Vimana

By editor - 23.11 2021

Vimāna are mythological flying palaces or chariots described in Hindu texts and Sanskrit epics. The "Pushpaka Vimana" of Ravana (who took it from Kubera; Rama returned it to Kubera) is the most quoted example of a vimana. Vimanas are also mentioned in Jain texts.

 

 

Sculpture of the Pushpaka vimana, as a temple flying in the sky.

The Sanskrit word vimāna (विमान) literally means "measuring out, traversing" or "having been measured out". Monier Monier-Williams defines vimāna as "a car or a chariot of the gods, any self-moving aerial car sometimes serving as a seat or throne, sometimes self-moving and carrying its occupant through the air; other descriptions make the Vimana more like a house or palace, and one kind is said to be seven stories high", and quotes the Pushpaka Vimana of Ravana as an example. It may denote any car or vehicle, especially a bier or a ship as well as a palace of an emperor, especially with seven stories. In some Indian languages like Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Hindi, vimana or vimanam means "aircraft", for example in the town name Vimanapura (a suburb of Bangalore) and Vimannagar, a town in Pune. In another context, Vimana is a feature in Hindu temple architecture.

Vedas

Pushpaka vimana depicted three times, twice flying in the sky and once landed on the ground.

The predecessors of the flying vimanas of the Sanskrit epics are the flying chariots employed by various gods in the Vedas: the Sun (see Sun chariot) and Indra and several other Vedic deities are transported by flying wheeled chariots pulled by animals, usually horses.

The existing Rigveda versions do not mention vimanas, but verses from, RV 1.164.47-48, also known as The Riddle Hymn, were taken as evidence for a spacecraft by Indian philosopher and social leader Dayananda Saraswati who believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas.

47. kr̥ṣṇáṃ niyā́naṃ hárayaḥ suparṇā apó vásānā dívam útpatanti
tá ā́vavr̥trant sádanād r̥tásya ā́d ídghr̥téna pr̥thivī́ vyúdyate
48. dvā́daśa pradháyaś cakrám ékaṃ trī́ṇi nábhyāni ká u tác ciketa
tásmint sākáṃ triśatā́ ná śaṅkávo 'rpitā́ḥ ṣaṣṭír ná calācalā́saḥ

47. Along the dark course, tawny well-feathered (birds) [=flames], clothing themselves in the waters, fly up toward heaven.|
These have returned here (as rain) from the seat of truth [=heaven]. Only then is the earth moistened with ghee.||
48. The chariot-wheel (of the Sun) is one, its wheel-segments are twelve, its wheel-naves are three: who understands this?|
They [=the days] that wander on and on are fitted together on that, like three hundred pegs, like sixty (more).||

-Translator: [Stephanie W. Jamison, Joel P. Brereton]

Dayananda Saraswati interpreted these verses to mean:

"jumping into space speedily with a craft using fire and water ... containing twelve stamghas (pillars), one wheel, three machines, 300 pivots, and 60 instruments."

Others may interpret it merely as a flowery way of saying the year is made of 12 months or 3 seasons or about 360 days.

Ravana rides his Vimana, Pushpaka.

Ramayana

In the Ramayana, the pushpaka ("flowery") vimana of Ravana is described as follows:

"The Pushpaka Vimana that resembles the Sun and belongs to my brother was brought by the powerful Ravana; that aerial and excellent Vimana going everywhere at will ... that chariot resembling a bright cloud in the sky ... and the King [Rama] got in, and the excellent chariot at the command of the Raghira, rose up into the higher atmosphere.'"

It is the first flying vimana mentioned in existing Hindu texts (as distinct from the gods' flying horse-drawn chariots). Pushpaka was originally made by Vishwakarma for Brahma, the Hindu god of creation; later Brahma gave it to Kubera, the God of wealth; but it was later stolen, along with Lanka, by his half-brother, king Ravana.

Jain literature

Vimāna-vāsin ('dweller in vimāna') is a class of deities who served the tīrthaṃkara Mahā-vīra. These Vaimānika deities dwell in the Ūrdhva Loka heavens. According to the Kalpa Sūtra of Bhadra-bāhu, the 24th tīrthaṃkara Mahā-vīra himself emerged from the great vimāna Puṣpa-uttara; whereas the 22nd tīrthaṃkara Ariṣṭa-nemi emerged from the great vimāna Aparijita. The tīrthaṃkara-s Abhinandana (4th) and Sumati-nātha (5th) both traveled through the sky in the "Jayanta-vimāna", namely the great vimāna Sarva-artha-siddhi, which was owned by the Jayanta deities; whereas the tīrthaṃkara Dharma-nātha (15th) traveled through the sky in the "Vijaya-vimāna". A vimāna may be seen in a dream, such as the nalinī-gulma.

Ashoka Edict IV

Ashoka mentions viman or an aerial chariot as part of the festivities or procession which were organised during his reign.

In times past, for many hundreds of years, there had ever been promoted the killing of animals and the hurting of living beings, discourtesy to relatives, (and) discourtesy to Sramanas and Brahmanas. But now, in consequence of the practice of morality on the part of king Devanampriya Priyadarsin, the sound of drums has become the sound of morality, showing the people representations of aerial chariots, elephants, masses of fire, and other divine figures.

— Ashoka, Major rock Edict no IV

Vaimānika Shāstra

Main article: Vaimānika Shāstra
An illustration of the Shakuna Vimana that is supposed to fly like a bird with hinged wings and tail.

The Vaimānika Shāstra is an early 20th-century Sanskrit text on aeronautics, obtained allegedly by mental channeling, about the construction of vimānas, the "chariots of the Gods". The existence of the text was revealed in 1952 by G. R. Josyer, according to whom it was written by one Pandit Subbaraya Shastry, who dictated it in 1918–1923. A Hindi translation was published in 1959, the Sanskrit text with an English translation in 1973. It has 3000 shlokas in 8 chapters. Subbaraya Shastry allegedly stated that the content was dictated to him by Maharishi Bharadvaja. A study by aeronautical and mechanical engineering at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in 1974 concluded that the aircraft described in the text were "poor concoctions" and that the author showed a complete lack of understanding of aeronautics.

Ayyavaz

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Pushpak Vimana, meaning "an aeroplane with flowers", is a mythical aeroplane found in Ayyavazhi mythology. Akilattirattu Ammanai, the religious book of Ayyavazhi, says that the Pushpak Vimana was sent to carry Ayya Vaikundar to Vaikundam.

A similar reference is found in regards of Saint Tukaram, Maharashtra, India. Lord Vishnu was so impressed by the devotion and singing of Saint Tukaram that when his time came, a Pushpak Viman (a heavenly aircraft shaped as an eagle) came to take him to heaven. Though it is believed that every other human being can go to Heaven without body, Saint Tukaram went to heaven with body (Sadeha Swarga Prapti).