Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds

Excerpt from Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds by Charles Berlitz (1972).

Battle Scene from Mahabharata - Kangra, c. 1800

There is semi-historical indication of catastrophic destruction initiated and caused by man or gods acting like men, which is recorded in Mahabharata, sometimes called the Illiad of ancient India (but over eight times as long as Homer) and therefore more comprehensive and also explicit in detail. TheMahabharata is essentially a huge compendium of religious teachings, customs, history and legends concerning the gods and heroes of ancient India. It is also considered to contain elements pertaining to the conquest of India by the Aryan invaders from the north who invaded and conquered northern India several thousand years ago and probably destroyed, among other cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus Valley. This extremely ancient collection of books probably encompasses other records and legends current in the ancient period which it was compiled.

The Mahabharata, written in Sanskrit, is perhaps one of the most ancient religious and literary texts still in use today and, like the Bible which contains numerous references to historic events of countries neighboring to Israel, the Hindu classic may preserve bits of information from an older world that are not only picturesque but sometimes rather alarming.

When western students first began to study and comment on the Mahabharata during the period of British rule in India, certain detailed references to ancient air ships (vimanas) including even how to construct them and how they were powered, matter of fact descriptions of controlled fire power in warfare, rockets, and even the "arrow of unconsciousness" (mohanastra) which rendered armies helpless. Early scholars customarily considered these references, decades before the invention of airplanes or poison gas, as poetic hyperbole and were accustomed, in the words of V. Ramachandra Dikshitar, " glibly characterize everything found in this literature as imagination and summarily dismiss it as unreal..."

Students of the Victorian era would, of course, have little understanding or feeling of coincidence in descriptions of "two story sky chariots with many windows" blazing with red flame "that race up into the sky until they look like comets," or ships that "soared into the air to the regions of both the sun and the stars."

A gigantic English prose translation of the Mahabharata was made by an Indian scholar, P. Chandra Roy, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, aided by funds from the Government of India, several of the Maharajas and other individual sources. This translator seemed to have a curious reaction to some of the descriptions of total warfare, remarking in one of his introductions that he, as a Brahmin (of the priestly caste) and not a Kshatriya (of the warrior caste) could not fully appreciate or approve of the descriptions of total carnage he was translating but judged them to be necessary to the masterpiece as a whole, especially as it concerned the actions of the gods.

Some of these descriptions may have been enigmatical to scholars of the last century who read and translated them but they are not especially mysterious or hard to understand to almost anyone alive today or who may still be alive in an uncertain future. The following excerpts from the Mahabharataand the Ramayana are startlingly familiar to us in spite of the thousands of intervening years, telling of:

A single projectile charged with all the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and flame, as bright as ten thousand Suns, rose in all its splendor... was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas. 
...The corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. Their hair and nails fell out; pottery broke without any apparent cause, and the birds turned white. After a few hours, all foodstuffs were infected.

And especially the following:- escape from this fire the soldiers threw themselves in streams to wash themselves and all their equipment...

The destruction of the enemy army by the "iron thunderbolt" (certainly a more logical name than the "Fat Man" dropped on Nagasaki) is described in the following excerpt from the Samsaptaka-Badha Parva of the Drona Parva in an effective and poetic manner:

...Then Vayu (the presiding deity of that mighty weapon) bore away crowds of Samsaptakas with steeds and elephants and cars and weapons, as if these were dry leaves of trees... Borne away by the wind, O King, they looked highly beautiful like flying birds...flying away from trees...

And again, in the Naryanasatra Mokshana Parva (Drona Parva) , reference is made to the "Agneya weapon" incapable of being resisted by the very gods.

Meteors flashed down from the firmament...A thick gloom suddenly shrouded the host. All points of the compass were enveloped by that darkness...Inauspicious winds began to blow ...the sun seemed to turn round, the universe, scorched with heat, seemed to be in a fever. The elephants and other creatures of the land, scorched by the energy of that weapon, ran in flight...The very waters being heated, the creatures residing in that element began to burn...hostile warriors fell down like trees burnt down in a raging fire - huge elephants burnt by that weapon, fell down on the earth...uttering fierce cries ...others scorched by the fire ran hither and thither, as in the midst of a forest conflagration, the steeds...and the cars (chariots) also, burnt by the energy of that weapon the tops of trees burnt in a forest fire...

The after effects to the earth, one might infer, noted by some ecologist of prehistory:

...winds dry and strong and showering gravel blew from every side...Birds began to wheel making circles...The horizon on every side seemed to be covered with fog. Meteors - showering blazing coals fell on the earth from the sky...the Sun's disk...seemed to be always covered with dust...Fierce circles of light were seen every day around both the sun and the moon...A little while after the Kuru king, Yudisthira, heard of the wholesale carnage of the Vrishnis in consequence of the iron bolt...(Mausala Parva)

Even a prayer to the Creator has come down to us, imploring divine intercession to stop the effects of the "final" weapon:

...O illustrious one - let the threefold universe - the future, the past and the present exist. From thy wrath a substance like fire has sprung into existence; even now blistering hills, trees and rivers and all kinds of herbs and grass in the mobile and immobile universe is being reduced to ashes! (Abhimanyu Badha Parva)

A most unusual excerpt from the Mausala Parva contains an oddly modern reminder relative to limitation, destruction and disposal of deadly missiles: iron bolt through which all the individuals in the race of the Vrishnis and Andhakas became consumed into ashes...a fierce iron bolt that looked like a gigantic messenger of death...In great distress of mind the King caused that iron bolt to be reduced into fine powder. Men were employed, O King, to cast that powder into the sea...

Such strangely detailed reports, which make sense to us, but not at all to the first translator, must be considered in context of the times, spirit and outlook of those who wrote them. Ancient peoples, living in the "age of miracles," took all sorts of magical occurrences for granted and, above all, considered civilization to be a stream, a flux and reflux of cultures rather than a continuous march forward. Scientific marvels or prophecies were simply noted and recorded as they found them, without any attempt at corroboration or thought that they might be re-examined in the light of actually having occurred by future generations.

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