West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Tuesday claimed at a science fair in Kolkata that mythological character Arjuna’s arrows had nuclear power and chariots mentioned in the Mahabharata epic actually flew, the Hindustan Times reported.

“In Mahabharata, we had a situation where Sanjay narrated everything and not from the field [of war between the Pandavas and Kauravas],” Dhankhar said at the inauguration of the Eastern India Science and Engineering Fair 2020, where he was the chief guest. “We had those arrows of Arjuna that had nuclear power.”

Dhankhar also said that though aircraft were invented in the early 20th century, flying chariots have been mentioned in the Ramayana. “If we delve into our scriptures...plane was invented in 1910 or 1911. But in Ramayana we had Udaan Khatola [flying chariots],” he said. In fact, the Wright brothers built and flew the first aircraft on December 17, 1903 in North Carolina in the United States.

The governor claimed that due to all these things mentioned in the ancient epics, the world can no longer afford to ignore India.

Dhankhar’s remarks attracted sharp criticism from scientists. Veteran nuclear physicist Bikash Sinha, who has been conferred the Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, said the governor was showing symptoms of insanity. “As scientists, we get furious when we hear such things,” Sinha said. “Someday he may say Lord Krishna’s chakra had powers of hydrogen bomb. This is absurd. Since he is a governor, people listen to what he says. I am afraid that such statements can have a negative impact on the society.”

Jadavpur University professor Nrishimha Prasad Bhaduri, an authority on ancient scriptures, said the governor had mistaken the imagination and foresight of the writers of epics for achievements of science. “We all know that no man went to the moon when HG Wells wrote First Man in the Moon,” he said. “Leonardo Da Vinci imagined the airplane much before it was created.”

Bhaduri said that atoms and molecules have been mentioned in the Nyaya Vaisesika, two of the orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, but as basic elements of nature, not as destructive energy. “Poets and artistes have through the ages conceptualised things that science achieved much later,” he said. “But conceptualisation and realisation are different things altogether.”

Last year, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader like Dhankhar, had claimed that said that the internet had existed during the time of the Mahabharata. He had also said that ducks automatically increase oxygen levels in water bodies. Deb had proposed to distribute ducks to improve the rural economy.