Shathavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh (ಶತಾವಧಾನಿ ರಾ. ಗಣೇಶ್) is a versatile scholar, Avadhani par excellence, poet, excellent orator, a Literary Wizard and many more; the credit of reviving the ancient art of ‘Avadhana’ in Kannada language goes to Shathavadhani Dr.R.Ganesh.
Personal Life & Education:
Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh, BE (Mechanical), M Sc (Engineering), holds a Masters’ in Sanskrit and also honored with D. Litt in Kannada literature for his thesis on the art and science of Avadhana.
From the young age of ten, Dr.Ganesh cultivated a passion for literature and studied in detail the great works of ancient poets in Sanskrit and Kannada. By the age of sixteen, he blossomed into a poet of high merit, introducing the classicality of Meter, Rhyme, Grammatical precision and traditionality into his style. He also mastered the unique art of ‘Ashukavitva’- a style of reciting poems ‘extempore’ on any given topic. Detailed and deep study of the various branches of Indian literature, arts and poetics further enriched his inherent talent and style.
At the age of nineteen, he incidentally witnessed a session of Sanskrit Avadhana, which inspired him to try the art himself. This was a landmark not only in his life, but also in the history of ‘Avadhana’. The very next day, amongst a group of friends, he successfully ventured to perform a complete ‘Ashtavadhana’! This was his glorious entry into the field; he set out to perform hundreds of such Avadhanas, capturing the hearts and admiration of the public. Ever since, he has been a perennial source of entertainment, fascination and pride to lovers of art and literature.
Having studied the classical literatures of many Indian and foreign languages, Ganesh is acquainted with more than seventeen languages. He composes in eight languages and has published over forty books in Sanskrit, Kannada and English covering a wide range of subjects like poetry, poetics, prosody, aesthetics, Vedic and vedantic studies, dharmashastra and rituals, cultural studies, fine arts, cultural studies in Indian thoughts, fiction, translation, et al. He has also published more than 250 research papers connected with Engineering, India studies, Aesthetics, music, dance, sculpture, philosophy, criticism, values, history and others. Dr. Ganesh has been invited to deliver talks on various aspects of Indian culture and literature. He has delivered more than 8000 talks/lectures/discourses and presented papers under the auspices of many distinguished forums. Ganesh is well initiated practically in several classical Indian fine arts such as, music, drama, dance, painting, rangoli, and others.
Dr.Ganesh has taught in the M.S. Ramaiah institute of technology and R.V.College of Engineering. He has also served as the Director of Sanskrit Department in the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavana, Bangalore and Gandhi Centre for values as the director of studies, Worked as the research officer at the IGNCA (southern Regional Research Centre). Presently, he his teaching at the academy of creative thinking.
Art of Avadhana:
‘Avadhana’ literally means ‘perfect concentration’ and uninterrupted contemplation on a particular subject. The ‘art of Avadhana’ includes accomplishing many a challenging intellectual feat simultaneously with great confidence and sportive zeal. Avadhana is a unique literary feat involving concentration, memory, spontaneous verification in classical diction and astounding wit aided with a refined sense of humor. ‘Avadhana’ not only thoroughly entertains but also thrills the audience. The seemingly superhuman capacity of the ‘Avadhani’ (the one who performs) fascinates the audience giving an interesting insight into the unlimited potentials of the literary world. The whole art in itself is much more than mere entertainment; it is rather educative revealing the various aspects of word-power, poetry, retention, wit and powers of the intellect.
The art of ‘Avadhana’ is unique not only among the arts of India but also of the whole world. Though Sanskrit language is the mother of this ancient art which requires the highest degree of retention and poetic genius, it was in the caring hands of Kannada and Telugu languages that this greatest of arts, which is a majestic confluence of talent, word-power, scholasticism, hard work, entertainment and education, was cradled and nourished into its present modified and attractive form. Kannada, in particular, shares a special bond with this art. In spite of such closeness, this art form almost vanished from the scene of Karnataka in the 20th Century. It was in the year 1981 that this glorious art reappeared on the scene. This time, it was not merely a golden ray of hope, but a major comeback of the forgotten art, which soon blossomed afresh and gradually grew up into a mighty tree assuring shelter and guidance to the future aspirers. Dr.R.Ganesh, popularly known as ‘Shatavadhani’ created this history by reviving, nourishing and re-establishing this art in all its glory. He further unfolded the greater potentials of the art and popularized it immensely in India and abroad.
Dr.Ganesh performs complete ‘Avadhana’ not only in Kannada but also in Sanskrit and Telugu and is rightly known as ‘Tribhashavadhani’. He is also an ‘Ashtabhashavadhani’, and can manage the programme in eight languages simultaneously! Some of his Avadhanas are sometimes based on single topics, such as ‘Ramayanavadhana’. ‘Rashtravadhana’, which he performed for the Kargil martyrs was a unique tribute to the war heroes and greatly inspired patriotic sentiments among the listeners.
He has also performed Yugavadhana (Art of performing two avadhanas simultaneously), trigunita & Chaturgunita (Three & four avadhanas with many new chanllenges at a time). Advaitavadhana, Sankaravadhana, Bhagavadgitavadhana, Mahabharatavadhana, Navarasavadhana, kalavadhana, Natyavadhana.
Dr.Ganesh is one of the very few ‘Avadhanis’ who is extremely innovative adding new dimensions and aspects into his Avadhanas time and again. Thus the list of parts in his Avadhanas grows on. ‘Chitra Kavitha’ is one of the toughest and most challenging forms of Indian classical poetry, which has never been dared before in any Avadhana. Dr.Ganesh is the one and only Avadhani to have performed this, that too extempore, on stage in his Avadhanas! This single feat perhaps explains his genius and mastery over the art. His devotion and dignified attitude has added special charm and sophistication to his performances. His vast knowledge, experience, extraordinary talent, wit and wisdom amaze the audience.
Dr.Ganesh has been the first and only ‘Shatavadhani’ of Karnataka. He created a record in 1991 by performing a complete ‘Shatavadhana’ in a single day, which in normal course would take 3-4 days. He achieved it composing 108 classic pieces of poetry and in eight languages! This was indeed an unheard of glorious adventure in the intellectual world. He has also dared to perform the ‘Ashtavadhana’ within half an hour! Over 40 different meters & almost all the one hundred and odd alankaras are employed in his avadhanas. More than a dozen languages are used for verification. All these even today remains as unbroken records.
Dr.Ganesh has not only mastered Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu and English languages, but is also proficient in Prakrit, Pali, Tamil, Hindi and Marathi. Ancient languages of Greek, Latin and Italian have added to the treasure of his knowledge. He has to his credit the study and knowledge of Greek Literature in its original textual form.
Dr.Ganesh has a deep and intimate knowledge of various forms of Indian classical music, dance, sculpture, paintings and other fine arts. His views and commentaries on these subjects are rich with deep introspective wisdom and unfold valuable information and ideas to performing artists and lovers of art. He is well versed in various subjects like prosody (ChandasShastra-to do with the Meter form), poetics (KavyaShastra), Veda, Vedantic scriptures, DharmaShastras, History, Aesthetics, Grammar, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Technology etc. to name a few. His knowledge of past and current affairs in various fields is indeed commendable. Research and innovation are two fields where his contributions are everlasting.
Dr.Ganesh has presented hundreds of research papers and his valuable views on various subjects in Sanskrit, English and Kannada languages in prestigious National and International seminars. His lectures and writings have impressed and educated all classes of people; he has been successfully pioneering the spread of knowledge and culture. Logical precision, clarity of subject, intuitive wisdom, vast knowledge of various subjects, comprehendible and practical illustrations and examples, extremely attractive oratory are some significant features of his masterly presentations.
Dr.Ganesh’s knowledge of Aesthetics (Alankara Shastra) is extraordinarily vast. Complimenting one of his masterly essays on Alankaras, Dr.K.Krishnamurthy, a scholar of international repute exclaimed-”This single essay itself deserves a doctorate degree!” Another great scholar opined of Dr.Ganesh’s genius thus-”With half the intelligence of Dr.Ganesh, I would have perhaps ruled over the intellectual world of the whole of South India!”
Literary works of Shatavadhani Dr.Ganesh
Dr.Ganesh has contributed a number of valuable works to the world of literature. More than 40 of these have been published, namely:
4. ShriChakreshwari Stavana
7. Kavitegondu Kathe
10. Neelakanthadeekshitana Shatakatraya
11. Shaddarshana Sangraha
13. Kannadadalli Avadhanakale
14. Kusumadevana Drishtantakalikaa Shataka
15. Vibhootipurusha Vidyaranya
16. Human values iin the code of Kautilya
17. Human values in Manusmriti
18. Human values in Ramayana
19. Human values in Telugu Literature
20. Subhashita Samputa
21. Alankaara shaastra
23. Bhasha bhringada benneri.
24. Kalaa kautuka
25. Hokkula balliya sambhanda
29. Sarvatantra Svatantra
30. Vaani vahana
32. Brahmapuriya Bhikshuka.
33. Haasu Beesu
38. Neelakanthadeekshitana Shaantivilasa
39. Dravida chandassu (Ed)
40. Raso Vai Sah (Ed)
41. Maanikya maadhurya (Ed)
Other than these, he has composed about 16 Kaavyas in Sanskrit, 12 Roopakas and a large number of poems and songs in various languages. Some of his other commendable works are: Kumaaraniruddha Parinaya (a Dwisandhana Kaavya), Shanmateeyam (a poem with six meanings) and seven other Kaavyas, 4 novels, several stories, essays and articles on various topics. Many of these have been featured in journals, monthlies, newspapers and magazines.
Dr.R. Ganesh is also involved in theatrical activities of traditional importance and especially in the Yakshagana of Karntaka and is instrumental in evolving the solo dance system of this art – called Eka Vyakti Yakshagana - in a classical way. More than 1200 shows are presented & he himself written, tuned, choreographed & directed the solo yakshagana such as Bhamini, (a unique dance show based on the Ashtanaayikas (Eight dancers) theme of classical dance, is one of his creations which is rendered in the ‘Yakshagana’ style. This has commanded great appreciation and is considered a landmark in the history of ‘Yakshagana’.) Janakijeevana, Pranayavanchite, Bharatanari, hamsa sandesha. ‘Krishnaarpanam’ is one of his latest such additions to ‘Yakshagana’ which deals with the divine love and relationship of the different women appearing in Shri Krishna’s life. Dr.Ganesh has himself participated and performed in some Yakshagana shows.
As a composer of music and dance numbers, Dr. Ganesh has over 600 items to his credit. His contribution to ballets and Sanskrit theatre are also note worthy. He is a popular cultural columnist too. He has made a world record by composing verses extempore continuously for 24 hours, in 1997.
He is the architect of the unique kalavadhanam (kavya-chitra-geeta-nritya) and has presented this form of Avadhanam over 1000 times both in India and abroad. ‘Kavya-Chitra’, a unique show of parallel arts, which Dr.Ganesh has masterminded and performs with the world renowned painter Shri. B.K.S.Verma, is one of the latest jewels in his crown. This superb feat of ‘on the spot poetry and painting’ has won great admiration from thousands of people not only within the state and nation, but allover the world. ‘Nirantara Kaavya Chitra’ (non-stop Poetry-Painting) – one such combined feat of Dr.Ganesh and Verma which was held non-stop for 24 hours in the Rashtrothana Parishat in Bangalore (1997) is a record in itself. During this eventful feat, a fascinating chain of 181-poems extempore, by Dr.Ganesh, left the audience spellbound. ‘Kaavya-Chitra’ was performed in the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana at Houston in America, in the year 2000, which captured the imagination and appreciation of people.
Dr.Ganesh has a number of compositions like Suprabhatas, Stotras and songs on various deities. Leading artists have sung these in cassettes which have been extremely popular. Cassettes/CDs containing his narrations on Soundaryalahari, Harishchandra Kavya, Mankutimmana Kagga, Subhashitas, Indian cultural values etc. over 1000 hours of lecture recordings on various topics are available. He has composed exclusive dance and musical lyrics which are being adapted by performing artists. He is also a modern ‘Vaaggeyakara’ (Music composer) who has composed quality pieces like Tillanas, Padas, Kritis, and Ragamaalika Kritis etc.
Awards and Titles:
His natural talent, learning, simplicity and nobility have won Dr.Ganesh a number of admirers. A great many number of institutions and groups have recognized, honored and felicitated him and showered him with titles, praises, accolades and citations. ‘Avilamba Saraswathi’, ‘Kalidasa Saraswathi’, ‘Kavyakantha’, chitra kavita chakravari, Padyavidya prabhakara, Vidvat kavi kaladhara, Avadhana Taponidhi, Chitprabhananda, and Avadhana Shiromani etc. are some of the prestigious titles conferred on him.
In recognition of his valuable contribution to the field of Sanskrit, Avadhana and poetry, Government of Karnataka conferred on him the ‘Rajyotsava Prashasthi’ (State Award) for the year 1992. The Kolar Jilla Sahitya Parishat has conferred on him the ‘Best Sahiti’ of the year award. Karnataka State’s Dussera Felicitation for Sanskrit Poetry (1988), Government of India’s President’s Certificate Merit Award for the best young Sanskrit scholar –Badarayana Vyas Puraskar (2003), Hon. D.Litt from Tumkur university (2009) Kempegowda award (2007), Sediyapu puraskaara (2010) for seminal contribution in research, Shambhu Hegde Award (2009) for contribution in Yakshagana.
His masterely thesis on the art of ‘Avadhana’ in Kannada has been honored with a D.Litt by the Hampi University of Karnataka.
As of now, He is the only Shatavadhani in Karnataka; Avadhana on the whole is a tonic for the brain, entertainment to the mind, bliss and contentment to the heart and enlightenment to life. Alongside the beauty and charm of language and rhyme unfolded at each step of the Avadhana, are values and philosophy presented with dignity and grace. Thanks to the genius and dedicated efforts of Shatavadhani Dr.R.Ganesh, this unique art has seen its rebirth in the Kannada literary field.