The enduring vitality of the spirit of India reflected in its cultural and intellectual traditions is a mystery to most outsiders. This vitality is a measure of the genius of a race that quintessentially sets a civilization apart.
Avadhana an intellectual discipline of highest order, is an offspring of the great Indian tradition. It subjects the Avadhani's awareness, concentration, retentive and analytical power to the test. Avadhani has to acquire the capacity to let his mind dwelve on a variety of challenging and creative tasks set by questioners whose assigned role is to elevate the exercise to its highest potential.
Ashtavadhana means simultaneous completion of eight intellectual and literary tasks set by eight questioners. Ashtavadhana which is essentially an exercise in Telugu assumes a different format in Kannada. It is performed by an erudite scholar in the presence of a knowledgeable audience.
The tasks in the Ashtavadhanam includes Dattapadhi, Nisiddhakshari, Chitrakshari, Vyastakshari, Varnana, Pushpa Ganana, Vara Ganana and Sarasa Samlap. The Ashtavadhanam is deemed to have been completed successfully when the Avadhani recounts correctly all the solutions in a final summation which is termed Uttara Bhag.
Ashtavadhana - 8 fold concentration
The following refers to an ancient Indian skill. Apparently the skill has been dying & there are very few living legends. First, lets get the terminology out of the way:
Avadhana is Concentration of Mind.
Avadhani is the performer of the feat. The feat involves demonstrating outstanding ability to concentrate, retain, sharp mind & possess a wide range of knowledge on subject area.
Asta means eight; ability to demonstrate 8 fold concentration. In this case the Avadhani's ability is tested by eight Prucchakas (experts)The Feat: The scene is the forecourt of a village over four hundred years ago. There is a crowd of people surrounding and watching a man. He is an Ashtavadhani. Surrounding him are eight men each posing a different problem. Each of the eight men put their problem to the Ashtavadhani and in true 20th century multiprocessing style. He solves all their problems step-by-step in a time-sharing manner. The problems put to him are not strictly problems. They range from the multiplication of a 10 digit number with another, reciting stanza 1013-1027 of the Katopanishad to composing a poem in a particular ‘chandassu’ – a grammatical order. The Ashtavadhani attends to each questioner cyclically.
For instance, he might `output' the first three digits of the result to one questioner, recite stanzas 1013, 1014 for the next questioner and then compose the first two line of the poem to the third and then giving each of the other five people a piece of their solution before coming back to the first person and giving him the next three digits. If you think that this is easy, remember that the Ashtavadhani does not any paper, pencil or any material to help him. The questions are put by a random sample from the audience and can be twisted to be even more difficult - for ex., output the digits of the 20 digit number in reverse order. Right from the middle ages, the Ashtavadhanis have been a fascinating sight to see. It is a tradition passed down from father to son, from one generation to the next. They are most prevalent in Andhra Pradesh and quite a few Ashtavdahanis can still be found in the rural areas. Sadly, however, this great and ancient culture is slowly dying and it is ironic that as India plunges head forward into the Computer Revolution of the 21st century, we have forgotten the Indian Multiprocessor of the 15th century. [Source]
The Performance: Eight-folded Alertness or Ashtavadahana is a public performance in general knowledge, displaying memory retention, mastery in languages and literature, and time-awareness. Usually a well-known scholar in Sanskrit and two or three other Indian languages is in the "dock" or a platform surrounded by six or eight peers in an open-house program. A person with a bell keeps the time. The peers keep asking questions to the performer and keep distracting him (or her) with challenges. The show involves the performer (known as Avadhani) answering every question to the satisfaction of the peer while adhering to the grammar and linguistic or musical semantics. Sky is the limit for the questions, and could cover such fields as astrology, history, geography, literature, and science.
Avadhani might be asked to complete a half-finished verse or explain philosophical terms. The peers take turns to engage the Avadhani, except one "Idiot Peer" who follows no rules! The bell keeper doesn't ring at regular intervals, further distracting the Avadhani, yet the performer has to strictly adhere to timings and display his sense of time. Ashukavis or "spontaneous-poets" stand a very good chance in such pneumonic feats.
Vanishing skill: Unfortunately, this appears to be a vanishing skill. Depiction of Ashtavadana performances are found in period literature and inscriptions. In the ancient times, a poet was supposed to master various subjects including music, dance, painting, martial arts, sports, pastimes, and many other allied subjects. Memory training was given in their childhood, and the Indian method of oral education certainly helped memorizing innumerable subjects. Ashtavadhanis (those who can perform this eight-folded act) were common in Kannada and Telugu royal courts, duly honored by the kings. There were Dashavadhanis (those who could take on ten scholars) and Shatavadhanis (those who could answer a hundred simultaneous questions) !
Asthavadhana means doing eight things at one time. Dashavadhana means doing ten things at a time. Shatavadhana means doing hundred things at a time. Avadhana means attention and concentration. This, of course, needs training of memory and concentration. It is really a marvellous feat of the memory.
He who does eight things at a time is called an Ashtavadhani. You also can do eight things at a time. This demands of you gradual development of memory and concentration. First practise to do two things and gradually increase the number of activities. Now there are people who can do eight things at a time. He can attend to chess, play cards, multiply big numerals to eight or ten digits by eight digits (bringing out the answer alone). Tell the exact day in a particular month in a particular year, answer questions, dictate a letter, tell the number of beats of hand on his back by two boys at different spots, and play upon the harmonium. He will be accurate in his calculations. He will never commit any mistake. You will be taken a back if you would look at the performance of an Ashtavadhani.
Some twenty or thirty boys will stand in a row and each boy will give a number and name before the Astavadhani, only once. After wards, while the Astavadhani is engaged, if any one of the boys come in front of him, he will at once say: " You are gopal and your number is 25: you are Rama and your number is 19." How marvellous! There was a doctor in madras that could dictate eight different prescriptions to eight compounders at one and the same time. This is also a kind of Astavadhana.
In days long gone by, there were people who could do Shatavadhana. For this sort of Avadhani, one hundred questions are put in rapid succession by as many persons - some testing. The verbal memory of the performer; some others testing the power of his mental calculations; and some others again trying to test his artistic skill, -without giving him any time for committing the questions to memory. This faculty of concentration of and is often exhibited not only with reference to the intellect but also with reference to the five senses, A number of bells may be marked differently and the sounds may be allowed to be studied and made a mental note of, with the mark given to it. A number of objects of similar shape and colour which are likely to cause deception to the eye of an ordinary man may be shown once to the Avadhani with their marks. While he is attending to other things if a bell were to be struck or one of the objects suddenly exhibited before his sight, he will l at once mention the mark of the bell or the number of the object shown. Similarly, his keenness of touch is also put to severe test. Such feats of memory are not commonly known to any other country in the world.
You can also become an expert if you can practise concentration and memory-culture" You can take any two things at a time according to your taste- you can slowly increase the number. Make yourself perfect, at each stage and then take up the higher practice.
Ashtavadhana is worth practising. It wonderfully develops memory and concentration. It increases the earning and working capacity as also efficiency. It is of immense help in meditation and Samadhi.
Entire text sourced from WIKIPAEDIA. I have just compiled and put this text matter here so that it may create more awareness about the unique talent show called "AVADHAANA".