Lookback: Raja Ravi Verma, India’s Finest Painter



Raja Ravi Varma 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.

Born on April 29, 1848, in Kilimanoor, a small hamlet in the southern state of Kerala, Ravi Varma belonged to a family of scholars, poets and artists. Even as a small boy, he filled the walls of his home with pictures of animals, acts and scenes from his daily life. His uncle, Raja Raja Varma, himself a Tanjore artist, not only gave the first drawing lessons to Ravi Varma, but also took a keen interest in his further training and education with the help of the ruling king, Ayilyam Thirunal. At age 14, Ravi Varma was sent to Thiruvananthapuram and was taught water painting by the palace painter Rama Swamy Naidu.

He was the first artist to cast the Indian Gods and mythological characters in natural earthy surroundings using a European realism. 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 became an important motif in 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 (April 29, 1848 – October 2, 1906) . He is considered among the greatest painters in the history of Indian art.

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)

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