Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

Raja Ravi Varma

One of the greatest painters India has ever produced, Raja Ravi Varma's works are noted for the infusion of European techniques with Indian aesthetics.

Varma is credited with taking the art form to masses by making lithographs of his paintings easily available to people. His portrayal of Hindu deities and events in epics and puranas gained immense popularity across the country.
His experimentation of modelling Hindu goddesses on South Indian women was quite quick to conquer the Indian psyche. Even today, Indian imagination of Hindu gods and mythological events are largely based on Varma's portrayals.  

Raja Ravi Varma was born into the Kilimanoor royal family on 29 April, 1848 to Ezhumavil Neelakantan Bhattathiripad, a Sanskrit scholar, and Umayamba Thampuratti, a poet.

He learnt the nuances of painting under the tutelage of some celebrated painters in Madurai. Later he honed his skills under renowned artist Ramaswami Naidu and Dutch painter Theodor Jenson.

Ayilyam Thirunal of Travancore royal family and Edgar Thurston, former superintendent of Madras Government Museum, were two persons who encouraged the young painter.

A turning point in Varma's career was an award he received at an exhibition held in Vienna in 1873. It was followed by three gold medals at World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893.

Varma's famous works include "Damayanti and the Swan Messenger", "Lady Lost in Thought", "Jatayu's battle with Ravana", Victory of Indrajith" and "Maharashtrian Lady".

Varma opened a lithographic press at Ghatkopar, Mumbai in 1894 where oleographs of Hindu gods and goddesses were produced for selling at affordable prices. This press was later shifted to Malavli, Maharashtra.

Varma was bestowed with Kaisar-i- Hind honour by the British Empire in 1904. He died on October 2, 1906. 

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