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Five Ancient Epics that Teach us Important Virtues of Life

 

 

  1. EPIC OF GILGAMESH

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It is an ancient epic from Mesopotamia. Dating from 2100 BC, it is regarded as first great work of literature. It follows the story of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk.

The first half of story discusses Gilgamesh and Enkidu, a wild man created by Gods to stop Gilgamesh from oppressing his subjects. After an initial fight they both become friends and journey to Cedar Mountain and defeat Humbaba, its monstrous guardian. Later, the kill the Bull of Heaven, which goddess Ishtar sends to punish Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. As a result the Gods sentence Enkidu to death.

The second part tells about the great and perilous journey which a grieved Gilgamesh undertakes to search for eternal life and portrays various events and legends like the story of the Great Flood.

2. RAMAYANA

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Ramayana is an ancient epic of the Hindu Mythology. Recounting the story of Rama, an exiled prince, it depicts ideal characters and relationships. Written by Sanskrit poet Valmiki, it follows Rama`s journey after being exiled from his kingdom. His wife Sita being abducted by Ravana, king of Lanka, Rama along with his brother Laxman, forms an army of monkey people and bear people, and wages war on Lanka, killing Ravana.

Ramayana explores human values and upholds principle of dharma, the hero Rama, being believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, a God of Hindu trinity.

Ramayana has been written in every major Indian language as well as there several other versions like Jain, Buddhist, Cambodian, Thai, Lao, Burmese, Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian etc.

3. MAHABHARATA

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Mahabharata is another epic of Hindu Mythology written by Ved Vyasa. It follows relationship between Pandavas and Kauravas, two blocks of cousins, the former being sons of king Pandu of Hastinapura and latter being the sons of Pandu`s elder brother Dhritrashtra. It follows the internal struggle of the two families with leader of each faction claiming the throne of the kingdom. The struggle finally culminates into the Battle of Kurukshetra, where each faction turns up with its allies.

The epic also on another level, portrays the victory of righteous over evil, and answers various questions of life such as goals of humans, the way of living life etc through Bhagvad Gita, a part of the epic in which Krishna, another incarnation of Vishnu, gives a discourse to Arjuna, one of the heroes of Mahabharata, on the duties of humans.

In all, Mahabharata is a great epic of Hindus which can be studied at many levels and in many layers.

4. ILIAD

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It is an ancient Greek epic poem set during the Trojan War, a war between the kingdom of Troy and the Greek coalition. It is traditionally attributed to the blind poet Homer, and represents the ten years long siege of the Troy.

Although the story covers only few weeks in the final year of war, it does allude to many Greek legends about the war, like the gathering of warriors, the cause of war etc.

It tells of the battles and events during the weeks of quarrel between king Agamemnon, leader of the Greek coalition, and the warrior Achilles, supposedly the strongest warrior of the coalition. The epic does not cover the end of the battle but ends at the death of the hero Achilles.

The epic also shows various Greek gods taking sides in the war.

5. ODYSSEY

It is another Greek epic, also attributed to Homer, said to be a sequel of Iliad. The poem focusses on the Greek hero Odysseus and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes him ten years to reach Ithaca, his nation.

On the journey, Odysseus encounters various people like Sirens, who lure the sailors to death with their voices and various other experiences. The epic also tells about the fate of some major characters after the Battle of Troy, like, Agamemnon.

Guided by his protector, the goddess Athena, Odysseus finally manages to reach Ithaca and destroy his enemies, who assuming him death appear to seek handoff his wife Penelope.

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