The Epic of Manas: An Epic Still Alive
The epic Manas is one of the most precious expression the Kyrgyz national heritage. Composed in oral form and rhyme, Manas has preserved its significance as the magnum opus of the Kyrgyz epic tradition for centuries past. Despite being relatively unknown, Manas is an epic that constitutes a role as large as those of the Homeric epics. Moreover, Manas is still not entirely recorded and Turkologists from all over the world continue an ambitious project to get the Epic of Manas recorded and translated. Exceeding half a million lines, Manas is still not totally available for international scholarship and the available knowledge on Manas is fairly limited. Yet, even this limited knowledge manages to demonstrate the significance of Manas, not only for the Turkic peoples but also for the epic tradition and is of such paramount value for the Kyrgyz that globally-acclaimed Kyrgyz writer Cengiz Aytmatov had called Manas “[the expression] of the Kyrgyz’s worldview, pride and dignity, battles and their hope for the future.” Before comparing Manas to other Western epics, it is necessary to understand what Manas is and what it stands for. As said earlier, Manas consists of about half a million lines, which makes it almost twenty times longer than the Homeric epics, ranking it the second-longest epic after the Indian Mahabbarata. The size of Manas makes it unique among other such epics, especially in comparison to Homeric epics. Yet, it would be unfair to limit Manas’s significance to its tremendous length. Together with its size, Manas is also rich in content and demonstrates a unique success in its eloquent poetry. Renowned German Turkologist Wilhelm Radloff had called Manas, due to its technical and literary success, “the highest level of traditional poetry.” Similar to Homeric epics but exceeding them, the Manas reflect all aspects of the Kyrgyz’s life. The epic provides modern scholars with priceless data on the ethnic...
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