Biography of Raja Ravi Varma

Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) was a renowned Indian painter and artist who achieved fame for his depiction of scenes from Indian mythology and portraits of Indian royalty during the British colonial era. He is considered one of the most important painters in the history of Indian art.
Biography of Raja Ravi Varma
Biography of Raja Ravi Varma

Early Life and Education:

Raja Ravi Varma was born on April 29, 1848, in Kilimanoor, a small town in the princely state of Travancore (present-day Kerala). He was born into an aristocratic family, and his talent for art was evident from a young age. He received his initial training in painting from his uncle, Raja Raja Varma, a court artist of Travancore.

Influence of Western Art:

During his time, Western academic art had a significant influence on Indian artists. Ravi Varma studied European art techniques and was particularly inspired by the works of European painters like Raphael, Rembrandt, and Titian. He combined these techniques with his deep understanding of Indian aesthetics and traditions.

Ravi Varma Contribution to Indian Art:

Ravi Varma’s major contribution to Indian art was the fusion of Indian traditions with European academic art. He was one of the first Indian artists to use oil paints and canvas, a departure from the traditional mediums of frescoes and watercolors. His paintings often depicted Hindu gods and goddesses, mythological themes, and scenes from epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Popularization of Indian Deities:

Ravi Varma’s paintings played a significant role in popularizing Indian deities among the masses. His realistic and aesthetically pleasing portrayals made the deities more accessible to the common people, who could now visualize and connect with the divine in a tangible way.

Portraits of Royalty:

Apart from mythological themes, Ravi Varma was also known for his portraits of Indian royalty and aristocracy. He skillfully portrayed the grandeur and elegance of Indian kings, queens, and noblewomen, capturing their regal essence.

Interesting fact about Raja Ravi Varma

A historical artwork created by him in October 2007, which depicts a high official of the British Raj and the meeting of the Maharaja during the British Raj in India, has sold for 1.24 million dollars (about 6 million). In this painting, the Maharaja and his brother of Travancore were shown welcoming the Governor General of Madras, Richard Temple Granville. Grenville visited Travancore on an official visit in 1880, which is now in the state of Kerala. The world’s most expensive sari is equipped with imitation of Raja Ravi Verma.


Raja Ravi Varma’s work had a profound impact on Indian art, laying the foundation for modern Indian painting. His influence can be seen in the subsequent generations of Indian artists. His paintings continue to be highly regarded, and many of them are housed in museums and private collections around the world.
Raja Ravi Varma passed away on October 2, 1906, leaving behind a rich artistic legacy that continues to inspire and captivate art enthusiasts and scholars alike.