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He was born in Malayalam family of princely state of Travancore on 29th April 1848. He was an Indian painter who achieved recognition for his depiction of scenes from the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. His paintings are considered to be among the best examples of the fusion of Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art.
Varma is most remembered for his paintings of beautiful sari-clad women, who were portrayed as shapely and graceful. His exposure in the west came when he won the first prize in the Vienna Art Exhibition in 1873. He is considered among the greatest painters in the history of Indian art.
He often modeled Hindu Goddesses on South Indian women, whom he considered beautiful. Ravi Varma is particularly noted for his paintings depicting stories of Dushyanta - Shakuntala, and Nala - Damayanti.