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May 18, 2024

Image from Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Unseen works by Raja Ravi Varma in ‘Daughter of Providence’ exhibition

The Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation proudly presents ‘Daughter of Providence,’ an extraordinary exhibition unveiling a hidden gem from the Travancore royal collection—a captivating painting by Raja Ravi Varma himself. This masterpiece celebrates the remarkable life and contributions of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (1895-1985), the last ruling queen of Travancore and a renowned figure in twentieth-century India.

Marking the 176th birth anniversary of the legendary artist Raja Ravi Varma, falling on April 29th, the exhibition offers a unique insight into the life and times of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, Ravi Varma’s eldest granddaughter.

Image from Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Located at the Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation, Bangalore, the exhibition will run from April 29th to May 30th, inviting visitors to delve into the captivating narrative of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi’s life. Curated by the Foundation in collaboration with historian Dr. Manu S. Pillai, acclaimed author of “The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore,” the showcase features a mesmerizing original oil painting of the Maharani at three years old, a heartfelt gift from her grandfather.

Accompanying this centerpiece are a series of visually captivating chapters narrating the Maharani’s life through a collection of photographs. Additionally, visitors will have the opportunity to admire an exquisite oil painting by Bharani Thirunal Rukmini Bayi Thampuran, the Maharani’s first granddaughter and Chairperson of the Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation.

Gitanjali Maini, Managing Trustee & CEO of the Foundation, underscores the importance of shedding light on unseen works by Raja Ravi Varma, emphasizing the Foundation’s commitment to preserving and sharing his legacy. She expresses profound gratitude for the opportunity to showcase this remarkable painting, reflecting on Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi’s enduring impact on the history of Travancore and India.

Image from Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

The exhibition not only honors the artistic legacy of Raja Ravi Varma but also pays homage to Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi’s transformative reign and her subsequent years in Bengaluru. Through such exhibitions, the Foundation aims to raise awareness of its efforts in documenting and preserving Ravi Varma’s works while encouraging collaboration with collectors and institutions worldwide.

Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi’s remarkable story unfolds against the backdrop of twentieth-century India, where she emerged as an icon admired by figures ranging from Mahatma Gandhi to Lord Mountbatten. Her progressive policies and unwavering commitment to social justice and economic prosperity left an indelible mark on Travancore’s history. Despite her immense power and influence, she remained humble and adaptable, gracefully embracing change with the advent of democracy.

Transitioning from royalty to an ordinary citizen in Bangalore, Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi’s life was marked by intrigue and drama, intersecting with luminaries from Rabindranath Tagore to Edda Mussolini. Her legacy, rich and multifaceted, is a testament to the resilience and dynamism of Indian history, celebrated in this poignant exhibition.

Image from Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

A special talk by Dr. Manu S. Pillai on Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi’s legacy is scheduled for April 27th, offering further insights into her remarkable life and contributions.

The Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation, established in 2015 by Bharani Thirunal Rukmini Bayi Thampuran, endeavors to preserve and promote the artistic legacy of Raja Ravi Varma. Through research, documentation, and education, the Foundation aims to ensure that Ravi Varma’s unparalleled contributions to Indian art endure for generations to come, collaborating with museums, collectors, and institutions worldwide.

Zara Flavia Dmello

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