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Dr. Naga Phani Sarma is one of the most famous and best avadhanis in the country. He started avadhanam at the young age of 14 years and slowly gained fame and popularity. His has been a long journey from doing ashtavadhanam before the age of 14 to doing dvisahasravadhanam recently.

Firstly, what is avadhanam? Explaining the meaning and origin of avadhanam Dr. Naga Phani Sarma said, "Avadhanam is concentration of mind and collection of thoughts in mind. In any era, to have a stable mind is the problem. The mind does not pay heed to caste, creed, religion, region etc. All livings things have a mind but the human mind has its prominence because it can think, that is its power. And the human is constantly trying to make the mind stable. The problem is ekagrata-concentration. Hence the mind's ekagrata is avadhanam. The mind needs ekagrata goal and having ekagrata in various topics is avadhanam. Avadhanam in 8 topics is ashtavadhanam, 100 topics is shatavadhanam, 1000 topics is sahasravadhanam and 2000 topics is dvisahasravadhanam." And a person who can recollect on which page, which stanza, which paragraph a certain syllable appeared is called an avadhani.

Dr. Naga Phani Sharma then explained the origins of how avadhanam gained popularity over the decades. "Earlier avadhanam existed in the Vedas. And the secret of the Vedas is shruti - of one generation passing it onto another just by listening and learning. Slowly this entered loukika sahityam - Common Literature, which have padyamalu, chandasu, kavyamu, rasamu, varnana and alankaramu ( most commonly used parameters in literature) in poems. Poets like A Madabushi Venkatacharylu and later on Tirupati Venkata poets promoted this avadhanam and then avadhanam gained a lot of prominence and importance in Literature. Tirupati Venkata poets were very famous as avadhanis and heralded a new era in Andhra Pradesh."

"By the year 2000-2001 avadhanam reached sky-high popularity and avadhanis gained fame worldwide too. In Tirupati Venkata poets' era so many public platforms like newspapers, dailies, weeklies, fortnightlies, television, Internet apart from telex, fax and telephone did not exist. News has developed wings now and can cross continents within seconds," he explains and feels that more experimentation in avadhanam needs to be done.

"In this technological speed age doing what our ancestors did is not a great thing, surpassing their records up to our standards and strengthening it further by doing more is the specialty and is needed and great. Nowadays, we need to attract the public with thousands in avadhanam. Then shatavadhanam was great but we can't rest by their laurels. That is how sahasravadhanam came into being," he says.

There are no formal training institutions like schools and colleges to learn avadhanam, which made him start the Avadhana Saraswati Peetam to impart training. The training school is not just for Avadhanis. 'How to develop memory' is the concept of the training for anyone who partakes in it. "There is a technique involved and has certain ways and methods through which avadhanam is possible. It is a study," he says.

He started vocational courses in the summer holidays with more than 200 students in each batch, which included both young and old people, and taught them using modern techniques in a traditional way. "For me, mantra is a very ultra-modern concept. You just need to know the secret. Mind is the most powerful than all others, which will never bend to technology. Trying to grasp the mind is avadhanam. People use only a small part of their mind but avadhanis use it much more than others and still they are only using maybe not more that 5% of their capacity," he says. He has also started a project called NIVED-AP--National Institute for Value Education & Applied Philosophy.

But will one attain avadhanam through training? "One is born with creative or remembrance power. We can only polish what is already present. It is not something, which is taught or written. That is the secret," he says and adds, "One in a thousand or lakh is a nobel literate, one out of that lakh is a poet, and out of those lakhs of poets is born an avadhani and is the minutest point. A poet could take years to write a poem but an avadhani is inspired instantly and recites a poem."

"I always have the urge to do something new, different and unique and with full support and encouragement, I have achieved a lot," says the avadhani who has done them all. A person who started avadhanam by doing ashtavadhanam before he turned 14 years, pursued it further by doing the shatavadhanam at Kakinada and Rajamundhry in 1990-91, then the mahasahasravadhanam with 153 pandits at Visakhapatnam in 1994,then the dvisahasrava-dhanam with 225 pandits at Hyderabad in 1995, then the mahasahasravadhanam with 1116 pandits for 24 days in 1996-97, then the dvisahasravadhanam for 34 days in 1997-98 and the dashaguniavadhanam, a new experiment.

Future plan for this well-traveled avadhani is to do a prapancha sahasravadhanam in November with 5116 pandits from all over the world for 75 days at a stretch from 9am to 9pm daily, where anybody can participate and ask him questions. "How to make it unique is my constant aim in life. I do not want to restrict it to pandits only; they will just be a part of it. I want to involve youth more in my programmes.

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