Vimana

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Vimāna is a word with several meanings ranging from temple or palace to mythological flying machines described in Sanskrit epics.

Contents

Etymology and usage

Sanskrit विमान vi-māna literally means "measuring out, traversing" or "having been measured out". It can refer to (ref Monier-Williams[1]):

In Sanskrit literature

Vedas

The predecessors of the flying vimanas of the Sanskrit epics are the flying chariots employed by various gods in the Vedas: the Sun (see Sun chariot) and Indra and several other Vedic deities are transported by flying wheeled chariots pulled by animals, usually horses.

The Rigveda does not mention Vimanas, but verses RV 1.164.47-48 have been taken as evidence for the idea of "mechanical birds":

47. kṛṣṇáṃ niyânaṃ hárayaḥ suparṇâ / apó vásānā dívam út patanti
tá âvavṛtran sádanād ṛtásyâd / íd ghṛténa pṛthivî vy ùdyate
48. dvâdaśa pradháyaś cakrám ékaṃ / trîṇi nábhyāni ká u tác ciketa
tásmin sākáṃ triśatâ ná śaṅkávo / 'rpitâḥ ṣaṣṭír ná calācalâsaḥ
"Dark the descent: the birds are golden-coloured; up to the heaven they fly robed in the waters.
Again descend they from the seat of Order, and all the earth is moistened with their fatness."
"Twelve are the fellies, and the wheel is single; three are the naves. What man hath understood it?
Therein are set together spokes three hundred and sixty, which in nowise can be loosened." ("trans." Griffith)

In Swami Dayananda Saraswati's "translation", these verses become:

"jumping into space speedily with a craft using fire and water ... containing twelve stamghas (pillars), one wheel, three machines, 300 pivots, and 60 instruments."[2]

although the 'wheel' is likeliest a metaphorical description of the yearly cycle, and '12' and the '360' are likeliest its months and days.

Ramayana

Ravana seizes the chariot Puspaka from Kuvera

In the Ramayana, the pushpaka ("flowery") vimana of Ravana is described as follows:

"The Pushpaka chariot that resembles the Sun and belongs to my brother was brought by the powerful Ravana; that aerial and excellent chariot going everywhere at will .... that chariot resembling a bright cloud in the sky ... and the King [Rama] got in, and the excellent chariot at the command of the Raghira, rose up into the higher atmosphere.'"[3]

It is the first flying vimana mentioned in Hindu mythology (as distinct from the gods' flying horse-drawn chariots).

Pushpaka was originally made by Vishwakarma for Brahma the Hindu god of creation, later Brahma gifted it to Kubera, the God of wealth, but was later stolen, along with Lanka, by his half-brother, the demon king Ravana.

Mahabharata

One example in the Mahabharata is that the Asura Maya had a Vimana measuring twelve cubits in circumference, with four strong wheels.

The Mahabharata compliments "the all-knowing Yavanas" (sarvajnaa yavanaa), as the creators of the vimanas[4]: The Yavanas, O king, are all-knowing; the Suras are particularly so (sarvajnā yavanā rajan shurāz caiva vishesatah).[5]

Jaina literature

Vimāna-vāsin ('dweller in vimāna') is a class of deities who served the tīrthaṃkara Mahā-vīra.[6] These Vaimānika deities dwell in the Ūrdhva Loka heavens.

According to the Kalpa Sūtra of Bhadra-bāhu, the 24th tīrthaṃkara Mahā-vīra himself emerged out of the great vimāna Puṣpa-uttara;[7] whereas the 22nd tīrthaṃkara Ariṣṭa-nemi emerged out of the great vimāna Aparijita.[8] The tīrthaṃkara-s Abhinandana (4th) and Sumati-nātha (5th) both[9] traveled through the sky in the "Jayanta-vimāna", namely the great vimāna Sarva-artha-siddhi, which was owned by[10] the Jayanta deities; whereas the tīrthaṃkara Dharma-nātha (15th) traveled through the sky in the "Vijaya-vimāna".[11]

A vimāna may be seen in a dream, such as the nalinī-gulma.[12][13]

Vimanas and the Vaimanika Shastra

An illustration of the Shakuna Vimana that is supposed to fly like a bird with hinged wings and tail.[14]

The Vaimanika Shastra is an early 20th century Sanskrit text on aeronautics, claimed to be obtained by mental channeling, about construction of vimānas, the "chariots of the Gods".

The existence of the text was revealed in 1952 by G. R. Josyer, according to whom it is due to one Pandit Subbaraya Shastry, who dictated it in 1918-1923. A Hindi translation was published in 1959, the Sanskrit text with an English translation in 1973. It has 3000 shlokas in 8 chapters and was attributed by Shastry to Maharishi Bharadvaja,[15] which makes it of purportedly "ancient" origin, and hence it has a certain notability in ancient astronaut theories.

A study by aeronautical and mechanical engineering at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in 1974 concluded that the aircraft described in the text were "poor concoctions" and that the author showed complete lack of understanding of aeronautics.[16]

In popular culture

Vimanas have appeared in books, films, internet and games including:

See also

References

  1. ^ Monier-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, version 0.1a_12
  2. ^ cited after Mukunda, H.S.; Deshpande, S.M., Nagendra, H.R., Prabhu, A. and Govindraju, S.P. (1974). "A critical study of the work "Vyamanika Shastra"" (PDF). Scientific Opinion: 5–12. http://cgpl.iisc.ernet.in/site/Portals/0/Publications/ReferedJournal/ACriticalStudyOfTheWorkVaimanikaShastra.pdf. Retrieved 2007-09-03.  p. 5.
  3. ^ Dutt, Manatha Nath (translator), Ramayana, Elysium Press, Calcutta, 1892 and New York, 1910.
  4. ^ Clive Hart, "The Prehistory of Flight", (Berkeley, 1985)
  5. ^ Mahabharata VIII.31.80
  6. ^ Hermann Jacobi : Jaina Sūtras. p. 169
  7. ^ http://jainsamaj.org/literature/bhadrabahu-040806.htm (2)
  8. ^ http://jainsamaj.org/literature/bhadrabahu-040806.htm (171)
  9. ^ Johann Georg Buhler (ed. by James Burgess) : The Indian Sect of the Jainas. London : Luzac, 1903. p. 67
  10. ^ Johann Georg Buhler (ed. by James Burgess) : The Indian Sect of the Jainas. London : Luzac, 1903. p. 74
  11. ^ Johann Georg Buhler (ed. by James Burgess) : The Indian Sect of the Jainas. London : Luzac, 1903. p. 69
  12. ^ Saryu Doshi (transl. by Thomas Dix) : Dharma Vihara, Ranakpur. Axel Menges, 1995. p. 11a.
  13. ^ Mewar Encyclopedia, s.v. "Ranakpur, founding of"
  14. ^ *Mukunda, H.S.; Deshpande, S.M., Nagendra, H.R., Prabhu, A. and Govindraju, S.P. (1974). "A critical study of the work "Vyamanika Shastra"". Scientific Opinion: 5–12. http://cgpl.iisc.ernet.in/site/Portals/0/Publications/ReferedJournal/ACriticalStudyOfTheWorkVaimanikaShastra.pdf. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  15. ^ Childress (1991), p. 109
  16. ^ "Flights of fancy? (Part X of XII)". The Week. 2001-06-24. http://www.hvk.org/articles/0601/100.html. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 

External links