Rama Varma XV, the Rajarshi of Cochin


The Kingdom of Cochin came into existence around the sixth century AD. According to tradition, Kochi’s first king was a son of the last Perumal’s sister and was, therefore, the immediate heir under the Marumakkatayamm, a system of succession by matrilineal inheritance. His name was Vir Kerala Varma, a title held by the Rajas of Cochin even till in the early 20th century. This is an official portrait of Raja Varma, Rajarshi of Cochin who succeeded the throne in October 1895. In 1897 he was honoured with the Knights Commander of the Order of the Star of India. Raja Varma had an great positive impact on 20th-century society in Kerala, and he is known to have led various educational and administrative reforms. Medical assistance and industrial business also evolved to a notable degree during his reign. Cochin’s Rajarshi proposed in 1905 that he retire but it wasn’t until his health worsened in 1914 that he finally abdicated his office.

Bourne & Shepherd was an Indian photographic studio, a partnership between Samuel Bourne and Charles Shepherd, and one of the oldest established photographic businesses in the world. Established in 1863, it was the most successful commercial firm in 19th-and early 20th-century India, with outlets all over the country and the most notable being the ones in Shimla, Calcutta and Bombay. They were commercial publishers of landscape and topographical views of India and often worked on royal commissions. Colin Murray bought the business in the early 1870s and maintained the company till well into the 20th century. The studio on SN Bannerjee Road on Kolkata’s Esplanade area continued despite a 1991 fire that destroyed much of the company’s historical property. The studio finally closed on May 15, 2016, after 176 years in business.

Rama Varma XV, the Rajarshi of Cochin
Bourne and Shepherd Studio
With mount - H: 43.2 cm x W: 29.1 cm; Without mount - H: 35.1 cm x W: 26.9 cm
Accession No.
2018.60.2 (a)