he Epic of Manas (Kyrgyz: Maнac дacтaны, Turkish: Manas Destanı) is a traditional epic poem of the Kyrgyz people. Composed and sung entirely in oral form by various singers throughout the centuries. As nomads, the Kyrgyz had no written language. Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov notes: "If other peoples/nations displayed their past culture and history in written art, the sculpture, architecture, theatre and literature, Kyrgyz people expressed their worldview, pride and dignity, battles and their hope for the future in epic genre."
Today there are about sixty versions of the epic Manas recorded from various epic singers and oral poets. Its longest version, consisting of half a million poetic lines, was written down from one of the last master-manaschï (singers of Manas) Saiakbai Karalaev (1894-1971). The epic is indeed unique in its size. It is twenty times longer than the Homeric epics Iliad (15693) and Odyssey (12110) taken together and two and a half times the length of the Indian epic Mahabharata.
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