Shivkar Talpade: The untold story of the man who flew India's first aircraft

Shivkar Talpade: The untold story of the man who flew India's first aircraft

Did Shivkar Bapuji Talpade invent the plane 8 years before the Wright brothers?

The Wright brothers are widely credited with making the first successful manned flight in 1903. However, there is a lesser-known claim that an Indian scholar named Shivkar Bapuji Talpade had constructed and flown an unmanned aircraft in 1895, eight years before the American duo. Is this claim true? And if so, how did he do it?

Who was Shivkar Bapuji Talpade?

Shivkar Bapuji Talpade was born in 1864 in Mumbai, India. He was a technical instructor at the Sir JJ School of Art and a member of the Arya Samaj, a Hindu reformist movement. He had an interest in Sanskrit and ancient Indian texts, especially those related to aviation. He was inspired by the Vaimanika Shastra, a Sanskrit treatise on aeronautics attributed to Maharishi Bharadwaja, one of the ancient sages of India. The Vaimanika Shastra describes various types of aircraft and their design, construction, operation and fuel. Talpade studied this text with the help of Pandit Subbaraya Shastry, who claimed to have received it through divine revelation.

What was Talpade's aircraft?

Talpade named his aircraft Marutsakha, meaning "friend of the wind". It was a cylindrical bamboo structure with eight propellers and wings. It was powered by a mercury engine called Mercury Vortex Engine, which supposedly used mercury and solar energy to create thrust. The aircraft also had a capacitor called Bhimba Prakash Yantra, which stored electrical energy and controlled the speed and direction of the flight.

Did Talpade fly his aircraft?

According to some sources, Talpade successfully flew his aircraft above Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai in 1895, in front of a large crowd that included Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the Maharaja of Baroda. The aircraft reportedly rose to a height of 1500 feet and flew for a few minutes before crashing. However, there are no contemporary accounts or reliable historical records to verify this claim. Some historians and scientists have dismissed it as a myth or a hoax, citing the lack of evidence, the implausibility of the technology and the inconsistency of the sources. The Vaimanika Shastra itself states that Talpade was unsuccessful in his attempt to build an aircraft.

What happened to Talpade and his aircraft?

Talpade died in 1916, leaving no direct descendants. His aircraft was either sold to Rallis Brothers, a British trading company, or to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), an Indian aerospace company. However, no traces of his drawings or his aircraft have been found. Some of his supporters claim that his work was suppressed or destroyed by the British colonial authorities, who feared that it would challenge their supremacy and inspire Indian nationalism.

What is the significance of Talpade's claim?

Talpade's claim has been revived and popularized by some Indian nationalists and Hindu revivalists, who see him as a pioneer of aviation and a symbol of India's ancient scientific glory. They argue that Talpade's aircraft was based on authentic Vedic knowledge and that he was the first person to fly a heavier-than-air machine. They also accuse the Western world of ignoring or stealing India's contributions to science and technology.

However, Talpade's claim has also been criticized and debunked by many historians and scientists, who point out the flaws and contradictions in his sources, the lack of scientific evidence and the impossibility of his technology. They also question the authenticity and validity of the Vaimanika Shastra, which has been shown to be a modern forgery based on outdated and erroneous concepts. They argue that Talpade's claim is a product of pseudoscience and pseudohistory, and that it undermines the genuine achievements of Indian science and culture.


Shivkar Bapuji Talpade was an Indian scholar who had an interest in aviation and Sanskrit texts. He claimed to have built and flown an aircraft based on the Vaimanika Shastra, a Sanskrit treatise on aeronautics, in 1895. However, there is no conclusive evidence or reliable historical record to support this claim. Talpade's claim has been challenged and refuted by many historians and scientists, who consider it a myth or a hoax. Talpade's claim has also been used and abused by some Indian nationalists and Hindu revivalists, who see him as a hero of Indian science and a victim of Western oppression. Talpade's claim is a controversial and contested topic that reflects the complex and diverse nature of India's history and culture.


(1) Shivkar Bapuji Talpade - Wikipedia.

(2) Shivkar Bapuji Talpade: Indian who Invented Aircraft before Wrights.

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