viznut's amazing discoveries

[2007-04-12]

Indian mythology: lasers, spaceships and superpowers

A week ago I wrote about the new Indian sci-fi TV series, Antariksh. Soon after the entry, I remembered my past explorations to the Indian mythology.

The whole thing started more than a decade ago when I got my hands to some ISKCON books which can quite often be found at flea markets. The main guy behind the movement, Abhay Charan De (better known as His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada), had the tendency of systematically translating the Sanskrit word "loka" into "planet", "vimāna" into "airplane", "brahmāstra" into "nuclear weapon" etc. and this gave me a somewhat "scifistic" (or perhaps Dänikenian) impression of the Indian mythology from the very beginning.

Shiva apparently had a destructive laser implanted between his eyes, and Ganesha's elephant head was definitely some kind of breathing device. There were several named alien races, including demonic, ape-like and lizard-like creatures. The most powerful sages were superheroes, as they had attained superhuman powers called siddhis. I was particularly fascinated by the idea that they could be in multiple places at a time by creating temporary copies of themselves.

At some point of time, I found these:

[Rukma Vimana]

Indian mythological flying machines, vimanas, interpreted thru the techno-scientific glasses of the early 20th century! Lots of propellers, electricity, magnetism, weird power sources, and of course, fabulous magical components based on mantras, tantras and yantras. The book "Vaimānikashāstra" was dictated in trance in the 1910s and the pictures were drawn in the 1920s, but the original text is supposedly much much older.

I'm generally fascinated by worlds that combine the very new with the very old. Däniken explains ancient mythology with futuristic technology. Steampunk throws modern concepts into a steam-powered Victorian world. Spelljammer expands the Dungeons&Dragons fantasy world with some very cleverly explained space travel. And I must admit that Indian mythology often manages to give me similar kicks.