Saturday, January 3, 2015

Forget Wright brothers, it was an Indian who first flew a plane in 1895

Move over Wright brothers -- it was Shivkar Bapuji Talpade who first flew a flying machine over Chowpatty in 1895, eight years before the American siblings.
This “flight” was apparently based on sage Bharadwaja’s aviation knowledge, which included “war planes” and aircraft doubling up as “submarines”, according to the abstract of a paper to be presented at the 102nd Indian Science Congress in Mumbai on January 4.
“Ancient Sanskrit literature is full of descriptions of flying machines -- vimanas. From the many documents found it is evident that scientist-sages Agastya and Bharadwaja had developed the lore of aircraft construction,” says the abstract of the paper on ancient aviation to be presented by Captain Anand Bodas and Ameya Jadhav.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar is expected to inaugurate the session on Ancient Sciences through Sanskrit. The vice-chancellor of Kalidasa Sanskrit University, Bhopal, will preside over the session.
Abstracts of papers for the session are up on the website of Mumbai University’s Sanskrit department whose head Gauri Mahulikar will coordinate the event.
A paper on aviation says Bharadwaja prescribed a suitable suit for pilots and mentioned “25 types of viruses in the atmosphere which attack the human skin, bones and the whole body”. The pilot’s attire would be “virus-proof, water-proof and shock-proof”.
Another paper, by Ayurvedic physician Ashwin Sawant, will talk about advanced surgeries in 6,000 BC as talked about in the Rig Veda, a text professional historians place around 1,500 BC.
“We are basing everything on evidence from the texts,” Sawant told HT.
“They performed cranial, ophthalmic and reconstructive (plastic) surgeries, plucked damaged eyeballs, extracted dead foetuses from wombs and even removed live foetuses from dead mothers,” says his paper on surgery.
Mahulikar said many saw Sanskrit as a language of religion and philosophy, but it was also a language of science. “There are references to dissection and autopsy in ancient Sanskrit texts. Sushruta says a corpse was floated for three days in a river. It swelled and all muscles and nerves could then be seen transparently.”
The session will have an exhibition of instruments that were used for surgeries performed by Sushruta, the ancient master of surgery. “If a thorn pierces a foot, there would be a particular kind of instrument to remove it. Similarly, there were different instruments for different requirements,” Mahulikar said.
The paper lists 20 types of sharp instruments and 101 blunt ones for surgery.
Scientist Deepak Pental finds the idea of such a session interesting. “I don’t believe in these things but wouldn’t mind such presentations if rigorous scientific questions are posed. What matters is what evidence is being cited. Human imagination is fertile and one can fly without a plane.”

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