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Epic Literature -- the Ramayana and Mahabharata


Eventually, Hindus followed the impulse that had appeared among the Sumerians and others and they wrote poetic stories that focused on the power of the gods. These Hindu stories were written to create ideals for people to follow. The better known of these are poems called the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

The Ramayana is believed to have been written by a Brahmin named Valmiki, a man whose style of poetry was new and was to be copied thereafter. The Ramayana appeared perhaps around 250 BCE. It describes an earlier period when Aryans were expanding their influence over the Dravidians in southern India. It describes missionary endeavors supported by military power and the Aryan strategy of divide and conquer. In its seven books and 24,000 verses the Ramayana praises the heroism and virtues of the Aryan warrior-princes: the Kshatriyas. The Ramayana has as its main hero a prince called Rama, whose life the Ramayana describes from birth to death -- Ramayana meaning the story of Rama. Rama and his brothers are depicted as embodying the ideals of Aryan culture: men of loyalty and honor, faithful and dutiful sons, affectionate brothers and loving husbands, men who speak the truth, who are stern, who persevere but are ready and willing to make sacrifices for the sake of virtue against the evils of greed, lust and deceit.

The Mahabharata, meaning Great India, is thought to have been written between 300 BCE and 300 CE. Across centuries, priestly writers and editors with different attitudes in different centuries were to add to the work, and the Mahabharata emerged three times its original size. The Mahabharata was divided into eighteen books of verses interspersed with passages of prose. It attempted to describe the period in which Aryan tribes in northern India were uniting into kingdoms and when these petty kingdoms were fighting to create empire. The work attempted to be an encyclopedia about points of morality. One of its heroes is Krishna, described as a royal personage descended from the gods -- an eighth incarnation of the god Vishnu. The Mahabharata's heroes are described as yearning for power but, like the heroes of the Ramayana, as devoted to truth and as having a strong sense of duty and affection for their parents.
Haji Mohammad Rahat

Library:

Haji Mohammad Rahat

Author:

Asha Kumar











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