Raja Ravi Varma was born on 29th April 1848, in Kilimanoor, a small town of Kerala. Coming from a family of creative personnel comprising of scholars, poets and painters, it was only natural for young Varma to be blessed with artistic ingenuity. While his family abhorred this behaviour of young Varma, it was his uncle, Raja Raja Varma, a Tanjore artist, who realized his true potential and calling. He resolved to tap the creative ingenuity of the young boy to make him a proficient artist. At the age of 14, Ravi Varma moved to Thiruvananthapuram, where he received training in water painting by the palace painter, Rama Swamy Naidu. He received systematic training, first in the traditional art of Thanjavoor and then, in the European art. He is credited with providing the critical link between Thanjavoor School and Western academic realism.
Raja Ravi Varma is known for his amazing paintings, which revolve mainly around the great epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. He was continuously traveling through the length and breadth of India, in order to find subjects for his paintings. His love for the South Indian women is depicted through his works. In many of his paintings, he has modeled Hindu Goddesses on the women living in the southern parts of India. The most popular as well as impressive paintings of Raja Ravi Verma include the ones depicting episodes from the story of Dushyanta and Shakuntala and that of Nala and Damayanti.
He also received international recognition in 1873, when he won the first prize for his paintings at the Vienna Art Exhibition. Raja Ravi Verma’s paintings of beautiful sari clad women have also received recognition in the west. In recognition of the immense contribution of Raja Ravi Varma towards Indian art, the Government of Kerala has instituted an award in his name. Known as the ‘Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram’, the award is given to individuals who show considerable promise in the field of art and culture. In 2013, a crater on Mercury was named in the honor of this greater Indian painter.