When Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, physicist behind the Manhattan Project during World War II, recalled the first detonation of a nuclear device at Alamogordo in July of 1945, he said a verse from the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, came immediately to mind: "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one..."
Later, during a seminar he was giving on the development of nuclear weapons, a college student asked if that blast (which Oppenheimer had nicknamed "trinity") had indeed been the first detonation of a nuclear device on planet Earth. Oppenheimer's answer: "Well, yes, in modern times."
This statement has troubled many a scholar, to say the least, since what Oppenheimer seems to have implied was that there had been other nuclear blasts in Earth's history; but how could this be? After all, there is very little likelihood, if any, that ancient societies managed to harness the power of the atom... or did they?
Truth be known, there are a number of incidents that involve curious mention of archaic weapons of mass destruction which, over the centuries, have become difficult to identify. Nonetheless, if the claims made of their destructive potential in ancient texts is accurate, many seem to represent tools that would be better fitted to the arsenal of today's most sophisticated military.
For instance, at Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog, a 1277 siege against a fortification by the historic Chinese figure Lou Ch’ien-Hsia and his army described the use of a huo p’ao, a weapon with massive destructive force, against the fort's walls:
He lit the huo p’ao and a clap of thunder was heard, the walls crumbled, and smoke covered the sky. Many soldiers outside died of fright. When the fire went out, they went inside and failed to find even the ashes of the 250 defenders; they had disappeared without trace.
Beachcomber comments that the so-called huo p’ao "should be a ‘fire bundle’, often applied to a trebuchet hurling incendiary devices." Still, he goes on to say that this explanation "doesn’t even begin to account for what is being described here: something that would be more suited to black magic or machinery kept in the crate of a thirty-first-century space ship." Similar reports creep up when studying the ancient vedic texts of India which, incidentally, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer was very familiar with. Specifically, in addition to mention of a variety of flying machines called viamanas, there is a reference in the Mahabharata of a weapon used against the Vrishnis and the Andhakas which sounds frighteningly similar to a modern nuclear explosion:
(It was) a single projectile charged with all the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as the thousand suns rose in all its splendor... An iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas.... the corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. The hair and nails fell out; pottery broke without apparent cause, and the birds turned white.... after a few hours all foodstuffs were infected.... to escape from this fire, the soldiers threw themselves in streams to wash themselves and their equipment.
Many elements present here sound curious (such as birds turning white, for instance), unless we could assume that translations and interpretations over the decades could have led to a variety of translations. Perhaps "turned white" denotes that birds in mid-flight were struck by the blast, turning immediately to ash. Other references made here, such as "soldiers washing themselves in streams," sounds similar to modern treatments for radiation poisoning. WiseGEEK.com recommends the following:
"If you are in the presence of a nuclear explosion or accident, the best thing to do is to get as far away from the area as quickly as possible... Because there is a possibility of external contamination, it is a good idea to dispose of any clothing worn at the time of the event, and to wash your body and hair thoroughly with lukewarm water and soap."
Could it be that ancient texts like the Mahabharata actually make reference to nuclear devices? It is interesting to note that in various locations around the world--including areas that were part of India at the time the Vedas were authored--archaeologists have discovered vitrified stone walls: that is, stone walls which were fused together by sudden, intense heat. In modern times, vitrification has similarly been witnessed at locations that include Hiroshima and Nagasaki; could this be further proof that incredible explosive devices were used in ancient times? Perhaps, as Oppenheimer watched "trinity" erupt at Alamogordo in 1945, he had known all along that he was observing a re-telling of a story so ancient it has been long-forgotten by most today... and yet, strangely, it served as the very impetus for something hellish and devastating; and a creation he would be best remembered for. If so, what other clues to Earth's sordid past may lay buried, waiting to be unearthed, like Oppenheimer's "Iron Thunderbolt"?