kiskiKAHANI (the Ramayana Project)

300 Ramayanas and Counting . . .
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Reprinted Devotion

Posted on by Imran

In the mid-19th century, India was looking for its own unique identity as one nation. Meanwhile, its popular culture was changing under the influence of the West and the western-educated. During this time, Raja Ravi Varma was pioneering Western realism coupled with oil painting themes and techniques in Indian art — the first to deviate so sharply from the prevalent and popular Mysore-Tanjore school of art. Ravi Varma was wooing an audience that was increasingly expecting Westernised representations of body and mass, as opposed to traditional flat-drawn symbolism, while staying thematically close to the Indian middle class. What captured people’s attention was that Ravi Varma’s characters, while essentially Indian in theme and style, could not be assigned to any particular region — their complexion was near-Caucasian, the richness of their attire and surroundings added an air of aristocracy associated with the oil portraits of the rich and powerful… Portraits of gods, goddesses and mythological characters created by Ravi Varma fuelled the Indian middle class’ imagination of the epics and prevalent religious mythology. Even today, when characters from the epics Ramayana or Mahabharata are depicted outside the realm of art, they are based on Ravi Varma’s paintings. In television’s wildly popular series of the epics, the actors were chosen and styled in accordance to what is now the definition of god-like appearance –  Seeta, beautiful, bejewelled, and curvaceous; Rama, a handsome, almost seraphic god; and Hanuman, almost human, performing heroic deeds. … Continue reading

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