What Is the Longest Epic Poem Ever Written?

A carving depicting the Kurukshetra War, which is the inspiration of the Mahabharata epic poem.

An epic poem is a long piece of poetry that tells a story. This type of story is typically centered around an important event in the history or culture of a particular place and often describes some act of heroism demonstrated by a principal character. Epic poems are written in dactylic hexameter, a specific rhythm used in certain poetry. This type of literary work is believed to have originated in historic oral storytelling traditions and is characterized by its discussion of cultural issues, norms, and values. This article highlights the longest epic poem ever written.

What Is the Longest Epic Poem Ever Written?

The longest epic poem ever written is the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian Sanskrit epic. This poem tells the story of two princes, Kaurava and Pandava, during the Kurukshetra War. This war began as a result of conflict between these two individuals, who were also cousins, and their right to rule the Kuru Kingdom. Several characters play the role of storyteller within this epic, telling a number of stories at the same time. Over time, many of these stories have been extracted and expanded upon, resulting in a number of literary works.

The Mahabharata contains approximately 1.8 million words, which are distributed throughout its 200,000 verses. Of these verses, about 24,000 make up its central idea and are referred to as the Bharata. The Mahabharata is organized into 18 specific books, also known as parvas. These books cover a vast number of events, including how the story was first told to the original author, the events leading up to the war, and the aftermath of the fighting.

Some of the historical information about the poem is yet to be confirmed. Most academics, for example, believe this poem dates back to between the 8th and 9th centuries BC, although others suggest its origin could go back to as far as 400 BC. Some individuals claim the epic was written over a number of generations, although most researchers credit Vyasa with writing the principal portion of the poem. According to many Hindus, Vyasa existed as part of the god Vishnu.

Themes of the Mahabharata

The Mahabharata is considered to be just as important as the Quran, the Bible, the plays of Shakespeare, and the epic poems of Homer. It is often part of philosophical and religious discussions, particularly in terms of the purusartha, which represents the four principal aims in life, as practiced in Hinduism. The other principal theme of the Mahabharata is the idea of a just or fair war. In the Mahabharata, one of the characters presents this idea by asking if the suffering caused by war is ever justifiable. This question leads to a discussion among several characters in the book, who go on to set some rules of war. These rules include topics like conditions of captivity, treatment of the injured, having cause to attack, and who can be attacked. This discussion has influenced a number of issues in military ethics. One of these results is the Just War Theory, which establishes a set of criteria that dictates whether or not a war can be morally justified.


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