Here are engaging video summaries of three of the world’s great sacred texts from Annenberg Learner’s Invitation to World Literature. They include the Mayan and Sumerian creation stories, the Popol Vu, and the Epic of Gilgamesh, as well as the Hindu sacred classic, The Bhagavad Gita.
In each video, which lasts about thirty minutes, professors and scholars relate the basic story of each myth along with important history and make connections to other sacred stories around the world.
Annenberg allows readers to explore each text on their site. For example, you can explore excerpts of the Bhagavad Gita and read how literary experts explain the highlighted text. You can also explore an annotated timeline and map that shows a history of the text and modern influences on it.
What makes these stories engaging, or relevant to today? The Epic of Gilgamesh includes murder, sex, and floods while the Popol Vu involves the exploits of twins who conquer the underworld. And the Bhagavad Gita forces a young prince to examine issues of life and death in the middle of a battlefield.
The Popol Vu
The Popul Vu was written between 1554 and 1555CE just as the Spanish were conquering the Aztecs in Mexico. It recounts the creation of the world and how humans were first made of mud, then wood, and finally corn.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh was written around 2100BCE and is considered one of the oldest books ever written. It’s an epic about King Gilgamesh who tries to gain power over the world and even death. He learns that immortality comes after death, as a legacy.
The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita was written between 4000 and 3000BCE and is a 700 verse narrative between Prince Arjuna and his charioteer, Lord Krishna. Arjuna is in a battle against a village that includes members of his family. What should he do? What is the right thing to do?