two lesser Vedas.

Another Indologist, William Clarendon, tries to explain how such engines will work from a modern scientific point of view. According to him, four mercury cylinders are built inside a circular airframe, with a mercury boiler at the center. After absorbing solar power, the latent heat in the mercury will develop enough power to escape gravity and navigate the craft over a large distance.

Surprisingly, in recent times NASA, the world’s richest and most powerful scientific organization, has been trying to create an ion engine - a device that uses a stream of high velocity electrified particles instead of a blast of hot gases like in modern jet engines. According to the bi-monthly Ancient Skies published in USA, the aircraft engines which are being developed for future use by NASA, by a strange coincidence also use mercury bombardment units powered by Solar cells! Interestingly, the impulse is generated in seven stages. The mercury propellant is first vaporized, then fed into the thruster discharge chamber where it is ionized and converted into plasma by a combination of electrically “broken-down” electrons, and then accelerated through small openings in a screen to pass out of the engine at velocities between 1200 to 3000 kilometers per minute. But so far NASA’s scientists have been able to produce only one pound of thrust in their experiments, a virtually useless power output.

Did we have visitors from outer space in ancient times? Quite likely, because the people who wrote such detailed treatises about flying machines had never actually built any. So who did?

Compared to this Vimanas are mentioned with much more frequency in various poems and verses describing events of their times upto 1509 when Tukaram is said to have reached heaven after boarding a Vimana. From Ramayana to12th century Geet Govindam outer features of these Vimanas are exactly similar. They are largely circular with or without windows. Can take off vertically ,often quite suddenly leaving large trail of smoke behind.

When we take a close look at more technical books or treatises on the subject, this description about shape etc. looks plausible. 



Translated from the Sanskrit text of the
Bhagavata Purana

Having made his vow, the foolish King [Salva] proceeded to worship Lord Pasupati [Siva] as his deity . . . at the end of a year he gratified Salva, who had approached him for protection, by offering him a choice of gifts.

Salva chose a vimana that could not be destroyed by Devas, Asuras, humans, Gandharvas, Uragas nor Rakshasas, that could travel anywhere he wished to go, and that would terrify the Varishnis.

Lord Siva said, "So be it." On his order, Maya Danava, who conquers his enemies cities, constructed a flying vehicle made of iron named Saubha, and presented it to Salva.

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

Salva besieged the city with a large army . . . From his excellent vimana he threw down a torrent of projectiles, including stones, tree trunks, thunderbolts, snakes and hailstones. A fierce whirlwind arose and covered everything in thick dust.

The vimana possessed by Salva was very deceptive. It was so out of the ordinary that sometimes many vimanas would appear to be in the sky, but at other times none. Sometimes the vimana was visible, sometimes invisible. And the warriors of the Yadu dynasty were totally confused about the location of this mystifying vehicle: oftimes they would see the vimana on the ground, sometimes flying in the sky, other times resting on the crest of a hill, and even floating on the water. That awesome vimana flew in the sky looking like a whirling firebrand--it was never still, even for a moment.

* * * COMMENT * * *

It appears from this passage, and many others in Sanskrit literature, that a deity could be persuaded to offer a gift to a mortal after some long specified period of exceptional piety toward that deity. Siva was considered "the destroyer," therefore, in some ways evil. Salva did not have any intention of using his hard won gift for beneficial purposes.

The last sentence, containing the statement of Salva's celestial vehicle looking like a "whirling firebrand," should cause one to look twice at the so-called "wheels" of Ezekiel as described in the Old Testament. The similarities are striking. Did Ezekiel encounter ancient vimanas during his stay in Babylonia?,442.msg16777.html#new


A possible relationship
to modern UFO phenomena

An analytical essay
by R. Cedric Leonard                               
Have you ever wondered how a primitive tribesman from the plains of east Africa might describe the landing of a high-tech military helicopter? How would this confused, frightened villager relate his experience to his peers? Familiar native words would have to be used to describe things beyond the ken of ordinary experience, and his attempt to describe such an experience may turn out to be quite unintelligible to his friends.

Now consider the possibility that something similar happened to Ezekiel somewhere around 600 B.C., as recorded in the Bible. The case I am about to unfold to you is truly worthy of attention.

Biblical scholars have long felt that Ezekiel's account of the fiery wheels encountered by the River Chebar 1 is one of the most difficult to translate in the entire Bible. Not only does the text abound in obscurities and apparent confusion, but also it has acquired occasional corruptions by well-meaning scribes whose "amendations" have only muddied the issue even further. (NBC; NLBC) It shouldn't be surprising that Ezekiel believed the encounter to be a "vision". Certainly nothing in normal experience could be compared to the occurrence he describes:

And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. (Ezek. 1:4)

The above is Ezekiel's first sight of the strange aerial phenomenon which was approaching him from the north. What follows in the next ten verses no biblical scholar has ever been able to unravel. The text, as well as its translation, exhibits a high degree of confusion. We will take up the reason for this in the latter part of the essay. But for now, let's analyze his description of this event by taking a close look at his choice of words.

The first descriptive word we come to in the above account is se'ahra, translated "whirlwind" in the King James translation of the Bible. Since I'm not expert in the Hebrew language, I consulted several Hebrew scholars to see if the Hebrew words held meanings not apparent in the English translations. My suspicions were rewarded beyond my expectations. I also consulted the Greek LXX rendition (I am more familiar with ancient Greek), which yielded a few insights.

The word se'ahra is rare, and denotes a very peculiar, or unusual, type of storm. This is the same word that is used when God spoke to Job "out of the whirlwind" (Job 38:1). He then mentions "a great cloud". The word 'anan can mean an ordinary cloud, but 'anan is used more often in the Bible to refer to the shining "presence" of deity (an "aureole," or "nimbus"). Moreover, his next words make his meaning clear: the cloud is surrounded by "a fire infolding itself". Here another rare Hebrew word is used: mitheleqachath which means "flashing itself". This sounds almost like strobe lights. The Greek text (LXX) uses exastrapton, meaning "scintillating" or "flashing out". Some scholars prefer "sheen" or "overall glow," which seems rather tame: even the conservative King James has the alternative reading in the margin of "catching itself". (The image of a dog chasing its tail comes to mind.) This is not the Hebrew word for natural lightning (baroq, used in verse 13), and this is no ordinary cloud. This thing looks alive, and terrifying.

The next three words are truly amazing! Hebrew scholars agree that venogah lo savev means something like "touching itself around" (savev: "in a circle"). This seems to reinforce the image of flashing lights spinning in a circle. (The Greek LXX uses the term kuklo from whence we get "circle" and "cycle".) Now it's beginning to sound like a modern UFO encounter! Such colorful language is seldom encountered in the Old Testament, and can only mean that Ezekiel was profoundly impressed by the splendor of the sight. Also that he was stretching the Hebrew vocabulary itself, so that nothing of his startling experience would be lost. Now it really gets interesting.

As this "vision" gets nearer and nearer Ezekiel is able to discern more details; for finally he describes the appearance of "gleaming metal" inside the flashing, spinning cloud mass. The usual translation is "the color of amber," but chashmal is better translated as "gleaming bronze," or better yet "electrum". Electrum is a natural alloy of gold and silver, having a high reflectivity factor and truly beautiful to behold. So, giving a more accurate translation, we have:


And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a glowing cloud, and brilliant fire flashing itself in a circle; and in the midst thereof, an appearance of polished metal (or, gleaming electrum), in the midst of the fire.

Try to imagine how Ezekiel must have felt, watching the mirror-like reflections of the whirling lights dancing in the gleaming electrum-like surfaces of this fabulous machine. In verse 13 the "whirling lamps" image is reinforced once more. The King James version puts it in these words:

As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures. (Ezek 1:13)

Instead of "lamps" which were "going up and down," the actual Hebrew text uses a word meaning "circling continuously" (mithehalaqat, closely akin to mitheleqachat). The Greek LXX text has lampadon sustrephomenon ("circling lamps," or "whirling lamps"). It is unfortunate that the King James translators missed so many facets of this relatively accurate description. The appearance of gleaming metal and "chasing lamps" within this glowing, luminous whirlwind certainly puts a different light on the event. We will take up the "living creatures" and the confusion surrounding them shortly, but let us now touch on some rather trivial details mentioned by Ezekiel in his attempt to describe these machines.

We now encounter mechanical nomenclature, such as rings, rims, strakes, spokes and "eyes" (which could well be port holes). Unfortunately, the text is hopelessly corrupt at this point and the details are quite obscure (this is why there are numerous "alternative readings" given in the margin of the King James translation). The words "lofty" and "awesome" are used. However, as the quality of the text improves, Ezekiel does explain that there are four identical machines, and that each one is constructed like "a wheel in the middle of a wheel" (verse 16). Here we are definitely talking about a machine: Ezekiel uses the Hebrew word for "construction". Even though scholars in the Hebrew language have historically had difficulty in visualizing the details, they have not hesitated to declare that "we are dealing here with a supernatural machine" (ABC). One scholar asserts that the apparatus described is "a supernatural chariot," even though the word "chariot" is never used by Ezekiel (NBC).

Ezekiel clearly indicates that these vehicles land, take off, hover, and even fly in formation as they zip to and fro in all directions. They are able to do so without needing to bank and turn as do airplanes or birds (verses 14, 17). As they flash through the sky they are--like the mighty flying machines (vimanas) of the Hindu epics--accompanied by a thunderous roar. Finally, as they land on earth they "let down their wings"--a curious statement from our UFO oriented standpoint, unless we realize that these "wings" could conceivably be metal stairways as seen from the side. Such "gangplanks" might be lowered smoothly until they touched the ground, giving him the impression that the cherubim had "let down their wings".

It would seem natural that after these vehicles had landed and the glowing cloud of plasma had dissipated and the fiery exhausts and rotating lights had ceased, that Ezekiel could better evaluate the physical appearance of the craft.

The climax of this event is when Ezekiel sees the "appearance of a throne" above the machine, and one sitting upon it having the "appearance of a man". Notice the repetition of the word "appearance". Did he perceive this to be an artificial image? Was this a projection of the ship's commander? I believe it more than significant that when Ezekiel fell on his face in awe of this being (verse 28), he was sharply commanded to stand up (Ezek. 2:1). If this was a vision of God himself, why wouldn't Ezekiel be permitted to worship? The same thing happens each and every time Ezekiel prostrates himself. Once on his feet, he was given a message to be delivered to his fellow captives in Babylon. Then a startling thing happens:

Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, as the glory of the Lord rose from its place . . . So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was heavy upon me. (Ezek. 3:12,14)

Apparently as he was taken up, simultaneously the whole dazzling affair, whirling lights and all, rose majestically into the sky! The book of Ezekiel records a total of seven such occurrences within its pages.

As he was being carried aloft, he heard a thunderous roar (which he imagined was caused by the clapping of mighty wings). The King James version uses the mild term "rushing," but my Rabbinical consultants assure me that the Hebrew words imply a thunderous roar, such as an earthquake or a tremendous waterfall. The "spirit" (ruach) mentioned here is the same powerful force which had lifted the prophet Elijah into heaven during the chariot of fire incident recorded in II Kings (2:11).

I italicized a particular phrase in the above passage purposely. It differs so drastically from the same passage as translated in the King James version, I wanted to draw special attention to it. Here are the two compared:

King James: Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place.
Restored to: As the glory of the Lord rose from its place.

The astonishing thing is that in Hebrew the difference in the above passage is only one letter! Since the original Hebrew text had no vowels, a scribal error was made at some point which substituted a Hebrew letter K for an original M, making the text to read baruk (blessed) instead of berum (as arose). Most biblical scholars believe this to have happened (with good reason) and have restored the original meaning to the text (PCB). A very similar phrase is used later (Ezek. 11:23), which was helpful to scholars in spotting this error (TIB). Before this was corrected, the meaning was so incoherent that the King James translators had to insert the English word "saying" to make any sense of it.

After the aerial hop in the dazzling spaceship, Ezekiel was so shaken that he sat speechless for seven days (Ezek. 3:15). He was warned, finally, that if he did not deliver the message he had received, the blood of his fellows would be on his hands. That got him up and going.

Incredibly, some scholars believe Ezekiel was not on board when the craft lifted off. In fact, Prof. Davidson (NBC) portrays Ezekiel as being bitter because he was left behind! But this view must be erroneous for several reasons: (1) the text says explicitly that "the spirit lifted me up and took me away"; (2) the Greek text (LXX) of the next verse says, "Then I passed through the air and came to the captivity"; (3) on numerous other occasions it states clearly that Ezekiel was shuttled from place to place (seven times in all) while inside the vision. The anger Ezekiel felt was not disappointment at being left behind, but because the hand of the Lord "was heavy" upon him as the craft soared into the air. He may have been pinned to the floor! His second encounter occurred not far from the first:

Then I arose, and went forth unto the plain: and behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river Chebar: and I fell on my face. (Ezek. 3:23)

Once again he is brought to his feet (no worship here) and another message given him. During these encounters he is always addressed as "son of man," which is the equivalent of "human" or "earthling". The phrase "the glory of the Lord stood there" indicates that he could see it while he was yet far off, and remained there as he approached. Does this sound like a vision?

Then the prophet was taken to Jerusalem aboard the craft. This time the text states explicitly that "the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem." (Ezek. 8:3) It couldn't be any clearer. Moreover, since he was a captive in Babylonia, he could not have traveled to Jerusalem on his own (a trip of several months by caravan).

Eventually, all four craft returned. By now Ezekiel is referring to them as cherubs (to be discussed shortly). Someone within hearing distance must have seen the craft also, because Ezekiel records hearing someone cry out, O galgal, i.e., "spinning thing", or wheel. (Ezek. 10:13) This is equivalent to yelling "flying saucer!" upon seeing a modern UFO. Later, another lift-off is described, this time in downtown Jerusalem:

Then did the cherubims lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city. (Ezek. 11:22-23)

Notice the italics. This is the statement which helped scholars identify the troublesome scribal error that had occurred in the text referred to earlier.

Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the Lord had shewed me. (Ezek. 11:24-25)

Once again, he makes it clear that he is inside the "visions" as he travels from place to place. After debarking, he apparently watched it fly away into the sky. He is taken up several more times, but the following example happens to mention that the presence of the craft lights up the surrounding terrain as it moves along:

. . . And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory. (Ezek. 43:2)

Once more he falls on his face, and again he is taken up and brought to the inner court of the temple at Jerusalem, whereupon the "glory of the Lord filled the house." (Ezek. 43:5)

During my consultation with local Rabbis concerning Ezekiel's visions, one of them said: "Do you know that the first chapter of Ezekiel has traditionally been read in the synagogues once a year on the day of Pentecost?" Intrigued, I asked why. It was explained that this is the day the Feast of Weeks is celebrated . . . the day Moses received the Law on Mt. Sinai. I didn't make the connection, so the Rabbi explained: "The Feast of Weeks has also been declared the Festival of Revelation, and both men received a divine revelation." I pressed the Rabbi: "But why the first chapter of Ezekiel in particular?" His answer surprised me.

He told me that there is a connection between the "divine chariot" in Ezekiel's vision and the "pillar of fire" which escorted, and protected, the children of Israel during the exodus from Egypt. I protested that Ezekiel never once used the term "chariot" in his account. He in turn asked me, "What did Elisha exclaim when he saw Elijah being taken up into the chariot of fire?" The answer was, of course: "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel". The Rabbi continued: "This chariot, the chariot of Israel, was present during the exodus from Egypt, during the giving of the Law, during the forty years in the wilderness, and also during the conquest of Canaan." He added: "It is believed that Ezekiel saw this same chariot."

Upon consulting numerous Bible commentaries I found that most refer to Ezekiel's vision as a chariot (ABC, HBC, NBC, OAB, PCB, TIB). In view of these discussions I see only two possibilities. Either Ezekiel encountered mechanized aircraft and their occupants, or he received visions of mechanized aircraft and their occupants. So why did he use the term "cherubim" in reference to these events? I have deliberately put this off until last since it has consistently thrown both scholar and layman into a state of confusion.

I believe the answer to be extremely simple. All four vehicles bore ensignias on them which denoted their universal or "star ship" status. The four faces of the "cherubim" are simply the four "signs" at the cardinal points of the heavens: Leo (the Lion), Taurus (the bull), Aquarius (the man), and Scorpio (which the Chaldeans often represented as an eagle). If one finds a circle depicting the twelve signs of the zodiac, uses a perfect cross with four arms, then rotates it until one of the arms is pointing at one of the four named signs (Aquarius for instance), the three remaining arms will point to the other three (Leo, Taurus, and Scorpio). This is a sensible way of representing this region of the universe. It now appears that we have properly identified the mysterious four faces of the so-called "living creatures". The question remains, Why did Ezekiel refer to these zodiacal faces as "cherubim"?

The word "cherub" (cherubim is plural) has no etymology in the Hebrew language. Both the word and the concept is Akkadian (Babylonian).2 (Dhorme, 1945) Cherubs were early mythological creatures believed by the Babylonians to possess awesome and terrifying power (in the same class with griffins and sphinxes). The winged bull is often depicted with the head of a man and the tail of a lion. The similar sphinx is usually (but not always) depicted with a human head, sometimes with an eagle's wings, and a lion's body. Cherubs were usually placed at the entrances of temples or other sacred places to protect those holy precincts. It should be remembered that the earliest mention of cherubim in the Bible were those guarding the entrance to the garden of Eden.

A line drawing of one of the two cherubim which guarded the entrance to the throne room of Sargon II. The cherub shown is a composite depicting the body and horns of a bull, the head and face of a man, and sporting the wings of an eagle.

Since Ezekiel was in Babylon (Chaldea) and sculpted representations of these four cardinal zodiacal signs could be seen on every hand, it is only natural that Ezekiel would use the very terminology he heard day after day in the environs of Babylon to describe such images.

Some confusion still remains concerning Ezekiel's terminology involving "living creatures". It almost seems that he believed everything in his vision to be alive. However, at times he seems to consider the human-like beings which disembarked from the wheels as alive and in control of their associated machines. The machines themselves exhibited many characteristics which, to one unfamiliar with electricity, might have made them appear to be alive. I am sure Ezekiel himself was confused on this score. Also one should remember that in ancient times anything that could move on its own was considered alive. Witness the old familiar "living water". If water flowed, it was "living water". This, I believe, is the answer. Ezekiel himself was confused.

To return once more to the chariot concept. Just what is a chariot? According to Funk & Wagnalls, the word is Old French and is an augmented form of char (from Latin, carrus, car, cart, or wagon). As an intransitive verb it means, "to convey, ride, or drive as in a chariot." (SDEL) Our word "carry" derives from the same source. Ezekiel's wheels represent an aerial vehicle, a celestial car, a "divine chariot" if you please, the function of which is transportation! So that's why Rabbis and biblical scholars consider Ezekiel's wheel as a chariot.

I think the UFO hypothesis (and that's all it is) is on reasonable ground. It certainly explains a lot hithertofore unexplainable. I haven't closed my mind to other possibilities: maybe the preachers and theologians are correct. However, the phenomenon in Ezekiel's account did everything one would naturally expect of an aerial vehicle. Fortunately for us, Ezekiel told us everything in chronological order. In this last sense, scholars say the book of Ezekiel is the best organized of any of the prophetic books of the Bible.

ABC = Abingdon Bible Commentary
Dhorme = Les religions de Babylonie et Assyrie
HBC = Harper's Bible Commentary
NBC = New Bible Commentary by F. Davidson
NLBC = New Laymen's Bible Commentary
OAB = Oxford Annotated Bible
PCB = Peak's Commentary on the Bible
TIB = The Interpreters Bible (twelve volumes) Vol. VI
LXX = The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament
SDEL = Standard Dictionary of the English Language

Due to the fact that most of the references used in this essay do not have a single author, a new system of notes was adopted. More complete information on these publications is given in the bibliography below.


1 The "River Chebar" mentioned here by Ezekiel is believed by many scholars to be the nari kabari ("great canal"), an artificial canal near the city of Nippur created by the Chaldeans for irrigation purposes. [Back]
2 Archeological discoveries have brought to light numerous examples of Akkadian style "kerubs" in the Phoenician city of Biblos, and in Samaria as well as Chaldea. Such representations do not consistently have four heads (e.g., Ezek. 41:18f describes them as having only two); but nearly always all four cardinal signs of the zodiac are represented in some way, i.e., in the form of wings, tails, horns, hooves, human heads, etc.   


Descriptions of Ancient Aircraft
* * * * *


The following quotations from classical Sanskrit literature are chosen specifically to illustrate the appearance, nature and capabilities generally ascribed to the ancient aerial vehicles known as vimanas (pronounced "vimans") in the ancient writings of India. The Sanskrit term vimana is often translated "aerial car" or "celestial car" (sometimes merely "car") by the translators.

Having spoken thus, Maharaja Nirga made a complete circle around Lord Krishna and touched his crown to the Lord's feet. Granted permission to depart, King Nirga then boarded a wonderful celestial car as all the people looked on. (Bhagavata Purana)

While Dhruva Maharaja was passing through space, he saw, in succession, all the planets of the solar system, and on the path he saw all the demigods in their vimanas showering flowers upon him like rain. (Bhagavata Purana)

He traveled in that way through the various planets, as the air passes freely in every direction. Coursing through the air in that grand and splendid vimana, which could fly at will, he surpassed even the Devas. (Bhagavata Purana)

When morning dawned, Rama, taking the Celestial Car Puspaka had sent to him by Vivpishand, stood ready to depart. Self-propelled was that car. It was large and finely painted. It had two stories and many chambers with windows, and was draped with flags and banners. It gave forth a melodious sound as it coursed along its airy way. (Ramayana)

The Puspaka Car, that resembles the sun and belongs to my brother, was brought by the powerful Ravan; that aerial and excellent car, going everywhere at will, is ready for thee. That car, resembling a bright cloud in the sky, is in the city of Lanka. (Ramayana)

Beholding the car coming by force of will Rama attained to an excess of astonishment. And the king got in, and the excellent car, at the command of Raghira, rose up into the higher atmosphere. And in that car, coursing at will, Rama greatly delighted. (Ramayana)

Then the highly intelligent Asura Maya built the cities . . . There were many palaces with gems. Aerial cars shining like the sun, set with Padmaraga stones, moving in all directions and looking like moonbeams, illuminated the cities. (Siva Purana)

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. (Mahabharata)

Bhima flew along in his car, resplendent as the sun and loud as thunder . . . The flying chariot shone like a flame in the night sky of summer . . . it swept by like a comet . . . It was if two suns were shining. Then the chariot rose up and all the heavens brightened. (Mahabharata)

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. (Mahabharata)

And the celebrated Arjuna, 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 [an airport?] and capable of going everywhere at will, and he saw tens of thousands of such cars moving in every direction. (Mahabharata)

Vimanas, decked and equipped according to rule, looked like heavenly structures in the sky . . . borne away they looked like highly beautiful flights of birds. (Mahabharata)

And having vanquished his foe, Krishna furnished with weapons and unwounded and accompanied by the kings, came out of Girivraja riding on that celestial car . . . upon that car Krishna now came out of the hill-fort. Possessed of the splendour of heated gold, and decked with rows of jingling bells . . . always slaughtering the foe against whom it was driven, it was the very car riding upon which Indra had slain ninety-nine Asuras of old. (Mahabharata)

And thereupon that best of cars became still more dazzling with its splendour and was incapable of being looked at by created beings, as the midday sun surrounded by a thousand rays . . . And Achyuta, that tiger among men, riding with the two sons of Pandu upon that celestial car . . . coming out of Girivraja, stopped (for some time) on a level plain outside of town. (Mahabharata)

The splendid chariot, made of silver and coated with tiger-skin, 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. (Ayodhya Kandam, XVI, pp. 235-236)

The vimana had all necessary equipment. It could not be conquered by the gods or demons. And it radiated light and reverberated with a deep rumbling sound. Its beauty captivated the minds of all who beheld it. Visvakarma, the lord of its design and construction, had created it by the power of his austerities, and its outline, like that of the sun, could not be easily delineated. (Mahabharata)

Gifted with great energy the Rakshasa once more came down to Earth in his golden vimana . . . when it had landed it looked like a beautifully shaped mound of antimony on the surface of the ground. (Ghatotrachabadma)

We beheld in the sky what appeared to us to be a mass of scarlet cloud resembling the fierce flames of a blazing fire. From that mass many blazing missiles flashed, and tremendous roars, like the noise of a thousand drums beaten at once. And from it fell many weapons winged with gold and thousands of thunderbolts, with loud explosions, and many hundreds of fiery wheels. Loud became the uproar of falling horses, slain by these missiles, and of mighty elephants struck by the explosions . . . Those terrible Rakshasas had the shape of large mounds stationed in the sky. (Mahabharata)

Karna took up that fierce weapon, which resembled the tongue of the Destroyer or the Sister of Death. That terrible and effulgent dart, Naikartana, was hurled at the Rakshasa. Beholding that excellent and blazing weapon . . . the Rakshasa began to fly away in fear . . . Destroying that blazing illusion of Ghatotkacha and piercing right through his breast that resplendent dart soared aloft in the night . . . Ghatotkacha, then uttering diverse roars, fell, deprived of life by the dart of Sakra. (Mahabharata)

And he also gave [unto Arjuna] a car furnished with celestial weapons whose banner bore a large ape . . . And its splendour, like that of the Sun, was so great that no one could gaze at it. It was the very car riding upon which the lord Soma had vanquished the Danavas. Resplendent with beauty, it looked like an evening cloud reflecting the effulgence of the setting Sun. (Mahabharata)


                                        YUDHISHTHIRA'S ASCENT TO HEAVEN

From P. C. Roy's translation of the Mahabharata

Causing the heaven and the earth to be filled by a loud sound, then Indra came to Yudhishthira on a car and asked him to ascend it.

Seeing his brothers fallen on the earth, King Yudhishthira the just said to that deity of a thousand eyes these words: "My brothers have all dropped down here! They must go with me. Without them by me, I do not wish to go to the celestial region, O lord of all the celestials. The delicate princess Draupadi, deserving of every comfort, should go with us! You should permit this."

Indra answered, "You shall behold your brothers in the celestial region. They have reached it before you. Indeed, you shall see all of them there, with Krishna. Do not give way to grief, O chief of the Bharatas! Having renounced their human bodies they have gone there, O chief of the Bharata race! As for you, it is ordained that you shall go there in this very body of yours."

[After a long debate between the two the following occurs.]

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



(This authors interpretation)

In both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana the researcher encounters the rather puzzling use of "steeds" and "wheels" (necessary componants of the conventional ground-bound war chariot). But why use such terminology when describing aerial vehicles? At first, this was a little baffling--after all, flying asses yoked to an airship?

These seemingly incongruous elements may be nothing more than the result of strong Hindu tendencies to allegorize, as well as translators who were sadly lacking in technological savvy and vocabulary. First let's consider the application of the term "wheels" to the aircraft known as vimanas. In the Mahabharata one discovers this enigmatic passage:

Indra's vimana endued with great effulgence and driven by Matali, came dividing the clouds and illuminating the firmament, filling the entire sky with its roar . . . also propellers furnished with wheels, working with atmospheric expansion, producing sounds loud as the roar of great masses of clouds. . . Indra's vimana was whisked along with such speed that the eye could scarcely follow. (Vana Parva, Sec. xlii)
Let me draw attention to the phrase "propellers furnished with wheels, working with atmospheric expansion." This is the way a modern jet engine works: pulling in fresh air using impeller blades, expanding the air by heating it, then directing it through more blades, which turn a shaft connected to the forward turbines, which packs in more air. If we substitute "impellers" for propellers and "turbines" for wheels--both more modern terms--it begans to make a great deal of sense.

Ancient drawings of these machines actually portray turbines and expansion chambers similar in some ways to our modern jet engines. So, at this point let me suggest that in many cases the Sanskrit word chakra should be translated "turbine" rather than "wheel," without doing violence to the Sanskrit.

The ancient Aryans of India tended to allegorize a lot, making it difficult to look at their propulsion systems from our scientific point of view. Often the vimanas were said to be drawn through the sky by "celestial steeds" (whether horses, swans, asses, or elephants). What means this?

No doubt some of these descriptions are not allegories, but are presented in such a manner because the propulsion units were deliberately constructed to resemble these animals! The following passage illustrates this clearly:

A huge and terrible black vimana made of black iron, it was 400 yojanas high and as many wide, equipped with engines set in their proper places. No steeds nor elephants propelled it. Instead it was driven by machines that looked like elephants. (Ghatotrachabadma)
In many other cases they may be using such terms as a blind, deliberately covering up the true nature of the form of propulsion utilized. The word "celestial" may be included merely to cue the informed reader that the following term is not to be taken in its literal, or "earthly," sense. One text clearly explains: "Manufacturing details of the vimanas are withheld for the sake of secrecy, not out of ignorance." (Samarangana Sutradhara)


                                                          V I M A N A S




By R. Cedric Leonard

The ancient vimanas described in the Vedic and Puranic literature of India are so fabulous in their capabilities and construction, one might, with good reason, wonder if such things were actualities. However, we must keep in mind that for the most part they were the products of a civilization and technology foreign to this planet. However, good evidence does exist indicating that more modest versions were built in ancient times by the aeronautical engineers of India and a few other places.

A manuscript, composed in Sanskrit by King Bhoja in the 11th Century A.D., deals with techniques of warfare, and in particular with certain types of war machines. The work is called Samarangana Sutradhara, or "Battlefield Commander"(sometimes abbreviated "the Samar"), and the whole of chapter 31 is devoted to the construction and operation of several kinds of aircraft having various methods of propulsion.

King Bhoja, who used the Sanskrit term yantra more often than the more familiar vimana, claims his knowledge was based on Hindu manuscripts which were ancient even in his time. Some of the techniques of manufacture described therein have been in use by British and American aircraft companies since World War I, and have been found to be sound aeronautical principles even though described nearly a thousand years earlier in this old Sanskrit work. The word vimana is used only once in these passages, in spite of numerous appearances in some translations. In looking over the complete text, it is perfectly clear that several types of aerial machines are being described.



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