In 1895 an Indian pioneer flew what is said to be the first Indian plane in the air. The centenary year of the first successful flight, by the Wright brothers, was celebrated from December 17, 2003. But our own pioneer from Mumbai, Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, made an aircraft and had flown it eight years earlier. One of Talpade’s students, P Satwelkar, has chronicled that his craft called ‘Marutsakha’(Friend of the Winds) flew unmanned for a few minutes and came down. (via A flight over Chowpatty that made history – The Times of India).
Claims … and reality
Western claims to superiority over the Rest usually include their record in ‘innovation and invention’. This record is brandished as proof of Western superiority – of Western attitudes, institutions, society, polity, media and academia, values, et al.
Technology – a function of funding
What is usually never mentioned or understood is the funding of technology. Technology is a quantitative function of funding. Western funding of its technology quest was underwritten first by conquest (of the Native American by the Spaniards), followed by slavery (of the Native Americans and Africans) followed by colonialism.
It were these forms of exploitation which created a continuous flow of resources (funds, patrons, technology, raw materials) which enabled this technology output.
As this news item points out: -
- The Indian pioneer could not obtain funds. Another newspaper report (reproduced elsewhere) points out how the British Raj influenced the Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad of Baroda from support to Talpade’s research.
- On the other hand, the Wright Brothers were supported by the US Army to the extent of US$25,000.
These reports are linked to an intriguing Sanskrit technical manual, the ‘Vymanika Shastra‘. Some level of critical examination has happened in the last few years. What makes this claim worth investigating is the fact that this manual in Sanskrit came out in India – from a man who had little exposure to technology being developed on the opposite side of the world. A copy of this manuscript landed at the Sayaji Rao Gaekwad’s Rajakiya Sanskrit Library, Baroda.
While original dating of this document is not yet done, its authenticity as a technical document in Sanskrit, within a few years of Kitty Hawk makes the ‘ripoff-theory’ baseless.
Some sources for this post
After the death of his wife, Talpade lost interest in the project. One book claims that “later his relatives sold the models and other things connected with his experiment to the firm of Rally Bros …”