Yakshi straddles in a triangle position, undisturbed, her curves and curls melting into the lush Western Ghats in the background. She is arguably the only naked female sculpture outside of a temple that stands a commanding 30 feet tall.

While strolling through Malampuzha Gardens in Kerala’s Palakkad district, you can’t help but notice Yakshi, a well-known tourist attraction carved from a single rock. The gorgeous naked Yakshi sits with her legs spread wide, her hair loose open, her eyes half-open and her back to the Western Ghat mountain ranges.

Kanayi Kunhiraman constructed the imposing statue more than 50 years ago, in 1969.

The Inception 

The Kerala Irrigation Department hired Kunhiraman in 1968 to install a statue in the garden as a tourist attraction. Kunhiraman had just returned from London.

It is reported that Kunhiraman first intended to erect a statue of Nandi there, but changed his mind after deciding that one of the valley’s hills looked like a woman curled up with her hair flowing. He then came up with the concept of Yakshi.

Yakshi is the Malayalam word for demon. However, Kunhiraman claims that it is a debunking of the tales that surround Yakshi as a bloodthirsty demon and a lustful seductress of men.

She is instead a strong mythological figure who asserts ownership of herself and her body while expressing openly assertive sexuality and strength. The magnificent statue represents feminine vitality.

The Kerala Water Authority who controlled the property where the statue was to be put was opposed when the sculptor explained the theme stating that ‘Yakshi’ was the “goddess of nature” to him. They gave in after Kunhiraman informed them that he was withdrawing from the project.

Challenges Faced

Yakshi, now regarded as one of the greatest works of art, was not without controversy.

Unsurprisingly, the presence of a large naked monument in the neighborhood did not excite the population in the 1960s.

Kunhiraman faced protests and even threats from residents who were against the idea after he started carving and word of the naked statue spread.

The prominent artist was even physically assaulted by a group of individuals late at night when work on the statue finally began. However, Kanayi continued on with strength and perseverance, finishing the 30-foot-tall naked monument of Yakshi which has since come to symbolize Malampuzha.

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The controversy around the legendary Yakshi has been raging for many years, and the verbal battles are the ideal illustration of the enormous gap between the general public’s opinion of art and that of art enthusiasts. Most comments have been conservative in nature, and only a select few could recognize the work of art’s creative and aesthetic significance.

But the beautiful sculpture, with its ears covered and a contemplative expression on its face, stands tall despite the commotion all around it.

Before the statue was unveiled, no one had ever installed a naked sculpture in a public place.

Even now, when people are in front of the monument, there is a hint of hesitation in their expressions, but they are aware that it is a work of art and worth a look.

Kunhiraman On Nudist Art

Many individuals oppose showing works of art that depict sensuality in public spaces, although poets and art fans applaud the beauty of such works. 

One social media user made an accurate observation about the statue stating, “your character and outlook will be akin to the way you perceive the statue”.

The education Kunhiraman received at the Government College of Fine Arts in Chennai and the Slade School of Fine Paintings in London helped him shape his broad thinking, which also showed through in his art. Since his works reflect his opinions on numerous subjects and his outlook on life, Kanayi is regarded as one of India’s top sculptors.

“Art is like waking people up by giving them a shock, not like putting them to sleep by singing a lullaby,” claims the well-known artist. “Yakshi is the first such bold attempt to bring the sculptures of women out of the walls of temples. So far, women sculptures could be seen on the temple walls only”.

“There is nothing obscene in her nudity and if people feel so, it is because they are conditioned to see women in that way”

– Kanayi Kunhiraman

Today while we attack Ranveer Singh for a nude photoshoot done completely indoors, we forget the existence of Yakshi, about Kunhiraman’s bold step taken 50 years ago against the taboos associated with nudity.

Most importantly, we forget that we belong to the land that not only acknowledges and appreciates the beauty of the nude but has also been worshiping sex since time immemorial. Why did we let this Eurocentric culture rub off so badly on us?

Disclaimer: This article has been fact-checked

Sources: On Manorama, Indian Express, India Times +more

Image Source: Google Images

Find the blogger @ParomaDey

This post is tagged under nudity, art, nudist art, Yakshi, Kanayi Kunhiraman, India, Kerala, Palakkad, Malampuzha, Kamasutra, Khajuraho, Ranveer Singh, Ranveer Singh nude photoshoot

Feature Image designed by Saudamini Seth

We do not hold any right, copyright over any of the images used, these have been taken from Google. In case of credits or removal, the owner may kindly mail us.

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