This question is based on the following petition and this and this news article.


The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has proposed a new textbook that will discuss the ‘Indian knowledge system’ via a number of pseudoscientific claims about the supposed inventions and discoveries of ancient India (The Print report on 26 September). The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) signed off on the move, and the textbook – drawn up by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan educational trust – is set to be introduced in 80% of the institutions the AICTE oversees.

Some Unsubstantiated Claims Made in the book

  1. Rishi Agastya invented electro-voltaic cell.

  2. Rishi Agastya gives a method of electrolysis to produce Oxygen and Hydrogen from water.

  3. Rishi Kanad in 'Vaisheshik Sutra' discusses types of motion as well as Newton’s laws of motion.

  4. The book ‘Vaimanika Shastra’ was written by Rishi Bharadwaj about 5000 years ago. The book ‘Vaimanika Shastra’ is an authoritative text on not just construction on aeroplanes but also on navigation, aviation fuels and pilot preparation

  5. The speed of light has been accurately mentioned in Rigveda.

  6. The theory of gravitation has been first mentioned in Rigveda.

Note So far, no evidence in any form whatsoever has been given by the writers of the book. By evidence, I mean any mention of the above claims in the sources mentioned above as reported in modern peer reviewed reputable journals/writings or a direct quote from the aforementioned primary source.


I am not an authority on ancient Indian History. Before signing this petition, I want to be sure that all/most of the above claims are outright false.

As for sources which point towards all the above things being false, there is mentioned in the petition,

For example, you can read the paper written by members of Aeronautical Engineering faculty of IISc in 1974, debunking all the claims in the book Vaimanika Shastra.

Are any of the above claims true? If no, when and why did this (wrong) information originate?

  • 1
    Good discussion with links to sources here: jasoncolavito.com/blog/…
    – DavePhD
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 15:05
  • 1
    Well, I know that the book mentioned in point 4 was published in 1952, and is apparently based on stories written down in the early 1900's. If they are true stores, then physics 5000 years ago must a have been a lot different in order for the planes mentioned in the book to have any hope of flying. The other points have at least some amount of chance being true though.
    – Giter
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 17:27
  • Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/41932/… may answer the Rig Veda gravitation subquestion.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 12:16
  • 4
    This question is too broad, which makes it very hard to answer. Pick one of the claims and focus on it.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:02
  • 1
    @Agile_Eagle, choose all, and make 6 separate questions. But quote what the book actually says if possible.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 21:57

1 Answer 1


5.The speed of light has been accurately mentioned in Rigveda

The speed of light is not mentioned in the Rig Veda.

Instead, as stated in footnote b of page 132 of Rig-Veda-sanhita (1850)

Sayana says, that, according to the Smriti, the sun moves 2,202 yojanas in half a twinkle of the eye.

So, a commentary by Sayana on a traditional commentary could be construed to refer to the speed of light.

For example, Scripture of the Heavens (1949) says that light moves 2,202 yojanas in 8/75 of a second.

According to the India Journal of the History of Science (1989):

M. Damodhar derived an approximate value of the velocity of light from an enigmatic statement 'Surya ratham travels 2202 Yojanas in nimesa ardha' on the basis of doubtful assumption

So overall, there is no statement in the Rig Veda itself concerning the speed of light, but Sayana's statement could debatably be construed as an approximate value of the speed of light.

  • 3
    The definitions of time and distance here have a pretty large latitude. Wikipedia gives a nimesa about twice what is quoted above. A Yojana could be anything from 8 to 15 kilometers. The most you can really say is "correct to an order of magnitude". Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:00
  • 1
    @PaulJohnson yes, I see estimates of anywhere from 0.088 seconds books.google.com/… to 0.5 seconds books.google.com/… for the nimesa.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 16:56

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