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This page is for the purpose of my Forbes India 30 Under 30 application only.


I request that it be kept CONFIDENTIAL, as some of these projects are still to be released.


Thank you!

 PILLARS of LIFE (2018)

An illustrated book documenting 30 iconic trees native to the Western Ghats, through their leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds.

Proceeds go toward the Anamalai Rainforest Restoration Trust.

Authored by Divya Mudappa and TR Shankar Raman of the Nature Conservation Foundation

Botanical Illustrations by Nirupa Rao

5 additional sketches by Sartaj Ghuman

Foreword by noted environmentalist Pradip Krishen:


“I am particularly delighted to discover Nirupa Rao’s illustrations, which combine a beautiful lambent quality with what is obviously the result of careful study. Her rendering of light and texture and translucence is delicious! Botanic artists of this calibre are rare in this country, probably for the same sorts of reasons that we turn our backs on our indigenous plant wealth…”

“It’s taken almost two centuries for a Nirupa Rao to arrive on the scene to pick up the threads of their [19th c artists’] work and I won’t be at all surprised if she sets off a whole new trend in botanical illustration in India. I’m going to look out for her!”


A book for anyone over age 8, featuring 'charismatic' plants of the Western Ghats—the weird and the whacky, the carnivorous and the parasitic, the stinky

and the unimaginably valuable

It will be translated into regional languages and distributed among schools in the vicinity of the Wester Ghats.

This project was awarded a National Geographic Young Explorer's Grant. 

Collaborators: photographer Prasenjeet Yadav, botanist Siddarth Machado and writer Suniti Rao.



I am currently working on multiple projects for Penguin-Random House, which are under confidential status.


One such example is the *CONFIDENTIAL* cover art for Amitav Ghosh’s upcoming novel.

HARPER'S BAZAAR India (2018)

Brief: A botanical illustration reminiscent of scent


My work has been commissioned by and published in various national and international publications such as Harper’s Bazaar India;

Chickpea Magazine (USA); and Medicor, a publication of the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden).

CHICKPEA Magazine USA (2017)

Brief: Illustration accompanying an article on Tulu (Mangalorean vegetarian) cuisine



Botanical Illustration is the practice of depicting plants in a manner that is scientifically accurate yet aesthetically pleasing.


In India, 63 football fields worth of forest land were lost every day between 2014 and 2017. Nearly 1 percent of the land surface of the country is turning barren every year due to deforestation. Yet official data consistently reports minimal fluctuations, and often increases, in forested area. This is a due to a very lax definition of what constitutes ‘forest’. My aim is to educate the public on the complexity of natural ecosystems, that result in stable environments. This is not merely a sentimental concern, but of great importance to human and financial health.

At the same time, India is one of 17 mega-biodiverse countries in the world. With only 2.4 percent of the earth’s land area, it accounts for 7-8 percent of the world’s recorded species. The scope for engaging the public with our natural wealth is immense.



Historically (pre-photography), Botanical Illustration was vital in cataloguing plants. Today, I am resurrecting this practice with two main motives:

(i) Using illustration where photography is inadequate e.g. documenting rainforest trees, which cannot be well photographed due to their enormous height (upto 130 ft) and dense surrounding vegetation

(ii) Using the aesthetic appeal of watercolours to  correct ‘Plant Blindness’—our increasing inability to register the plants we see around us as living beings. It is suggested that plants lack certain visual attention cues: they don’t have faces, they don’t move in the way that animals do; and they are not threatening. Our eye-brain system and the visual cortex filter out so much ‘data’ from what we see daily that most of the visual information about the plants we see ends up being discarded. Personal experience and anecdotal evidence suggests that my illustrations are encouraging people to notice plants in a way they did not before.


My upcoming and long-term work will focus on making the school biology curriculum more contextual and based on Indian flora and fauna. I believe that learning about Indian carnivorous plants such as Drosera and Utricularia would give children a greater appreciation for their environment than learning only about Pitcher Plants and Venus Flytraps (which are native to the Americas). I am currently in talks to collaborate with Pranav Kothari, VP of Large Scale Education Programs, who works in providing educational solutions for government schools. Our nature syllabus would reach 30-50,000 children in government schools across Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

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