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Raja Ravi Varma
Born (1848-04-29)29 April 1848
Kilimanoor, Travancore (present day Kerala)
Died 2 October 1906(1906-10-02) (aged 58)
Other names Koili Thampuran of Kilimanoor, Ravi Varma Koil Thampuran
Alma mater University College Thiruvananthapuram
Occupation painter, artist
Notable work
Shakuntala; Nair Lady Adorning Her Hair; There Comes Papa; Galaxy of Musicians
Awards Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal
Raja Ravi Varma signature.png

Raja Ravi Varma (29 April 1848 – 2 October 1906) was a celebrated Indian Malayali painter and artist. He is considered among the greatest painters in the history of Indian art for a number of aesthetic and broader social reasons.

Firstly, his works are held to be among the best examples of the fusion of European techniques with a purely Indian sensibility. While continuing the tradition and aesthetics of Indian art, his paintings employed the latest European academic art techniques of the day.

Secondly, he was notable for making affordable lithographs of his paintings available to the public, which greatly enhanced his reach and influence as a painter and public figure.

Raja Ravi Varma was closely related to the royal family of Travancore of present day Kerala state in India. Later in his life, two of his granddaughters were adopted into that royal family, and their descendants comprise the totality of the present royal family of Travancore, including the latest three Maharajas (Balarama Varma III, Marthanda Varma III and Rama Varma VII).


Raja Ravi Varma 1971 stamp of India
Raja Ravi Varma on a 1971 stamp of India

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 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.

  • on his 65th death anniversary, India post issued a commemorative postal stamp depicting ravi varma and his famous painting 'Damayanti and Swan'

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
  • Shakuntala
  • 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 Dushyanta
  • Girl in Sage Kanwa's Hermitage (Rishi-Kanya)
  • Bharani Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore
  • Sri Shanmukha Subramania Swami
  • Woman holding a fan
  • 3D painting of The Mysore king in a horse[available at the Mysore palace]


In popular culture

  • The Chennai Silks director Sivalingam has designed a saree with 11 paintings of Varma which entered into the Guinness World Records as the most expensive saree in January 2008; it is called a vivaha pattu, and costs around 40 lakhs. It features Varma's "Lady Music" painting. The saree weighs around 8 kg and took almost an year to manufacture for The Chennai Silks.
  • Bollywood filmmaker Ketan Mehta directed a movie Rang Rasiya on the life of Varma which was released 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 the Maharashtra State Board contains a chapter titled 'अपूर्व भेट' meaning 'A Meeting Like Never Before' portraying Varma meeting Swami Vivekananda. It has been edited from the novel 'राजा रविवर्मा (Raja Ravi Varma)' written by Ranjit Desai.

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