Perhaps very few people today in India know the name “Ramkinkar Baij”, even though he is considered as one of the pioneers of modern Indian sculpture and a key figure of contextual modernism. Ramkinkar Baij’s work indeed has a unique relationship with every Delhite. In some way or the other, we have been encountered his art since our childhood days.
Most of us, who have visited the Connaught place by taking the Parliament street (Sansad
Marg), will recall the two giant demon statues standing next to Indian Reserve Bank gate. These are the two iconic Yaksha-Yakshi statues. As part of Hindu mythology, they are the attendants of Kubera, the Hindu god of wealth and have influenced knowingly and unknowingly every passer-by of Delhi’s Parliament street over the decades.
The story goes that these twenty feet statues were started when Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, commissioned Ramkinkar Baij to make these two monumental sculptures, to ‘stand guard’ just outside the Reserve Bank of India in New Delhi. As such a huge piece of stones was rare to find in Northern India, Ramkinkar had to travel across the country and finally settle for the sandstone found at Baijnath in the Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh. The transportation of the stone became a saga by itself. A fairly generous budget was finished transporting the stone to Delhi where the work was to begin. The stone had to be cut in a certain way and the shapes of the open railway wagons had to be modified in order to carry the material to Delhi.
These two statues were not just giant copies of the ancient Yaksha and Yakshi sculptures unlike the sculptures found in Sanchi Stupa and other sites. Ramkinkar had imprinted his creativity and imagination on the masterpieces. If you notice the Yaksha’s right hand, it contains a discus- a symbol of modern-day machinery and industry. On the left hand, the Yaksha holds a moneybag. These two elements- the discus and the moneybag is what makes the Yaksha completely modern while the Yakshi holds the flowers and paddy cluster as she represents the territory of land and agriculture.
Indeed, the artistic vision of Baij has made the Yaksha and Yaskshi a landmark identity of Delhi for the coming centuries.
About the author: Shantala Palat is a Delhi based, new generation contemporary artist whose work has recently gained popularity after participating in series of international and national exhibitions and winning the prestigious Nippon art award (2011) from School of Art Institute of Chicago, USA. In 2013, she had her first solo exhibition at Hamra Centre, City of West Torrens Auditorium Gallery, Adelaide, Australia. Shantala’s artworks were appreciated for their vibrant and vivid colours and the interesting ability to beautify the negative and positive spaces of the interlocked figures and for portraying the curious nature of the modern human being.