Avadhana - The Art of Spontaneous Creation


Jan 17, ANDHRA PRADESH, INDIA (SUN) — Avadhana is a unique classical Indian art of spontaneous creation. It is a feat of the mind. Avadhana literally means concentration. The origin of this art form is said to date back to 1st B.C. The oldest available details of Astavadhana are recorded in Kannada language, dating back to 1200 A.D. Though we have the tradition of Sahityavadhana in Prakrit, Tamil, Gujarathi, Hindi and other languages, it is in Telugu and Kannada languages that we see this heritage maintained. The Avadhana form was mentioned in the Vedic recital and also in Kamasutra, dated 1st Century C.E.

The person who performs this hard feat is called an Avadhani, while the persons who pose questions are called the Prchchakas. The questions posed to the Avadhani pertain to sastra, history, and the arts, like literature, music, dance, painting, poetry, etc.

In four rounds, the Avadhani answers questions in the respective subject areas without prior preparation, writing material, or leisurely time to think. He may take no help from books, nor may consultations be sought. Thus the whole show is an oral outpouring of spontaneous creation. The dialogue is mentally stimulating and entertaining, as the Prchchakas pose random questions to the Avadhani on sastra, literary riddles, magic squares, or musical renderings of the classics. What is crucial is alertness and presence of mind, as the entire discourse is extempore. Though a knowledge of Sanskrit helps, even a lay person can understand the performance, despite its fast pace and absorbing nature.

"The Avadhani is a versatile scholar, well versed in many branches of learning. Three things - Dhara, Dharana and Dhairya - the ability to create instantaneously, retentive memory and courage to face scholars, are the pre-requisites for an Avadhani." Anyone who has these talents is qualified to perform as an Avadhani."

In Telugu the art of Avadhana has taken on titanic dimensions. There are several forms of Avadhana, including Sahityavadhana. Sangitavadhana, Nrtyavadhana, and Chitravadhana. However, the more entertaining and popular form of Avadhana is mainly seen in the Sahityavadhana.

Cultural supporters have expressed concern over the decline of the Art of Avadhana. Even in Andhra Pradesh, known as the cherished empire of Avadhana, and particularly of Sahityavadhana, the art form is waning.

At a seminar held by the Indira Ghandi National Center for the Arts, various aspects of the art were presented, including: Origin and crystallization of the art of Avadhana; Development of Avadhana in different languages; Different kinds of Avadhana and their development; Qualitative analysis of the art of Avadhana; and Future and propagation of Avadhana. Demonstrations of Avadhana were interspersed with theoretical discussions.

The ancient art of Avadhana was also made the subject of a documentary film produced by Abhinaya Bharati. "After 600 Avadhana performances, this is the first time ever that it has been shot as a documentary film," the producer stated.

Shatavadhani Dr R. Ganesh, who has a fascination for poetry and an abiding interest in Sanskrit, moulded himself into an Avadhana in order to stand as the main performer in the film. To a large extent, he has been personally responsible for popularising Avadhana in Karnataka over the last 25 years.

"Iíve tried to make the Avadhana contemporary, by introducing various dimensions like Shastra Charcha and Nritya Avadhana, among others. Iím probably the only Avadhani who expresses myself in eight languages including English, Sanskrit and Prakrit, and have over hundreds of performances in major metros and abroad to my credit," he says.

To reach out to people across the country the film producer, Dr. Leela, has engaged in discussions with the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, an apex body for the propagation and development of Sanskrit. Appropriately, the film is produced in Sanskrit. However, it has an English introduction along with subtitles, and the producers intended to bring out vernacular versions of the same.


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