08 January 2015

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In Depth Critical Study of the Work Vymanika Shastra

In Depth Critical Study of the Work Vymanika Shastra

Critical Study of the Work Vymanika Shastra by
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore-560012 (Karnataka)

Year – 1974

SUMMARY – A study of the work “Vymanika Shastra” is presented. First,
the historical aspects and authenticity of the work are discussed. Subsequently, the work is critically reviewed in respect of its technical content. It appears that his work cannot be dated earlier than 1904 and contains details which, on the basis of our present knowledge, force us to conclude the non feasibility of heavier-than craft of earlier times. Some peripheral questions concerning dimensions have also been touched upon.

1. Historical Aspects


  A book titled “Brihad Vimana Shastra” by Shri Bramhamuni Parivrajaka was published in the year 1959 [1]. It contains verses in Sanskrit (describing aircraft) with their Hindi translation.
  Recently, another book titled “Vymanika Shastra” by Shri G.R. Josyer has appeared [2], which contains the same Sanskrit verses with their English translation. One notable feature of this English
Version is that it contains drawings of some crafts too, something not to be found in the Hindi version. Also, the English work by Josyer makes no mention whatsoever of the earlier work in Hindi.
  Our main concern in this report will be with the above two works.   These books contain verses which, according to their texts, are supposed to form only part (about a fortieth) of “Yantra Sarvaswa” by Sage Bharadwaja, which is devoted to a summary of the work on Vimana vigyana by a number of other sages and is said to be for the Benefit of all mankind. 

  In his introduction to the “Brihad Vimana Shastra” (Hereafter denoted as BVA)
The translator has tried to hind at the Vedic origin of the text. In support of this he has invoked Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati’s work entitled “Rigaveda Bhashya Bhumika” 
Also, some quotations from western scholars are given    in support of the clain for antiquity.
  According to Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati’s commentary (first published in
1878 or earlier), there are references to aircraft in the Vedic mantras:

Meaning of Mantras –
Going from one island to another with these crafts in three days and nights….and Just an intelligent people constructed ships to cross oceans…..jumping into  Space speedily with a craft using fire and water…..containing 12 stigmas (Pillars), one wheel, three machines, 300 pivots, and 60 instruments.
  These, however, are too vague, scanty, and totally inadequate to Date their (verses) content to the Vedic period. Further, we are afraid We may be attributing meaning to shlokas based on what we know Today.  (More on this in Section 1.5).
  The manuscript from which BVS was prepared as said to have been Available at the Rajakiya Sanskrit Library, Baroda, in 1944. It is also Stated in BVS that later another transcript was found in Poona with A signature and dates G. Venkatachal Sharma - 9-8-1919 set on it.
BVS has been written on the basis of the above two transcripts which are Essentially the same.  It may be noted that in the introduction to BVS gratitude has been expressed to Air Com. Goel who probably has Something to do with the procurement of these documents. 


  As already stated, the authorship of the work has been attributed to Maharshi Bharadwaja.  Whether this Maharshi is the same as one of the seven seers (Saltmarshes) is by no means  substantiated.  Thus  the question of authorship remains as yet  unanswered.  It  is  possible, however, to throw more   light on the situation.   In his introductory remarks in the  book  Vymanika  Shastra  (VS
from  hereon)  Josyer  states  that Pandit Subbaraya Shastry of Anekal dictated  the  verses  to  Shri  G. Venkatachala Sharma (G.V. Sharma from hereon). No further details of the  process  in  which  the  work came  into  existence  have  been given in VS.

However,  we  were  able  to locate Shri G.V. Sharma and Shri Venkatarama Shastry (adopted son of Pandit Subbaraya Shastry)  with help from a retired scholor from the Tirupati Sanskrit Library, Shri Srinivasa  Iyengar,  who  seems  t0 have  played  some  part  in transactions  relating  to  the transcripts in question.
Discussions with  both  Shri  Sharma  and  Shri Venkatarama  Shastry  cleared  up many points concerning the history of the documents.
  Shri G.V. Sharma was a close associate  of  Pandit  Subbaraya Shastry  (Shastriji  from  hereon) during his later years. It appears that Shastriji, who was supposedly endowed  with  certain  mystical powers, used to spell out shlokas (verses)  whenever  he  got inspiration.  These  used  to  be promptly  taken  down  by  Shri Sharma.  After  the  full  text  had been  so  dedicated,  copies  were
made which later found their way to several places, Most of this and other similar materials were kept in charge of Shri Venkatrama Shastry after the death of Shastriji in 1941.

  The existence of the manuscript was known in some circles and that probably  is  how  Air  Com.  Goel came to know       of it and had it procured  from  the  Baroda University Library sometime during 1944.
  Sometime  during  1951,  Shri Josyer established an organization, called  International  Academy  of Sanskrit Research. An exhibition of rare manuscripts was held during the  inaugural  function. 
Shri  M.C. Krishnaswamy  Iyengar,  another associate  of  Shastriji,  (who  has published the English translation of the autobiography of Shastriji [4]) took  some  of  the  manuscripts, including the “Vymanika Shastra”,and  had  them  exhibited  there.
Subsequently,  the  original manuscript and the drawings were procured  and  retained  by  Shri Josyer.  The  drawings  were  not contained in the transcripts which reached  the  Baroda  University
Library. That perhaps is why BVS lacks the drawings.

  The  authorship,  as  stated earlier, has been traced to Shastriji.
It may be worth recording some of his life history to appreciate the situation in a better perspective.
Following is a brief life sketch of Shastriji  summarized  from reference [4]. It appears that the autobiography was written to fulfil a promise made to Jagdish Chandra Bose (the well-known scientist) by Shastriji,  during  one  of  the discussion meetings at Bombay.
  Shastriji  was  born  in  a  small village  in  Hosur  Taluk  (Madras State) and got married at the age of eight. His parents died a few years later and he was forced to support the large family, including
brothers  and  sisters,  virtually  by begging. Subsequently, he went to stay  with  his  father-in-law,  but soon had to leave with his brothers and  sisters,  looking  for  alms  at other towns. Thereafter, things got worse. Sometime later, his sisters and one of his three brothers died of small-pox. He himself got such a severe  attack  that  he  no  longer could move or use his own hands. His brothers perforce had to leave him to himself and move away. He had to live on grass and  other
leaves, like and animal, for a period of time. He then came to an area near Kolar (Karnataka) in a most pitiable state. It is stated that there he met a great saint, referred to as Guruji  Maharaj  in  the  text. 

This saint  cured  him  of  his  terrible disease,  initiated  him  into spirituality  and  revealed  to  him secrets  of  many  shastras  like Vimana Shastra, Bhautik Kala Nidhi, Jala Tantra, etc. in a cave.
  Later on, Shastriji came back to Anekal and settled down with his wife to a quiet life. Circumstances forced  him  to  adopt  Shri Venkatarama  Shastry  as  his  son.
Because of innate spirituality and mysticism,  he  came  to  influence many  people,  some  wise,  some rich, and some both. He then made several  trips  to  Bombay  and dictated Parts of Vimana Shastra there.  He  had  the  drawings  (of aircraft) made sometime between 1900 and 1919 by someone called Ellappa who was a draughtsman in a local engineering college at the time.
  Shastriji had no formal training (for  schooling)  of  any  kind.  He learnt to read and write Telugu and Kannada scripts only when he came back after meeting Guruji Maharaj. His early boyhood and youth were spent in braving some of the worst calamities that can befall a man.
  What  appears  strange  in  the whole  matter  is  that  Pandit Subbaraya Shastry, who apparently was not a ‘pnadit’ in anyordinary sense,  dictated  a  work  and nowhere in it did his name appear.
Also,  it  was  written  as  though Maharshi  Bhadadwaja  were  its author. Any possible fraud in the matter, in our opinion, is out of  the  question  sine  Shastriji  was known  for   his  utter  simplicity,
humble and un[pretentious nature.
It  is  also  stated  in  his autobiography that he was unsure of  the  practicality  of  the  ideas propounded in Vymanika Shastra. (The theory itself is highly unsound in our view). Also stated one late Dr. Talpade (of Bombay) tried to make models under the guidance of Shastriji, but that he was not successful in making any of then fly.

  The dating of the work VS may be approached from other angles:
(a) The kind of Sanskrit used in the text may indicate whether or not the text is of Vedic origin.
  The text contains Shlokas set to AlÉÑwOÒûmÉ metre and its language is quite simple and modern. Again, in its introduction, BVS mentions that a few words did have a structure similar to that of the Vedic Sanskrit. The number of such words being very small, and their usage being
incidental, it appears appropriate to conclude that the Sanskrit used in the text is modern. (b) Another significant point is the almost complete absence of any mention of use of aircraft in the
innumerable Sanskrit texts of the post-Vedic age. One text, namely “Samarangana Sutradhara”, by Bhoja deals with some description of aircraft, but does not quote any earlier work. What is more, Bhoja states that detailed description of their construction and other features will not be given lest the same be used for evil purpose by people? (We are tempted to remark that he did not know!)
  The most important of texts like Ramayana and Mahabharata make no mention of the use of aircraft for  travel,  military,  or  war purposes.  The  ‘Pushpak  Vimana’ of  Ramayana,  as  described
therein,  has  no  flying  qualities except possibly by invocation of ‘mantras’ or ‘tantras’. Of course, a discussion  of  whether  these existed  at  all  is  undecideable

within the realm of science and is beyond the scope of this paper.   Thus  it  appears  to  us  from internal and related evidence that the work VS is of recent origin.   Despite these and other facts
mentioned  earlier  Shri  Josyer states in the introduction to his book [2] that the work is several thousand years old; the book in Hindi [1] tends to hint at the vedic origin of the text.
  What  we  feel  unfortunate  in history is that some people tend to eulogise and glorify whatever they can find about our past, even without  valid  evidence.  In  the absence of any evidence, efforts
will be made to produce part of the  evidence  in  favour  of antiquity.  The  above  two  works are  by  no  means  exceptions  to this,  in  particular  the  recently published  book.  In  fact  the
introduction  to  Reference  [2]  is least scholarly by any standards.
We feel that the people connected with  publication  –  directly  or indirectly  –  are  solely  to  blame either for distorting or hiding the history of the manuscripts.


  Thus  the  work  “Vymanika Shastra”  was  brought  into existence sometime between 1900 and  1922  by  Pandit  Subbaraya Shastry by techniques unclear to us at the moment. The only evidence
in favour of Maharshi Bhardwaja being  the  author  is  the  textual statement and nothing more.

2. Technical  Survey  And Criticism

  A  general  treatise  on  any subject, particularly as complex as aeronautics,  starts  off  with  an enunciation of the basic principles involved  and  subsequently discusses  the  integration  and
development  of  these  principles into a technology.  This is indeed so with any of the treaties on modern science or technology. Contrary to this,  the  Vymanika  Shastra  gets down to details right away; even here there is no expression of any kind  of  generality.  The  different parts (of aircraft) are quantitatively described  as  though  a  particular plane were being described.
  The  science  of  aeronautics requires  an  understanding  of  a number  of  disciplines:
aerodynamics,  aeronautical structures,  propulsive  devices, materials,  and  metallurgy.  The subject  works  lay  uncalled  for emphasis  on  propulsive  devices and  structures,  but  little  or  no
emphasis  on  aerodynamics.  It  is worth pointing out that the history of aeronautics (western) in regard to  production  of  heavier-than-air craft is studded with initial failures, significantly  traceable  to  a  non-understanding of aerodynamics [5].
  The  works  [1,2]  under discussion contain description and details  on  the  definition  of  an airplane,  a  pilot,  aerial  routes, food,  clothing,  metals,  metal production, mirrors and their uses
in wars, varieties of machinery and yantras,  planes  like  ‘mantrik’, ‘tantrik’, and ‘kritak’. Details about four planes in the ‘kritak’ category – Shakuna, Sundara, Rukma, and Tripura – are also given.
  We  will  address  ourselves principally to the above mentioned four planes; the discussion will be on  the  basis  of  principles, geometry,  materials,  chemistry, and operational data.

2.2a  General  –  As  the  name suggests, this vimana (plane) is like a bird. It is supposed to contain the following  parts:  Peetha  (floor board),  hollow  mast,  three wheeled  keelakas  (hinges)  with
holes,  four  heaters,  air  suction pipes,  water  jacket,  oil  tank, shakuna  yantra,  two  wings,  tail portion to enable the vimana to fly, owshyamaka  yantra  or  heat engine, etc.
  It  has  several  tiers,  each  one containing  different  yantras (machines).  The  drawings  show parts  like  cylinder,  piston  worm gear,  and  pumps  which  seem entirely  modern 
(beyond  18th century).

2.2b Principles – A few lines have been devoted to the function of wings and tail and they appear to be incorrect. From what is given in the following verses:

It appears that great importance is given to the tail portion for the generation of lift. Also the function of  the  hinge  wings  becomes unclear in this context. It may be noted that it is the wings which
should contribute to the life of the craft  and  the  tail  portion  to  its controllability.

2.2c Geometry – The height and width of the craft, in our opinion, are in such proportion as to put its stability in serious question. There are  inconsistencies  in  the dimensions  mentioned  in  the verses  and  those  given  in  the drawings. For Here the dimensions are as follows.
The floor board height is 80 feet; its width and length are 56 feet each.
The latter dimensions are different in the drawings, being 80 and 25 feet  respectively.  In  the  verses, ‘vitasti’ is used as a unit of length while  in  the  drawings  ‘foot’  is adopted. The value of vitasti varies from 9 inches to a foot depending upon  the  situation  in  which  the term is used. Here it appears as though vitasti has been equated to a foot at all places.  

2.2d Operational data –
There are no statements on the capabilities of this craft. 

2.2e Materials – There is mention of a number of materials. The floor board is made of ‘raja loha’. This material, supposedly, is to be made from  ‘prana  kshara’  (ammonium chloride),  Bengal  gram,  benzoin, mercury  borax,  mica,  silver,  and ‘panchamrita’(!), all mixed, heated to  800  ‘kaksha’  (unit  of temperature),  and  poured  out. There  is  a  number  of  other materials described herein.

Comments  – 
It  must  be pointed out here that the essential idea of flying like a bird has been tried by many people (abroad) over several  centuries  right  from  the time  of  Leonardo-da-Vinci,  but without  any  success  whatever.
Hence the feasibility of a craft of the  above  type  is  a  near impossibility.  Furthermore,  the author – whoever he be – shows a complete lack of understanding of the  dynamics  of  the  flight  of
heavier-than-air craft.

2.3a General –
This plane meant for flight only in the air has five tires and a number of parts These  are:  ground  plate,  smoke chimney, five gas engines, metal pipe  wind  blower,  electricity generator, four faced heater, and outer cover.

2.3b  Principles  –  The  place  has been  described  in  considerable detail though no basic principles of operation have been mentioned.
From  what  may  be  salvaged  as principles, we have the following:
electricity is generated by some means  (what  appears  to  be  a combination of friction, heat, solar rays, waterfall etc.) through use of ‘jyotirmukha’  and  several  other materials including sixteen ‘drona’ measures of donkey’s urine! The use  of  80  ‘link’  of  electricity  is expected  to  vaporize  oil.   Also, steam is generated separately. It appears that by operating some switches,  these  two  (oil  and steam) can be mixed to produce 500 ‘kaksha’ heat. These are then passed  through  a  pipe  called ‘shundala’ (like elephant’s trunk) for  purposes  of  propulsion.
Further  there  is  detailed description  of  some  machinery.
Looking into drawings and the text leads one to conclude that air is sucked from the bottom, and hot gases  are  allowed  to  exhaust through pipes toward the top. And this is expected to produce force
to life the plane up a statement which  is  a  gross  violation  of Newton’s  laws.  It  may  be mentioned that there are verses which  imply  such  violations clearly:

“……….The fast movement of the plane  takes  place  in  the  same direction in which the jet gets out of shundala..”

The shloka has been set with a question mark in BVS. However, in VS Shri Josyer seems to have edited the relevant part of the verse into Because of this editing, meanings of the verses don’t tie in properly. In fact, this editing was totally uncalled for and should not have been done. If it was to be performed, it should have been indicated as such.

Geometry & operational data
–  It  has  the  shape  of  a  cone-cylinder combination, with a base diameter  of  32  feet,  cylinder height of 20 feet, and cone height of 29 feet.  The whole geometry appears  to  be  one  of  a  mobile
factory, if anything, and much less of an aircraft. The speed of smoke from the gas engine (dhoomodga yantra) is said to be 2113 ‘link’. Wind speed from ‘nala stambha’ is said to be 600 ‘link’. Speed of the craft is given in:

Four hundred yojanas are covered in one ghatika.

Ghatika has a standard implication of  24  minutes.  Yojana  has  an implication of about 8 to 10 miles
(some interpret yojana to mean more).  Even  with  the  smaller figure the craft speed amounts to 8000 mph – fantastic figure by any standards. It may be noted that no aircraft of today has attained such speed inside the atmosphere.

2.3d Chemistry & materials – One of the vessels used for production of  electricity  is  expected  to  be filled  with  apamarga,  sampasya, and  ayaskanta  soaked  in elephant’s  urine  mixed  with
mercury. Another vessel  is to be filled with cow’s urine, and so on. There  are  several  other descriptions  in  a  similar  vein without any possible sense.

2.4a General – This         plane has a five tier structure, with passenger cabins on the third tier. The plane is meant for flight only in the air.

2.4b Principles – This aircraft is the one  which  some  of  us  thought meaningful quite some time back while studying BVS. AT that time VS (containing the drawings) was not available. From BVS we conclude that there were long vertical ducts containing  fans  at  the  top.  The direction  of  airflow  was  not indicated  in  the  text.  We presumed, therefore, that upward flight would be feasible by running the fans to suck air from the top and  send  it  down  the  ducts, generating  a  lift  in  the  process, essentially  like  a  vertical  takeoff and landing craft (VTOL).

In the text it is stated that lift is generated  by  the  beating  of ‘ayahpinda’  wheels  against  the floor board. Electrical tube wheels are  supposed  to  aid  flight  in  a manner not discussed at all. The
purpose  of  fans  has  not  been indicated in the text, whereas in the  figure  they  have  been captioned as “lifting fans”. Further, like  in  other  crafts,  the  static stability is in some doubt.

2.4c Geometry – The geometry is again a cylinder-cone combination with a base diameter of 100 feet, height of 20 feet, and cone height of  80  feet.  The  text  mentions  a dimension  of  1000  feet  for  the base.

However, the drawing shows only 100  feet.  This  is  a  geometrical contradiction.

2.4d Operational data – The  Description mentions a speed of 105  kroshas  per  ghatika amounting to a speed of 625 mph (compared to the speed of sound of  about  760  mph).  This  is  an incredible speed even for a sleek aircraft and just impossible for the kind of geometry used.

2.4e  Materials  –  A  number  of materials  is  mentioned  principal among which is ‘raja loha’.

2.4f  Comments  –  If  the  craft  is taken to mean what the drawings and the text say, it can be stated that  the  craft  is  a  decided impossibility. 

2.5a  General  –  This  plane  is supposed to fly in air, and move water and land. When moving over water  the  wheels  are  to  be retracted.

2.5b Principles – No mention of any principles  of  operation  has  been made.  Power  is  said  to  be generated from the generator from the  generator  at  the  top  using sun’s  rays  and  some  acids  in  a
manner not described. The general description and the diagrams seem to  indicate  the  use  of  electric motors which were known only in the 19th  century.

2.5c Geometry & operational data – It is oval shaped in plan with a length of 100 feet and maximum width of 24 feet. The height of the craft is 30 feet. No operational data have been given.

2.5d  Materials  –  In  order  to prevent  water  from  seeping  into the craft, when it is moving over water, it is said to be covered with a cloth known as milk cloth Also the description of an alloy has been given which is supposed to be light and fire resistant.

3. General  Comments  and Conclusions
Any  reader  by  now  would  have concluded the obvious – that the planes  described  above  are  the best poor concoctions, rather than expressions  of  something  real.
None of the planes has properties or capabilities of being flown; the  geometries  are  unimaginably horrendous from the point of view of  flying;  and  the  principles  of propulsion make then resist rather than assist flying.

The text and the drawings do not correlate  with  each  other  even thematically.  The  drawings definitely point to a knowledge of modern  machinery.  This  can  be explained on the basis of the fact that  Shri  Ellappa  who  made  the drawings was in a local engineering college and was thus familiar with names  and  details  of  some machinery.  Of  course  the  text retains a structure in language and content  from  which  its  ‘recent nature’  cannot  be  asserted.  We must hasten to point out that this does not imply an oriental nature of the text at all.  All that may be said  is  that  thematically  the drawings ought to be ruled out of discussion.  And  the  text,  as  it
stands,  is  incomplete  and ambiguous by itself and incorrect at many places.

A large number of verses has been devoted to the metallurgical and material aspects, as stated earlier.

Also, a number of cross references indicated  in  BVS  belong  to  the subject of materials. (Incidentally, these  references  are  not  to  be found  in  VS.)  This  is understandable  since  our  people were leaders in this field in earlier times. A number of materials made of  iron,  brass,  and  bronze,  in existence since times immemorial and even till this day, are proofs enough of this feature.

Yet the description of materials and their  making  in  the  text  do  not seem to make much sense from the point of view of making them in actual practice.

Be this as it may, the text raises some peripheral questions. One of them  concerns the kind of units used.   The basic text uses ‘vitasti’ for length, ‘link’ for speed, ‘kaksha’ for heat, & ‘link’ again for electrical force.  The  units  of  speed  and temperature are new and, to the best of our knowledge, do not have any  easily  decipherable  meaning. Some  effort  was  made  to determine the internal consistency of  these  units,  but  this  did  not prove successful.

Also,  no  data  have  been  given about  the  weights  of  crafts  and their components. This is serious since weight is fundamental to the flying of heavier-than-air machines. Moreover, the unit of mass does not even appear anywhere is the text.


1. Swami Bramhamuni Parivrajaka, “Brihad  Vimana  Shastra”, Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha. Dayanand  Bhavan,  New  Delhi, 1959.    

2. G. R. Josyer, “Vymanika Shastra”, Internaitonal Academy of Sanskrit Research, Mysore-4.

3. Dayananda Saraswati, “Rig-veda Bhashya  Bhumika”,  Vydika Yantralaya, Ajmer, 1929.

4.  G.  Venkatachala  Sharma,  The Autobiography (in English of Pandit Subbaraya  Shastry),  published  by M. C. Krishnaswamy Iyengar, and C. Venkatachala Sharma.                
5.  Theodore  von  Karmen,  “The Aerodynamics”,  McGraw  Hill Company, 1963.

6.  Editor’s  comment  –  In  this context,  it  must  be  pointed  out that Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati (MDS) in his commentary on the Rigveda  (reference  3  above, published first in 1878 or earlier), has also something to say on the subject of movement of  aircraft in different       directions.     In his comments (on the verses given  in  Sub-section  1.2  of  this article) MDS says:

“……..One of them to halt the craft, one to make it move forward, and the  third  to  make  it  move backwards.  …There  be  60 instruments, some working at one time and the others at other times.
….In other words, to lift the lane up,  the  top  openings  for  steam must be closed and to bring the craft  down,  steam  should appropriately  be  allowed  to exhaust from the top. Similarly, to
propel  the  aircraft  eastward, eastward steam openings must be closed and westward ones opened: to take the plane in the westward direction,  westward  steam openings  should  be  shut  and
eastward ones opened; and so on for movements in the north and south directions. And there be no mistakes in this. …There are many more  verses  on  the  subject  (of aircrafts), but the wise will get the idea from whatever little is given here.”

The  statements  above  would appear to indicate complete accord with the Newton’s laws of motion. Contradictions  apparent  in  the verses and drawings in [1] and [2] are quite puzzling, especially when one considers the fact that [3] was supposedly available when [1] and [2] were compiled.

Photo Rukma Vimana

Photo Shakuna Vimana

Photo Sundara Vimana

Photo Tripura Vimana

Reality views by sm –

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Tags - Vymanika Shastra Critical Study 


Destination Infinity January 09, 2015  

Certain things discovered by our ancient civilization are symbolic, and certain things maybe true. We can never know. If the knowledge has not been transmitted to us, maybe it's not supposed to be.

Besides, what we do/don't do now matter more than what someone did or didn't do many centuries earlier.

Destination Infinity

Bikram January 09, 2015  

I am sure we can learn a LOT fro our ancient civilization