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Indians invented planes 7,000 years ago — and other startling claims at the Science Congress

NEW DELHI — The Wright Brothers thought they were inventing the airplane, but an ancient Hindu sage beat them to it, about 7,000 years ago. Oh, and his planes could move in any direction, and travel from planet to planet.

Proof? The ancient Vedas — texts that are old, but not 7,000 years old — mention them, Capt. Anand J. Bodas, the retired principal of a pilot training facility, told the Indian Science Congress on Sunday in Mumbai.

“There is official history and unofficial history. Official history only noted that the Wright Brothers flew the first plane in 1903,"  Bodas said in his 30-minute speech. He said the world’s first plane was invented by the Hindu sage Maharishi Bharadwaj. "The ancient planes had 40 small engines." Also, he said, a flexible exhaust system that modern aviation can't even approach.

His audience, in Mumbai and across the country, was left wondering whether this was a genuine if implausible scientific claim, or an effort at fostering national pride or just part of an ongoing campaign to boost the agenda of the country's new Hindu nationalist rulers.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who was present at the session, said ancient Indian science was based on “experience and logic” and “that wisdom must be recognized.”

India’s science and technology minister, Harsh Vardhan, made another startling claim at the conference, saying that ancient Indian mathematicians also discovered the Pythagorean theorem but that the Greeks got the credit.

The conference has been the subject of controversy all week. More than 200 scientists signed an online petition opposing Sunday's scheduled lecture, called “'Ancient Indian Aviation Technology," saying it amounted to “giving a scientific platform for a pseudo-science talk.”

"If we scientists remain passive, we are betraying not only the science, but also our children," the petition said.

On Twitter, the hashtag #Vedic trended Sunday, but many joked about the claims. too.