Soaring Through Ancient Skies
writing of ancient India are perhaps the richest in tales of aviation. The
Mahabharata, an epic tells of an "aerial chariot", with the
sides of iron and clad with wings,"
The Hindu Samara Sutradhara,
a 11th century AD collection of texts dating back to antiquity holds
a wealth of information on flight, treating many aspects of aircraft design and
even advising on the proper clothing and diet for pilots.
"The aircraft which can go by its own force like a
bird is called a Vimana," runs one passage. "The body must be strong
and durable and built of light wood, shaped like a bird in flight with wings
outstretched. Within it must be placed the mercury engine, with its heating
apparatus made of iron underneath."
The text goes on to describe "the energy latent in
mercury" at some length; unfortunately, though, it offers little
information on how that energy was utilized.
The Ramayana, the great Indian epic describes a double decked
circular aircraft with portholes and a dome – a configuration reminiscent of
20 th century flying saucer reports. Fueled by a strange yellowish
white liquid, the craft was said to travel at the "speed of wind"
attain heights that made the ocean look like "a small pool of water"
and stop and hover motionless in the sky.
(source: Feats and Wisdom of the Ancients
- Time Life Books p.29).