Saturday, November 26, 2011


Ashtaavadhaanam: when I got this mail first, I had no clue what this was about. Some talk show is what I thought. But then I was curious, this mail was from kannada and the Sanskrit forum in our company.

Probably its something interesting, I thought.

2 days before the program, G asked me at lunch, you want to attend this program?

I had no clue about it, so I asked him, what it was all about. He was not too sure about it, but gave a gist. It seemed interesting and different. I said why not? Let’s attend.

This part is from the mail we received explaining what Ashtaavadhanam is all about.

A test of poetic genius, a demo of memory and intellect together reaching the peak, a true intellectual marvel, that’s the art of Ashtavadhana. The wiki link says, Avadhana was cultivated by Telugu speaking community. That info is incomplete, since the earliest available treatises on avadhaana kale are in Kannada. There will be 8 questioners asking the Avadhani to do 8 different things. In turns he should answer all of them.

Nishiddhakshari - On a given subject and within the given meter Avadhani should compose a verse letter by letter. After each letter, the questioner restricts the next letter.

Samasya – A stray sentence which could be foul or obscene will be posed as a problem by the questioner. The Avadhani should make it proper by adding letters/words before and after the line.

Dattapadi – The questioner gives some words and gives an unrelated subject. Avadhani should use those words and compose a verse on the subject.

Varnana – The questioner asks Avadhani to explain a subject or a situation. Avadhani should compose a verse explaining that in the given meter.

Ganita – A su-do-ku table of 5 rows and 5 columns. The questioner gives a number in the beginning. Avadhani should fill the matrix with a number each time the questioner asks for it. At the end the su-do-ku should have been solved.

Chitrakavya – There are certain letter patterns in the verse composition of all Indian languages. In the given pattern the Avadhani should compose a verse on the given subject.

Kavya Pathanam – The questioner pulls out verses from the plethora of a particular language’s literature. The Avadhani should locate the verses.

Aprastuta Prasangam – This guy shoots some off-topic questions to the Avadhani every now and then, throughout the Avadhana. Avadhani should tolerate this and answer this guy.

All this has to be done without referring to any kind of notes, without using pen and paper and within the rules of grammar & composition.

Initially, it seemed really difficult to understand what was going on. Yes we studied Sanskrit in school, I don’t remember much, except for some very basic stuff or less. Yes we had a chapter in hallegannada (old kannada), but its entirely different from the modern kannada, so difficult to understand, unless you have spent some time with the language. Yes, we have studied about Chandass (meter in poems). Infact, we used to have an exercise in school to determine which which Chandass a stanza in the poem belonged too, and I used to love doing it. Now all I remember is there were laghu-gurus, but nothing more than that. All this made it seem difficult to understand the show.

Shataavadhani Dr.R.Ganesh, what a Genius this guy is!!!

At first, when I dint know what the title meant, thought it’s a part of his name. Later when I realized, I could only laugh at myself.

It’s simpler to keep the audience hooked on to, when they understand the language. Its simpler, when they know whats going on, on the stage. Here even though most of them knew kannada, and some knew Sanskrit, it was difficult to decipher the old-kannada verses. Dr.Ganesh, explained his complex verses in such simplicity, that you couldn’t stop your hands from clapping, or just wonder, what – how?

One thing, which most of them could relate to was the 5x5 Sudoku matrix, which had to sum up to 111. I am wondering, how he calculated the location of a particular number, or a number of a location. Is there some formula to figure it out? Even if there is, how on earth can he place them, without even looking at the matrix once?

The chitrakavya was amazing too. With 4 simple lines, he created a picture of mridangam.

Even the person who gave him the challenge(pruchaka), was equally good, since, he too has to have one ready, to prove that its possible, and the challenge is not given just like that.

Nishiddhakshari: The person was spontaneous and tried to restrict the Avadhaani in so many ways. It is definetly not one way. If the Avadhaani is able to create a beautiful poem, the credit should also go to this questioner, since it’s his restrictions/conditions which allow the avadhaani to come up with such amazing lines. This is more of a action-reaction event.

As the Dattapadi and Samasya Pruchakas mentioned, they took time to think about the challenge, come up with a poem, with the right meter, and read it out. But, for the Avadhaani its definitely challenging to create totally different poems, adhering to the conditions.

The person who did the Kavya Pathanam, had an amazing voice. I could listen to him sing the poems for more time. Wish our kannada/sanskrit teachers in school sang the poems this way and taught us. It would have been a pleasure then.

Last, but definetly not the least the person who distracted the avadhaani with the comments and questions, in a hilarious way, yet in a thought provoking manner was super entertaining. I am sure, nobody had any kind of difficulty in understanding what the conversations were about.

On the whole, this was an eye-opener for me, as to how rich a language can be. How, when we follow certain rules of the language, can create master pieces. It was a humbling experience, to everybody present there.

I had studied Sanskrit in school, and kannada too. As time went on, I havent read much in kannada. Sometimes I do read the magazines which have been subscribed at home. But, to appreciate, such performances, to enjoy such grandeur, we need to know much more. More the knowledge of a language, better can be the appreciation.

I wouldn’t say, I am going to start reading novels and poems in kannada from tomorrow. But atleast, I want to make it a point to read the magazines regularly. And as I feel comfortable move to proses, and may be someday, I will be able to come to a stage where I can read poetry, and go into the depths of it.

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