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Raja Ravi Varma

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Raja Ravi Varma Coil Thampuran[3] (Malayalam:

; 29 April 1848 2 October 1906) was
an Indian painter and artist from the princely state of Travancore (presently in southern Kerala & some parts of
Tamil Nadu) who achieved recognition for his paintings depicting scenes from Indian literature and mythology
including the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. He is considered among the greatest painters in the history of
Indian art and his paintings are considered to be among the best examples of the fusion of Indian traditions with the
techniques of European academic art . Varma's paintings portrayed sari-clad women in graceful manner, which
became an important motif of that time, reproductions being found in many homes.[4]

Ravi Varma Coil Thampuran

1 Art career
2 Inspiration
3 Raja Ravi Varma Press
4 Honours
5 Personal life
6 List of major works
7 In popular culture
8 Bibliography
8.1 English
8.2 Malayalam
8.3 Marathi
9 See also
10 Notes and references
11 External links


29 April 1848[1][2]
Kilimanoor, Travancore


2 October 1906 (aged 58)

Attingal, Travancore, British Raj


Painter, artist

Art career
Varma was patronized by Ayilyam Thirunal, the then Maharajah of Travancore and began formal training thereafter.[5] He learned the basics of painting in Madurai.
Later, he was trained in water painting by Rama Swami Naidu and in oil painting by Dutch portraitist Theodor Jenson.
Varma received widespread acclaim after he won an award for an exhibition of his paintings at Vienna in 1873. Varma's paintings were also sent to the World's
Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 and he was awarded three gold medals.[6] He travelled throughout India in search of subjects. He often modelled Hindu
Goddesses on South Indian women, whom he considered beautiful. Ravi Varma is particularly noted for his paintings depicting episodes from the story of Dushyanta
and Shakuntala, and Nala and Damayanti, from the Mahabharata. Ravi Varma's representation of mythological characters has become a part of the Indian imagination

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of the epics. He is often criticized for being too showy and sentimental in
his style but his work remains very popular in India. Many of his fabulous
paintings are housed at Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara.[7]

The studio used by Varma during his stay at the
Laxmi Vilas Palace

As narrated in the novel "Raja Ravi Varma" by Ranjit Desai, There was a
woman called Sugandha Bai who became inspiration for Raja Ravi Varma
to paint gods and goddesses as human beings. Once Ravi Varma happened
to see this beautiful lady in a temple and suddenly felt inspired. He then sketched Sugandha Bai's portrait and gifted her.
Sugandha Bai got attracted towards Raja Ravi Varma's sketches and agreed to become his model to portray Hindu Goddesses
in his paintings.

Raja Ravi Varma Press

Apparently on the advice of the then Dewan (Prime Minister) of Travancore, T. Madhava Rao, Ravi Varma started a
lithographic printing press in Ghatkopar, Mumbai in 1894 and later shifted it to Malavli near Lonavala, Maharashtra in 1899.
The press was managed by Varma's brother, Raja Varma. In 1901 the press was sold to his printing technician from Germany,
Mr. Schleicher and later closed down after it was gutted in an accidental fire.[8] The oleographs produced by the press were
mostly of Hindu gods and goddesses in scenes adapted mainly from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas. These
oleographs were very popular and continued to be printed in thousands for many years, even after the 1906 death of Ravi

Jatayu struck down by Ravana from


In 1904, Viceroy Lord Curzon, on behalf of the British King Emperor, bestowed upon Varma the Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal. A
college dedicated to fine arts was also constituted in his honour at Mavelikara, Kerala. Raja Ravi Varma High School at
Kilimanoor was named after him and there are many cultural organizations throughout India bearing his name. In 2013, the
crater Varma on Mercury was named in his honor.[9] Considering his vast contribution to Indian art, the Government of Kerala
has instituted an award called "Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram", which is awarded every year to people who show excellence in
the field of art and culture.

Personal life
Raja Ravi Varma was born as Ravi Varma Coil Thampuran[10] in Kilimanoor palace in the erstwhile Thiruvithankur in Kerala.
His father Ezhumavil Neelakanthan Bhattatiripad was an accomplished scholar, who hailed from the Ernakulam district in
Lady Giving Alms at the Temple
Kerala. His mother Umayamba Thamburatty was a poet and writer whose work Parvati Swayamvaram was published by
Varma after her death. He had 3 siblings namely Goda Varma (born 1854), Raja Varma (born 1860) and Mangala Bayi, who
was also a painter. As per the Marumakkathayam tradition, the name of the maternal uncle (Raja Raja Varma) was prefixed to his name and later he was referred to as

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Raja Ravi Varma.[5]

Varma was married to Pururuttathi Nal Bhageerathi Thamburatty of the royal house of Mavelikkara and they had two sons and three daughters. Their elder son,
Kerala Varma, born in 1876 went missing in 1912 and was never heard of again. Their second son Rama Varma (born 1879), an artist who studied at the JJ School of
Arts, Mumbai, married to Gowri Kunjamma, sister of Dewan PGN Unnithan. Varma's eldest daughter, Ayilyam Nal Mahaprabha, appears in two of his prominent
paintings and was mother of Maharani Pooradam thirunal Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, the Regent of Travancore. Their second daughter, Thiruvadira Nal Kochukunji was the
mother of Amma Maharani Moolam Thirunal Sethu Parvathi Bayi and the grandmother of Maharajah Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma. Their third daughter, born in
1882, was Ayilyam Nal Cheria Kochamma.
His descendants comprise the Mavelikara Royal house while two of his grand daughters, including the said Sethu Lakshmi Bayi and Sethu Parvathi Bayi, were
adopted to the Travancore Royal Family, the cousin family of the Mavelikara House, to which lineage the present Travancore Maharajah (Titular), Uthradom Thirunal
Marthanda Varma, belonged. Well known among his descendants are writers Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, Shreekumar Varma, artist Rukmini Varma and
classical musician Aswathi Thirunal Rama Varma among others.

List of major works

The following is a list of the prominent works of Ravi Varma.
Village Belle
Lady Lost in Thought
Damayanti Talking to a Swan
The Orchestra
Arjuna and Subhadra
The heartbroken
Swarbat Player
Lord Krishna as Ambassador

Jatayu, a bird devotee of Lord Rama is mauled

by Ravana
Victory of Indrajit
The gypsies
A Lady Playing Swarbat
Lady Giving Alms at the Temple
Lord Rama Conquers Varuna
Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala
Nair Woman
Romancing Couple

Draupadi Dreading to Meet Kichaka

Shantanu and Matsyagandha
Shakuntala Composing a Love Letter to King
Girl in Sage Kanwa's Hermitage (RishiKanya)
Bharani Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore
Sri Shanmukha Subramania Swami
Woman holding a fan

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Sri Shanmukha
Subramania Swami


Simhaka and
Sairandhri from

Bharani Thirunal
Lakshmi Bayi of

SriRama conquers
Varuna from

Woman holding a


Galaxy of Musicians

Shakuntala from

Shantanu and
Satyavati from

Arjuna and
Subhadra from

The Maharashtrian Varma's daughter

Mahaprabha with
her daughter

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Woman Holding a

Portrait of a Lady

In popular culture
Bollywood film maker Ketan Mehta directed a movie Rang Rasiya on the life of Varma in 2014 in which Randeep Hooda played the role of the artist
Indian director Lenin Rajendran made a Malayalam movie named Makaramanju (The Mist of Capricorn) in 2010, which narrates Varma's life at a certain stage
in his life. Indian director/cinematographer Santhosh Sivan played the lead role of Varma.
The Marathi textbook of Maharashtra State Board contains a chapter titled '
' meaning 'A Meeting Like Never Before' portraying Varma meeting Swami
Vivekananda. It has been edited from the novel ' (Raja Ravi Varma)' written by Ranjit Desai.

Raja Ravi Varma: Painter of Colonial Indian by Rupika Chawla, Pub: Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, March 2010,
Raja Ravi Varma Oleographs Catalogueby Dr. D.Jegat Ishwari, Pub: ShriParasuraman, Chennai, 2010, ISBN 9788191002614
Ravi Varma Classic: 2008, Genesis Art Foundation, Cochin-18;45 clour plate with text by Vijayakumar Menon.
Raja Ravi Varma The Most Celebrated Painter of India: 18481906, Parsram Mangharam, Bangalore, 2007
Raja Ravi Varma The Painter Prince: 18481906, Parsram Mangharam, Bangalore, 2003
Raja Ravi Varma and the Printed Gods of India, Erwin Neumayer & Christine Schelberger, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2003
Raja Ravi Varma: The Most Celebrated Painter of India : 1848 1906, Classic Collection, Vol I & II. Bangalore, Parsram Mangharam, 2005
Raja Ravi Varma: Portrait of an Artist, The Diary of C. Raja Raja Varma/edited by Erwin Neumayer and Christine Schelberger. New Delhi, Oxford University
Press, 2005
Divine Lithography, Enrico Castelli and Giovanni Aprile, New Delhi, Il Tamburo Parlante Documentation Centre and Ethnographic Museum, 2005
Photos of the Gods: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India by Christopher Pinney. London, Reaktion Book, 2004
Raja Ravi Varma:Raja Ravi Varma:E.M Joseph Venniyur,former director of AIR
Raja Ravi Varma: A Novel,Ranjit Desai -Translated by Vikrant Pande, Pub: Harper Perennial (2013), ISBN 9789350296615

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Ravi Varma A critical study by Vijayakumar Menon, Pub: Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademy, Trissur, 2002
Raja Ravi Varmayum chitrkalayum, Kilimanoor Chandran, Department of Cultural Publications, Kerala Government, 1999.
Chithramezhuthu Koyithampuran, P. N. Narayana Pillai.
Raja Ravi Varma, N. Balakrishnan Nair.

"Raja Ravi Varma", a novel by Marathi language novelist Ranjit Desai translated into English by Vikrant Pande.
raja ravi verma national gallery of Art new delhi

See also
Hindu mythology
Indian art
Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts

Notes and references

1. Joshi, Om Prakash (1985). Sociology of Indian art. Rawat Publications. p. 40.
2. K.R.N. Swamy (28 April 2002). "A great painter, no doubt, but controversial too" ( SpectrumThe Tribune.
Retrieved 28 October 2014.
3. "Restoring works of art" ( The Hindu. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
4. Mitter, Partha (1994). "5 The Artist as Charismatic Individual Raja Ravi Varma". Art and nationalism in colonial India, 18501922: occidental orientations
( Cambridge University Press. pp. 179215. ISBN 978-0-521-44354-8. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
5. "The Diary of C. Rajaraja Varma"
6. Kilimanoor Chandran, Ravi Varmayum Chitrakalayum(in Malayalam), Department of Culture, Kerala, 1998.
7. Vadodara, Lakshmi Vilas Palace. "Raja Ravi Varma Paintings, Vadodara" (
8. Raja Ravi Varma Prints - Google Sites
9. "Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature" (
10. PAL, DEEPANJANA (2011). THE PAINTER ( Random House India. ISBN 9788184002614. Retrieved 18 April 2015.

External links
Media related to Raja Ravi Varma at Wikimedia Commons
Raja Ravi Varma Art Gallery (
Single Largest Collection Online (
Ravi Varma's Paintings (

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Largest collection of the Lithographs from the Ravi Varma Press (
A Large Collection from Varma (
The Hindu: The royal artist by K.K. Gopalakrishnan (
1000 Oleographs from Raja Ravi Varma Press shown as Slide show (
Raja Ravi Varma: His Life, Paintings, Presses and Oleographs (
The Tribune article about him (
Retrieved from ""
Categories: 1848 births 1906 deaths Indian painters People from Kerala Malayali people People from Thiruvananthapuram Academic art
Recipients of the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal Travancore Royal Family People on Indian postage stamps
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