By Swami Harshananda
Puṣpaka (‘that which shines [like a beautiful] flower’)
Whether the science of aeronautics was known to the ancient Hindus or not, Puṣpaka or Puṣpakavimāna, the most wonderful aeroplane—the like of which never existed earlier nor would, in future— has often been mentioned in the Hindu scriptural works.
The Puṣpaka originally belonged to Kubera, the god of wealth. It had been given to him by none other than Brahmā, the creator himself, as a gift. It had been manufactured by Viśvakarma, the chief architect and engineer of the gods in heaven. It was extraordinarily elegant, highly decorated, could accommodate any number of people by expanding (and contracting) and could fly independently at the ‘speed of mind’ (manovega)!
Rāvaṇa, the demon-king, had usurped it from Kubera (his own cousin!) after conquering him in the battle.
When Rāma killed Rāvaṇa, Vibhīṣaṇa offered the Puṣpaka to him to return to Ayodhyā (vide Rāmāyana, Yuddhakānda, 124.9-12). When Rāma wanted Kubera, the original owner, to take it back, the latter gifted it to Rāma himself.
Rāma then ordered the Puṣpaka to move about freely at will, but to return to him whenever he wanted it.
In the Sundarakānda of Vālmīki’s
Rāmāyana (sargas 7 and 8) there is a beautiful and captivating description of this Puṣpaka, as seen by Hanumān.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore