Kerala Mural Painting: Tale of Vararuchi and his Wife

in Image Gallery
Published on: 17 August 2018

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy is a Tamil writer, Director of National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai, and a Consultant at Sahapedia.


The Kerala mural painting tradition was revived by the successful restoration efforts undertaken to renew the Guruvayoor temple murals destroyed by the fire accident in the early 1970s. The new Kerala Mural Painting Institute, established within the Guruvayoor temple immediately after the restoration, has successfully produced many painters graduating in the art of Kerala mural painting. K.U. Krishnakumar (Principal of  Guruvayoor  Mural Painting Institute) and Nalin Kumar (a graduate from the Guruvayoor Mural Painting Institute) drew the story of Vararuchi and his wife on paper in the style of Kerala mural paintings. 'Vararuchi and his Wife' is a famous folktale of Kerala that narrates the story of all the twelve major castes of Kerala being born out of the wedlock of a Brahmin male and a Pariah woman. Known as 'Parayi Petra Panniru Kulam', the story features Vararuchi as the Brahmin. Many folk tales surround the character of the Brahmin scholar Vararuchi and the authorship of several texts are attributed to him. Krishnakumar and Nalin Kumar narrate the story that describes the marriage of Varuruchi as predetermined and foretold. The prominent use of red colour in the background, the exaggerated expression of the eyes, and the stylised postures of standing or walking, are all definitive features of Kerala mural paintings which Krishankumar and Nalin Kumar adopt with aplomb to tell the story. Unlike the other traditional paintings that narrate moments in events and actions, Kerala mural paintings capture the drama of importance since the tradition derives its stylistic features with the other traditional performing arts of Kerala. So Krishnakumar and Nalin Kumar move from one dramatic moment to another in telling the story of Vararuchi and his wife.