(Last Updated on : 23/07/2013)
Epics in Sanskrit Literature
are the literary jewel box that provides the socio-cultural, political, and economic as well as the value oriented mythical life of India. The paradigm shift of approximately the 6th to 1st centuries BC witnessed the composition of the two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata that went till 4th century B.C.
While not as long as the Mahabharata
, the Ramayana
is comparatively longer than Iliad or the Odyssey. Conventionally, the authorship is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki
, who is attributed the title Adikavi, or "first poet." It was Valmiki in the Ramayana who had introduced the Anushtubh meter for the first time. Both Mahabharata and Ramayana were transferred orally and evolved through several centuries before being transferred into writing. Ramayana includes the myths and legends that thrives to be the very basis of Hindu festivals
, beliefs and religion and even contains a sketch of the same marriage practice still observed in contemporary times by people of Hindu persuasion.
The great epic of Ramayana is traditionally attributed to Valmiki, who is considered to be the first poet of India. The Indian tradition believes that the great epic has been written by a single poet, the great sage Valmiki, who was also a contemporary of Lord Rama
and also a marginal actor in the great epic. The original version of the story in Sanskrit language is called the Valmiki Ramayana, which dates back to the 4th century B.C. As per the Hindu tradition, the Ramayana was considered to have taken place during the period known as Treta Yuga. The beginnings of ornate epic poetry do indeed lead back to the Ramayana, and Valmiki has always remained the pattern to which all later Indian poets admiringly aspired.
Composition of Ramayana
In the composition of the Ramayana, as in all Kavyas, greater importance is attached to the form than to the matter and contents of the poem, and that so-called alankaras, i.e. embellishments. Such as similes, poetic figures, puns, and so on, are used largely, even to excess. Similes are heaped on similes, and descriptions, especially of nature, are spun out interminably with ever new metaphors and comparisons. The Ramayana appears as a work that is popular epic and ornate poetry at the same time.
Story of Ramayana
Ramayana presents the story of King Rama, who is also the main character in this epic. This great epic comprises of 24000 couplets in seven books which give an account of the royal birth of Rama and his other three brothers, the loss of his throne and his victory over evil. Dasaratha
was Rama's father and was the king of Ayodhya
. He had three queens named Kaikeyi
and Sumitra. Bharata
was the second son of Dasaratha
and Queen Kaikeyi
. As a result of the jealously of Kaikeyi, Rama went into exile for fourteen years. Rama was accompanied voluntarily into the forest by Sita and Lakshmana
. Lakshmana protected and served Lord Rama
in the forest. However, during their exile, Ravana
abducted Sita with the help of an evil plot. Hanuman also plays an important role in this epic by finding Sita and helping Ram to fight the battle against Ravana. The great monkey Sugriva
and his alliance with Rama were also fruitful as he regained his wife and his kingdom and he in turn helped Rama in finding out Sita and employed his army of monkeys to fight for Rama against Ravana.
Kandas in Ramayana
Kandas or episodes in Ramayana
consist of seven parts which include the Bala Kanda
, Ayodhya Kanda
, Aranya Kanda
, Kishkindha Kanda
, Sundara Kanda
, Yuddha Kanda
and Uttara Kanda
. These Kandas describe the kingdom of Ayodhya and its ruler Dasaratha and how he got four sons from his three wives. The Kandas or episodes describe the childhood and early life of the four brothers, their attempts in killing the Rakshasas
, the marriage of Rama to Sita and the marriage of his other three brothers to the daughters of Janaka
. The exile of Rama, Lakshmana
and Sita to the forest, the death of Dasaratha and the regency of Bharata are also narrated in the episodes. The Aranya Kanda gives an account of the forest life of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, the killing of the Golden deer by Rama and the abduction of Sita by Ravana. In Kishkindha Kanda Rama meets Sugriva and forms an alliance with him and kills Bali
to make Sugriva the king of Kishkindha. In Sundara Kanda Hanuman flies to Lanka
and meets Sita and in Yuddha Kanda there is the mention of the construction of the Adam's Bridge to Lanka and the fight against Ravana and the subsequent death of Ravana in the hands of Rama. The last episode of this great epic is known as the Uttara Kanda which narrates the tale of Rama's Ayodhya return and his coronation, the ordeal of Sita, Lava and Kusha
, son of Rama, and finally the last days of Rama in the world.
or the great bharata is one of the longest poetic works in the world and a noticeable Indian epic. Mahabharata is a poetic epic; that contains large tracts of Hindu mythology, philosophy and religious tracts. Traditionally, authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to the sage Vyasa.
Origin of Mahabharata
According to Hindu Mythology
it is believed that Mahabharata was written by Ved Vyasa. The origin of the Great Indian Epic dates back to the late Vedic period
and it probably reached its final form in the early Gupta period. However the first section of the Mahabharata states that it was Ganesha who on behalf of Vyasa wrote down the text when Vyasa dictated it. Lord Ganesha
is said to have written it only on one condition that Vyasa would never pause in his recitation.
Story of Mahabharata
The tragedy of a terrible war of annihilation forms the actual subject of the heroic poem. This old heroic poem forms the nucleus of the Mahabharata. Among the descendants of Bharata, a ruler named Kuru was especially prominent, and his descendants, the Kauravas (Kuruides), were so long the ruling race of the Bharatas, that the name Kuru
or Kaurava in the course of time assumed the character of a name for the tribe of the Bharatas, and their land is that of Kurukshetra
or Kuru-land. A family feud in the royal house of the Kauravas leads to a long battle, a truly internecine struggle in which the ancient race of the Kurus, and with it the family of the Bharatas, is almost entirely ruined. The history of this battle was told in songs, and these songs were combined into a heroic poem of the great battle in the field of the Kurus.
The main action of Mahabharata revolves around the contest of Pandavas
and Kauravas and the contest is set in the strategic and fertile plain of Delhi
. The Kauravas were the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra
and their capital was Hastinapur
, the Pandavas on the other hand were the five sons of Pandu
. As Dhritarashtra was blind, the Kuru territories were succeeded by the Pandavas, but Pandu had a skin ailment and hence even he was not eligible to rule. In order to avoid conflict between the Pandava and the Kaurava brothers, Dhritrashtra had divided the kingdom into two equal halves and the Pandavas ruled the kingdom from Indraprastha
. But this arrangement did not satisfy the Kauravas and they invited the Pandavas to a gambling match. The result of the gambling match was that the Pandavas lost everything they had staked and the a settlement was reached that they would be allowed to retain half the patrimony and their joint wife Draupadi
provided they went to an exile for a period of thirteen years. But even after they returned from exile, the Kauravas did not allow them to rule. Hence the matter had to be settled through war.
As a result an eighteen day long battle was fought in the plains of Kurukshetra and many clans most of whom belonged to the Kauravas was annihilated in the battle. The Pandavas established their victory and ruled the kingdom peacefully for some years. Then the Pandava brothers renounced their royal status after installing a grandson walked towards City of the Gods in the Himalaya.
Teachings of Mahabharata
Mahabharata explains the Hindu Philosophy
at length. It mentions all four kinds of Purushartha to be achieved by every man. This Great Indian Epic describes about Politics (Artha sastra), Erotics (Kamasastra), and Virtues (Dharma sastras
) by the great sage Vyasa. Added to it, the Mahabharata is also a compilation of stories about the ancestors of Pandavas
and many kings like Yayathi, conflict of Devas and Asuras, Story of Garuda
and Dharma play an integral role in the Mahabharata. It explains the Hindu Philosophy at length.