Portrait of Parumala thirumeni

Parumala thirumei’s portrait by Raja Ravi Varma,
kept inside the Attamangalam St. John’s Jacobite Syrian Church

One of the precious assets of this church is the famous portrait of St. Grergorios Geevarghese Chathuruthil (Parumala Thirumeni) sketched by one of the most celebrative painters of India, Raja Ravi Varma of Travancore Royal family. The painting which is more than a century old, was drawn on the request of a parishioner named Dr. M I Philip Appothikiri of Elayiduthusseri. Later he presented the portrait to the church and is since then kept on the northern wall in the hykla of the church.
Some years back the British museum authorities have expressed their willingness to buy this precious painting. In 2002 when the Malankara Church observed the 100th dukronoof the holy father, this church once again came into limelight because of this famous portrait. Many are visiting this church to see this beautiful and lively portrait of the holy father.
Incidentally the death centenary of this greatest artist of India Raja Ravi Varma, who sketched the portrait of our holy father, falls on October 2nd, 2006. During its work, Ravi Varma has written a very touching letter to Dr. M I Philip mentioning about the special experience he had while sketching this portrait. The full text of this letter reproduced by the Youth Association a few years back.

A letter from Raja Ravi Varma mentioning about the painting of Kochu Thirumeni – addressed to M I Philip Appothikiri
{ Republished from the Souvenir published in 2002 by ‘Mor Ignatius Youth Association’ of the Kumarakom St.John’s Jacobite Syrian Church }

About Raja Ravi Varma

Raja Ravi Varma (April 29, 1848- October 2, 1906) 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.

Raja Ravi Varma is most remembered for his paintings of beautiful sari clad women, who were portrayed as very shapely and graceful. His exposure in the west came when he won the first prize in Vienna Art Exhibition in 1873. After a successful career as a painter, Raja Ravi Varma died in (1906) at the age of 58. He is generally considered as one among the greatest painters in the history of Indian art.
Raja Ravi Varma came to widespread acclaim after he won an award for an exhibition of his paintings at Vienna in 1873[1] . He travelled throughout India in search of subjects. He often modeled Hindu Goddesses on South Indian women, whom he considered beautiful. Ravi Varma is particularly noted for his paintings depicting episodes from the story of Dushyanta and Shakuntala, and Nala and Damayanti, from the Mahabharata. Ravi Varma’s representation of mythological characters has become a part of the Indian imagination of the epics. He is often criticized for being too showy and sentimental in his style. However his work remains very popular in India.

Raja Ravi Varma was married to Rani Bhageerathi Bayi (Kochu Pangi Amma) of the Mavelikara Royal Family and they had three sons and two daughters. Their eldest son, Prince Kerala Varma, born in 1876 went missing in 1912 and was never heard from again. Their second son was Prince Rama Varma (b.1879), an artist who studied at the JJ School of Arts, Mumbai, married to Srimathi Gowri Kunjamma, sister of Dewan PGN Unnithan. Their next son was Prince Raja Raja Varma. Raja Ravi Varma’s elder daughter, Princess Mahaprabha, appears in two of his prominent paintings and was mother of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore. He had one more daughter, Princess Uma Bayi, grandmother of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma Maharajah. His descendants comprise the Mavelikara Royal family while two of his granddaughters, including the said Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, were adopted to the Travancore Royal Family, the cousin family of the Mavelikara House, to which lineage the present Travancore Maharajah belongs.