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Epic Manas

Epic Manas

The monumental epic Manas is the most treasured expression of the national heritage of the Kyrgyz people. Composed and sung entirely in oral form by various singers throughout the centuries, Manas is regarded as the epitome of oral creativity. Although as yet not widely known, for want of adequate translations, Manas is considered to be one of the greatest examples of epic poetry, whose importance is not inferior to that of the Homeric epic. As nomads, the Kyrgyz had no written language. However, they excelled in oral composition, which they artistically employed in their traditional poetry and epic songs. As the internationally renowned Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov notes: "If other peoples/nations displayed their past culture and history in written literature, sculpture, architecture, theatre and art, the Kyrgyz people expressed their worldview, pride and dignity, battles and their hope for the future in epic genre." 

Upon gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kyrgyz people, led by their first president, Askar Akaev, chose to enter the world's cultural arena through their epic Manas. In summer of 1995, with the support of UNESCO, the Kyrgyz celebrated the 1000th anniversary of the epic. The new government of independent Kyrgyzstan used this grand occasion to introduce Kyrgyz history and culture to the world community. Leaders, dignitaries, and scholars of many foreign countries, including the United States, were invited to the Manas celebrations, which lasted for five days. In the northern mountainous region of Talas, which is believed to be the homeland of the legendary hero Manas, Kyrgyz proudly presented their ancient nomadic history and culture to their guests by mounting a grand open-air theatrical show displaying the main scenes from the epic. It was the first and remains the largest national celebration that has taken place in Kyrgyzstan since its independence. The celebration was also a symbolic memorial feast and tribute offered to the hero Manas by his people. Click here to view videoclips of the restoration of what is termed the tomb of Manas at Talas, and the pilgrimages made to this shrine.

The Epic Manas

The Hero Manas

The Religious world of Manas

The Historical significance

Geography of Manas

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