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The Epic of Manas

The legend of Manas is written in poetic fashion, containing approximately 500,000 lines. and thus considerably longer than the Illiad (from Greece) or Mahabbarata (from India).  

According to the story, Manas was born in present-day Talas, sometime between the 9th and 11th centuries.  Talas is a long valley between high mountain ranges in the northwest region of Kyrgyzstan, with borders to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.  To this day, the people of Talas take great pride in laying claim to their nation's hero!

The epic poem narrates the legacy of Manas' life as he united the Kyrgyz tribes to defend against invading aggressors.  The unification of the tribes, with Manas as their warrior khan, led the way for the creation and establishment of the Kyrgyz homeland.  Now, the name of Manas is pervasive throughout the country - streets, villages, peaks, brands, and the airport bear his hame. Even a minor planet discovered in 1979 by a soviet astronomer is known as 3349 Manas!

Now used so widely, the origin of the name Manas is explained within the epic:

"If you'll allow me to make so free,
I shall utter a God-given name!"
Thus did the Dervish to them exclaim. 
All the people began to shout:
"Give us the name then, spit it out!”
"At its beginning stands letter "M",
As in Muhammed's most blessed name!
In the middle stands letter "N",
That means "Nabi"--prophetic men.
Then at its end stands the letter "S",
That is the tail of a lion, no less! 

A mausoleum and cultural center in Talas is dedicated to the history, artifacts, and legends about this Kyrgyz hero.  Manaschi are storytellers that dedicate their lives to the retelling of the Manas epic, using the traditional oral techniques.  On occasion these manaschi can be seen and heard at cultural venues, spending hours in a cross-legged position, reciting the lines of the beloved epic.   The truth of whether Manas existed in reality may never be known, but the existence of his story and influence as unifying hero is indisputable.  


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