Home > Europe, History, India, World Economy > A flight over Chowpatty that made history – The Times of India

A flight over Chowpatty that made history – The Times of India


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

Speculative drawings based on Vymanika Shastra

Speculative drawings based on Vymanika Shastra

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.

If …

As this news item points out: –

  1. 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.
  2. 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

From Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute , Volume 69 | Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute | Page 365

From Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute , Volume 69 | Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute | Page 365

From Cultural reciprocation between India and the world | By Sures Chandra Banerji | Page 191

From Cultural reciprocation between India and the world | By Sures Chandra Banerji | Page 191

From Asia: Asian quarterly of culture and synthesis, Volume 4 | By René de Berval | Page 40

From Asia: Asian quarterly of culture and synthesis, Volume 4 | By René de Berval | Page 40

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 …”

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  1. SB
    May 15, 2013 at 2:46 am

    Comparisons with the wright brothers are not accurate.
    The Wright brothers, were credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible. (wikipedia)

    Talpade seems to have flown an unmanned aircraft. Probably a glider. For comparisons, we should find when equivalent flights were conducted elsewhere.

    While I would be happy to know that some Indian was a scientific pioneer, I love accuracy more.

  2. May 15, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Comparisons with the wright brothers are not accurate.

    The Wright brothers, were credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible. (wikipedia)

    I think you are more bothered with accurately giving credit to Wright Brothers than recognizing the role of funding in the process of innovation and invention.

    Wright Brothers got funding from the US govt. through the Army – where as Talpade’s funding was cut-off by the then ‘Indian’ Government which was the British Raj.

    In your comment in DNA, you doubted the very story and needed corroboration. Having got corroboration, you now want to diminish the work of Talpade on some technicality – without recognizing the role of funding in the process of innovation and invention.

    Interesting – the need to diminish our own achievements in adverse conditions and inflate foreign output in benign or favorable conditions.

  3. raj
    May 23, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    SB :
    Comparisons with the wright brothers are not accurate.
    The Wright brothers, were credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible. (wikipedia)
    Talpade seems to have flown an unmanned aircraft. Probably a glider. For comparisons, we should find when equivalent flights were conducted elsewhere.
    While I would be happy to know that some Indian was a scientific pioneer, I love accuracy more.

    I think he is not intersted to know who make first… well still i can find bug in windows and laptop and processors so shuould i feel yet computers are not discovered

  1. August 21, 2010 at 9:33 am

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