A Background Research of Vimana Shastra

The work “Vymanika Shastra” has appeared in twentieth century in Sanskrit transcript form and subsequently translated versions in Hindi and English have been derived. There are different versions with different titles leading to possible confusion among the readers and research scholars. We have therefore devoted some effort to place the facts in the right perspective.

In this process, it is appropriate to commence this topic with the narration front-lined on G.R. Josyer’s publication, which reads as follows.
“Maharshi Bharadwaja’s ‘Vymanika Shastra’ or ‘Science of Aeronautics’ as revealed to venerable Subbaraya Shastry and recorded in hand written Sanskrit script form, translated to English by G.R. Josyer.M.A [hons] FRES, MRSE.
Four variants with different titles are as follows:

A]  Vymanika prakaranam
B]  Vymanika shastra
C]  Vimana shastra
D]  Bruhad Vimana Shastra

We clarify here that the base work for all the four versions are common-sourced from the Sanskrit transcript of Pandit Subbaraya Shastry’s revelations and recorded by his close associate and Sanskrit scholar Sri. G. Venkatachala sharma. They were recorded in 23 exercise books during the period 1903 to1918. Manuscript copies of this were sent as Vymanika Prakaranam to two Oriental Institutes in India. One was sent to Oriental Library at Baroda on 3rd June 1919 and the second sent to Oriental Research Institute, Poona on 19th August 1919. Hence the work has been referred to by many as Vymanika Prakaranam even though only Sanskrit parts of the published versions carry this title. These exercise books suffered long hibernation. A work called “Vymanika shastra” in Sanskrit alone seems to have come out from Dayanand Bhavan, Delhi in 1943. This is the second variant.

The third variant is based on the copy of “Vymanika prakaranam” sent to Baroda Oriental Library. A Hindi translated version of this book titled ‘Brihad Vimana Shastra’ was edited by Swami Brahma Muni Parivrajak Gurukul Kangdi, Hardwar and published by Sarvadeshika Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Dayanand Bhavan, New Delhi in the year 1959. In the publication of this Hindi version, the initiative taken by Air commodore S. N. Goyal of the Indian Air force has been particularly appreciated. ‘Bruhad Vimana Shastra’ became the reference work for many researchers in North India.

The variant referred to as ‘Vymanika Shastra’ published in Sanskrit- English languages had its base on the copies sent to Oriental Libraries in 1919 and something more. The work remained in manuscript form till 1923 and even later. But between 1919 and 1923 there is evidence of ‘add on’ textual content to the work in the form of description and diagrams of four types of representative vimanas -- Sundara, Shakuna, Rukma and Tripura vimana. The work of making drawings was entrusted to a draughtsman T.K. Ellappa working in an engineering school. The drawings were prepared by him and appended as approved by Sri Subbaraya Shastry on 2nd December 1923. This is the last occasion that any material went into the Sanskrit transcript. The transcripts remained in exercise-book-form for the next three decades under the joint custody of Sri Shastriji’s adopted son and Sri Venkatachala Sharma. It was in 1952 that the books found the light of the day when they were brought into an exhibition of antique works conducted by International Academy of Sanskrit Research, Mysore. Mr. G. R. Josyer, being the Honorary Director of the Academy showed tremendous initiative. Translation work took a long time and eventually “Vymanika Shastra” was published on 15th March 1973. This book became the reference work for many in South India & abroad.

A short brochure of about 30 pages was reportedly published by Acharya Charanathirtha Maharaj from Sri Bhuvaneshwari Ayurveda Vidya Peetha, Gondah in Sourastra in September 1952.

Swany Dayananda Sarswathi, a towering scholar of the last century, while referring to flying machines in his commentary on Rig-Veda Bhashya Bhumika, narrates certain aspects of propulsive thrust of vimanas in directional control. This was in 1875.

Another book called ‘Vimana vamanam’ authored by Nathumal Brahmachari, finds its place in Udaipur palace library.

For practical purposes, only “Vymanika Shastra” and ‘Bruhad Vimana shastra’ can be taken as reference, the other titles are only of academic nature. Sri Josyer’s publication is taken for reference by the study team.

Going into essential differences between the two variants, apart from English-Hindi translations, Maharshi Bharadwaja’s original version extracted from ‘Yantra Sarwaswa’ contained 500 Sutras {rules}, 8 Chapters and 10 Adikaranas. ‘Vymanika Shastra’ [English version] contains six chapters, 2972 verses. Bruhad vimana shastra contains 40 rules in 3 chapters and 2657 verses. 
In substance, Bruhad Vimana Shastra has 315 verses less. This is possibly because of addition of descriptions of 4 vimanas that ‘Vymanika Shastra’ contains today. This difference will not matter as much as the difference we see from the original work to the transcripted work. The reasons for this could be ascribed to various factors:
The period of transcription spanned for over 15 years and the manuscript copies waited in the freezer for 3 to 4 decades. As G. R. Josyer observes ‘The transcripts came in various forms of decay’.
Loss of such literature through pests, quality of paper, loss during transit, change of hands could well be imagined. Further, such works that claimed to be of ancient Indian origin did not find recognition during the British colonial rule facing freedom struggle. It is said that even possession of such literature was considered Anti-British.

The scholars who possessed such works had to keep them concealed. Loss of sheets, obliteration of manuscripts, environmental influences could have taken a heavy toll.

Collected By: +Prof: Koti Madhav Balu Chowdary 

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