Poetry Guide: Indian Epic Poetry
The ancient Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, laid the cornerstone for much of Hindu religion. Indeed, the epic form prevailed and verse was and remained until very recently the preferred form of Hindu literary works. Hero-worship was and is a central aspect of Indian culture, and thus readily lent itself to a literary tradition that abounded in epic poetry and literature. The Puranas, a massive collection of verse-form histories of India's many Hindu gods and goddesses, followed in this tradition.
The post-sangam period (2nd century-6th century) saw many great Tamil epics being written, including Cilappatikaram (or Silappadhikaram), Manimegalai, Jeevaga-chintamani, Valayapati and Kundalakesi. Later, during the Chola period, Kamban (12th century) wrote what is considered one of the greatest Tamil epics – the Kamba ramayanam of Kamban, based on the Ramayana.
The first epic to appear in Hindi was Tulsidas' (1543-1623) Raamcharitmaanas, also based on the Ramayana. It is considered a great classic of Hindi epic poetry and literature, and shows the author Tulsidas in complete command over all the important styles of composition – narrative, epic, lyrical and dialectic. He has given a human character to Rama, the Hindu avatar of Vishnu, potraying him as an ideal son, husband, brother, and king.
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