Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Mahabharata - World's Longest Epic Poem
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa. With more than 74,000 verses and about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahabharata is one of the longest epic poems in the world. It is roughly ten times the size of the Iliad and Odyssey combined, roughly five times longer than Dante's Divine Comedy, and about four times the size of the Ramayana.
The great war of Mahabharata between the Pandavas and the Kauravas happened in 3139 BC. The Pandavas, after winning the Mahabharata war, ruled Hastinapur for 36 years and 8 months until the beginning of Kaliyug in3102 BC. Since the Mahabharata war and the beginning of Kaliyug were important historical events, they have been widely documented in Indian scriptures and frequently referenced by great scholars such as Mahakavi Kalidas, the greatest poet, writer and literary figure of his time and Aryabhatta, the greatest astronomer and mathematician.
Traditionally, the authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to Vyasa. The first section of the Mahabharata states that it was Ganesha who, at the request of Vyasa, wrote down the text to Vyasa's dictation. Ganesha is said to have agreed to write it only on condition that Vyasa never pause in his recitation. Vyasa agreed, provided Ganesha took the time to understand what was said before writing it down.
There have been many attempts to unravel its historical growth and compositional layers. The oldest preserved parts of the text are not thought to be appreciably older than around 400 BCE, though the origins of the story probably fall between the 8th and 9th centuries BCE. The Mahabharata is the longest Sanskrit epic. Its longest version consists of over 100,000 shloka or over 200,000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), and long prose passages. W. J. Johnson has compared the importance of the Mahabharata to world civilization to that of the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, the works of Homer, Greek drama, or the Qur'an.
I don’t claim the information to be my own. The information is compiled from different sources