In the ancient Vedic literature of India, there are scores of detailed descriptions of various flying machines generally known as vimanas. These mysterious devices can be found in many of the ancient Indian Epics, and strikingly detailed information regarding the types of engines that power these vehicles can be found in controversial texts such as the Vimaanika Shastra. While the concept of Vedic airplanes that predate any modern aircraft by thousands of years may seem a little far-fetched, there are several astounding insights offered in these ancient texts that can at minimum provide some rather arresting food for thought.
In order to understand the context in which the vimanas have been presented in the ancient texts, it is necessary to explain the Vedic conception of the "yugas". According to ancient Vedic tradition, time itself has been divided into four primary cycles (or, yugas):
(1) Satya-yuga – Also known as the "age of purity", where humans were closely interlinked with the spiritual world and were capable of teleportation, unassisted flight, and other mystical powers. This period of time lasts 1,728,000 years.
(2) Treta-yuga – During this cycle of time, the human mind became gradually more "dull" to the higher Vedic spiritual principles. Humans were still able to summon spiritual power by way of speaking poetic hymns known as mantras. Over time, one of the consequences of the slow decay of spiritual knowledge during this era was that humans lost the ability to fly of their own volition. This period of time lasts 1,296,000 years.
(3) Dvapara-yuga – During this age, divine knowledge and intellect cease to exist, and men begin to live lives of deceit and corruption. Their ability to tap into supernatural phenomena was not cut off entirely, as men were able to still access spiritual power by way of the tantra (meaning "ritual"), but spiritual knowledge had been greatly dampened at this point. This time cycle lasts 864,000 years.
(4) Kali-yuga – According to the ancient Vedic literature, this is the time cycle that we are currently in, and during this period of time (432,000 years total) humans are virtually devoid of any divine knowledge. Spiritual power has essentially vanished, and any mystical abilities that men still hold are negligible at best.
The reason why these Vedic time cycles are important to understand is that according to legend, the vimanas were not developed until the advent of the Treta-yuga period. Ancient texts explain that Lord Brahma, the Hindu god of creation and the chief architect and engineer of the known universe, created the vimanas in succeeding yugas in accordance with the spiritual knowledge level of human beings during each time period. For example, the vimanas of the Treta-yuga period were primarily powered by mantras, while in the Dvapara-yuga period they were fueled by tantras. By the time the Kali-yuga period emerged, the majority of spiritual knowledge had evaporated, leaving the vimanas of this time cycle to be known as kritaka, meaning mechanical or artificial. As a result, these various changes in man's ability to access spiritual knowledge and mystical power throughout the ages resulted in three different types of vimanas being created by Lord Brahma.
The Mahabharata, one of two major ancient Sanskrit epics dated roughly 800-900 B.C., describes the vimanas as airborne chariots that were powered by "winged lightning". The language of the ancient text suggests that these flying machines could not only travel anywhere within the planet, but they were also capable of space travel, stating that the vimanas were able to soar "to both the solar and stellar regions." The other major Sanskrit epic, Ramayana, speaks of two-storied "celestial chariots" that feature "many windows" and "roar off into the sky like comets." The lucid imagery offered in these ancient texts rivals some of the best science fiction published in modern times.
Some of the most vivid depictions of the vimanas come from a highly popular text known as the Vaimanika Shastra, a manuscript of dubious origin but generally attributed to Acharya Bharadwaj at around 400 B.C. One particular section of the Vaimanika Shastra entitled the Yantra Sarvasva elucidates several astounding details of these flying machines including their steering mechanisms, fuel sources, and the alloys from which they were constructed. Bharadwaj describes three primary types of vimanas: (1) Ones that fly from one place on the earth to another; (2) Ones that travel from one planet to another, and (3) Ones that are capable of traveling from one universe to another. In the manuscript, Bharadwaj also describes what he terms as the "Profound Secret", which is a special technique that enables a flying machine to become invisible through the proper application of wind force and solar power. Modern aviation engineers have studied Bharadwaj's writings at length, and to this day he is regarded as an ancient pioneer of aviation technology.
In the Vaimanika Shastra, there are eight chapters containing several sketches and diagrams of these ancient aircraft. Over 30 different essential components of these vehicles are described, as well as 16 different types of materials from which they were constructed. Perhaps one of the most intriguing details mentioned by Bharadwaj regarding the vimanas is that they were sometimes known to be powered by a yellowish-white liquid of unknown origin; many researchers postulate that this could have been a reference to some sort of combustible liquid such as gasoline, or perhaps an unknown substance comprised of various liquefied elements.
In many ancient Vedic texts, the vimanas are depicted as war machines as well, coming to the aid of the Indian people whenever there were any external threats to the country. Interestingly enough, when Alexander the Great invaded India over 2,000 years ago, his personal historians recorded that Alexander's army was assailed by what were described as "flying fiery shields" that repeatedly dove down and frightened the war elephants as well as the horsemen. These "shields" reportedly spit fire at the rims and had the ability to make swift aerial maneuvers, "coming from the sky and returning to the sky."
There are literally hundreds of references to advanced aircraft in various ancient Vedic texts. Some historians have dismissed these references as mere "flights of fancy" from imaginative authors, while others have viewed these peculiar writings as further evidence of the ancient astronaut theory. Regardless of which position may be more accurate, the phenomenon of the vimanas is a fascinating concept nonetheless.