Sri.Kanayi Kunihiraman’s sculpture titled “Yakshi” is situated in a sculpture garden at Malampuzha, leaving her ornamentally unadorned, not even an ear stud or nose stud to speak of, or at least two arm lengths of fragrant jasmine bud garland should have been there in the typical Palakkadian style!!??. It is suggested that his Yakshi is empowered? She is set free from the ornamentation and the associations it carries in,?in mythological sculptures Yakshi remains adorned and well decorated.
Kunhiraman deliberately excludes jewellery in his figure. He frees the Yakshi from the confines of adornment, visible in the traditional figures. Women who were unornamented were deemed dangerous and untamed. In the Mahabharata, when Draupadi avenges her humiliation, she no longer braids or ornaments her hair, letting it “fall loose and unadorned”.Like Draupadi, Kunhiraman’s unadorned Yakshi also lets her hair loose.
However, in contrast, his Yakshi cannot be classified as dangerous. By leaving her ornamentally unadorned, it is suggested that his Yakshi is empowered. Carved from a single rock, the Yakshi sits at a height of 30 feet. Both legs are spread to her sides, exposing the genital region. Her breasts are rounded, her waist is narrow, and her hips are wide. She arches her body and chest forward. Her elbows are bent and her hands hold the sides of her head. Her hair is left open, pushed back, and falls to her lower back.
A sculpture of Yakshi is there in the Bihar Museum in Patna. Patna was earlier called Pataliputhra the capital of the Maurya empire. It was discovered from Didarganj, near Patna. The figure is carved out of a single piece of stone, life-size standing image.
Kanayi emulates the typical body structure of the Kushan and Didarganj Yakshi, marked by the voluptuous breast and hourglass figure. Kunhiraman’s Yakshi is strongly reminiscent of the ancient Yakshis on an anthropomorphic level. Given his attempt to imitate the traditional form, ornamentation can “contain” and limit the power of “women’s fertility and eroticism” liberated from ornamentation and the associations it carries in.
Kunhiraman’s deliberate exclusion of jewellery in his figure frees the Yakshi from the confines of adornment, apparent in the traditional figures. , Ornamentation can “contain” and limit the power of “women’s fertility and eroticism”.Women who were unornamented were deemed dangerous and untamed. , Kunhiraman’s unadorned yakshi also lets her hair loose. However, the Yakshi cannot be classified as dangerous. By leaving her ornamentally unadorned, it is suggested that his Yakshi is empowered and liberated from ornamentation and the associations it carries in the context of religion.
Conceptually, Kunhiraman’s description of the motive behind his work is also evocative of the ancient Yakshis. For Kunhiraman, women “represent mother, nature, and power”.In applying this to the Yakshi, Kunhiraman’s placement of the figure in a garden, surrounded by trees and mountains, suggests that she is a part of nature and the landscape. However, it is difficult to link the natural setting to fertility and religion. It is demonstrated by her closed eyes and the turning of the head to face the sky. As a result, there is no possibility of eye-contact with the viewer; the yakshi is self-absorbed, engaged in pleasuring herself.
Kunhiramn’s yakshi exhibits a sexuality that hinges on sexual pleasure stimulated by the self. She appears to be at the climax of an orgasm indicated by the arching of her back. In discussing the sexuality of the Kushan and Didgaranj Yakshi, female sexuality was a symbol of “growth, bounty, and plentitude” linked to the motif of “flowering and reproduction”
a result, the body became analogous to fertility which is then subsumed into a religious narrative. In contrast, fertility in the context of religion is not emphasized in Kunhiraman’s yakshi; she expresses her sexuality by engaging in self-pleasure. With his work, Kunhiraman wished to “provoke public conscience” and discussion on morality. He comments that “Indian society is not mature enough” and still views nudity and depictions of sex, especially in the context of women, as obscene.
While the physicality and the use of stone as a medium in Kunhiraman’s yakshi is similar to the ancient yakshi, differences in the content of the work transform the portrayal of female sexuality .While Kunhiraman titles his work “Yakshi,” she holds little religious value for the viewer. Given her displacement from religion, it is possible that a conservative spectator in India will classify the work as vulgar.
Sex and depictions of sex remain taboo in modern India. However, as a female viewer, Kunhiraman’s depiction of the yakshi makes for an empowering narrative.Kunhiraman’s unrestricted presentation of sexual pleasure thus challenges the viewer’s conception of morality in the realm of eroticism.
in the hands of modern and contemporary artists,Yakshi has been chosen to highlight female sexuality and eroticism with its attendant connotations in a patriarchal and male-dominated society. If art is to show a mirror to society, highlight the hidden already set judgements in a different direction.The yakshi is perhaps one of the best examples we have in India.
The 30-ft-tall sculpture of a nude woman in sitting position has won widespread attention and appreciation not only because of its posture, but also because of its size and figure. Nafeesa was oe of the five workers assigned by Irrigation department to assist Kanayi When Kanayi modelled the Yakshi’s upper portion, especially the bust, on the nude image of a western woman, it was Nafeesa who posed for the statue’s legs., only the part between knee and foot.Velayudhan and Palaniswami assisted them in sculpturing.it was completed in 1969.Nafeesa aka Nabeesumma passed away in 2020,without being acknowledged for her role in the making of the Yakshi.
The government had celebrated the statue’s golden jubilee by organising a 12-day Yakshi Yanam programme in February-March last year, by bringing in artists from across the country..
Four-and-a-half decades after Kanayi Kunhiraman carved the imposing ‘Yakshi’ against the backdrop of the Western Ghats at the famous Malampuzha garden here, the sculptor is returning to the tourist spot to smarten up the 30-ft structure and to build a ‘fantasy world’ around it.
The huge artwork was a sharp deviation from the existing models. It generated a lot of controversies as it was the first time that a nude female sculpture was erected outside temples.
“Built-in 1969, the Yakshi is badly in need of renovation and redecoration. I wish to begin the work by the first week of March. I would also undertake a project to create a Yakshi Park surrounding the sculpture. The park would be a mix of images, sculptures, and other artworks depicting witches, ghosts, demons, and other forms of mythical and imaginative characters,’’ said Mr Kunhiraman.
“The situation in the late nineteen sixties was different. Society was not mature enough and so there was no dearth of controversies. By doing the Yakshi statue, I tried to provoke the public conscience and aesthetics. I had also tried to generate debates on the morality of artistic expressions,” he said. Many have condemned Yakshi as obscene.
“I have excelled in female forms right from the beginning because woman represented mother, nature, and power to me. I have created my sculptures by drawing copiously from heritage, myth, and folklore,” he said. Thus Malampuzha Yaksi may remain there rebelliously continuing its debate with the spectator.