It is well known that man is made in the Image of God. And this 18th-century artist gave the ideals of god a form to ponder. He’s none other than, Raja Ravi Varma. Being born in the Travancore royal family, he learned all sorts of painting styles, from watercolor to oil. From Indian to European. When we look at his paintings, we clearly see a revolution as well as a blend of eastern and western cultures. Let’s see how…

God is not a singular entity but is all, says Advaita. When we see the European or Greek Mythologies, there are gods of various fields. i.e. God of Knowledge, God of Prosperity, and God of Weather and so on. They all have humanoid depictions. And similarly, we do have depictions, not of elemental sources, but of real people like Lord Ram, Lord Krishna, Sanath Kumara and Buddha etc. What Raja Ravi Varma did is that he gave a portrayal to subtle aspects of divinity, as he painted Goddess Saraswathi and Lord Ganesh. These two deities are more of ideals than mere singular personas, yet the artist tried to personify those qualities in a human form so that one can idealize them rather than idolizing them.

Raja Ravi Varma also did another controversial, yet a revolutionizing experiment that he used the same person to model for many of his paintings, be they conceptual or the divine, only to convey the truest expression of God, is through a human embodiment. When we observe the European style of paintings, we often encounter boldness and the art of revealing subtle aspects to the beholder. In the contrary, Raja Ravi Varma took a middle path that he took the aspect of revealing, but also introduced the art of concealing, deliberately used them at once, according to the cultural preferences that simultaneously criticized his paintings for boldness as well as applauded it for its sensibility. However, whenever you take a reference of how the ancient beings would look, Raja Ravi Varma made a subtle yet great imprint in the subconscious of every Indian.

-Viswanath Venkat Dasari