Shivkar Bapuji Talpade
Shivkar Bāpuji Talpade (1864–1916) and Subbarāya Shāstry were two Indian scientists and Maharashtrian members of the Pathare Prabhu community who, some believe to have constructed and flown India's first unmanned airplane in the year 1895 to a height of 1500 feet. This event is supposed to have occurred 8 years before the Wright brothers' Wright Flyer, the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight. However, this claim is not supported factually since its technical basis has been deprecated by researches into the technological feasibility of such flights Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore,. Talpade's airplane was named Marutsakhā, a term used for the goddess Sarasvati in the Rigveda (RV 7.96.2) -- a portmanteau of Marut meaning stream of air and Sakha meaning friend. Talpade lived in Mumbai and was a scholar in Sanskrit literature and Vedas.
Talpade is supposed to have constructed Marutsakhā under the guidance of Pandit Subbarāya Shāstry. However, according to a study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, it is not possible to construct such a flying machine. Moreover, contemporary accounts of a successful flight or evidences of such an achievement are scarce and the technical feasibility is highly dubious. Shāstry was the author of the Vaimānika Shāstra, an early 20th-century Sanskrit text on aeronautics supposedly obtained by Vedic studies and automatic writing. Marutsakhā may have been constructed based on Vimāna, mythological flying machines from Vedic literature. This is suggested by D. K. Kanjilal's 1985 Vimana in Ancient India: Aeroplanes Or Flying Machines in Ancient India, as well as reports contemporary to Talpade in the Marāthi-language newspaper Kesari. One of Talpade's students, Pt. S. D. Satawlekar, wrote that Marutsakhā sustained flight for a few minutes. Deccan Herald in 2003 stated "scholarly audience headed by a famous Indian judge and a nationalist, Mahadeva Govin-da Ranade and H H Sayaji Rao Gaekwad, respectively, had the good fortune to see the unmanned aircraft named as ‘Marutsakthi’ take off, fly to a height of 1500 feet and then fall down to earth"". The presence of Mahadev Govind Ranade and Sayajirao Gaekwad III during the flight is also cited in "Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute". A former Indian defense officer stated in 2004 that Marutsakhā failed to operate to its full design limits due to technical reasons.
After the experiment, Marutsakhā apparently was stored at Talpade's house until well after his death. Velakara quotes one of Talpade's nieces, Roshan Talpade, as saying the family used to sit in the aircraft's frame and imagine they were flying. A model reconstruction of Marutsakhā was exhibited at an exhibition on aviation at Vile Parle, and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has preserved documents relating to the experiment.
- Caudhurī, Parameśa (2007). Did India civilize Europe?. P. Choudhury,. p. 334. ISBN 8190192523.
- Mukunda, H.S.; Deshpande, S.M., Nagendra, H.R., Prabhu, A. and Govindraju, S.P. (1974). "A critical study of the work "Vyamanika Shastra"". Scientific Opinion: 5–12. Retrieved 2007-09-03.
- Asia: Asian Quarterly of Culture and Synthesis, American Asiatic Association, Published 1942, Page 40
- Pratāpa Velakara, Pāṭhāre prabhūñcā itihāsa: nāmavanta lekhakāñcyā sas̃́odhanātmaka likhāṇāsaha : rise of Bombay from a fishing village to a flourishing town, Pune, Śrīvidyā Prakāśana (1997)
- A flight over Chowpatty that made history, Times of India (18 October 2004)
- Hundred years after Orville Wright’s first flight, K R N SWAMY remembers Shivkur Bapuji Talpade, the Indian who flew an unmanned aircraft, eight years before Wright, http://archive.deccanherald.com/Deccanherald/dec16/snt2.asp
- Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Volume 69. The Institute. 1989. p. 365.