By Nelly Manucharyan,
I was thinking about posting such kind of material which will be interesting for both Armenian and Indian readers. It should be some historical literary work, including the entire range of knowledge about the heritage of Armenian and Indian people: their religion, mythology, ethics, philosophy, cosmology, etc. So the thoughts lead me to the Epic works of Armenians and Indians, in other words to Daredevils of Sasun (David of Sasun) and Mahabharata. While examining these epics I have found that our epic poems have so many similarities: in both works we can find a skillful juxtaposition of the ultimate themes of Right and Wrong; Action and Contemplation; Life and Death; Friendship and Enmity; Love and Hatred, etc. We will speak about these below. I will not go through the scientific analysis of the epics but try to describe the essence and spirit of these literary works.
Hence, next two posts will be dedicated to Armenian epic- Daredevils of Sasun (David of Sasun) and Indian epic- Mahabharata. Hope our IAF members will enjoy these posts.
First a brief review what is called epic or epic poetry:
Epics are long poems that try to articulate the knowledge of the epoch, concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic events significant to a culture or nation, reflecting their problems and suggesting solutions to those problems.
In the East, the most famous works of epic poetry are the Ramayana and Mahabharata- for Indians, for Armenians it is the epic poem of Daredevils of Sasun (David of Sasun).
Sasna Dzrer (Armenian: Սասնա Ծռեր, English: Daredevils of Sassoun, also translated as Daredevils of Sasun) is the title of an Old Armenian heroic epic / poem in four cycles (parts) and is about four generations of Sassoun's warriors. It is commonly cited as one of the most important works of Armenian folklore. This recital of the legendary deeds of four generations of strongmen in a warrior community in the Armenian highlands is in the tradition of heroic folktales that dramatize the story of a whole nation and voice its deepest sentiments and aspirations. The most accurate and complete title of this epic is "Սասնա Ծռեր" (Daredevils of Sassoun). It has however been published under various titles: "Սասունցի Դավիթ" (David of Sassoun), "Սանասար և Բաղդասար" (Sanasar and Balthazar), "Սասունցի Դավիթ կամ Մհերի դուռ" (David of Sassoun or Meherr's door) and many others. All these titles correspond with four cycles of the epic. The epic took shape in the 10th century based on an oral tradition spanning centuries. The basic text of the epic was first recorded in 1873 by Fr. G. Srvandzdyants. The epic begins with two brothers, Sanasar and Balthasar. The pair of brothers resurface in the Armenian epic as the immaculately conceived sons of the Armenian princess Dzovinar, who was taken from Armenia to Baghdad by the Caliph when most of Armenia was under Arab domination from (7-9th centuries). The Caliph decides to kill them, but before he can, they escape to Armenia. After slaying dragons, building cities, and restoring Armenia to prosperity, the brothers return to Baghdad to rescue their mother.
In the epic of David of Sassoon, the Moslems (referred to as Musr or Egypt in this version of the epic) and their leader (referred to Melik - king) may have displaced the Assyrians, and two thousand years of history may be compressed into a single storylineThe next cycle is the story of David’s father, Lion Mher, who is the epitome of the noble, wise, fair and self-sacrificing father-king. Approaching old age without an heir, he accepts with gentility the passing of his generation as the price of the next generation.
Lion Mher represents the strength of nature and rectitude of character that bears fruit in his son, David, who is raised an "orphan, no keeper on earth."
Although King David lacks the dignity and heroic stature of more primitive epic heroes, he is full of life and energy, and his human failings add to his charm. The appeal of the epic is enhanced by the devils and spirits that figure prominently in the numerous incidents and situations involving David and his son Mher the Younger. An epic cannot be summed up in a single word or from a single point of view. Each reader and listener will relate to certain characters and events in different ways. Nevertheless, the image of David of Sassoon, his nobility, fearlessness, strength, and simplicity, while having special significance for Armenians, has a universal appeal that speaks to all peoples.
The Mahabharata (Sanskrit Mahābhārata महाभारत, IPA: [məɦaːˈbʱaːrət̪ə]) is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kauravas and the Pandavas, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life"-dharma (right action), artha (purpose), kama (pleasure), and moksha (liberation). Traditionally, the authorship of the Mahabharata is attributed to Vyasa. the origins of the story probably fall between the 8th and 9th centuries BCE. The text probably reached its final form by the early Gupta period (ca. 4th c. CE). The title may be translated as "the great tale of the Bhārata dynasty"
The book has eighteen parvas and many sub parvas. There are many interrelated side stories in the Mahabharata which try to reflect the then society.
Mahabharata, though it deals with the war between cousins, it is about the way a person should see life. It shows that there is good and evil in this world and there exists a constant fight between them.Mahabharata, has been able to capture the knowledge and life style of the people during the Dwaparayuga.
The main characters in the epic are the descendants of the clan of Bharata, hence it is titled Mahabharata, meaning the stories about the people of bharata. The story is about a war for power between the cousins. the descendents of Bharata, son of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala, namely the Pandavas and their cousins, the Kauravas. The jealousy, anger and vanity of the Kauravas in depriving the noble Pandavas of their rights leads ultimately to a bitter and bloody war. The Kauravas are killed one by one. The Pandavas establish a rule based on Dharma, i.e. the Righteousness and Truth. The dead heroes, by the grace of Holy Vyasa, all emerge from the sacred Ganges and purged off their sins, meet in Heaven where there is no rancour or malice. The universal lesson is spelt by righteous Yudhisthir: ’’ In all cases, war is evil….he who gains victory, also suffers losses’’. This remains valid for all times and for all nations and individuals.
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As I’ve mentioned while examining Armenian Daredevils of Sasun (David of Sasun) and Indian “Mahabharata” epics I have found that our epic poems have so many similarities: in both works we can find a skillful juxtaposition of the ultimate themes of Right and Wrong; Action and Contemplation; Life and Death; Friendship and Enmity; Love and Hatred, etc.
In the scientific report of Dr.of Philology Armen Petrosyan the author speaks about the similarities found in the names of heroes, epic motives of Armenian and Indian epics. This analysis had been carried out by different scholars. Thus, we can see common names & motives in these two literary works: in Daredevils of Sasun (David of Sasun) Sanasar as a hero of thunder and a Gemini corresponds to Indian God Indra from “Mahabharata”, who is also a Gemini and a God of thunder. Or let’s see another similar facts: like Armenian Sanasar and Baghdasar were born from a spring water of Katnaghbyur their mother had drunk, Indian Rama and brothers were born from a KHEER (dish made of milk & rice which is semi-fluid) their mother had taken. But the most interesting are the facts of name similarities: in the Armenian version the Gemini brothers’ mother is Sarah, who becomes pregnant by the water of horse’s footprint, and in the Indian version Gemini brothers’ mother - Saranyu becomes pregnant by her husband who turned into a horse. There are striking typological comparable episodes between Aram Nahapet and Indian hero Rama, accounted for historical relations.
You can find useful information from these websites: