“Manas” is an encyclopedical collection of the Kyrgyz mythologies, fairy tales, legends that are brought into one time and grouped around one hero-man Manas. Life style, customs, geography, religious and medical understanding of Kyrgyz people and the international relations found their expression in this epopee. A great role in the cultural life of Kyrgyz people played the oral creation, the top of which is the epic “Manas”.
“Manas” started to take form 1000 years ago and the events of that epoch were reflected in it when Kyrgyz people were powerful nation (IX-X). By its scale the kyrgyz epic excels all the famous monuments of the world’s epic creation. The most extensive version of “Manas” was written down from the words of the narrator Sagynbay Orozbakov and contains about 200000 rhythms, 16 times more than Gomer’s Iliad.
The epic tells about the life of Manas and the adventures of his son Semetey and grandson Seitek. Manas is an incarnation of the nation’s unity, a powerful and courageous warrior, a wise governor, insatiable struggler for peace and independence of his country. With his appearance, Manas can make an enemy be afraid of him and run away. The main aim of the hero was to gain the tribes for the struggle with conquerors and set a peaceful life. His friends and coworkers: Almanbet, Bakai, Koshoi and legendary horse ‘Ak-kula help him in this.
The core of the epic is an event in which the kyrgyz people under the leadership of Manas attached the powerful eastern state with the target of returning the power of Kyrgyz people and their independence. All this can be traced back to the life of Manas, the protagonist of the epic, from his miraculous birth to his death. The first part of the epic describes numerous campaigns of Manas with his trustful warriors – “Kyrk chooro”, marriage to the beautiful Kanykei (a clever helper and advisor), enmity with rebellious vassals and quarrels with rude relatives. The story also tells of rich feasts of joyous or sad events, national games, traditions and many moments related to the culture of the Kyrgyz people. The second and third parts of the epic tell about the life and exploits of son and grandson of Manas, the successors of his family.
According to the trilogy of the epos, Manas was buried in Gumbez, built by his widow Kanykei in the first half of the 14th century in the Talas valley south of Jambul, where his camp was located. According to the legend, after forty warriors buried the body of Manas, Kanykey cut the heads of each of them to keep the place of his bury in secret.
The epos “Manas” was kept and retold from generation to generation, the narrators of the epos – are called Manaschi. Most of them are professional singers but they sing “Manas” without musical accompaniment and escort performance with bright gesticulation and mimics. Retelling of Manas epos can last for several months’s without repetitions and interruptions.
“Manas” has changed and supplemented a lot, and finally found its classical form and perfection thanks to two brilliant storytellers: Sagumbai Orozbakov and Sayakbai Karalaev. The epos was first recorded in the 1800s, and its first full version was published only in the 1920s. Later, the epos was translated into many languages.
In 1995 the epos celebrated its 1000th anniversary and by the decision of UNESCO, 1995 was declared the year of the epos “Manas”. Due to this significant event there was founded the first national ethno-cultural complex “Manas village”.
Throughout the country, there are many statues immortalized in the glory of the hero; many places and objects named after Manas, such as the international airport, the city avenue, the university, the peak at 4,482 m in Talas mountain range, an asteroid discovered by the Soviet astronomer.
The heroic image of the epic “Manas” does not lose it’s inspiring and educational power even these days and serve as the pattern of the patriotism and humanity among public. Nowadays, episodes from Manas are widely used in theatrical performances, which are successful with the public.