Yakṣi Temple Strut
(18 in / 46 cm)
23 karat Rose Gold with contrasting Green, White and Moon Gold (Palladium), and some Fine Gold.
The roofs of traditional Nepalese buildings are very heavy and project far beyond the bearing walls, thus requiring additional support. This is achieved by angling (at 45 degrees) a number of wooden braces or struts between wall and roof. Called tunala in Nepali, these struts are usually carved into the likenesses of gods, goddesses and yakṣi.
This modern woodcarving from Bhaktapur, Nepal, portrays a beautiful goddess standing cross-legged under a tree in the classic pose of an Indian fertility goddess known as a yakṣi or yakṣini (a female yakṣa). The yakṣa are the attendants of Vaiśravaṇa, The Guardian of the North (aka Vessavana in Pali or Dzambala in Tibetan, and live in the forests of Mount Meru. Originally the tutelary gods of forests and villages, they were later viewed as the steward deities of the earth and the wealth buried beneath. Usually benevolent, they are the caretakers of the natural treasures hidden in the earth and tree roots. Yakṣa are usually supported by a crouching gnome under their feet, a monkey or other animal of the forest.
The association of women with trees is an ancient Indian concept which celebrates the fertility aspect of womanhood. The woodcarver has very skillfully brought this alive in his creation. Her hands are raised reaching out for the fruiting tree above her. The idea being that by their mere touch, the fertilizing power of a woman is transferred to a tree, which then bursts into flower. All things that arise from the earth in the form of vegetative life mirror the great generative function of the woman. The process of transformation that is possible in mortal woman mirrors the miracle of growth that occurs in nature.
The artist has sought to make explicit this aspect by highlighting her voluptuous yet graceful form. The perfectly symmetrical breasts are evident pointers to her nurturing potential, and the ample abdomen and hips tapering down to the sensuous thighs accentuate her child bearing capacity. The word for "flowering" and menstruation is the same in Sanskrit. In Sanskrit a menstruating woman is called a 'pushpavati', "a woman in flower". Menstruation itself is a form and a metaphor for a woman's special creativity. Thus a woman's biological and other kinds of creativity are symbolized by flowering.