Raja Ravi Varma is regarded as one of the best painters in Indian art history. He is well-known for his depictions of episodes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics. Raja Ravi Varma is most known for his paintings of lovely sari-clad women who are depicted as shapely and elegant. He is considered as contemporary among traditionalists and rationalist among moderns. Raja Ravi Varma was born on April 29, 1848 in the royal palace of Kilimanoor, Kerala, India, 25 miles from Thiruvananthapuram. Umamba Thampuratti and Neelakandan Bhattathiripad were his parents. He began drawing on the palace walls with charcoal when he was seven years old. At the age of 18, Varma married 12-year-old Bhageerthi Bayi of the royal house of Mavelikkara.
11 lesser-known facts about Raja Ravi Varma
- The small town of Kilimanoor had to open a post office due to Ravi Varma, as letters and requests for paintings came flooding in for him from various corners of the country!
- During his time, Ramaswamy Naicker of Madurai was the only artist who had knowledge of oil painting techniques. Seeing Raja Ravi Varma as a potential rival, Naicker refused to teach him the technique. It was Arumugham Pillai, Naicker\’s student, who taught Varma the nuances of oil painting, sneaking into the latter’s house at night, much against the wishes of his teacher.
- In 2013, a crater on Mercury was named ‘Varma’ in his honour!
- Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings were the inspiration for India’s largest-selling comic book series, the Amar Chitra Katha comics!
- According to the Guinness World Records, the most expensive sari in the world is an 8 kilograms sari ‘Vivah Patu’ priced at Rs 40 lakh which pays tribute to his paintings. The sari is flanked by 11 paintings by Raja Ravi Varma and designed by the director of Chennai Silks, Sivalingam. Vivah Patu
- He was the first Indian painter whose work was made available to the common masses and was not limited to the aristocracy.
- The largest private collection of Ravi Varma paintings is still with the Baroda royal family.
- In 1870, he was offered his first commission for a painting – a family portrait of Kizakke Palat Krishnan Menon, a sub-judge of the Calicut Court.
- In 2020, Photographer G Venket Ram unveiled his calendar, which turned out to be a nostalgic ode to Raja Ravi Varma, as he photographed 12 different actors according to the 12 paintings of Raja Ravi Varma. Actors photographed like paintings.
- Sugandha Bai the model thought to be the subject of many Raja Ravi Varma paintings is a fictional character.
- ‘Parsi-Lady’ is considered to be the last painting by him, which is an incomplete painting.