PROJECT 365 – a 360degrees 365 days photo perambulation of the hill and the symbol

40 photographers document the ‘ancient culture and contemporary lifestyle’ in Tiruvannamalai
August 2014 – July 2015

Project 365 is a PUBLIC PHOTOGRAPHIC ART PROJECT initiated by EtP to photo-document the fast changing ancient culture and contemporary lifestyle of the ancient Tamilakam territory. During the first phase, forty photographers will be documenting the multi-cultural aspects of #Tiruvannamalai, South Indian heritage town over a year period (Aug 2014 – July 2015). This Project is led by contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. FOR MORE PROJECT 365 IMAGES, see #etpproject365. In the next five years, EtP will document the Sangam period ports Muziris, Tindis and the Cauvery basin culture and lifestyle.”

Agni Shylam series / Image (C) AKA / Image courtesy EtP
Agni Shylam series / Image (C) AKA / Image courtesy EtP

TIRUVANNAMALAI – an ancient South Indian heritage town

Experiments done by the Geological Survey of India revealed that the rock (charnockite) which makes up the Arunachala hill in Tiruvannamalai is older than 3.5 billion years and believed to have formed as a result of massive volcanic eruption. The fertile land around the hill was a highly potential farming land and soon became an important human settlement in South India. Tiruvannamalai is considered to be older than Mathurai (2ndSangam circa 1st century BCE). Many a legend and mythical story of Saiva belief grew around this hill revered as Fire, one of the pancha bhootas (Earth Water Fire Wind and Space Elements).

The first recorded history of the town dates back to the ninth century CE, as seen from Chola inscriptions in the Arunachaleshwara temple which states that the present masonry structure of the ancient temple was built during the same period by the Chola Dynasty (from 850 CE to 1280 CE). The temple, one of the largest in India, is rich in tradition, history and festivals. Hundreds and thousands of small and big Chola period inscriptions, architecture, sculpture and mural art can be found around the whole town. Saint poets like Tirunavukarasar, Appar, Pattinathar and Ramana Maharishi have created historical literature about Tiruvannamalai, the temple and the hill. The town is largely associated with living traditions and beliefs that have been recorded in literary works of outstanding universal significance.

Agni Shylam series / Image (C) AKA / Image courtesy EtP Archive
Agni Shylam series / Image (C) AKA / Image courtesy EtP Archives

Apart from the Cholas, Tiruvannamalai was ruled by the Pallavas, Hoysalas, the Vijayanagar Empire, the Carnatic kingdom, Tipu Sultan and the British. The architecture and art created collectively by the artists’ guilds of yesteryears with the patronage of the perennially warring, but ever culturally united rulers, stand as a museum of our culture and art.

Agni Shylam series / Image (C) AKA / Image courtesy EtP Archive
Agni Shylam / Image (C) AKA / EtP Archives

Karthikai Deepam is the most popular festival of Tiruvannamalai and inscriptions indicate that the festival was celebrated as early as the Chola period (3rd to 13th century BCE). As part of the festival, a massive wick is lit in a cauldron, at the top of the Annamalai Hill and to mark the occasion, several thousand people from the neighbouring villages gather. The visually fantastic event also has vibrant village markets and cattle fairs that are increasingly becoming obsolete. Every month during full moon, several thousand pilgrims perambulate around the Arunachala Hill.

Acclaimed photographers like PRS Mani, Dr.T.N. Krishnaswamy, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eliot Elisofon, G Govind Welling and many other known, and unknown photographers have created several bodies of photography works of Tiruvannamalai. The invaluable few works of these eminent photographers are being archived and preserved by Sri Ramana Ashram, Tiruvannamalai.

Agni Shylam series / Image (C) AKA / Image courtesy EtP Archive
Agni Shylam series / Image (C) AKA / Image courtesy EtP Archives

A pre-existently rich photographic history is presented in recent visual capture technologies. It is also seen to be supported in richly graphic descriptions of Tiruvannamalai’s rich and unparalleled vibrantly alive culturally all-inclusive life. These, and the peculiarly protean genius flowering amidst rural setting, increasingly amenable to international audience encourages EtP to do this long overdue visual mapping and documenting in a contemporary hi-definition documentation of this primordial town. Project 365 – Tiruvannamalai will collectively create and preserve the visual history of the paradigm shift moment of this ancient town.

<to be continued>

Disclaimer: Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 PUBLIC archives. All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of the author and belongs to PROJECT 365 PUBLIC ARCHIVES. Profile of Shiv Kiran by Ami Gupta / EtP. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and EtP (PROJECT 365 public archives). Prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing. For more information about Project 365, contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / ekalokam@gmail.com / FACEBOOK – Project 365

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