Raja Ravi Varma
|Raja Ravi Varma|
|Born||April 29, 1848
Kilimanoor, Trivandrum, Travancore
|Died||October 2, 1906 (aged 58)
Kilimanoor, Trivandrum, Travancore, British Raj
Raja Ravi Varma (Malayalam: രാജാ രവി വര്മ്മ) (April 29, 1848 – October 2, 1906) was an Indian artist from the princely state of Travancore (presently in Kerala) who achieved recognition for his depiction of scenes from the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. His paintings are considered to be among the best examples of the fusion of Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art.
Varma is most remembered for his paintings of sari-clad women portrayed as shapely and graceful. Varma's paintings became an important motif of the time, reproductions being found in almost every middle-class home. His exposure in the west came when he won the first prize in the Vienna Art Exhibition in 1873. Raja Ravi Varma died in 1906 at the age of 58. He is considered among the greatest painters in the history of Indian art.
Early life 
Raja Ravi Varma was born as Ravi Varma Koil Thampuran of Kilimanoor palace, in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore (Thiruvithankur) in Kerala. His father Ezhumavail Neelakanthan Bhattatiripad was an accomplished scholar, and his mother Umayamba Thampuratti (died 1886) was a poet and writer whose work Parvati Swayamvaram was published by Raja Ravi Varma after her death. His siblings were C. Goda Varma (born 1854), C. Raja Raja Varma (born 1860) and Mangala Bayi Thampuratti, who was also a painter.
At a young age he secured the patronage of HH Maharajah Ayilyam Thirunal of Travancore (a relative) and began formal training thereafter. He was trained in water painting by Rama Swami Naidu and later in oil painting by Dutch portraitist Theodor Jenson.
Raja Ravi Varma High School at Kilimanoor was named after him. There are many cultural organizations throughout Kerala in his name. His palace is nearly 6 kilometers from Ponganadu, 7.7 kilometers from Pazhayachanda and 36 km from Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala.
Art career 
Raja Ravi Varma received widespread acclaim after he won an award for an exhibition of his paintings at Vienna in 1873. Raja Ravi Varma's paintings were also sent to the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 and he was awarded two gold medals. He travelled throughout India in search of subjects. He often modeled 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 of the epics. He is often criticized for being too showy and sentimental in his style. However his work remains very popular in India. His many fabulous paintings are available at Laxmi Vilas Palace of Vadodara.
In 1904, Viceroy Lord Curzon, on behalf of the King Emperor, bestowed upon Raja Ravi Varma the Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal. At this time his name was mentioned as "Raja Ravi Varma" for the first time, raising objections from Maharaja Moolam Thirunal of Travancore and besides, as per the Marumakkathayam tradition, the name of the maternal uncle (Raja Raja Varma) was prefixed to the name. Thereafter he was always referred to as Raja Ravi Varma.
In 1993, art critic Rupika Chawla and artist A. Ramachandran jointly curated a large exhibition of Raja Ravi Varma's works at the National Museum, New Delhi. 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. Awardees include:
- K.G. Subramanyan (2001)
- M.V. Devan (2002)
- A. Ramachandran (2003)
- Vasudevan Namboodiri (2004).
- Kanayi Kunhiraman (2005)
- V. S. Valiathan (2006)
The renewed interest in Raja Ravi Varma has spilled into the area of popular culture as films and music videos have started using his images.
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. There are many cultural organizations throughout Kerala in his name.
Personal life 
Raja Ravi Varma was married to Pururuttathi Nal Bhageerathi Amma Thampuran (Kochu Pangi) of the Royal House of Mavelikara 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 was Rama Varma (born 1879), an artist who studied at the JJ School of Arts, Mumbai, married to Srimathi Gowri Kunjamma, sister of Dewan PGN Unnithan.
Raja Ravi Varma's eldest daughter, Ayilyam Nal Mahaprabha Thampuran, appears in two of his prominent paintings and was mother of Maharani Pooradam thirunal Sethu Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore. He had another daughter, Thiruvadira Nal Kochukunji Thampuran, grandmother of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma Maharajah. His third daughter, born in 1882, was Ayilyam Nal Cheria Kochamma Thampuran.
His descendants comprise the Mavelikara Royal house while two of his granddaughters, including the said Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, were adopted to the Travancore Royal Family, the cousin family of the Mavelikara House, to which lineage the present Travancore Maharaja Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma belongs. Well known among his descendants are writer Shreekumar Varma (Prince Punardam Thirunal), artists Rukmini Varma (Princess Bharani Thirunal) and Jay Varma, classical musician Aswathi Thirunal Rama Varma and 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
- A Family of Beggars
- A Lady Playing Swarbat
- Lady Giving Alms at the Temple
- Lord Rama Conquers Varuna
- Nair Woman
- Romancing Couple
- Draupadi Dreading to Meet Kichaka
- Shantanu and Matsyagandha
- Shakuntala Composing a Love Letter to King Dushyanta
- Girl in Sage Kanwa's Hermitage (Rishi-Kanya)
Popular culture 
- Bollywood film maker Ketan Mehta Directed a Movie Rang Rasiya on the life of Raja Ravi Varma in 2008 in which actor 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 Raja Ravi Varma's life at a certain stage in his life. Indian director/cinematographer Santhosh Sivan played the lead role as Raja Ravi Varma.
- Raja Ravi Varma: Painter of Colonial Indian by Rupika Chawla, Pub: Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, March 2010, ISBN 978-0-944142-41-7
- Raja Ravi Varma - Oleographs Catalogue by Dr. D.Jegat Ishwari, Pub: ShriParasuraman, Chennai, 2010, Isbn:9788191002614
- Ravi Varma Classic -2008, Pub: Genesis Art Foundation, Cochin-18;45 clour plate with text by Vijayakumar Menon.
- Raja Ravi Varma - The Most Celebrated Painter of India: 1848-1906, Parsram Mangharam, Bangalore, 2007
- Raja Ravi Varma - The Painter Prince: 1848-1906, 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 978-350296615.
- Ravi Varma - A critical study by Vijayakumar Menon, Pub: Kerala Laitha 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.
See also 
- Hindu mythology
- Indian art
- Rang Rasiya (Hindi film)
- Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University
Notes and references 
- Joshi, Om Prakash (1985). Sociology of Indian art. Rawat Publications. p. 40.
- Mitter, Partha (1994). "5 - The Artist as Charismatic Individual - Raja Ravi Varma". Art and nationalism in colonial India, 1850-1922: occidental orientations. Cambridge University Press. pp. 179–215. ISBN 978-0-521-44354-8. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- "The Diary of C. Rajaraja Varma"
- Kilimanoor Chandran, Ravi Varmayum Chitrakalayum(in Malayalam), Department of Culture, Kerala, 1998
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Raja Ravi Varma|
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- The Hindu: The royal artist by K.K. Gopalakrishnan
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