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A Short History of Flight

And the national clamour to be seen as the first

People have probably always observed the movement of the birds and the clouds across the sky, people have often dreamt they were flying and consequently dreamed of making fiscal flight a reality. It is documented that the first motorised balloon was created by Shivkar Bapuji and made its début flight in 1876.

Setting aside other legends, the Wright brothers who were adjacent to one of the worlds most modern and technologically developed cities are credited as being the first to fly a powered aircraft.

However half a world away, Richard William Pearse, a New Zealand farmer and inventor flew and landed a powered heavier-than-air machine on 31 March 1903, nine months before the Wright brothers flew. News of this event took months to reach the rest of the world and by then the Wright brothers were on their way to becoming famous and the technology patented. Pearse faded into obscurity.

There may well have been other Westerners who developed the technology of flight but in the absence of communication and what were then great distances, their stories may never have been told beyond the region they lived in. As with Pearse, evidence of these early flights is scant because the components used to create these aircraft had a very short lifespan. Engines were perhaps put to another use or being dismantled no longer recognisable and aircraft frames made of wood quickly disintegrated.

Such is the case in 1985, eight years before the Wright brothers that an Indian scientist and a Sanskrit scholar by the name of Shivkar Bapuji Talpade and demonstrated flight on the Chowpatty beach in Mumbai.

The world‟s first unmanned aircraft was launched and after reaching a height of more than 1500 feet, it landed safely without any damage. This demonstration was attended by eminent citizens including, among others, His Highness Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwand of Baroda and Mr. Justice Ranade, and was reported in "The Kesari" a leading Marathi daily newspaper. The name of the unmanned air vehicle was Marutsakha vimana.

Within Hindu literature, the “Vaimanika Shastra deals with aeronautics including the design of aircraft in ways they can be used for transportation and other applications in detail. The knowledge of aeronautics is described in Sanskrit in 100 sections, eight chapters, 500 principles and 3000 slokas including 32 techniques to fly an aircraft. In fact, depending on the classifications of eras or Yugas, aircraft used are called Krithakavimana flown by the power of engines by absorbing solar energies!‟ It is feared that only portions of Bharadwaja‟s masterpiece Vaimanika Shastra survive today.”

After the news release in the media, Talpade and Sasthri were jailed by the British Government and the Maharaja who witnessed the flight was warned to shut up. A few years later, Talpade returned home and he withdrew his research. He passed away while the research work was on, (from the autobiography of Pandit Subraya Shastri).

After his death in 1917, it is said that his relatives sold some of his important works to Ralley Brothers. Then some materials came to Ministry of Defence and some were sent to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Benagaluru later by their relatives. A model reconstruction of Marutsakhā was exhibited at an exhibition on aviation at Vile Parle, and HAL has preserved documents relating to the experiment.

"The legends of the O'odhams of Arizona describe such a sky-born ship. They call it Nah-Big, a term definitely derived from the Sanskrit Nag-Bhaga or Snake God. One cannot help but become impressed when he reads the O'odham stories of the Nah-Big. It is clear that it was some kind of flying ship. The O'odhams even speak of it as being propelled by an energy generator having positive (male) and (female) female poles. ~ Gene D. Matlock

Today it's thought that the pioneering work of Shivkar Bapuji Talpade continues to inspire organisations like NASA in their work towards the development of an ion engine that uses streams of high velocity electrified particles instead of blasting out hot gases as present-day jet engines do.

The most esteemed Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev has spoken on several occasions about a description in a south Indian temple of how to construct an aircraft. This pre-dates the first modern flights by over 1000 years yet the description contains a caution that creating such technology will cause wide ranging social problems and advises against creating such devices.

We have gone ahead and created aircraft to the level where in 2019 some 9 million people travel by air every day and this is expected to increase to 50,000,000 by 2030, that's if we have the resources to sustain such activity.

In India, the Vaimanika Shastra was probably compiled over many centuries and within the broader Hindu narrative there are stories of flight taking place thousands of years ago. These stories carry a certain weight that they cannot be lightly dismissed yet institutions like NASA are unable to recreate them.

"The mercury propellant is first vaporised fed into the thrusters discharge chamber ionised converted into plasma by a combination with electrons broke down electrically and then accelerated through small openings in a screen to pass out of the engine at velocities between 1200 to 3000 kilometres per minute! But so far NASA has been able to produce an experimental basis only a one pound of thrust by its scientists a power derivation virtually useless. But 108 years ago Talpade was able to use his knowledge of Vaimanika Shastra to produce sufficient thrust to lift his aircraft 1500 feet into the air!" ~ INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENGINEERING AND INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY (Volume 4 Issue 3, September 2014)

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