Raja Ravi Varma, the Painter who United Hindu Mythology with European Art

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Raja Ravi Varma, the Painter who United Hindu Mythology with European Arts

‘The stroke of every brush gives out a different story about the canvas, as well as the painter.’ Every line that is drawn is not only celebrated, but it helps the audience to see the realms of reality in a unique and creative way. Let’s know about one such renowned painter, Raja Ravi Varma and his famous artworks and paintings through this blog.

About Raja Ravi Varma 

Raja Ravi Varma was born on 29 April 1848 and was an Indian painter and artist. He is considered to be one of the greatest painters in the history of Indian art. His works showcase the best examples of the fusion of European art in an Indian style. 

He was also known for making the lithographs of his paintings affordable and available to the public. It helped him to achieve his influence as a painter and a public figure. His lithographs helped the involvement of common people with fine arts and defined artistic tastes. His religious depictions of Hindu deities and works from Indian epic poetry and Puranas have received profound acclaim. 

Indian Painter Raja Ravi Varma | DailyArt Magazine
Courtesy: DailyArt Magazine

Did You Know? Most information about the life of Raja Ravi is through ‘The Diary of C. Raja Raja Varma’, which was written by his brother. He was also Varma’s assistant and business manager.

His Life Journey

Raja Ravi Varma was part of the royal family of the erstwhile Parappanad, Malappuram district. He was born to M. R. Ry. Ravi Varma, Koil Thampuran of Kilimanoor at Kilimanoor palace in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, present-day Kerala. The title Raja was conferred as a personal title by the Viceroy and Governor-General of India. In 1866, at the age of 18, Varma was married to 12-year-old Bhageerthi Bayi of the royal house of Mavelikara.  

Varma was patronized by Ayilyam Thirunal, the next Maharaja of Travancore, and began formal training thereafter. He learned the basics of painting in Madurai. Later, he was trained in water painting and in oil painting as well.

He even traveled throughout India in search of subjects. He often modeled Hindu Goddesses on Indian women and particularly noted for his paintings depicting episodes from the story of Dushyanta and Shakuntala, and Nala and Damayanti, from the Mahabharata. His representation of mythological characters has become a part of the Indian imagination of the epics. 

“The importance of recovering the customs and the institutions of the past thus inaugurating the archaeological approach to art.

Raja Ravi Varma

The making of Raja Ravi Varma - The Hindu BusinessLine
Courtesy: Business Line

Famous Raja Ravi Varma Paintings

  • The very first on our list of best Raja Ravi Varma paintings is Sri Krishna as Envoy. It was painted by him in 1905 and is an oil painting on canvas. It depicts Sri Krishna in his role as an Envoy of Pandavas in front of the Kaurava Court. This painting can be viewed at Sri JayachamaRajendra Art Gallery, Jaganmohan Palace, Mysore, Karnataka.
File:Krishna as Envoy.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
  • Pleasing is another on our list of best Raja Ravi Varma paintings. In this painting, the artist depicted Draupadi, bewailing her lot to carry milk and honey to the court of Keechaka. This painting can be seen at Sri JayachamaRajendra Art Gallery, Jaganmohan Palace, Mysore, Karnataka.
9 Draupadi ideas | painting, art, hindu mythology
Courtesy: Pinterest
  • Expectation is another painting by Raja Ravi Varma. In this Raja Ravi Varma painting, the artist showed a portrait of a person whose identity is still unknown. This painting can be viewed at Kowdiar Palace, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
File:Raja Ravi Varma, Expectation.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
  • The Milkmaid is a famous Raja Ravi Varma painting and was made in 1904. This painting depicts a village girl who is carrying milk to her home. This painting can be seen at the Sri Chitra Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
64 Arts Milkmaid Fabric Unframed Canvas Prints Raja Ravi Varma Paintings  (24X16inches) : Amazon.in: Home & Kitchen
Courtesy: Amazon.in
  • Woman Holding a Fruit is a famous Raja Ravi Varma painting. This painting portrays an unknown lady shown, holding a fruit. This painting can be viewed at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.
Woman holding a fruit - 24x30 inches oils on canvas, This is a painting by  me, recreating a famous painting by Raja Ravi Varma. have provided  references to his original work in
Courtesy: Reddit
  • Lady in the Moon Light is another one of the finest paintings by Raja Ravi Varma which he made in 1889. This is another classic painting that has extraordinary light effects. This painting can be viewed at Sri JayachamaRajendra Art Gallery, Jaganmohan Palace, Mysore, Karnataka.
Lady in Moonlight - Raja Ravi Varma Reprint
Courtesy: Dolls of India

Did You Know? Raja Ravi Varma was specially commissioned by the Maharaja of Vadodara to create portraits of the royal family and paintings based on Hindu mythology. A large collection of these is still displayed at the Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara.

Honors and Recognition 

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 honor at Mavelikara, Kerala. Raja Ravi Varma High 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. 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.

Varma received widespread acclaim after he won an award for an exhibition of his paintings in 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. On his 65th death anniversary, India Post issued a commemorative postal stamp depicting Ravi Varma and his famous painting ‘Damayanti and Swan’.

“Who knows if these very pictures, now painted for maharajas, will not find their way to the museums one day.”

Raja Ravi Varma

That is all the information you need about Raja Ravi Varma and his brilliance and contribution to Indian art and culture. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section down below! For more such educational reads, stay tuned to Leverage Edu. For the latest updates around study blogs, you can follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & also subscribe to our newsletter.

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