Summary: The following quotations from classical Sanskrit literature are chosen specifically to illustrate the appearance, nature and capabilities generally ascribed to the ancient aerial vehicles known as vimanas (pronounced "vimans") in the writings of ancient India.
The following quotations from classical Sanskrit literature are chosen specifically to illustrate the appearance, nature and capabilities generally ascribed to the ancient aerial vehicles known as vimanas (pronounced "vimans") in the writings of ancient India. The quotation from the Siva Purana below seems to be a reference to the engineering and building of Triple City (Tripura) mentioned in the Mahabharatan account of the War of the Gods and Asuras.
Having spoken thus, Maharaja Nirga made a complete circle around Lord Krishna and touched his crown to the Lord's feet. Granted permission to depart, King Nirga then boarded a wonderful celestial car as all the people looked on. (Bhagavata Purana)
While Dhruva Maharaja was passing through space, he saw, in succession, all the planets of the solar system, and on the path he saw all the demigods in their vimanas showering flowers upon him like rain. (Bhagavata Purana)
He traveled in that way through the various planets, as the air passes freely in every direction. Coursing through the air in that grand and splendid vimana, which could fly at will, he surpassed even the Devas. (Bhagavata Purana)
Then the highly intelligent Maya [Danava] built the cities [for the sons of Asura Taraka] . . . There were many palaces with gems. Aerial cars shining like the sun, set with Padmaraga stones, moving in all directions and looking like moonbeams, illuminated the cities. (Siva Purana)
When the Daityas were being slaughtered they again took to their vimana and, employing the Danava science, flew up into the sky . . . I (Arjuna) assaulted their vimana . . . Wounded by the flight of deadly-accurate iron missiles, the Asura vimana fell broken to the earth . . . Matali swiftly descended earthward, as in a steep dive, on our divinely effulgent car. (Mahabharata)
Bhima flew along in his car, resplendent as the sun and loud as thunder . . . The flying chariot shone like a flame in the night sky of summer . . . it swept by like a comet . . . It was if two suns were shining. Then the chariot rose up and all the heavens brightened. (Mahabharata)
And on this sunlike, divine, wonderful chariot the wise disciple of Kuru flew joyously upward. When becoming invisible to the mortals who walk the earth, he saw wondrous airborne chariots by the thousands. (Mahabharata)
Vimanas, decked and equipped according to rule, looked like heavenly structures in the sky . . . borne away they looked like highly beautiful flights of birds. (Mahabharata)
And having vanquished his foe, Krishna furnished with weapons and unwounded and accompanied by the kings, came out of Girivraja riding on that celestial car . . . upon that car Krishna now came out of the hill-fort. Possessed of the splendour of heated gold, and decked with rows of jingling bells . . . always slaughtering the foe against whom it was driven, it was the very car riding upon which Indra had slain ninety-nine Asuras of old. (Mahabharata)
And thereupon that best of cars became still more dazzling with its splendour and was incapable of being looked at by created beings, as the midday sun surrounded by a thousand rays . . . And Achyuta, that tiger among men, riding with the two sons of Pandu upon that celestial car . . . coming out of Girivraja, stopped (for some time) on a level plain outside of town. (Mahabharata)
The splendid chariot, made of silver and coated with tiger-skin, and bright like the fire itself, making a noise like the roaring of the clouds; defying all obstacles, adorned with jewels and gold, dazzling to the eyesight and bright . . . went speedily on, making space resound like unto the muttering cloud in the sky. He issued out of his abode like the beautiful moon passing through a huge cloud. (Ayodhya Kandam, XVI, pp. 235-236)
The vimana had all necessary equipment. It could not be conquered by the gods or demons. And it radiated light and reverberated with a deep rumbling sound. Its beauty captivated the minds of all who beheld it. Visvakarma, the lord of its design and construction, had created it by the power of his austerities, and its outline, like that of the sun, could not be easily delineated. (Mahabharata)
Gifted with great energy the Rakshasa once more came down to Earth in his golden vimana . . . when it had landed it looked like a beautifully shaped mound of antimony on the surface of the ground. (Ghatotrachabadma)
A huge and terrible vimana made of black iron, it was 400 yojanas high and as many wide, equipped with engines set in their proper places. No steeds nor elephants propelled it. Instead it was driven by machines that looked like elephants. (Ghatotrachabadma)
We beheld in the sky what appeared to us to be a mass of scarlet cloud resembling the fierce flames of a blazing fire. From that mass many blazing missiles flashed, and tremendous roars, like the noise of a thousand drums beaten at once. And from it fell many weapons winged with gold and thousands of thunderbolts, with loud explosions, and many hundreds of fiery wheels. Loud became the uproar of falling horses, slain by these missiles, and of mighty elephants struck by the explosions . . . Those terrible Rakshasas had the shape of large mounds stationed in the sky. (Mahabharata)
Karna took up that fierce weapon, which resembled the tongue of the Destroyer or the Sister of Death. That terrible and effulgent dart, Naikartana, was hurled at the Rakshasa. Beholding that excellent and blazing weapon . . . the Rakshasa began to fly away in fear . . . Destroying that blazing illusion of Ghatotkacha and piercing right through his breast that resplendent dart soared aloft in the night . . . Ghatotkacha, then uttering diverse roars, fell, deprived of life by the dart of Sakra. (Mahabharata)
And he also gave [unto Arjuna] a car furnished with celestial weapons whose banner bore a large ape . . . And its splendour, like that of the Sun, was so great that no one could gaze at it. It was the very car riding upon which the lord Soma had vanquished the Danavas. Resplendent with beauty, it looked like an evening cloud reflecting the effulgence of the setting Sun. (Mahabharata)
Yudhishthira's Ascent to Heaven
Translated from the Mahabharata by Protep Chandra Roy
Causing the heaven and the earth to be filled by a loud sound, then Indra came to Yudhishthira on a car and asked him to ascend it.
Seeing his brothers fallen on the earth, King Yudhishthira the just said to that deity of a thousand eyes these words: "My brothers have all dropped down here! They must go with me. Without them by me, I do not wish to go to the celestial region, O lord of all the celestials. The delicate princess Draupadi, deserving of every comfort, should go with us! You should permit this."
Indra answered, "You shall behold your brothers in the celestial region. They have reached it before you. Indeed, you shall see all of them there, with Krishna. Do not give way to grief, O chief of the Bharatas! Having renounced their human bodies they have gone there, O chief of the Bharata race! As for you, it is ordained that you shall go there in this very body of yours."
[After a long debate between the two the following occurs.]
Then Dharma and Indra and the other deities, causing Yudhishthira to ascend on a car, went to the celestial region. Those beings crowned with success and capable of going everywhere at will, rode their respective cars. King Yudhishthira, riding on his car, ascended quickly, causing the entire sky to blaze with his effulgence.
Ashtaka and Yayati
From P. C. Roy's translation of the Mahabharata
Ashtaka then said - "Whose are those five golden cars that we see? Do men that repair to regions of everlasting bliss ride on them?"
Yayati answered - "Those five golden cars displayed in glory and blazing as fire, would, indeed, carry you to regions of bliss."
Ashtaka said - "O king, ride those cars thyself, and repair to heaven. We can wait. We will follow thee in time."
Yayati said - "We can now go altogether. Indeed all of us have conquered heaven. Behold the glorious path to heaven becomes visible."