A few soothras of Vymanika shastra deal with dietary prescriptions for flying personnel. This is on the same lines on which ‘occupational clothing’ has been treated on scientific basis. Flying itself being a specialized field involving skills, physical fitness, endurance, alertness, decision-making and so on, the supporting elements connected with the aviator have also been appropriately conceived.

Prescriptions of food for the pilot have been dealt under the following headings. :

  • Food according to seasons.

  • Three varieties to ward off seasonal effects.

  • Food at set timings

  • Essence of fruits, roots and bulbs.

  • Grasses, bulbs and shrubs.

Food according to seasons:


Type of food and diet principles are ascribed to

“Kalpa sootra” and “Ashana kalpa”





Spring-& summer

Buffalo’s  milk

Tuvar dal

Flesh of sheep

Rain-& autumn

Cow’s milk

Wheat & Black gram

Flesh of cocks & Hen

Winter & snow

Goat’s milk

Yava & Black gram

Flesh-of sparrows

  • Pilots belonging to Dwija class-Brahmins, Kshatriyas & Vysyas, were forbidden to consume flesh.

  • Restriction of flesh in their diet for dwija & non-dwija classes of the society focuses on two significant observations.

  • Aviator could be from any branch of the community without the usual barriers of “Chaturvarna” system that prevailed in ancient India. Perhaps the vital qualitative requirements were skill and fitness.

Next the soothra dealing with three varieties of food especially to ward-off evil effects quotes the work ‘Visha Nirnaya Adhikaara’. Here note the mention of beneficial and evil effects of atmospheric heat, moisture, cycles of full moon, new moon phases and changes of seasons. Accordingly changes in varieties of ingredients is justified.

Food at set times:

In this particularly interesting soothra, frequency of food intake needs focused understanding. Quoting sage Shownaka and Lallacharya the table of diet frequency / time is as under.

Type of individual

Number of times

per day

Time specified

Family men

Once or twice

End of six hours from day break



End of nine hours


Four times

Three times during day, once in night

Air pilots

Five times

Three times  during day, twice during night


Any number of times


Note: Pilot has been singled out as a special craftsman with distinctly specified diet-set for himself. Prescribing five times food intake per day implies that pilot of the vimanas is not permitted to keep his stomach empty at any time. He can be called upon to perform his duties at short notice. This interpretation is both logical and appropriate in the context of similar diet regulations for pilots of Indian Air Force. A great deal of similar research-backed regulation came into being in the form of pre-flight meal before the first sortie. Many accidents due to black out were attributed to pilots flying with empty stomach.

While the soothra covered so far relates to conventionally available foods, the next three short sootras pertain to contingent conditions such as,

  • Non-availability of food, possibly due to shortage, drought, famine and so on

  • Adverse survival situations

  • Non availability of specified ingredients necessitating substitutes

Quoting ‘Ashana Kalpa’, the method of preparing cooked food, preparing food for long term storage and consumption have been mentioned. Nutritive value has not been compromised.

As substitutes, even grass, roots, bulbs and fruits with other natural substances such as milk, honey, condiments etc., used in correct proportion are prescribed without prejudice to taste or energy content.

The sootra pertaining to use of natural grasses, herbs and shrubs indicates the extent to which alternative food items had been visualized and developed to cater for extraneous conditions. This is analogous to specific foods developed for personnel of armed forces to survive in strange situations such as jungles, snow, high altitude, deserts, deep seas and so on.


A) The study team’s literature survey indicates that based on this topic of ‘Vymanika Shastra’, protein-rich food extract has been developed. An extract of the report reads as under:

“A formula for producing a protein rich food extract from common Indian grasses is deciphered. CFTRI laboratory is involved in producing a low cost protein rich food product. [As powder, biscuit, malt etc.,] from Indian grass.”

B) More important report on the topic of food prescriptions in the work is from an Ayurvedic Doctor of Bangalore Dr.K.H. Krishna Murthy whose suggestions reproduced below provide validating data.

Studies on plants from ‘Vymanika prakarana’-Some suggestions


Since references on Ayurveda as occurring here are naturally very meager, stress is given more on the heuristic aspects of the references rather than the contents therein. The very first point that strikes one here is that these references are taken from varied sources, often not known to general ayurvedists Eg., are Shaunakiiya tantra, Bodhaayana vritti. Even a mere listing of these works and a cursory glance of the contents is of decided value.

Direct references on Ayruveda occurs in relevant aspects of this work, such as foods in consonance with the seasons, making specialized concentrated food preparations and discussing poisons plants. Among the many other uses of plants are included developing textile materials from plants for making cloth and garments for the pilots, using the oil of the seeds of ‘Ghontaa’ apparently for running the airplane, use of plants in running the bellows, in metallurgical practices employing plants and plant products and the like.

As such, a consistent study of references on plants as they occur through out the text is more rewarding. For most of the plants are well known in Ayruveda as well and clearly identifiable botanically.

Extensive account on nutrition and its many related aspects occur in any classical Ayurvedic samhita. Seasonal selection of food items, detailed instructions on dietetics, nutritional and pharmacological classification of the dietary articles, special preparation of foods for journey and the like are found in abundance even in one authour Sushruta in his chapters on annapaana idhi, procedures for taking cooked food and drinks and annapana rakshaa kalpam, methodology for protecting cooked foods and drinks [from becoming poisonous] The information given in the text here is in full agreement with what is found in Ayurvedic texts.

Details of using plants for textiles are not available in Ayurvedic texts. This and the dyeing by plant pigments are better searched in the relevant local oral traditions. No textbook seems to have been written on textiles.

Kalpasuutra, Anshu Kalpa and Vaalmikiya Ganita are not referred to in ayurveda. No mention is made of Valmikiya ganita even in the dictionary by Monier Willams or Shabda Kalpadruma, the standard works of reference.

Ayurveda covers Visha Nirnayaadhikaara under agada tantra and garas that are man made mainly chemical poisons. Toxicology was very well developed in ancient India.

No Special food is prescribed for military purposes, but for Chaanakya who advises eating special leaves by the soldiers on a long march. These will mitigate their hunger and fatigue. This was probably an Erythroxylon Sp., much like the red Indians of South America, using cocaine plant during hard, manual labour that would consume much time.

Lalla Kaarikaarika is not mentioned in ayurveda anywhere. Lalla was an astronomer. Patasamskaara, Ratna samskaara as advised regarding clothing do not occur in Ayurveda. Lalla was also a mathematician. His Kaarikaarika can be loosely translated as ‘factoral hypothesis’.

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