By Jerry Thomas
INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES
Vedic Golden Age Myth is one of the important myths of Hindutva Ideology. It assumes that ancient Vedic Civilization was far advanced than modern societies. As an illustration, it claims that ancient science was far more advanced than modern science and all modern discoveries are mere rediscoveries of ancient vedic science. Swami Dayanada Sarawasti of Arya Samaj was a chief proponent of this myth and his clarion call “Back to Vedas” must be read in this context. This was also propagated by other eminent men such as Swami Vivekananda, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Guru Golwakar etc. A softer version of this myth was also propagated by Mahatma Gandhi and currently believed by distinguished men such as Dr. Shashi Tharoor. This myth runs across almost all disciplines ranging from science, medicine, mathematics, economics, to warfare strategies. With the BJP led alliance establishing an undisputed power at the Union Government, the stronger version of this fable is now institutionalized through Vedic Heritage Portal under the Ministry of Culture. Years of consistent and aggressive propagation of this myth has led majority of otherwise well-meaning Hindus to believe that by returning to vedic culture, they can establish a prosperous and new India.
In a series of articles that is being planned over the next few months, solely by relying on the grace of God, Jerry Thomas would demonstrate that Vedic Golden Age claim is a baseless myth. For example, modern science knowledge built on Biblical worldview has contributed more than all ancient civilizations put together whether it is Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, Babylonian or Western. A nation such as India can progress only by following the principles of Biblical modernity with a forward-looking vision of the Holy Bible rather than the backward-looking vision of Hindutva. The first broad topic in the series of exposing Vedic Golden Age is the claim of Vedas containing all modern science and technology. Within this first broad topic, let us begin by looking at the claim that ancient Vedic Hindus had manufactured aircrafts.
ANCIENT ASTRONAUT HYPOTHEISIS AND ANCIENT INDIAN AIRCRAFTS
“Ancient Astronaut Hypothesis” which collected data across cultures and popularized by books such as Chariots of the Gods: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, by Erich Von Daniken as well as by several others is now a discredited hypothesis. If so, why should we even consider a topic such as this?
The reason is that BJP led Union Government of India under the Ministry of Culture, had began a Vedic Heritage Portal almost a year and half ago.
The website begins by saying “The Vedas are the source of integral wisdom, science, tradition and culture of a remarkable civilization.” (Source: http://vedicheritage.gov.in/)
While one can agree that there were certain discoveries in India and by followers of vedic religion, it is just like any other ancient civilization. We don’t need those now.
While one may marvel at the Great Pyramids of Egypt, modern engineering can build more precise and much more magnificent structures than those. Modern science follows a different paradigm and have technologically contributed more than all the ancient civilizations put together.
However, that is not what the BJP led Central Government is claiming. Under the subcategory science, it says:
“Most of the modern discoveries have been referred to in the Vedas and these are not mere literary concepts but proofs are available for their existence. The vedic concepts as the basis of science of India would be useful to examine its impact on modern science.” (Source: http://vedicheritage.gov.in/science/)
This is an astounding claim. One can agree that ancient India had its own contribution like ancient China, ancient Egypt, ancient Babylon etc. However, claiming that “most of the modern discoveries have been referred to in the vedas” calls for an examination.
If most of the modern discoveries are already mentioned in vedas, why not study those instead of doing scientific experiments to discover more? It is here that it affects us an Indian Citizen. Are we wasting our time and misleading the future or are in the right direction? Let us examine.
Are there any specific examples for us to begin examination? Of course, Vedic Heritage Portal provides us such examples. Let us look at one of those. It says:
“Spacecrafts are referred as puslzpak vimanas_ in the literature and surprisingly their mode of take of exactly resembles that of modem aircraft. Eclipses are predicted well in advance of their occurrence and this clear!y prove that astronomy and space science were prevailing at great heights.” (Source: http://vedicheritage.gov.in/science/)
Spacecrafts in ancient India? Let us examine the evidence. We will examine the evidence under 5 headings along with some objections by its proponents when we try to refute those.
We will examine:
- PUSHPAKA VIMANA OF RAVANA IN VALMIKI RAMAYANA
- SWAMI DAYANADA SARASWATI’S VEDIC INTERPERTATION
- SHIVKAR TALPADE, AN ARYA SAMAJIST, ATTEMPT TO FLY IN 1895 IN CONTEXT
- VYMMANIKA SHASSTRA ALLEGEDLY BY MAHARISHI BHARADWAJA
- SADHGURU’S “NO ANCIENT CULTURE THOUGHT LIKE INDIANS” ARGUMENT
- PUSHPAKA VIMANA OF RAVANA IN VALMIKI RAMAYANA
Pushpaka Vimana mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana is not a scientific achievement. The author(s) of Valmiki Ramayana makes it very clear that Pushpaka Vimana was run on the occultic power (mantras) of Ravana with flying donkeys and not any mechanical power. Supernatural powers, whether divine or evil or occultic can be excluded from the purview of science. Further it was manufactured tapas and mediation. Even if some one takes this literally, it is not a natural scientific achievement and therefore need not be discussed.
Valmiki Ramayana, Aranyakanda 3. Sarga 49. Sloka 19 There arrived the great golden chariot of Ravana, illusive and wonderful, harnessed with donkeys and braying like donkeys. (Source: https://www.valmiki.iitk.ac.in/sloka?field_kanda_tid=3&language=ml&field_sarga_value=49)
Of course, anyone who searches for the scientific explanation of flying donkeys should be considered as another donkey.
How was it manufactured? Valmiki Ramayana again says that through tapas and meditation.
Valmiki Ramayana, Sundarakanda 5, Sarga 8, Sloka 4:
(The Pushpaka) was designed by dint of divine efforts and prowess (of Kubera). It could touch any place its master commanded with a cool mind. It had many beautiful places of rest. (Source: https://www.valmiki.iitk.ac.in/sloka?field_kanda_tid=5&language=ml&field_sarga_value=8)
Further, it was not merely donkeys who carried it but Rakshas as well.
Valmiki Ramayana, Sundarakanda 5, Sarga 8, Sloka 6:
The Pushpaka was borne by multitudes of Bhutas whose faces were shining with ear-rings, who were demons ranging in the night sky. They were gluttons endowed with great speed, and they had big, rolling and frightening eyes. (Source: https://www.valmiki.iitk.ac.in/sloka?field_kanda_tid=5&language=ml&field_sarga_value=8)
While one can examine other so-called puranic stories – most of the so-called planes are nothing more than these kinds of stories.
- SWAMI DAYANADA SARASWATI’S VEDIC INTERPERTATION
In 1876, Swami Dayanada Saraswati wrote his fanciful commentary on Vedas. Sanjeev Newar, who describes himself as “founder of Agniveer” “Pursuing Karma Yog”, “an alumnus of IIT-IIM” says this:
“Swami Dayanand has detailed Mantras regarding these in his Vedic commentary and Introduction to Vedas” (1876). The scientists of IISc concluded that the mechanism of airplane as suggested by Dayanand is feasible. The first manned plane was built 20 years after death of Swami Dayanand.” (Source: http://agniveer.com/science-in-vedas/)
Sanjeev Newar then goes on to write:
“The verses are difficult to translate in English here, but readers are advised to review “Introduction to Vedas” by Swami Dayanand or interpretations of following mantras: Rig Veda 1.116.3, 1.116.4, 10.62.1, 1.116.5, 1.116.6, 1.34.2, 1.34.7, 1.48.8 etc.”
This is again easy to examine. Take another vedic translation of an Indian or Westerner or anyone and then read it along with Swami Dayanand Saraswat’s translation. Anyone who reads Rig Veda 1:116:3-5 parallelly can understand the wild imaginations of Swami Dayanand or his desperation to find science in Vedas.
If you have an issue with a Westerner translating Rig Veda, take a few Hindu scholars in your language and examine their translations and then compare it with Swami Dayanada Saraswati’s translation.
Rig Veda 1:116-3-5
Dayanada Saraswati Fanciful Translation /Commentary
“A man desirous of possessing and enjoying wealth, riches, necessaries of life, comforts and victory should fulfil his desires with the help of physical sciences. By constructing ships of wood, iron, etc and by using fire and water (for generating steam for propulsion) he may make voyages on the seas backwards and forwards and in this way he may amass wealth. Such a man never dies in want and without assets, for he has labored as a man. Men should, therefore, spend all their efforts in building ships, and boats for going and coming from one country to another by water. The ships are to be constructed with metals such as iron, copper, silver or with wood, etc and by the use of heat and light-producing fire. These substances when properly used enable men to go from one country to another with ease and comfort. The ships which carry men on their forward and return Voyages on the sea should be strong and able to stand (on the waters). The officers of the States and the merchants should make voyage by means of ships whenever exigencies of business might require it (Pt Ghasi Ram ji’s translation in the Introduction to the Vedic Commentary).”
“The three kinds of cars, the ships etc should be provided with means of comfort and they should be able to move at such great speed that they may cross the watery ocean, the land, the upper region in three days and three nights, rushing on their course as if they were provided with innumerable feet. They should have six mechanisms, fire chambers for securing swift motion. Let men travel comfortably in three regions. Men can enjoy the best comforts by acting in this way, but not otherwise.”
“Ye men! In the ocean full of water and in the upper region where there is no means of support for land where none can stand, you should travel for success in your undertakings, by building ships and aerial cars in the way described above. Such cars when moved by the properly yoked Ashvins (fire and water or electricity and wind) bring success to the undertakings. There should be a hundred iron bars (i.e. apparatus) for supporting cars on the land, or water and in the air and keeping them steady and for taking their bearings. These apparatus should be fixed to the land conveyances, ships or aerial cars. These three kind of cars should be constructed for making them steady. Such cars secure permanent and abiding enjoyments.”
Rig Veda 1:116-3-5 ( English Translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith)
Rig Veda 1:116:3-5 “3 Yea, Aśvins, as a dead man leaves his riches, Tugra left Bhujyu in the cloud of waters. Ye brought him back in animated vessels, traversing air, unwetted by the billows. 4 Bhujyu ye bore with winged things, Nāsatyas, which for three nights, three days full swiftly travelled, To the sea’s farther shore, the strand of ocean, in three cars, hundred-footed, with six horses. 5 Ye wrought that hero exploit in the ocean which giveth no support, or hold or station, What time ye carried Bhujyu to his dwelling, borne in a ship with hundred oars, O Aśvins.
So is the case with Rig Veda 1:117: 2-4.
Dayanada Saraswati Translation
Rig Veda 1: 117: 2 O leaders of justice, O President of the Assembly and Commander of the Army, please come to our abode with the car which has been well manufactured, which is swifter than the mind of a man, drawn by electric forces, or horses which appears before men and with which you repair to the dwelling of the virtuous.
Rig Veda 1:117: 2-4. – Asvins Cars Are Nothing by Flying Horse Chariots ( English Translation by Ralph T.H. Griffith)
Your chariot, o Aśvins, swifter than mind, DRAWN BY GOOD HORSES, comes to the clans. By which (chariot) you go to the home of the good ritual performer, by that, o men, travel your course to us. You free Atri, the seer of the five peoples, from narrow straits, from the earth cleft along with his band, o men—confounding the wiles of the merciless Dasyu, driving them out, one after another, o bulls. O Aśvins—you men, you bulls—by the wondrous powers you draw back together the seer Rebha, who bobbed away in the waters, like a horse hidden by those of evil ways. Your ancient deeds do not grow old.
EVEN IF IT WAS TRUE, MODERN SCIENCE IS FAR BETTER THAN VEDIC SCIENCE
If one compares the modern aircrafts with so-called vedic aircrafts, modern scientists are far better than ancient Rishis. Aren’t the Hindus insulting their own Rishis?
In 2020, we are thinking of zero-emission commercial planes.
As per news: “Airbus has unveiled plans to produce the world’s first zero-emission commercial planes to run on hydrogen by 2035.
The European aerospace company on Monday released three different aircraft concepts, each exploring a different approach to achieving zero-emission flight but all relying on hydrogen as a primary power source.”
One can watch the video below:
However, it is not even true.
Did Scientists At Indian Institute of Science Conclude that Mechanism Suggested by Swami Dayanand Saraswati Is Feasible?
No. They simply said Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s statement is in line with Newton’s Law of Motion which is not something difficult to write 200 years after Newton and particularly when many were applying to aeronautics. Let us read what the scientists at IISc have written.
H.S Mukunda, S.M. Deshpande, H.R. Nagendra, A Prabhu, and S. P. Govidaraju, published a paper titled as “A Critical Study of the Work Vymanika Shastra” has to say on Swami Dayananad Sarawasti:
“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  and  are quite puzzling, especially when one considers the fact that  was supposedly available when  and  were compiled.”
OBJECTION: SWAMI DAYANANDA IS WRITING AT LEAST 20-25 YEARS BEFORE WRIGHT BROTHERS. HOW CAN IT BE?
Sanjeev Newar writes: “Swami Dayanand has detailed Mantras regarding these in his Vedic commentary and Introduction to Vedas” (1876). The scientists of IISc concluded that the mechanism of airplane as suggested by Dayanand is feasible. The first manned plane was built 20 years after death of Swami Dayanand.” (http://agniveer.com/science-in-vedas/
We will see shortly that by the time Swami Dayanand Sarasvati fancifully found references of aeroplanes in Vedas in 1870s, there were already successful experiments of unmanned flights, literally thousands of pages written on aviation, as well as an Aviation Society in Britain.
Now let us look at the most credible piece of information among all.
- SHIVKAR TALPADE, AN ARYA SAMAJIST, ATTEMPT TO FLY IN 1895 IN CONTEXT
Shivkar Talpade, an Arya Samajist, who built a flying machine and flew it supposedly in 1895, almost 8 years before Wright brothers. In 1985, D.K. Kanjilal wrote a book titled “Vimana in Ancient India: Aeroplanes Or Flying Machines in Ancient India”. In this book, he claimed that Shivkar Bapuji Talpade had indeed constructed the first unmanned aircraft in 1895 based on the vedic knowledge. Honourable Member of the Parliament Satya Pal Singh, formerly a minister at BJP led Central Government said Shivkar Bapuji Talapade and not Wright brothers who invented aircraft (https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/wright-brothers-who-indian-invented-aeroplane-says-union-minister-satya-pal-singh-1752922). Honourable Satya Pal Singh was formerly the Police Commissioner of Mumbai.
Zee News Ran an Episode on Him:
There was also a movie on Shivkar Talpade – Hawaizaada
Shivkar Talpade attempt to fly would be impressive only if we assume that aviation suddenly came into existence on December 17, 1903 when Wright brothers successfully flew with a powered flying machine. If we read any standard history book on aviation, we would know that aviation has history of several hundred years.
However, as Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/wright-brothers/online/fly/1899/fundamentals.cfm notes the success of Wright brothers is that they were able to solve problems in three board categories together such as (1) a set of lifting surfaces, or wings; (2) a method of balancing and controlling the aircraft; and (3) a means of propulsion. Others before Wright brothers, including Shivkar Bapuji Talapade was not able to address all the problems together.
Let us briefly look at some major milestones of heavier-than air flight models in the aviation history. Heavier-than air flight models (such as aeroplanes we have now) and lighter-than air models (such as flying by means of different types of balloons) were simultaneously experimented for a long time. Lighter-than air models have a much longer history (running to a millennium or two) and tasted success much before the success of heavier-than air flight models. However, since the controversy is regarding the heavier-than air flight models, we will restrict ourselves to its history. If anyone is interested in a brief overview of both heavier-than air flight models and lighter-than air flight models, they can read NASA’s site: https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/UEET/StudentSite/historyofflight.html
Early Attempts to Fly Mechanically And Models of Ornithopter
While there have been attempts to fly through rudimentary wings (e.g. Elimer of Malemsbury born AD 980, see Annexure 1),and speculations about flying machines (Roger Bacon (born AD 1220, see Annexure 2), it was Leonardo da Vinci (born AD 1452) drew models of flying machines, known as ornithopter.
This was not widely known during his lifetime and no one attempted to build models then. However, there were several independent attempts by many since then to create flying objects. Among them Sir George Cayley deserves a special mention.
Sir George Cayley (AD 1773-1857)- Father of Aerial Navigation
Charles H. Gibbs-Smith writes about Sir George Cayley:
“The first aeronautical device Cayley made, in the year 1796, was a copy of the successful Launoy and Bienvenu model helicopters of 1784 with two contra-rotating rotors operated by a bow-string. Cayley did not know the origin of this “toy” and must have simply have read a description of it; he substituted four feathers stuck in a cork for each rotor, instead of the French-men’s twin-bladed silk-covered frames. He was enthusiastic about both its performance and its significance as a machine could “rise in the air by mechanical means”, and immediately speculated upon a man-carrier on the same lines.” (Sir George Cayley: ‘Father of Aerial Navigation’ (1773-1857), Charles H. Gibbs-Smith, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 17, No. 1 (May, 1962), pp. 36-56 (22 pages), Published by: Royal Society).
Sir George Cayley contribution has been summarized by R G Grant in the book, Flight. The Complete History of Aviation, Chapter The Prehistory of Flight, Published by Penguin Random House and I quote:
“…in fact, worked within a maturing scientific tradition, which enabled him to define precisely the challenge of heavier-than-air flight: “The whole problem is confined within these limits,” he wrote, “to make a surface support a given weight by the application of power to the resistance of air.”
Cayley addressed himself to these problems of lift and drag through observation of bird flight, systematic experimentation, and mathematical calculations. He used an ingenious device known as a “whirling arm” – a precursor of the wind tunnel – to test the lift created by different airfoils, or wings, at various angles and speeds.
As early as 1799 Cayley engraved on a silver disk an image of a flying machine that marked a crucial step forward in design from Leonardo-style ornithopters: the wing had ceased to be the means of propulsion, becoming instead purely a device to generate lift. Through the next decade he built both model and full-size gliders.
His full-size glider had a wing attached to the front end of a pole, and at the rear of the pole a vertical rudder and horizontal tailplane. “When any person ran forward in it with his full speed,” Cayley wrote, “taking advantage of a gentle breeze in front, it… would frequently lift him up and convey him several yards together.”
In 1809–10 Cayley made the results of his work public in a three-part paper, “On Aerial Navigation.” His calculations of lift and drag, and his comments on how an aircraft could be stabilized and controlled, constituted a solid basis for potential progress towards heavier-than-air flight. Unfortunately, they were largely ignored. As Cayley himself admitted, flight remained “a subject rather ludicrous in the public’s estimation.”
Steam Engines Revive the Interest in Heavier-than-air Flight Model : Patenting of Aerial Steam Carriage by William Samuel Henson and Cayley’s Success:
R G Grant continues in the book, Flight. The Complete History of Aviation, Chapter The Prehistory of Flight:
The awakening of a more sustained interest in heavier-than-air flight did not come for another 30 years. It was provoked by the success of the steam engine applied to transportation systems. By the 1840s, railroad construction was booming as steam trains transformed journey times by land. At sea, steamships were a growing threat to the dominance of sail. JUMPING ON THE BANDWAGON, IN 1843 AMBITIOUS ENGLISH INVENTOR WILLIAM SAMUEL HENSON PATENTED AN AERIAL STEAM CARRIAGE “FOR CONVEYING LETTERS, GOODS, AND PASSENGERS FROM PLACE TO PLACE.” (Emphasis ours).
Yet interest in flight had been stimulated afresh – not least in the heart of Sir George Cayley, who now embarked on a new round of experiments that culminated in the world’s first manned heavier-than-air flight in a glider in 1853. The “pilot” was Cayley’s coachman. He was reluctantly persuaded to climb into the boatlike fuselage of a glider, which then rolled down one side of a valley, lifted into the air, and briefly flew before coming down uncomfortably. The coachman is said to have immediately put in his notice, on the grounds that he had been “hired to drive, not to fly.” Cayley’s success, achieved in the privacy of his estate, had less public impact than Henson’s failure. The story of the coachman’s flight only came to light long after Cayley’s death in 1857.
In fact, before Cayley, John Stringfellow in 1848, seems to have successfully conducted an indoor test flight of a steam-powered model, in Chard, Somerset, England (Cited in Aviation History, Page 24).
One can see William Samuel Henson, aerial steam carriage specifications below:
Establishment of Royal Aeronautical Society in 1866
In a clear indicator that aeronautics have become a serious pursuit, The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), then known as The Aeronautical Society of Great Britain, was established in 1866, almost 10 years before the commentary of Swami Dayanand was published. https://www.aerosociety.com/about-us/history/
In fact, their annual report ran into hundreds of pages. One can download their annual report of 1872 from Archive website https://archive.org/details/annualreportaer7roya. It is about 540 pages.
In other words, it is not difficult for one to write about aeronautics as of 1876!!!
In fact, there were several attempts to fly other than those mentioned above. A few of them must be cited contemporary to Shivkar Bapuji Talapade to put things in perspective.
Several Attempts to Fly With Modest Success
In the book, Flight. The Complete History of Aviation, Chapter The Prehistory of Flight, by Published by Penguin Random House, R.G. Grant writes:
Early experimenters in powered flight were unfortunate in that their only feasible power plant was a steam engine. The first of the steampowered experimenters to make a serious attempt to get off the ground was a French naval officer, Félix du Temple de la Croix. In the 1850s, with his brother Louis, he designed and flew a model airplane powered first by clockwork and then by a miniature steam engine. He then patented a design for a full-size monoplane with a lightweight steam engine and the surprising refinement of a retractable undercarriage. His man-carrying airplane was finally built and ready to test in 1874. With a French sailor on board, it ran down a sloping ramp, briefly lifted into the air, and immediately came back down to earth.
In the book, The Complete History of Aviation, The Problem of Propulsion, Published by Britannica Educational Publishing in Association with Rosen Educational Services, we can read:
Russian Alexandr Mozhaysky (1884), Englishman Hiram Maxim (1894), and Frenchman Clément Ader (1890) each jumped full-scale steam-powered machines off the ground for short distances, although none of these craft was capable of sustained or controlled flight. In the United States, Samuel Pierpont Langley achieved the first sustained flights in 1896 when he launched two of his relatively large steam-powered model aircraft on aerial journeys of up to three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km) over the Potomac River.
As the end of the 19th century approached, the internal-combustion engine emerged as an even more promising aeronautical power plant. The process had begun in 1860, when Étienne Lenoir of Belgium built the first internal-combustion engine, fueled with illuminating gas. In Germany, Nikolaus A. Otto took the next step in 1876, producing a four-stroke engine burning liquid fuel. German engineer Gottlieb Daimler pioneered the development of lightweight high-speed gasoline engines, one of which he mounted on a bicycle in 1885. German engineer Karl Benz produced the first true automobile the following year, a sturdy tricycle with seating for the operator and a passenger. In 1888 Daimler persuaded Karl Woelfert, a Lutheran minister who longed to fly, to equip an experimental airship with a single-cylinder gasoline engine that developed all of eight horsepower. The initial test was marginally successful, although the open-flame ignition system presented an obvious danger to a hydrogen-filled airship. In fact, Woelfert perished when an internal-combustion engine finally did set a much larger airship on fire in 1897.
As you note that there were several attempts to fly with modest success even before Shivkar Bapuji Talpade test in 1895. Just to summarize a few as a recap:
John Stringfellow in 1848
Sir George Cayley in 1853
Félix du Temple de la Croix in 1874
Gottlieb Daimler in 1888
And so on.
Now let us look at Shivkar Bapuji Talpade.
Does Shivkar Bapuji Talpade Deserve Credit?
Shivkar Bapuji Talpade deserves credit for his modest attempt but he without sucess.
Ranjita Ganesan who wrote the article “Shivkar Talpade: First man to fly an aircraft”:
“In fact, the two inventions are not comparable because unlike in the American aviators’ case, Talpade’s machine is said to have been unmanned. Besides, the first recorded instance of an unmanned flying machine is of John Stringfellow’s steam-driven one in 1848.” (Source: https://www.rediff.com/business/report/pix-special-shivkar-talpade-first-man-to-fly-an-aircraft/20150114.htm).
In other words, even if we take everything at face value, Shivkar Talpade’s success, if any, was just a repeat of what had happened almost 50 years before him.
However, even whether Shivkar Talpade succeeded is a questionable thing.
Pratap Velkar, an architect turned historian, who tracked Shivkar Talpade research papers, say that it was not even a successful attempt even as unmanned flight.
“According to Velkar, after Talpade completed his demonstration on an unmarked day in 1895, he wasn’t able to raise enough funds, neither from the king of Baroda nor from other businessmen, to build a second aircraft. State help was not forthcoming. When Velkar eventually tracked down the research papers written by Talpade to the possession of a scientist named G.H. Bedekar, Bedekar said that the papers only reveal that Talpade had failed in his efforts.” (Source: https://thewire.in/education/satya-pal-singh-ancient-vimana-shivkar-talpade-research)
In fact, as Ranjita Ganesan article in Business Standard notes: It is likely that Talpade was the first Indian to attempt the building of flying machines but it is difficult to describe with certainty the nature of those experiments or the extent of their success. An early reference to the apparent Chowpatty flight was in Vimana in Ancient India, a book by Sanskrit professor D K Kanjilal in 1985. Over the telephone, Kanjilal says that among his sources was an article from Marathi daily Kesari. Yet, a documentary film maker who does not wish to be named says his search through archives of Kesari did not yield any such news from 1895-1905. It emerged later that the snippet was written only in 1952, and a year later, the erstwhile editor of the paper, GV Ketkar, said it was not entirely reliable as the demonstration has not found mention in Talpade’s own articles in Arya Dharma from 1904-1908 or his book, Prachin Viman Kalecha Shodh. It is not clear where Talpade’s writings are archived currently.
In other words, it is something which Shivkar Talpade himself never claimed in his book or his articles but was first claimed only in 1952. So much for the hype.
WHAT EXACTLY DID WRIGHT BROTHERS ACHIEVE?
Before we look into the achievement of Wright Brothers, it is worth noting that Wright Brothers as kids had a Flying Helicopter Toy.
In the book, The Complete History of Aviation, The Problem of Propulsion, Published by Britannica Educational Publishing in Association with Rosen Educational Services, we read:
It all started when Orville was 7 and Wilbur was 11 years old. Their father, Bishop Milton Wright, gave them a toy helicopter. It really flew. That toy made them dream of flying. Their parents helped them go after their dreams. Their mother, Susan K. Wright, was good with mechanical things. She went to college in Indiana. Very few women went to college at that time. She was very good in both math and science classes. Her boys learned a lot from her.
There we are – with flying helicopter toys even before the first successful flight by Wright brothers. So, what was so remarkable about Wright Brothers?
What Distinguished Wright Brothers?
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/wright-brothers/online/fly/1899/fundamentals.cfm says:
The Wrights followed Sir George Cayley’s lead and initially reduced the obstacles to flight to three broad categories:
- A set of lifting surfaces, or wings.
- A method of balancing and controlling the aircraft.
- A means of propulsion.
Most earlier experimenters focused only on one or another of these problems and did not consider the final design from the outset. The Wrights recognized that each of these areas had to be successfully addressed to build a working airplane. They believed that the aerodynamic and propulsion problems would be comparatively easier to solve, so they first concentrated on how to maintain balance and control.
That was the success of Wright brothers – they solved all the problems together.
In fact, there were criticism has to whether Wright brothers are fliers or liars in French newspapers as there were many who had modest success before Wright brothers. Those were silenced after Wright brothers did a public demonstration of their flight. Let us read about it.
Silencing the Critics: Wright Brothers
In the book, The Complete History of Aviation, The Problem of Propulsion, Published by Britannica Educational Publishing in Association with Rosen Educational Services, we read:
“Watching from the stands was a handful of flight enthusiasts, most of whom had come in the hope and expectation that the American would fail. They all knew that the Wrights claimed to have flown as long ago as 1903, but there was widespread skepticism about this alleged conquest of the air. France had its own claimants to the title of “first to fly” – including Alberto Santos-Dumont, who had briefly lifted off the ground in a heavier-than air machine in 1906, and Henri Farman, who had flown a full kilometer ( 3 ⁄5-mile) circuit earlier in 1908. Since Wilbur Wright’s arrival in France, the press had been running articles deriding his claims to primacy; he was, they said, “not a flier, but a liar.” Wilbur Wright cannot have been certain that he was about to prove the sceptics wrong. He had never operated this particular machine, the Type A. He seemed to take forever over his preparations, ignoring the crowd’s mounting impatience, until he finally announced: “Gentlemen, now I’m going to fly.” Wright’s assistants set the two propellers whirling, weights dropped from the catapult derrick, and the flying machine sped along its launch rail and lifted into the air. Traveling at a height of about 30ft (10m), Wright approached the end of the racetrack and put his machine into a graceful banked turn to come back over the heads of the spectators. After completing one more circuit of the track, he brought the machine gently down on its skids. There was an uproar. Clapping and cheering, the spectators ran forward to mob the pilot. Lasting just 1 minute 45 seconds, the flight had exceeded any display of flying the French had ever seen.”
In other words, Wright brothers developed a model incorporating various scientific laws, that helped to take off, have sustained flight, balance, control and have a smooth landing.
Let us now look at the final piece of so-called evidence of the book Vymmanika Shastra, of Pandit Subbaraya Shastry which was presented in Indian Science Congress, January 2015.
- VYMMANIKA SHASSTRA BY PANDIT SUBBARAYA SHASTRY
Now let us look at the last piece of so-called evidence – Vymmanika Shasstra by Pandit Subbaraya Shastry (1866–1940) supposedly dictated the text allegedly received as oral tradition from Maharshi Bharadwaja. This text purportedly gives us the science of aeronautics.
A Sanskrit book, Vaimānika Shāstra, written or recited by Pandit Subbaraya Shastry sometime in 1919. Prior to it being committed to writing, it was supposedly passed on as an oral tradition through a chains of gurus. Pandit Subbaraya Shastry supposedly received it from a mystic guru when he was wandering as a beggar.
In the 102 Indian Science Congress, held on January 4, 2015, a controversial paper was presented by Captain Anand J. Bodas and Ameya Jadhav on the topic “Ancient Indian Aviation Technology”.
You can listen to their presentations in the following Youtube links:
H.S Mukunda, S.M. Deshpande, H.R. Nagendra, A Prabhu, and S. P. Govidaraju of the Indian Institute of Science, in their “A Critical Study of The Work “Vymanika Shastra” have examined both the historical and technical aspect of the book.
I have provided below some of the key aspects of their findings:
- “The manuscript from which BVS was prepared as said to have been available a 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 9‐8‐1919 set on it.”
- “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 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 — 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!)”
- “A book titled “Brihad Vimana Shastra” by Shri Bramhamuni Parivrajaka was published in the year 1959. It contains verses in Sanskrit (describing aircraft) with their Hindi translation. Recently, another book titled “Vymanika Shastra” by Shri G.R. Josyer has appeared, 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.”
On the technical aspect:
- “The planes described are at 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.”
I quote from John Bruno Hare who wrote the preface to Vymmanika Shasstra in 2005:
“The story of this book is as follows: sometime in the period just before World War I, a Brahman named Pandit Subbaraya Sastry began to dictate previously unknown texts in Sanskrit which purported to contain ancient Indian technological knowledge. He in turn, credited a Vedic sage named Maharshi Bharadwaja, as well as other Rishis who appear in legitimate Hindu texts.
One of these ‘channeled’ texts was, on its face, a technical manual for the construction and use of ‘vimanas,’ the flying machines of the Vedic sagas. It is unclear as to whether any part of the present work was actually published in print at that time, even though it is implied in the introduction, so it is unclear whether it was published (in the legal sense) prior to 1923.
The Sanskrit manuscript of the VS lay unpublished for over fifty years. In 1973, this text was published in a very limited edition by G.R. Josyer, along with a translation which he had produced over a twenty year period. In 1991, the English portion and the illustrations from the Josyer book were reprinted in the above-mentioned Vimana Aircraft of Ancient India & Atlantis.
It as if someone in the early 20th century wrote a 100 page book on ancient aircraft in Biblical Hebrew and attributed it to Moses and other prophets. However, the fact that the book was originally written in Sanskrit, while very impressive, isn’t any indication of authenticity. Sanskrit is to some extent still a living language, used everyday in Hindu ritual. It is plausible that a well-educated high-caste Hindu from that period would be able to compose a Sanskrit text of this length given enough time.
If you are looking for an ancient manuscript on this fascinating topic, you’ll need to keep on looking. The Vymanika Shastra was first committed to writing between 1918 and 1923, and nobody is claiming that it came from some mysterious antique manuscript. The fact is, there are no manuscripts of this text prior to 1918, and nobody is claiming that there are. So on one level, this is not a hoax. You just have to buy into the assumption that ‘channeling’ works.”
- The earliest manuscript evidence is at best early 1920s (much after Wright brothers!!!)
- While it was recited by Pandit Subbaraya Sastry and committed to writing in early 1920s, it was published almost 50 years after it.
The argument that there were aeroplanes in vedic age rests on a fraudulent book called Vaimanika Shastra of Pandit Subbaraya Shastry, fanciful interpretations of Swami Dayananda Saraswati and a modest attempt by Shivkar Talpade. None of them prove the existence of aeroplane or even the technological knowledge of it in vedic age except that a few Hindus desire to see so.
- SADHGURU OBJECTION: INDIAN MIND THOUGHT WHAT NO ONE ELSE THOUGHT
At this point, people like Sadhguru would argue that at least Ancient Indian mind had thought what no one else thought. The simple answer is Sadhguru is ignorant about what other ancient cultures thought.
This is not an isolated statement. Dr. Padmakar Vishnu Vartak, a medical doctor who has championed science in Vedas published an article “FLYING MACHINES FROM VALMIKI RAMAYANA” in in Journal of The Oriental Institute, Vol. xLvm, Nos. I-4, Sept. 1998 & June, 1999 pp. 373-382 (source: https://sites.google.com/site/vvmpune/essay-of-dr-p-v-vartak/flying-machines-from-valmiki-ramayana).
In this article, he writes: “Scholars usually say that the aeroplanes of Valmiki-Ramayana are imaginary. Here I pose a question that if Valmiki could imagine aeroplanes why later writers of the world over did not imagine them? This lack of imagination all over the world for thousands of years shows that it is not an imagination. Flying machines were a fact, a reality at Ramayana era 7300 years BC.”
And then he goes on to list 22 similarities between Puspaka Vimana (Yuddha 125) was similar to a modern Jumbo jet.
STORIES OF FLYING OBECTS ARE COMMON TO ALL ANCIENT CULTURES
In almost all ancient cultures, there are stories of flying objects.
Translation of the Unas Pyramid Texts, Utterance 267, we read:
366: He flies away, this Unas, as an Apd-goose, he alights as a xprr-scarab, he flies away as an Apd-goose, he alights as a scarab on the empty throne which is in your boat, O Re.
367: Stand up, begone, thou who do not know the thicket of rushes, that Unas may sit on your seat, that he may row in the sky in your boat, O Re.
With a little imagination like that of Swami Dayananda Sarawsati, one can easily translate these as space ships that rows in sky.
In fact, Saqqara Bird, a bird-shaped artifact was discovered during excavation of the Pa-di-Imen tomb in Saqqara, Egypt, in 1898. Dr. Khalil Messiha, an Egyptian doctor (again a medical doctor like Dr. Padmakar Vishnu Vartak) claimed that it was in fact aircraft model. He also cited similarities between the bird artifact and aircraft and differences between the bird artifact and bird. And finally, his brother made a model and flew it!!!
“The other birds had legs. This had none. The other birds had painted feathers. This had none. The other birds had horizontal tail feathers like a real bird. Perhaps that was the most important thing. Birds don’t have to be stable in flight because they can correct their direction. But a model airplane needs a vertical rudder to keep it moving straight. This strange wooden model tapered into a vertical rudder. One can also see that the wing has an airfoil cross-section. It was all aerodynamically correct. Too much about the model was beyond coincidence. Messiha’s brother, a flight engineer, reproduced it in balsa wood and launched it. It flew. It really flew! (Source: https://uh.edu/engines/epi328.htm)
MUHAMMAD’s NIGHT JOURNEY TO HEAVEN
If a Muslim cites Muhammad’s night journey to heaven, would the Hindu friends accept that Muhammad was a great astronaut who went to heaven and returned?
If not, then do not expect others to accept Ashwin’s chariot or Ravana’s Puspaka Vimana as scientific achievements.
Sahih Muslim » The Book of Faith, Book 1 » Hadith 309
It is narrated on the authority of Anas b. Malik that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
I was brought al-Buraq Who is an animal white and long, larger than a donkey but smaller than a mule, who would place his hoof a distance equal to the range of version. I mounted it and came to the Temple (Bait Maqdis in Jerusalem), then tethered it to the ring used by the prophets. I entered the mosque and prayed two rak’ahs in it, and then came out and Gabriel brought me a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk. I chose the milk, and Gabriel said: You have chosen the natural thing. Then he took me to heaven. Gabriel then asked the (gate of heaven) to be opened and he was asked who he was. He replied: Gabriel. He was again asked: Who is with you? He (Gabriel) said: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? Gabriel replied: He has indeed been sent for. And (the door of the heaven) was opened for us and lo! we saw Adam. He welcomed me and prayed for my good. Then we ascended to the second heaven. Gabriel (peace be upon him) (asked the door of heaven to be opened), and he was asked who he was. He answered: Gabriel; and was again asked: Who is with you? He replied: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. The gate was opened. When I entered ‘Isa b. Maryam and Yahya b. Zakariya (peace be upon both of them), cousins from the maternal side. welcomed me and prayed for my good Then I was taken to the third heaven and Gabriel asked for the opening (of the door). He was asked: Who are you? He replied: Gabriel. He was (again) asked: Who is with you? He replied Muhammad (ﷺ). It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and I saw Yusuf (peace of Allah be upon him) who had been given half of (world) beauty. He welcomed me prayed for my well-being. Then he ascended with us to the fourth heaven. Gabriel (peace be upon him) asked for the (gate) to be opened, and it was said: Who is he? He replied: Gabriel. It was (again) said: Who is with you? He said: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. The (gate) was opened for us, and lo! Idris was there. He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being (About him) Allah, the Exalted and the Glorious, has said:” We elevated him (Idris) to the exalted position” (Qur’an xix. 57). Then he ascended with us to the fifth heaven and Gabriel asked for the (gate) to be opened. It was said: Who is he? He replied Gabriel. It was (again) said: Who is with thee? He replied: Muhammad. It was said Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and then I was with Harun (Aaron-peace of Allah be upon him). He welcomed me prayed for my well-being. Then I was taken to the sixth heaven. Gabriel (peace be upon him) asked for the door to be opened. It was said: Who is he? He replied: Gabriel. It was said: Who is with thee? He replied: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and there I was with Musa (Moses peace be upon him) He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being. Then I was taken up to the seventh heaven. Gabriel asked the (gate) to be opened. It was said: Who is he? He said: Gabriel It was said. Who is with thee? He replied: Muhammad (may peace be upon him.) It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and there I found Ibrahim (Abraham peace be upon him) reclining against the Bait-ul-Ma’mur and there enter into it seventy thousand angels every day, never to visit (this place) again. Then I was taken to Sidrat-ul-Muntaha whose leaves were like elephant ears and its fruit like big earthenware vessels. And when it was covered by the Command of Allah, it underwent such a change that none amongst the creation has the power to praise its beauty. Then Allah revealed to me a revelation and He made obligatory for me fifty prayers every day and night. Then I went down to Moses (peace be upon him) and he said: What has your Lord enjoined upon your Ummah? I said: Fifty prayers. He said: Return to thy Lord and beg for reduction (in the number of prayers), for your community shallnot be able to bear this burden. as I have put to test the children of Isra’il and tried them (and found them too weak to bear such a heavy burden). He (the Holy Prophet) said: I went back to my Lord and said: My Lord, make things lighter for my Ummah. (The Lord) reduced five prayers for me. I went down to Moses and said. (The Lord) reduced five (prayers) for me, He said: Verily thy Ummah shall not be able to bear this burden; return to thy Lord and ask Him to make things lighter. I then kept going back and forth between my Lord Blessed and Exalted and Moses, till He said: There are five prayers every day and night. O Muhammad, each being credited as ten, so that makes fifty prayers. He who intends to do a good deed and does not do it will have a good deed recorded for him; and if he does it, it will be recorded for him as ten; whereas he who intends to do an evil deed and does not do, it will not be recorded for him; and if he does it, only one evil deed will be recorded. I then came down and when I came to Moses and informed him, he said: Go back to thy Lord and ask Him to make things lighter. Upon this the Messenger of Allah remarked: I returned to my Lord until I felt ashamed before Him.
In fact, I began this topic by citing “Ancient Astronaut Hypothesis” popularized by books such as Chariots of the Gods: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, by Erich Von Daniken. One of the argument rests citing several such flying objects pictures or texts across ancient cultures. There was and is nothing unique in what the Vedas or Epics wrote.
GLORY OF THE HOLY BIBLE VS HINDU SCRIPTURES
The question that arises, why do a few Hindus make such claims while Christians doesn’t make such claims though Christians could claim it with more credibility. For example, the Wright brothers were the children of a Christian Bishop. They were also known as Bishop’s Sons.
All Knowing Pretender Vedas Vs Scripture and Nature of the Holy Yahweh
One of the many reasons is that as per many Hindu gurus, all knowledge is contained in Vedas whereas the Holy Bible teaches us as both the Scripture (the Holy Bible) and nature are revelation of the One True Holy God of the Bible.
Let us read Psalms 19 (or Romans 1: 20) and contrast it with words of Swami Dayanand.
Psalm 19 For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 – The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 – Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
3 – There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 
4 – Their voice  goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
5 – which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 – It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
7 – The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 – The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 – The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
10 – They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
11 – By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12 – Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 – Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
14 – May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
The first six verses speak about God’s revelation in nature and the remaining about God’s revelation in the Holy Bible.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati in the “Introduction to Vedas” and I quote:
“The Veda is called Mantra because all men can acquire a knowledge of all realities in and through it. The verses, Rigveda I.1.1.1, etc., also, being parts of the Veda are called Mantras. The meters Gayatri, etc. and the mantras which are composed in them are called devatas because they throw light on all subjects. For this reason it is said “the Chhandas are the devas”.
“They hold together all actions and sciences – God has bound (made steadfast) all actions by means of the Chhandas and Mantras i.e., the Vedas. Because the Chhandas cover or embrace all sciences and all sciences are correctly known by their means the Vedas are called Chhandas and because they are the means of knowledge they are called Mantras. The words Chhandas and Mantra are, therefore, synonymous. The Manusmriti says: “by the word ‘Shruti’ is to be understood the Veda”. The Nirukta calls quotations from the Vedas Nigama. The words Shruti, Veda, Mantra, Nigama. The words Shruti, Veda Mantra, Nigama are all synonymous. The Veda is called Shruti because men hear all sciences out of it and the Vedic Verses also are, therefore, called ‘Shruti.
The Veda is called Nigama because men acquire a correct and complete knowledge of all sciences through it. In the Ashtadhyayi II.4.80. II.4.6 and VI.4.9, the words Mantra, Chhandas and Nigama are used as synonyms. It is thus established that the words Chhandas and Mantra are synonyms and consequently the words of one, who says that they are different from each other, can be of no authority whatever.” (Source: http://www.vjsingh.info/int2.html#9).
So, if Vedas makes the claim that it contains all knowledge, then it is necessary for Hindus to demonstrate that even aeronautics is found in Vedic literature. This empty boasting leads them to produce fraudulent books such as Vymanika Shasstra.
However, the Holy Bible taught us the even nature is a revelation of God and we must study it. All truth ultimately is God’s truth.
Backward Looking Golden Age of Hindutva Vs Forward Looking Holy Bible
Yet another reason is the backward looking ideology of the Hindutva versus the forward looking vision of the Holy Bible.
M S Golwakar in Bunch of Thoughts, Part Two – The Nation And Its Problems XIV. Uniqueness of Hindu Rashtra, wrote:
“Hindusthan lived life of unchallenged glory and power for thousands of years and spread its spiritual and cultural effulgence over vast areas of the globe-right from Mexico to Japan. Never has its flag waded towards military victory through the blood and tears of those races as it happened with Islam and Christianity when they spread to new countries. Its victory had always been moral and cultural. It was a victory joyously welcomed by the local populace, a victory of selflessness, character and catholicity of spirit which, evoked gratitude instead of revolt from them.”
One can cite several such backward looking claims of Hindutva.
However, the vision of the Holy Bible is the progressive movement from a Garden (Eden of God) to the City of God.
Hebrews 11:10 – For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
We praise God for such divine guidance, glorious hope. We give all glory to Yeshua our God alone forever and ever. Amen!
Annexure 1- Eilmer of Malmesbury
Lynn White, Jr., formerly professor of history at Universities such as Princeton, Stanford and University of California, points out the attempt of Elimer of Malmesbury (born AD 980) had a modest success in flying. He cites William of Malmesbury (born AD 1080), considered as one of the most authoritative historian of medieval times, and who could get first-hand information on Elimer of Malmesbury writing about it. William of Malmesbury writes:
“He was a man learned of those times, of ripe old age, and in his early youth had hazarded a deed of remarkable boldness. He had by some means, I scarcely know what, fastened wings to his hands and feet so that, mistaking fable for truth, he might fly like Daedalus, and, collecting the breeze on summit of a tower, he flew more than the distance of a furlong. But, agitated by the violence of the wind and the swirling of air, as well as by awareness of his rashness, he fell, broke his legs, and was lame ever after. He himself used to say that the cause of his failure was his forgetting to put a tail on the back part.”
(Cited in Eilmer of Malmesbury, an Eleventh Century Aviator: A Case Study of Technological Innovation, Its Context and Tradition, Technology and Culture, Lynn White, Jr. Vol. 2, No. 2 (Spring, 1961), pp. 97-111 (15 pages), Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press).
Elimer of Malmesbury, may not have been the first to attempt to fly by natural mechanisms but is the best attested in history among the early attempts.
Annexure 2- Roger Bacon (born AD 1220) and Flying Machine
Roger Bacon (born AD 1220) wrote about flying machine. He also speculated that ancients such as Alexander would have done it. Let me quote it from “Letter on Secret Works of Art and of Nature and on the Invalidity of Magic”, Chapter IV: On wondrous artificial instruments
Therefore, I shall now first relate the works of art and of nature to be marveled at, in order then to assign their causes and modes of operation. There is no magic in them, as it would seem that every magical power is inferior to and unworthy of these works. First, those things achieved through the design and reasoning of art alone: Now an instrument for sailed without oarsmen can be produced such that the largest ships, both riverboats and seagoing vessels, can be moved under the direction of a single man at a greater velocity than if they were filled with men. A chariot can be made that moves at an unimaginable speed without horses; such we think to have been the scythe-bearing chariots with which men fought in antiquity. And an instrument for flying can be made, such that a man sits in the middle of it, turning some sort of device by which artificially constructed wings beat the air in the way a flying bird does. And an instrument small in size for raising and lowering almost infinite weights; at times there is nothing more useful than this, for, by an instrument three fingers high and just as wide, or of less size, a man could snatch up himself and his friends and raise and lower them from every danger of prison. Moreover, an instrument could easily be made by which one man could violently draw to himself a thousand men against their will and attract other things in the same way. And instruments can be made for walking in seas and rivers, right down to the bottom, without bodily danger. For Alexander the Great used these to see the secrets of the sea, according to what Ethicus the astronomer says. These things were all made in antiquity, and it is certain they have been made in our times, unless it be the flying machine, which I have not seen, nor do I know anyone who has, though I do know a wise man who has thought of a way to carry out such a device. Almost infinitely many such things can be made, such as bridges that span rivers without pillars or any support, and machines and unheard-of devices.