The finest of Indian art comes together with the fine art of watchmaking in a classic collaboration. Jaipur Watch Company, the premium watchmaker from the Pink City, has completed a decade, and to celebrate the landmark, it has launched a limited-edition watch collection with paintings of the legendary artist on the watch dials. This year also marks the 175th birth anniversary of Raja Ravi Varma and that makes the collaboration all the more special. Fourteen of Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings have been used in the watch collection, with eight pieces in every design.
The collection was launched at the Taj Jai Mahal Palace in Jaipur on August 5 and t2 was part of the launch. The launch event was hosted by Jaipur Watch Company in collaboration with the Royal Palace of Kilimanoor, Kerala, the birthplace of Raja Ravi Varma.
The sprawling lawns of the palace-turned-hotel was the venue for the launch. The makeshift tent for the launch housed a showcase of a collection of oleographs by Raja Ravi Varma, from the collection of Sachin Kaluskar, art curator and collector. Oleographs of some of the legendary artist’s famous artworks such as Tara Devi, Shakuntala, Shivaji Maharaj, Shesh Shai, Radha Krishna, Muralidhar, Arjun Subhadra, Shankar and more were on display for the guests to feast their eyes on.
Gaurav Mehta, founder and CEO of Jaipur Watch Company, spoke about Raja Ravi Varma’s legacy in India’s luxury heritage, before unveiling the collection of watches. “Today we are celebrating the historical collaboration between the palace of Kilimanoor’s temple art and Jaipur Watch Company. Palace of Kilimanoor was home of one of India’s greatest artists and continues his legacy. I have been asked many times what led me to think about this collaboration between Raja Ravi Varma’s art and Jaipur Watch Company, so I’ll tell you what happened. I was sitting with a group of friends and we were discussing art and artists globally, and everyone was talking about international art… people were talking about Mona Lisa, works of Picasso. I was shocked when I mentioned the name of Raja Ravi Varma and they said, ‘We’ve heard the name but we do not know much about him’. People are happy to talk about Mona Lisa but they do not know what Hans Damayanti was. That’s what led me to design these watches,” said Mehta.
He continued to give a brief introduction on the art of Raja Ravi Varma for those not acquainted with it. “Raja Ravi Varma was the one who gave faces to the Gods as we know them. He was the one who started India’s first lithographic press. The purpose was to make the Gods accessible to everyone. Prior to his works, the Gods were primarily worshipped as statues in temples. The Gods that we know, like the image of Saraswati Mata that comes to mind when we hear the name, was imagined, painted and created by Raja Ravi Varma,” he said.
Gajendra Singh Sekhawat, union minister, was the guest of honour at the event and joined Mehta in unveiling the Raja Ravi Varma watch collection.
A highlight of the evening was the presence of Rama Varma Thampuran from the Kilimanoor Palace, who spoke on how the palace has preserved the legacy of the artist. “Raja Ravi Varma was a great icon and legend of Indian art and a most sought-after painter in the auction market. Today the world is celebrating the 175th birth anniversary of this legendary artist, the father of modern Indian art, who gave faces to all the Gods and Goddesses. The Kilimanoor Palace Trust, which is the family trust, is responsible for preserving the legacy of Raja Ravi Varma and for the last 15 years I have been in charge of all its activities. Though the family preserves the legacy, Raja Ravi Varma, the artist, belongs to everyone so we keep the palace gates open to everyone, to all lovers of art from India and abroad. Today I am very happy to associate with Jaipur Watch Company… this is a new idea. In fact, the Rama Varma Foundation for Art and Culture, under my chairmanship, has joined hands with JWC for this. I congratulate Gauravji, founder of JWC, for coming forward to partake in this great legacy… this is a very historic moment for me… timeless art captured within time…,” said Rama Varma, a descendant of Raja Ravi Varma. “As we know, a watch is not simply an accessory, it is a symbol and statement of who you are…. Jaipur Watch Company is India’s first bespoke watch company, and the launch of this limited-edition collection with these timeless paintings in miniature form on the dials is a thing of matchless beauty… it is sure to be a hit,” he added.
Sachin Kaluskar spoke about Raja Ravi Varma’s childhood and how he was spotted painting figures on the walls of a temple when he was nine years old and that marked the beginning of his journey as an artist. “I would call Raja Ravi Varma a disruptor… ‘disruption’ has become a favourite word for many of us now…. Raja Ravi Varma established the printing press… and he adopted Indian subjects… so that is one disruption he brought. At his time, the Gods were restricted to temples, and not everyone was allowed to enter the temples so not everyone had access to the Gods…. So Raja Ravi Varma chose subjects that were not available before. He chose subjects that had instant connection with the viewers. That is why at the age of 24 he got awarded in Vienna and his name was established as an artist… he was bestowed the title of ‘Raja’ when he came back… he created these masterpieces and he was patronized by many royals,” said Kaluskar. Talking about Raja Ravi Varma’s Rajasthan connection, Kaluskar added, “He painted the backdrop of the Udaipur Palace… also, he painted a portrait of Maharana Pratap, which is also there in the Udaipur Palace.”
He took the audience briefly through the influence of Raja Ravi Varma on Indian jewellery and sari traditions. “He painted the Goddesses in saris and sari became India’s national dress. He painted all the beautiful jewellery and that became bridal jewellery… jewellery and fashion designers are still taking inspiration from Raja Ravi Varma’s art,” he said.
Jaipur Watch Company store in Jaipur
Rama Varma, a classical vocalist, regaled the audience with a performance, creating a symphony of art and music. Traditional drummers from Kerala drummed up invigorating beats, livening up the ambience. The Kerala flavour of the evening was completed with a sit-down dinner comprising the traditional Sadhya meal served to the guests, cooked by chefs from the Kilimanoor Palace, along with chefs from Jai Mahal Palace.