After touring the art gallery, Chief Minister Pinarayi paid heartfelt tributes to the renowned painter.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the state-of-the-art Raja Ravi Varma Art Gallery, spanning 12,000 sqft and located adjacent to the Sree Chithra Art Gallery within the Museum and Zoo campus in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday, history was made, albeit coincidentally. It was 88 years ago, on September 25, 1935, that Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the last ruler of the Indian princely state of Travancore, inaugurated the Sree Chithra Art Gallery.
After touring the art gallery, Chief Minister Pinarayi paid heartfelt tributes to the renowned painter. He expressed optimism that the country’s vibrant art scene would receive a significant boost with the launch of the impressive art gallery in memory of Raja Ravi Varma.
“Dadasaheb Phalke, known as the ‘Father of Indian cinema’, served as Ravi Varma’s assistant. During a plague outbreak, Ravi Varma had to sell his lithographic printing press in Lonavala, Maharashtra. He gave one-third of the sale proceeds to Phalke, who went on to create ‘Raja Harishchandra,’ the first Indian film. So, Ravi Varma also played a crucial role in the making of ‘Raja Harishchandra,’” noted Pinarayi.
The magnificent Ravi Varma Art Gallery, constructed at a cost of Rs 7.90 crore, was executed by the Kerala Museum, which served as the nodal agency for its construction. Dr V Venu, chief secretary, was the driving force behind this initiative. During his tenure as the director-general of the National Museum in New Delhi, he aspired to ensure that justice was done to one of the country’s most illustrious painters by displaying all his paintings together in their true significance. “There are nine national treasures, one of which is Raja Ravi Varma. His paintings adorn the walls of Mysore and Baroda Palaces.
However, we possess the largest collection of his paintings at the Raja Ravi Varma Art Gallery. With the launch of the art gallery, our work is just beginning, as a significant initiative in art appreciation is set to commence here,”Venu said. The new Raja Ravi Varma Art Gallery has been established behind the existing art gallery, which once served as the official quarters for the Museum and Zoo director, Dr Jeevanayakam, during the 1880s. The art gallery features an impressive display of 134 paintings by Ravi Varma alone, including 46 paintings, 14 oleographs, and 16 pencil sketches. Additionally, 41 paintings by his brother C Raja Raja Varma and two paintings by his sister Mangala Bai Thampuratti are also on display.
P S Manjula Devi, superintendent of the Sree Chithra Art Gallery and Raja Ravi Varma Art Gallery, expressed her delight at the completion of the project in under three years since the chief minister laid the foundation stone in October 2020. S Abu, the Director of the Museum and Zoo in Thiruvananthapuram, revealed that establishing a museum dedicated exclusively to Ravi Varma had been a dream for four decades. “The museum will also exhibit the certificates that Ravi Varma received from Chicago and Vienna in 1893 for his works sent from Kilimanoor Palace. A lab for conserving the paintings, equipped with facilities similar to those found in international museums, is already operational,” said Abu.
A security lapse occurred during the programme where Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the Raja Ravi Varma Art Gallery. After the CM had left the stage and was on his way to his car, an individual rushed towards the stage. The Museum Police said a 56-year-old man named Ayub Khan of Pappanamcode tried to embrace Museum Minister Ahammed Devarkovil. The police swiftly intervened, escorting him off the stage in the presence of a visibly concerned Devarkovil and Zoo Minister J Chinchurani. The man informed the police that he wanted to convey his congratulations to the CM and the minister. After questioning, the Museum Police determined that the individual had an abnormal condition and subsequently released him.