NCERT’s mythology link to Chandrayaan-3 draws scientific flak 

NCERT's reading module for middle-school students ‘Chandrayaan Utsav’, aims at creating awareness among the students, it has mixed science with mythology.
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

BENGALURU:  The National Council for Education Research & Training (NCERT) has found itself in a controversy, yet again. It has introduced reading modules for middle-school students on India’s successful Chandrayaan-3 mission and its successful landing near the Moon’s the South Pole. While the module, ‘Chandrayaan Utsav’, aims at creating awareness among the students, it has mixed science with mythology. This has irked many in the scientific community which is demanding the module’s withdrawal.
The module was released by Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on October 17 in New Delhi 
in the presence of ISRO Chairman S Somanath.

The introduction to the 17-page module reads, “Did this scientific achievement happen only now? Didn’t it happen in the past? Didn’t people in the past think about this? Literature tells us that it can be traced back through Vymaanika Shaastra: ‘Science of Aeronautics’, which reveals that our country had the knowledge of flying vehicles in those days.” It then goes on to put on a pedestal “mind-boggling details of construction, working of engines and the gyroscopic systems” from ancient Indian mythology.

Research by the Aeronautical Engineering Department of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) revealed that the book, Vymaanika Shaastra, was written by Sanskrit scholar Subbaraya Shastri in 1923. “The (IISc) research proved that it was not possible for those planes to fly according to the laws of aerodynamics and Newton’s laws of motion. Any plane manufactured based on these ideas would surely have met with 
a horrible accident. And these are just the fanciful ideas of the author,” Dipti B, State Secretary, Breakthrough Science Society (BSS), Bengaluru, said. The module cites the Vedas mentioning various gods using wheeled chariots that could fly, and refers to them as “mechanical birds”.  

‘These writings can be called scientific fiction’

The document also states that gods used to travel in these vehicles from earth to heaven, to planetary and cosmic destinations called ‘Loks’. It also mentions “Pushpak Vimaana”, a floating chariot that Ravana used in the Ramayana, said to be created by Guru Vishwakarma, the chief architect of the Devas. Reacting to this, former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair, said,

“The rishis might have had the imagination of flying vehicles and their applications, but there is no evidence to corroborate the claims made in our scriptures. If it was true, then there should have been some remnants either in Sri Lanka or India as far as the Pushpaka Vimana is considered.” He added that these writings can be called “scientific fiction”.

“The physical reality of imagination and observations made by rishis, including advanced military weapons, is what we can see today,” he said. Scientists said imaginary is an integral part of story-telling, and Vedic literature and epics, without it would have become uninteresting monotonous narratives. “One should enjoy the imaginary, all the while keeping in mind that this is imaginary, not actual historical facts,” said BSS in a statement.

BSS has demanded that the union government stop spreading mythology as historical fact. “This type of false claims will be an insult to the real and genuine contribution of India to the world of science,” said Dipti. Meanwhile, snippets from the supplementary reading material have gone viral on social media with netizens debating the topic and vehemently disagreeing with the claims made in the module. The post has garnered over 3,84,000 views on platform X at 9.20 pm on Saturday. The BSS has appealed to raise public awareness of the true contribution of India in the world of science and not believe in such unscientific claims.

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