The epics

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This is an introduction to the Hindu epics The Ramayana and The Mahabharata presented to an audience of children. These Sanskrit works have a deep religious significances and remain vibrantly alive in the daily existence people in India to this day.

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The epics

  1. 1. The EpicsThe Ramayanaand The Mahabharata
  2. 2. Why are the epics important? The Ramayana and theMahabharata are consideredthe foundation of dharma orthe Hindu code of ethicalexistence. Duty to parents, brotherly love,true friendship, correctconduct, courage, persistenceand many other virtues arestressed in the epics. They are also entertainingstories because they are full ofaction and adventure.
  3. 3. The Ramayana• The story of Rama, theincarnation of Vishnu and theideal man (maryada purushottam)• Supposed to have been writtensome time between 500 B.C. and100 B.C.• Ramayana literally means‘Rama’s journey’. It is called ‘AdiKavya,’ the first and ideal poem.• It was composed in Sanskrit byValmiki, who is also called ‘AdiKavi’ or the first poet.• It consists of 24,000 verses inseven books called kandas.
  4. 4. How the Ramayana was Written• Valmiki was a robber whorepented of his crimes. He askedsage Narada who the perfect manwas. Narada replied, “Rama,” andnarrated the story of Rama.• Valmiki became preoccupied withthoughts of Rama.• Once he saw a hunter’s arrowkilling a male bird.• The cries of the female birdtouched Valmiki’s heart, whocursed the hunter.• His words formed a shloka, apiece of verse that could be sungto music.
  5. 5. The first poem in Sanskrit• This shloka was the first poem inSanskrit.• Later Brahma the creator appearedto Valmiki saying “Tell the storyof Rama in the same metre andrhyme. I’ll grant you a vision ofhis whole life. And as long as themountains and seas remain, so willthe glorious Ramayana live in thehearts of men and inspire them toperform noble deeds.”• He taught it first to Rama’s sons,Luv and Kush then his otherdisciples.
  6. 6. How did the Ramayana becomepopular?• Story tellers and bards narrated orsang it to people and soon itspread through the country.• It was retold in many Indianlanguages and even entered theculture of neighbouring countries.• It also entered the realm of music,dance and theatre and to this dayis performed as the Rama Liladuring the festival of Dussherawhich celebrates Rama’s battleand victory against the demonking Ravana.
  7. 7. The Mahabharata• The Mahabharata is a morecomplex work which coversalmost every aspect of life andliving.• It is the longest existing epicconsisting of 1,20,000 shlokas.• Said to be the story of anancient battle between twobranches of a family, theBharatas.• Said to be composed around400 B.C.
  8. 8. Who wrote the Mahabharata?• Also known as Jaya or victory, theMahabharata is said to have beencomposed by the great sage Vyasa, thecompiler of the Vedas.• Vyasa taught the Mahabharata to hisson Suka.• It is said Narada taught it to the gods ordevas while Suka taught it to thegandharvas, the rakshasas and theyakshas.• Vaisampayana, one of Vyasa’s chiefdisciples, narrated the story at a greatsacrifice conducted by Janamejaya, thedescendent of the Pandavas and itspread further.
  9. 9. How is the story of the battletold?• It is in the form of a dialogue between KingDhritarashtra and Sanjaya his advisor andchariot driver.• Sanjaya narrates each incident of theKurukshetra War, fought in 18 days, as andwhen it happened.• Dhritarashtra sometimes asks questions andlaments the destruction caused by the war,to his sons, friends and kinsmen. He alsofeels guilty, because he was partlyresponsible.• Sanjaya begins with a description of theearth, the other planets, and gives anelaborate list of the kingdoms, tribes,provinces, cities, towns, villages, rivers,mountains, forests, etc. of Bharatavarsha.• He also explains the military formationsadopted on each day, the death of each heroand the details of each battle.
  10. 10. The Bhagwad Gita• The Bhagwad Gita, one of the most sacredtexts of the Hindus, constitutes some 18chapters of the Mahabharata.• The Gita is the conversation between LordKrishna and Arjuna before the battle ofKurukshetra.• Arjuna wonders if it is right to fight his owncousins, and Krishna explains his duties asa warrior and prince to him and theimportance of appropriate action.• This has led to the Gita often beingdescribed as a practical guide to life andliving.• Krishna stressed that the soul is immortaland the body perishable.• He finally reveals his identity as theSupreme Being Himself and blesses Arjunawith an awe-inspiring vision.
  11. 11. Mahabharata in art andliterature• Stories from the Mahabharatahave inspired great works of artand literature like Kalidasa’s playAbhigyana Shakuntalam on thestory of Shakuntala, and Raja RaviVerma’s paintings.• Bhima’s slaying of the demonBakasura, the righteous and truthloving Raja Harishchandra, theAkshayapatra or the wondrousvessel of plenty, Nala andDamayanti, Agastya andLopamudra are other popularstories from the Mahabharata.
  12. 12. Pandavani• In Pandavani, a folktheatre form fromChhattisgarh, storiesfrom theMahabharata areretold. Teejan bai isthe best knownperformer.
  13. 13. Where the Ramayana took place• Ayodhya—Rama’s city, capital ofKosala• Videha—kingdom of King Janak,Sita’s father• Panchavati—Lakshman cut offSurpanakha’s nose here• Dandakaranya forest—Sita wasabducted from here• Kishkindha—Sugriva’s kingdom• Rameshwar—the place fromwhere Rama crossed to Lanka• Sri Lanka—Ravana’s kingdom
  14. 14. Where the Mahabharata tookplace• Indraprastha—Pandavcapital• Hastinapur—Kauravcapital• Gandhar—Gandhari’shome• Kurukshetra—thebattlefield• Panchal—Draupadi’shome• Dwarka—Krishna’skingdom• Anga—Karna’s kingdom
  15. 15. Thank you!
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