AEROPLANES IN ANCIENT INDIA The Rig Veda, the oldest document of the human race includes references to the following modes of transportation: Jalayan - a vehicle designed to operate in air and water (Rig Veda 6.58.3); Kaara- Kaara- Kaara- a vehicle that operates on ground and in water. (Rig Veda 9.14.1); Tritala- Tritala- Tritala- a vehicle consisting of three stories. (Rig Veda 3.14.1); Trichakra Ratha - Trichakra Ratha - Trichakra Ratha - a three-wheeled vehicle designed to operate in the air. (Rig Veda 4.36.1); Vaayu Ratha- Vaayu Ratha- Vaayu Ratha- a gas or wind-powered chariot. (Rig Veda 5.41.6); Vidyut Ratha- Vidyut Ratha- Vidyut Ratha- a vehicle that operates on power. (Rig Veda 3.14.1). Ancient Sanskrit literature is full of descriptions of flying machines - Vimanas. From the many documents found it is evident that the scientist-sages Agastya and Bharadwaja had developed the lore of aircraft construction. The "Agastya Samhita" gives us Agastya's descriptions of two types of aeroplanes. The first is a "chchatra" (umbrella or balloon) to be filled with hydrogen. The process of extracting hydrogen from water is described in elaborate detail and the use of electricity in achieving this is clearly stated. This was stated to be a primitive type of plane, useful only for escaping from a fort when the enemy had set fire to the jungle all around. Hence the name "Agniyana". The second type of aircraft mentioned is somewhat on the lines of the parachute. It could be opened and shut by operating chords. This aircraft has been described as "vimanadvigunam" i.e. of a lower order than the regular aeroplane. Bhardwaja's "Vaimanika Shastra" not only gives information on his methods of aeroplane construction but also provides a bibliography. He had consulted six treatises by six different authors previous to him. After him too there have been four commentaries on his work. Planes which will not break (abhedya), or catch fire (adaahya) and which cannot be cut (achchedya) have also been described. Along with the treatise there are diagrams of three types of aeroplanes - "Sundara", "Shukana" and "Rukma". It appears that aerial warfare was also not unknown, for the treatise gives the technique of "shatru vimana kampana kriya" and "shatru vimana nashana kriya" i.e. shaking and destroying enemy aircraft, as well as photographing enemy planes, rendering their occupants unconscious and making one's own plane invisible. The Arthasastra of Kautilya (c. 3rd century B.C.) mentions amongst various tradesmen and technocrats the Saubhikas as 'pilots conducting vehicles in the sky'. Saubha was the name of the aerial flying city of King Harishchandra and the form 'Saubika' means 'one who flies or knows the art of flying an aerial city'. Kautilya uses another significant word 'Akasa Yodhinah', which has been translated as 'persons who are trained to fight from the sky.' The existence of aerial chariots, in whatever form it might be, was so well-known that it found a place among the royal edicts of the Emperor Asoka which were executed during his reign from 256 B.C. - 237 B. C.