Shaping Indian Aesthetics Through Lithography

Enchanting and enigmatic stories of mythology, legends and folk lore from the different  Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithogaphic presses that were established in Girgaum, Ghatkopar, Malavli and Lonavla, upto 1900.

Mahananda (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

A beautiful Malayalee lady lost in the ethos of her music.

Mahananda (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

In traditional attire, with intricate detailing of her hairdo, her melancholic appeal adds to the allure.

The blankets as well as the spittoon near her feet indicates a lady belonging to a noble family.

Shivaji (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Shivaji, the warrior King of the Marathas.

Seen here is the king on one of his many, victorious conquests.

Revered and worshipped for his fearlessness and equally for his rightfulness, Shivaji is a hero to many.

Chhatrapati Shivaji's exploits on the battle field are legendary, yet he was known as a king with a generous heart.

Yashoda Krishna (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The enduring tales of Krishna as a child and the overwhelming mother's love of Yashoda forms the basis of this work.

Yashoda is forever lost in the enchanting beauty of her son.

Even Yashoda's companion is entranced by the young Krishna. The artist's eye for detail is stunning as he introduces a fruit in Krishna's hand.

Ravan and Sita (1899) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The Asura King Ravan hatches a plot to abduct Sita.

Disguising himself as a hermit, Ravan comes to the ashram seeking alms.

Notice the kamandalam (a small water pot preferred by sages) on Ravan's side.

Sita, however, is wary of stepping outside but can not stop herself from giving alms to a needy 'sage'.

Markandeya (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

On the day he turns 16, Markandeya is deep in meditation, his arms around the Shivalingam.

In trots Yama, the God of death on his steed with a noose in hand.

Seeing his devotee in trouble angers Shiva and he appears out of the lingam with his third eye burning with anger.

Shiva battles with Yama - the latter realises his folly and bows to the lord. He then blesses Markandeya with a youthful life forever.

Menaka Shakuntala (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Shakuntala is cursed by Sage Durvasa that the person she loves would forget her.

She is heart-broken when King Dushyant, who had married her earlier, fails to recognise her. Deeply hurt by the turn of events, Shakuntala takes refuge in her mother Menaka's arms.

She is then spirited away to the heavens.

Maharaja and Maharani of Mysore (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The Royalty of Mysore.

Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar and Maharani Pratapa Kumari Ammani of Kathiawar are depicted in all their resplendent glory.

The wedding finery is captured in stunning effect as it reveals the artist's eye for detail.

Notice the drapery of the Maharani's sari, the stunning folds give it a life-like feel.

Radha Krishna (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

The quintessential lovers' tiff.

A seemingly upset Radha is advised to patch up with Krishna by her sakhi (companion).

Radha steadfastly holds her ground not willing to look Krishna's way.

Krishna with a hint of a smile gets ready to play the flute to sway her all over again.

Shantanu and Matsyagandha (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

A besotted King Shantanu wants to marry Satyavati or Matsyagandha.

She puts forward a stringent condition - that the sons born to them would rule the kingdom and not Devavrata, the rightful heir to the throne.

Dasharatha Kaikeyi Vilap (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

By all accounts, the beginning of Lord Ram's exile.

Dasharatha's favourite Queen Kaikeyi, indoctrinated with evil thoughts by the hunch-backed Manthara, forces him to acceded to her demands.

Dhritharashtra tries his best to pacify Kaikeyi but she is stubborn.

She forces the King to give in to her demands of sending Lord Rama to the forest and paving the way for her son Bharatha to be crowned king.

Sita Swayamvar (1880) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Sita Swayamvar, a stunning depiction of several characters.

Rama lifts the mighty bow, strings it, and breaks it - to the amazement of the audience.

King Janaka is happy and relieved even as Sita (notice how young she is portrayed) clings to her father with child-like innocence.

Maharishi Vishwamitra knows his work is complete, having taught Rama and Lakshmana the secrets of archery as well as sealing Sita's marriage with Rama.

Dhruv Narayan (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Dhruva is the story of a boy determined to undergo stringent penance at a very young age to seek the blessings of Lord Vishnu.

Rebuked by his step-mother, Dhruva sits in deep meditation until Vishnu or Narayan appears before him.

Pleased with his devotion, the lord grants him any boon but Dhruva seeks a simple wish - that he will always remember the Lord.

Gangavataran (The Descent of Ganga) (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Lord Shiva in all his glory.

With Bhagiratha being granted a boon to absolve his ancestors of their sins, Ganga comes rushing down unmindful of her powerful deluge.

That’s when Shiva lets lets his hair loose and stops the flow of Ganga to save the world from disaster.

Baghiratha (with folded hands), Parvati and Nandi the bull look towards the lord as he stands majestically.

Radha (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

If it's Radha, it must be part of the Krishna series.

This work, however, follows the theme of the Nala-Damayanti series where the main protagonist is in deep reverie.

Radha is lost in her thoughts of her beloved -- Krishna -- even as her companion (sakhi) looks very concerned at the situation.

Krishna Shishtai or Krishna as an Envoy (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Lord Krishna comes to Duryodhana's court as a mediator to stop a potential war, at Yudhishtira's urging.

The hostile Kauravas don't listen to reason and attempt to take Lord Krishna captive. An infuriated Satyaki, an ardent devotee of the Lord, whips out his sword in Krishna's defence.

The Lord immediately puts out his hand and stops Satyaki and proceeds to reveal his Viswaroopam to everyone in the court.

Hamsa Damayanti Samvad (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Damayanti and Nala are drawn towards each other despite being miles away, courtesy the swan which doubles up as their messenger.

It extols Nala's virtues to Damayanti and vice-versa paints a beautiful depiction of her to Nala.

Damayanti waits with bated breath as the swan swoops in to give her the latest on her beloved.

Keechaka and Sairendri (1890) by Ravi Varma PressOriginal Source: From the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Keechaka, brother-in-law of King Virata, is blinded by lust for Draupadi (disguised as Sairendri).

Keechaka attempts to force himself on Sairendri, who is the lady-in-waiting to Queen Sudeshna.

When Sairendri rebuffs his advances, Keechaka attempts to possess her physically; the scattered fruits and spilt milk representative of the chaotic scene.

Credits: Story

Reproductions: from the collection of the Sandeep & Gitanjali Maini Foundation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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