Raja Ravi Varma and Ravi Varma Press Malavli LonavalaCirca 1930

The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation

The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation
Bengaluru, India

SARASWATI: Saraswati is the goddess of learning and the 43rd chapter of the Brahma Purana describes her birth from the sublime or sattvic face of Bramha. Saraswati thereafter asked Bramha who she was and what were to be her duties. Brahma declared that she would be called Saraswati and was given three duties. Firstly, she was to reside at the tip of the tongue and was directed to dance on the tongue of learned people. She was also directed to reside on earth as a river and in the third form reside with Brahma.

This print from the Ravi Varma Press derived from a painting by Raja Ravi Varma follows the iconographic description of Saraswati as found in the 50th chapter of the Agni Purana. She is described in the Agni Purana as being attired in white and playing the Veena with two arms and holding an aksha-mala (a string of pearls) and a pustaka (book) in the other hands.

Early religious texts do not mention a vehicle or vahan for Saraswati. However, later texts provide for a swan or peacock. There are three prints of Saraswati by the Ravi Varma Press derived from paintings by Raja Ravi Varma. This is the most common and popular image of Saraswati.


  • Title: Saraswati
  • Creator: Raja Ravi Varma, Ravi Varma Press Malavli Lonavala
  • Date Created: Circa 1930
  • Physical Dimensions: 70 x 50 cms
  • Provenance: The Hemamalini and Ganesh Shivaswamy collection, Bengaluru
  • Subject Keywords: Raja Ravi Varma, Hinduism, Saraswati, Gigapixel
  • Type: Chromolithograph
  • Rights: The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation, Bengaluru
  • Creator's Biography: Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) was a prolific Indian artist who is recognized for his resorting to the academic realistic style of painting. His portraits of English and Indian royalty and aristocracy were well received. His paintings on Hindu religious and mythological subjects and paintings from classical and literary sources were highly sought after even during his lifetime. He painted several copies of his works and this demand led to the suggestion to have his paintings printed in the form of oleographs. The Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press was established in Bombay (now Mumbai) and commenced operations in 1894. Many of Ravi Varma's paintings were printed as chromolithographs at this Press. These chromolithographs would have a tremendous impact on religion, society and aesthetics. They went on to democratize art leading to immortalize Ravi Varma in the minds of the people of the Indian subcontinent.

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