Padma Shree Award Recipient of 2017, Aekka Yadagiri Rao-
Regional Aesthetics of his Sculpture-Telanagana Stupam
Aekka Yadagiri Rao, Padma Shree award recipient of 2017, made a tower of sculpture “Telangana Stupam” and installed at Gunpark in Hyderabad, capital of Telangana. His sculpture has become a landmark for Telangana identity. ‘Separate Telangana’ agitations claiming for independent status of the state, separating from united Andhra Pradesh, made the ‘Telangana Stupam’ a landmark for the beginning of every agitation forum and to celebrate the separate Telangana statehood announcement a couple of years back. People gathered and delivered speeches or listened under that Stupam- as a landmark of Telangana identity. In the process of such Social political activities the aesthetics of his sculpture has come to the fore. This essay would look into Mr.Rao’s visual aesthetic of Telangana Stupam interacting with the people even if their focus is not to look at this sculpture as an art form.
Visual language has a silent communication. Art works and expressions of the artists gain monumentality in the artistic and aesthetic values but become mute objects in the loud social and political scenarios. ‘Telangana Stupam’, a sculpture made by Yadagiri Rao at the site where political meetings and social gatherings happen might be occupying the similar situation.
Aekka Yadagiri Rao made ‘Telangana Martyrs Memorial Column’ in 1972 and was installed as a public sculpture at Gunpark, near State Assembly in Hyderabad. It is 25 ft. in height, popularly known as ‘Telangana Stupam’ made of colored and polished granite material. This sculpture has a blossoming lotus bud on its top as the head of the sculpture in white marble. This is a metaphor to deliver a meaning that that is for paying homage to those Telangana martyrs of 1969 agitation who rallied their lives for the cause of separate Telangana statehood. The Stupam has depicted bullet impressions in the polished black granite at the bottom of the monument made in memory of those who laid down their lives for the cause of separate Telangana. People began to gather for meetings on ‘Separate Telangana agitations’ and scheduled processions at that ‘Telangana Stupam’ after it’s installation. The Historic movement of separate Telangana agitations began from his sculpture and celebrated the separate Telangana state announcement in August 2013 and the Parliament bill passing on its separate statehood in February 2014. The sculpture of Rao has added sanctity to the processions and gatherings.
Aekka Yadagiri Rao’s style of art-
Rao’s sculptures have a different style. He installed lot of public sculptures and Telangana Stupam is one of them. He contributed his share surely to the Modern Indian sculpture while exploring new avenues of materials and artistic skills. His sculptures are simple and truthful and are largesse in size. He achieved many awards for his contribution to the Modern Indian sculpture. He molded his firm ideology from his mother’s spiritual background and her floor designs, Rangoli, Indian mythological stories, and Vivekananda’s biography and his preaching. He follows the philosophy of spiritual guru Sri Chinmayananda. He began to conceive the idea of creativity as a divine spiritual force behind us. That has inculcated a mystic and intuitive vision in him. Rao enjoys a challenge in molding monumental size sculptures and works in stone-granite medium also in metal and wood. He creates simple sculptural forms that would express human values. His one another sculpture ‘Samadhi’ is a form of a Yogi to express spiritual concept of Nirvana, annihilation of the gross physical matter of enlightened soul. ‘Torch’, his one more work in steel made in 1972, suggesting a progressive environment required for humanity. Besides he also created the sculptures on ‘Jatayu’- wounded bird, a tragic story of a helpless bird lost it’s life while helping Lord Rama. ‘Man’ is a welded sculpture of a Tribal, exhibited in Triennale of 1975 at Delhi. ‘Aswamedha’ is yet another sculpture in Indira Park of Hyderabad has a vibrant movement and majestic posture of a horse. His sculptures have broad universal values. Aesthetically viewer enjoys a known subject. Rao’s works possess simplicity, readily recognizable forms but communicate strong statements and make us to think further. He picks up those subjects to sculpt who shouldered the responsibility in the success stories but passed unnoticed and unacknowledged.
Visual language is unprecedented being silent, not being loud, de-centered and marginalized to a corner. The Telangana Stupam as an art object of silence in that crowds of Telangana political gatherings does not appear as important as the loud speeches delivered there and the busy movements of public space. Political gathering sanction a token presence of the sculpture and treat the sculpture as ‘other’. But the situation is other way round. The art object-sculpture engages with its ‘other’, that is the political gathering. Both are mutually pushing each other in to the position of ‘Self’ and ‘Other’. Both these, ‘self’ and ‘other’ participate to redefine the incidents dialogically and mutually. The physical presence of mute Stupam as an art form, and the voice of the crowds, they are alerting each-other. The Sculpture must be peeping out not only from the spaces in between, the empty spaces of the crowds but also because of its height, standing tall and straight in-front of those moving crowds. It must be echoing the reference of its name whenever the proceedings keep saying the word ‘Telangana’ on the agitation forums. The surroundings of the gathering at Gunpark cannot keep out the material vibrations of the Stupam.
The sculpture at Gunpark-Telangana Stupam has its own way of presenting itself, like a bean talk of a child or a pleasant smile of a rising sun amidst the mild clouds or as dispersing clouds after the sudden heavy showers, like the cool breeze if it is in the August months of Hyderabad. Sculpture extends the story line of political activity of separate Telangana proceedings. This sculpture intensifies the site of the speeches through it’s visual effect. Stupam might even be acting as a weapon of display on emotionally blackmailing the viewers and observers reminding them on the martyrs of Telangana agitation, standing at the backdrop, as a story narrator of this agitation. The reference of Stupam also must be having the History references of Buddhist Stupam that is commemorating the relics of Buddhist monks. Simlarly Telangana stupam is for commemorating Telangana martyrs who sacrificed their lives in 1969 Telangana agitations. The presence of this visual language is present as well as absent in the scenario. The Stupam has become active and a living sculpture when it has become a participatory artifact.
Separate Telangana agitation might be a regional issue, but the regional identity of narrowness is not restricted because of the backdrop of this sculpture. As Buddhism refers to a casteless religion of specific philosophy, the reference of Buddhism in the name of Stupam this sculpture opens up the possibilities when the regionalism vs nationalism is on the forefront. It is directing for a ‘local’ generically rather than geographically because of the philosophical references. Probably the same reference is possible in the mind sets of the different social strata of casts and religions of Telangana to unite them on the cause of agitation for separate statehood. Telangana Stupam is emerging with the meanings of fusion of political hybridism on local on local, local on regionalism, narrowness to broadness, closed political agendas to openness of humanity, etc. New combination of political strategies and new agendas are incorporated, knowingly or unknowingly by accommodating this sculpture as a performative backdrop bringing shared experiences amongst participants as well as between the sculpture and the people. The Stupam is living in the situation and also catering to direct the situation for a better dealing and meanings to deliver. Backdrop of Stupam is increasing the dramatization.
Culture and the nation-region, state are intermingling somewhere in between the electoral politics. The presence of the sculpture and the proceedings of the agitation together appear like an environmental theatre while using the space of the Gunpark. The participants are Separate Telangana seekers, Stupam, and those 1969 deceased in the Stupam’s molding as a metaphor. The interaction in this environmental theatre is both temporal and historical, of present and the past. One can see the interaction of participants and the sculpture with each-other as far as the distances are concerned. Participants can involve with sculpture by keeping in touch, nearness with it or can keep oneself away from it. That sculptural space interacts first with participants before initiating the proceedings and speeches. That space encloses an aura and holds, embraces the sentiments of Telangana regionalism while pushing out the locale of narrowness because of the wide references of Stupam in the backdrop. Rhythm and the volumes of speech would be in synchronization with the texture and material of the sculpture. Auras of the incidents, proceeding speeches, do not end at the skin or outer border of the sculptural layer or human beings. They get extended on the resonances of the human voice and the echoes of the stone. They respond to each other, create another waves and layers of harmonious relation in the environment. That makes the space lively. Energy is transferred and transformed, cross their-own boundaries and interpenetrate. There is a cross flow of human, artistic and space energy that interacts. That sculpture and space are participatory on time specific public gatherings and also on the timelessness of artistic value. Stupam gains the position of a topaz and promises the authority. In such vastness Telangana Martyrs Column made by Mr.Rao gained a monumental presence.
Regional and national have state and countering the state relationship. Nation is thick as cloud and that is demystified by region. The nation has centrifugal and region has centripetal force. Regionalism is a strategy contributes to the one-ness of nationalism also represents the nationalism. Regionalism can represent nationalism as a micro representation. Nationalism is a sutured unity, represented by many units within.
Communication of that sculpture at the site is a process. This discussion is to achieve the aesthetics of art work’s communication. This is a necessity because mute language of art is an aesthetic message and the message is conveyed in a different code in a humble way.
Shadow of the tomb hovers around the rallies over there and asserts its presence. Viewer finds oneself in the company of that tomb. The shadows of the tomb long or short as per the time of the Sun rays make the space theatrical. Even if the audience misses the presence of that mute language at the first instance the amazing sense of empathy of Telangana sentiment would reduce the distance between the sculpture and the people of gathering. The straight standing Telangana Martyrs Column made by Sri.Aekka Yadagiri Rao stands ever for Telangana identity.
M.Balamani, M.Sc, M.A, Ph.D
Art Historian-Critic & Cultural Analyst
 He was honored at a conference on Backward classes by Government of Andhra Pradesh in 1979. Probably most of his sculptures represent the idea of exploitation of downward classes in the society.
 Richard Schechner-