Kanayi’s enigmatic ‘Yakshi’ continues to kick up a row, this time on Instagram

The iconic ‘Yakshi’ statue in Malampuzha. Photo: Shutterstock/kv naushad

The debate over the iconic ‘Yakshi’ statue in Malampuzha, which was made by celebrated sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman, had been raging for many years and the war of words is the perfect example of the huge gulf between the perception of art connoisseurs and common man. Now, the sculpture is hogging the headlines after the imposing statue’s video, which was uploaded on Kerala Tourism’s Instagram handle, attracted many comments.

Majority of the remarks were prudish in nature and only a few could appreciate the artistic and aesthetic value of the world-famous piece of art. But the exquisite sculpture stands tall notwithstanding the entire clamour around it by covering its ears and with a meditative face.

The au naturel ‘Yakshi’, which is 30ft tall, was installed near the Malampuzha dam. The critics term the piece of art the sculptor’s protest against the hollow morality existing in the society. The statue of ‘Yakshi’ was unveiled at a time when no one dared to install a naked sculpture in public space.

There are many people who are against displaying art pieces depicting sensuality in public places but there are poets and art enthusiasts who praise the aesthetics of such creations. And the comments on the Kerala Tourism Instagram page would vouch for that trend. One person has posted that ‘your character and outlook will be akin to the way you perceive the statue’.

Kanayi Kunhiraman’s broad thinking was shaped by the education he had from Government College of Fine Arts in Chennai and the Slade School of Fine Art in London and this has reflected in his art work too. Kanayi is considered as one of the best sculptors in India as his creations portray his stance on various issues and his perceptions on life.

Renowned sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman
Renowned sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman

Fought against all odds

For the sculptor, ‘Yakshi’ was the ‘goddess of nature and when he explained the theme of the statue to the officials of the Kerala Water Authority, who owned the land where the statue was to be installed, they were against it. As Kanayi informed that he was backing away from the project, they relented. When the work on the statue finally started, the eminent artist was even physically assaulted by a group of people at night. But Kanayi moved forward with grit and determination and completed the 30ft tall naked statue of ‘Yakshi’. Even now people have a touch of diffidence on their faces while standing before the statue but they know that it is a piece of creative work and worth a look.

“Art is like waking up people by giving them a shock and not like putting them to sleep by singing a lullaby,” contends the celebrated artist. Besides ‘Yakshi’, Kanayi had put in place various sculptures across Kerala, including the 110ft long ‘Sagara Kanyaka’ on the Shangumugham beach in Thiruvananthapuram, despite protests from various quarters. All these pieces of art had put Kerala on the international map of art.

The creations were a revolution that not only criticized the conventional school of imagination but also ensured a prominent place for art within the democratic, cultural and societal framework. For the same reason, Kanayi towers over other artists on the postmodern art landscape of Kerala.

The ‘Yakshi’ statue is in the Malampuzha gardens, which is 10km away from Palakkad, and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The sculpture is a feast for the eyes as it is set against the backdrop of verdant forests and rolling hills of the Western Ghats.

The Malampuzha dam has the largest reservoir in Kerala. Besides the ‘Yakshi’ statue, the picturesque surroundings add beauty to the alluring garden, which is open from 9am to 8pm. The entrance fee for adults is Rs 25 and Rs 10 for children aged between 3 and 12. There is separate fee for ropeway and to enter the snake park, which is closed on Mondays.

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