The name Raja Ravi Varma is synonymous with modern Indian art. Although there are many artists who took Indian art one-step ahead, none could connect with the common people as Raja Ravi Varma did.
People often talk about ‘Hamsa Damayanthi’ and ‘Maharashtrian Lady’ as his important creations. But, there are many other exquisite works by Ravi Varma which are seldom spoken about. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Portrait Of A Man
You would hardly find any Raja Ravi Varma painting with no women in it, except for some paintings depicting mythological stories and scenes. The Ravi Varma painting here, however, has no women in it. The painting is a portrait of a man sitting on a chair and the level of detail given to the painting is just exceptional.
This painting depicts the scene of Bhishma pratigya (Oath) from Hindu mythology.
Devavrata, the young Bhishma, was the son of King Santanu and Ganga. At a later stage in the story, Santanu becomes attracted to a fisherwoman, Satyavati. But, her father would agree only on the ground of Satyavati’s child being the next King. Santanu couldn’t make this promise, but when Bhishma found this out, he went to Satyavati’s house and took vow of lifelong celibacy. The strong vow Bhishma took is known as ‘Bhishma Pratigya’ and this is topic for this Ravi Varma painting. The determination of Bhishma at the time of vow is painted to its absolute best.
Dattatreya is a character from the Hindu mythology who is considered as an ‘avatar’ of Lord Shiva. He is described in the mythologies with 6 hands, each holding a different item. In this painting Dattatreya is being surrounded by animals and is standing on the banks of a beautiful river.
Dhruv is a character from the Hindu mythology who made Lord Vishnu appear before him through long and hard Tapasya. But, when Dhruv saw the Lord Vishnu standing in front of him, he couldn’t speak a word. Then, Vishnu touched on his cheeks and this made Dhruv to sing one beautiful poem about Lord Vishnu. The painting by Ravi Varma is equally beautiful as the poem by Dhruv.
There is a concept of Ashtasiddi in Hinduism and this concept is also described as part of Yoga. It explains, there are eight ‘Siddhi’ that one needs to attain for avoiding ignorance from their life. Two Hindu Gods, Ganesh and Hanuman posses the Ashtasiddhi. In this painting, Ravi Varma illustrates Ganesh with eight women who represent each ‘Siddhi’.
Raja Harishchandra and Taramati
The story of Raja Harishchand might be well-known to you. Raja Harishchand and the way he along with his wife Taramati and son Roidas survive the test of faith tell us a lot about life. The painting by Ravi Varma is based on this story and here, Taramati is crying for her dead son while Harishchand is watching in despair. He has used dark colors and a dark setting to amplify the pain in the story.
Raja Harishchandra in Despair
This is yet another painting that depicts the story of Raja Harishchand. His wife, Taramati, is crying in pain watching her son being taken away to work for another man. The pain of Raja Harishchand, watching this, is evident on his face and people gathered around are also watching the drama.
The great ruler of 16th century, Maharana Pratap, is still a hero among us. He stood his ground against the Mughal invasion during that time and fought like a Rajput. After losing some part of his Kingdom to the Mughal army, he managed to regain most of them through a series of battles. You can see everything from pride, honor, determination, etc to the strong built of Maharana Pratap in this beautiful painting.
T. Madhava Rao
This is a painting by Raja Ravi Varma and the character in the painting is T. Madhava Rao. Madhava Rao was the Diwan of Travancore form 1857 to 1872. He is known for the reforms and development he brought about in the fields of education, public works, public health etc. This painting gives him fitting respect for being an able administrator.
Rama Breaking Bow
The subject of this painting is from Sita Swayamvar, where Sri Rama breaks the bow into to pieces while trying to string the bow. The bow called Pinaka, is the bow of Lord Shiva. Stringing the bow is considered impossible and then, Sri Rama walks in and break it into two! Even the King Janaka and others gathered there are stunned by this view and Ravi Varma has painted this to perfection.
That’s it. These are some of the lesser known, but of high artistic value paintings from Raja Ravi Varma. Now a quick question for you. Do you know any other lesser-known Ravi Varma painting? Did you knew these paintings? Share your thoughts with us via comments.