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Published by: ramchinna on Jul 03, 2009
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is a literary feat popular from the very ancient days inSanskritand moreexclusively inTelugu(
)and Kannada Languages. It requires immense memory power and tests a person's capability of performing multiple tasks simultaneously. All thetasks are memory intensive and demand an in depth knowledge of literature andgrammar. The tasks vary from making up a poem spontaneously to keeping a count of a bell ringing at random. No external memory aids are allowed while performing thesetasks except the person's own brain, not even so much as a writing utensil.
) refers to the individual who performs the Avadhanam; theone who queries them is the
) . The first person to ask thequestion is called "Pradhana prucchaka" He is the same as any other Prucchaka exceptthat, he asks the first question. The Prucchakas put forth questions to the avadhani whichare literary in nature. The Prucchakas can optionally place additional constraints. Thoughit is not stated explicitly, conformation to
(The syntax for poems) ismandatory. Avadhani should answer them in the form of a poem. The literary questionsgenerally consist of a description given in prose and the avadhani has to express it as a poem. The additional restrictions placed by the Prucchakas can be anything like askingthe avadhani not to use a given set of alphabets in the entire poem or to construct only a particular type of poem etc.
Characteristics of Avadhanams
The beauty of Avadhanam is, the avadhani is not allowed to recite the entire poem in asingle go. After listening to the Prucchaka's question, the avadhani constructs the first lineof the poem, recites it and moves to the next Prucchaka. After listening to all thePrucchakas, and reciting one line of poem each, the avadhani shall return to the Pradhana prucchaka (in Round-Robin fashion) and continues with the second line of the poem. The beauty and challenge here is that, the avadhani has to remember the question, the line of  poem said before and all the additional constraints placed. They shall not be repeated andany mistake shall disqualify the person from being entitled to "Avadhani". Every poemhas 4 lines, so every Prucchakas turn comes 4 times. Avadhaani has to recite the full poem once he finishes constructing all the lines of the poems. This is called "dhaarana"and forms the culmination of the Avadhanam. Avadhani should use only his memory for all this. Some times, Avadhanam goes for days at an end!!!It is a general practice for one of the Prucchakas to keep ringing a bell randomly andavadhani has to keep track of number of bell rings. The beauty and challenge of theAvadhanam is that the avadhani has to do all these tasks simultaneously.Of the remaining Prucchakas, one person is in charge of "aprasthuta prasangam" (Telugu:
అపర     త    
). His responsibility is to distract the avadhani with questions and
topics unrelated to the avadhanam and the avadhani has to reply to his questions andriddles. The Prucchaka who manages this should also be equally intelligent and witty toentertain the audience with his questions. The challenge for Avadhani is not to getdistracted by 'aprastutha prasangam' but also should give witty answers spontaneously tothe silly questions.Because of the memory intensive nature of Avadhanam, the number of Prucchakas playsa major role. The more the number of Prucchakas, the higher the challenge. Higher thechallenge, more is the fame.Besides conducting Avadhanams, which in itself is a great feat, many Avadhanis also lefta longer and lasting legacy by penning works and mentoring students who often grew upto contribute to Telugu literature in their own uniquely rich ways.
[edit] Types of Avadhanams
The number of Prucchakas can be 8 (ashtavadhanam) or 100 (shathavadhanam) or even1000 (sahasravadhanam)! A person who has successfully performed Ashtavadhanam iscalled as Ashtavadhani, a shatavadhanam is called a Shatavadhani and sahasravadhanamis called Sahasravadhani.The other lesser known forms of Avadhanam are Chitravadhanam (painting), Nrutyavadhanam (Dancing) and Ganitavadhanm (Mathematics).
[edit] Trend Setters
The trend of Avadhanam was popularized by Divakarla Tirupati sastry (1871-1919) andChellapilla Venkata sastry (1870-1950) who were popular as "Tirupati Venkata Kavulu".Contemporaries of Tirupati Venkata Kavulu that are famous for enriching the heritage of Avadhanam include Kopparapu Sodara Kavulu and Venkata Raamakrishna Kavulu.Kopparapu Sodara kavulu are well known for their speed in composing poems.Students of Tirupati Venkata Kavulu include famous Gnanapith award winner Viswanatha Satyanarayana and well known Subbanna Satavadhani. Sri PaadaSubrahmanya Sastri, a well-known short story and novel writer is a student of VenkataRama Krishna Kavulu.
[edit] Some of the Current Avadhanis
Dr. Garikipati Narasimha Rao
. He is referred to as Maha Sahasraavadhani for having subjected himself to thousand Prucchakas! He is well known for amazingly fast recollection of hundreds of verses composed and recited earlier and has the title 'Dhaarana Brahma Raakshasa'. His 'Saagara Ghosha' is anacclaimed literary work.

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