Diagram of an alleged ancient Indian airplane (for representational purposes only)

Indians were the first to fly airplanes and travel to other planets – and this took place around 7000 years ago, claims a controversial paper presented at the 102 Indian Science Congress on 4 January, 2015.

Captain Anand J Bodas, a retired principal of a pilot training facility, made this radical claim on the second day of the congress at the Mumbai University as part of a session titled Ancient Sciences through Sanskrit, the Times of India reported.

Drawing upon ancient Vedic texts to support the claim that there was flying technology in ancient India, Bodas said, "There is a reference of ancient aviation in the Rigveda."

According to Bodas, Maharishi Bharadwaj - an ancient Hindu sage - spoke 7,000 years ago of "the existence of aeroplanes which travel from one country to another, from one continent to another and from one planet to another." He mentioned 97 reference books for aviation.

In his book, Vimana Samhita, Bharadwaj has described various types of metal alloys used to build an aeroplane, Bodas said, adding, "Now we have to import aeroplane alloys. The young generation should study the alloys mentioned in his book and make them here."

He also spoke of the "huge" airplanes which flew in ancient India: "The basic structure was of 60 by 60 feet and in some cases, over 200 feet. They were jumbo planes. The ancient planes had 40 small engines. Today's aviation does not know even of flexible exhaust system."

The session proved to be a controversial one even ahead of the conference, when Dr Ram Prasad Gandhiraman, an Indian scientist with the Nasa's Ames Research Centre in California, filed an online petition demanding that the session be cancelled because it fused science with mythology. (via FirstPost)

The petition said: "We as scientific community should be seriously concerned about the infiltration of pseudo-science in science curricula with backing of influential political parties. Giving a scientific platform for a pseudo-science talk is worse than a systematic attack that has been carried out by politically powerful pseudo-science propagandists in the recent past. If we scientists remain passive, we are betraying not only the science, but also our children."