If you've spent too long on YouTube or have a relative who has a soft spot for forwarding misinformation on WhatsApp, you may have come across a strange carving of a person riding a bicycle in an ancient Indian temple.
According to various posts, the sculpture shows that humans in ancient India were riding around on bicycles, well over a thousand years before anybody had gotten around to inventing them.
So, what's going on? Well, we can say with near certainty (hey, there's always the slimmest of slim chances this is the work of a time traveler reboot of Punk'd) that there were no bicycles when the temple was built.
"The first question that arises on my mind is, if bicycles were actually invented in Chola period; why were they not used for almost a thousand years?" Indian Temples Research & Media Services wrote on Instagram of the claims. "Why don't we find a single reference of bicycle in any literature, epigraphical evidences, sculptures or epics? How come a bicycle suddenly appear thousand years later in another part of the globe?"
There is likely a very simple explanation. Dr R. Kalaikovan, an ophthalmologist and amateur researcher, was intrigued by the carving.
"While taking a look around, I came across the carving of a bicycle on a pillar behind the Amman temple,” he told The Hindu. “It was so funny and intriguing to see the picture of a cycle in an ancient temple. But neither the officials nor the scholar who wrote its history, were able to explain how it came there. I started researching this fact.”
Kalaikovan found that the temple had been renovated in the 1920s, when bicycles were a novelty in the area.
“Perhaps the sculptor had seen someone on a cycle, was impressed by it and had recorded it forever on stone."