120 years of ‘Christian presence and lifestyle’ in Tiruvannamalai

Christianity in the state of Tamil Nadu, India is believed to be 2000 years old. It possibly was introduced to Tamil Nadu by St. Thomas, the Apostle, one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ who landed in Malabar Coast (modern day Kerala) in AD 52. But today, these Saint Thomas Christians or Syrian Christians are found mainly in Kerala. Later the colonial age brought a large number of Portuguese, Dutch, British and Italian Christians to Tamil Nadu. According to 2011 census, the percentage of Christians in Tiruvannamalai District accounted to 2.95% of the total population.

Leo James, Project 365 photographer will be documenting the presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai. Camera always fascinated Leo and he always had the eye of an artist, and immense talent too. Leo enjoyed drawing and painting from a very young age and his father always hoped that he would ultimately opt for a career as an architect. But long before he was done with high school, he knew what he wanted to be for the rest of his life – a photographer. He was first inspired by what he saw in magazines and began by reading up on the art, learning the basics and techniques with the help of books on photography. Leo started following local photographers and photojournalists in his hometown Kollam, making friends, and learning from them whatever he could. After topping his Bachelors in Mass Communication and Video Production from the Kerala University, which also taught photography extensively, he was ready to take on the world. From conceptual works to autobiographical details, Leo experimented with the various realms of picture taking. He shot for events at first to fund his personal projects, maintaining a balance between his commercial work and his own passion, to take pictures of what interested him most as a creative person. Leo did an internship with some of the best advertising photographers in Cochin at that time, and mastered the art of studio photography.

Project 365 photographer Leo James
Project 365 photographer Leo James

While he was contemplating moving to Dubai, he met Abul Kalam Azad, a revered photographer who made a huge impact on him as a person and as an artist. Leo spent some valuable time with Abul, his most admired mentor, as he assisted him with his work and learnt more along the way. Leo currently works in Dubai, on various commercial projects and his portfolio includes industrial photography, products, architecture,events and even portraits. While he is an expert with his planned studio shots that he takes with his digital camera, he also experiments with the analogue medium, shooting with several different cameras and films. Most of Leo’s personal work is hugely autobiographical. It artistically reflects his journey from Kollam to Cochin and to Dubai and all his connections with different people and places, and the experiences he has had in between. Leo’s photos also portray a poignant sensitivity to his subjects, be it mundane objects in someone’s home, a cityscape, a fish market or his ode to an artist. His work also expresses his many moods, sometimes melancholic and sometimes nostalgic, among others.

Arcot Lutheran Church formerly known as the Danish Missionary Church – a church with 150 years of mission in history, was founded in the year 1863 at Melpattambakkam Village, Tamil Nadu, India, by the missionaries of the Danish Missionary Society and now spread over 5 districts of Tamilnadu, and one Pastorate in the State of Puducherry and one at Bengaluru, in the State of Karnataka India with the central administration office located at Cuddalore, Tamilnadu, India.

In 1706 the first missionaries from Halle University, Bartholomew Ziegenbalg & Heinrich Plutcho were sent to India by the Danish King Frederick IV.  The German Missionary Ochs left the Leipzig Mission in 1863 on the question of tolerating caste in the Church and started an Orphanage in Melpattambakkam in South Arcot District, Tamil Nadu.  In 1864 he was accepted by the Danish Missionary Society as their Missionary. The Missionaries started school work. The preaching of the Gospel made them to establish congregations.  It was the Danish Mission Church till 1950 and the Danish Missionaries were the leaders at every stage.  In 1951 a new constitution was introduced and that paved the way for indigenous leadership and the church was named  “The Arcot Lutheran Church”. The Carmel Lutheran Church was established in the year 1890 and the Carmel Lutheran Church was established in the year 1914 in Tiruvannamalai.

Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
ALC, Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
ALC, Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
ALC, Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
ALC, Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Presence of Christianity in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Abandoned church in Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Leo James / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives

Leo James will be documenting the life, lifestyle, architecture, rituals and customs of Christians in Tiruvannamalai over a year period.

(to be continued)

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.”

Disclaimer: Image (C) Leo James / 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 Leo 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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s