Project 365 Tiruvannamalai One

Sufisim in Tiruvannamalai

Title: Sufism and Islam in Tiruvannamalai
Photographer: Iqbal MK
Medium: Digital
Year: 2014
Courtesy: EtP Project 365 public photo archive

EtP PROJECT 365 is a public photo-art project that collectively creates and preserves photographic visual of the fast vanishing landscape, divergent customs, pluralistic culture and diversified lifestyle of an ancient Tamil town. All images published in this page is a copyrighted property of the author and is part of EtP Project 365 public photo archive. Prior permission is required for commercial and other public use.

இ. டி. பி. ப்ராஜெக்ட் 365
அதி வேகமாய் மாறி வருகின்ற நவீன தமிழ்நாடு, கேரளம், புதுச்சேரி, கர்நாடக மற்றும் ஆந்திர மாநிலங்களை உள்ளடக்கிய பண்டைத் தமிழகத்தின் சமகால வாழ்வுமுறையையும், கலாச்சாரத்தையும், பன்முகத்தன்மை வாய்ந்த திராவிட சமூகத்தையும் புகைப்பட பதிவுகளாக பாதுகாக்கும் ஒரு பொதுமை புகைப்படக்கலை திட்டமே ப்ராஜெக்ட் 365.

EtP പ്രൊജക്റ്റ് 365
അതിവേഗം മാറ്റങ്ങൾക്ക് വിധേയമായിക്കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്ന ആധുനിക കേരളം, തമിഴ് നാട്, കർണാടകം, പുതുച്ചേരി, ആന്ധ്രയുടെ ചില ഭാഗങ്ങൾ എന്നിവ ഉൾപെടുന്ന സംഘകാല തമിഴകം പ്രദേശത്തിലെ സമകാലിക ജീവിതരീതികളും നിലനില്കുന്ന സംസ്കാരവും വൈവിധ്യമുള്ള ദ്രാവിഡവേരുകളുള്ള സമൂഹവും കേന്ദ്രീകരിച്ച്‌ ഫോട്ടോ ദൃശ്യഭിംഭങ്ങൾ സൃഷ്ടിക്കാൻ ശ്രമിക്കുന്ന ഒരു പൊതു സാംസ്‌കാരിക കൂട്ടായ്മയാണ് പ്രൊജക്റ്റ്‌ 365.

For more information contact EtP at project365@etpindia.org

Collectively creating and preserving photographic visuals of the fast vanishing landscape, divergent customs, pluralistic culture and diversified lifestyle of an ancient Tamil town.

Sufi mystics and Islam in the temple town

Hazrath Syedini Bibi, a legendary woman Sufi in the temple town

Early nineteenth century, from the Middle East, Syedini Bibi, a Sufi woman mystic came to Nagore Dargah (a dargah built over the tomb of the Sufi saint Hazrath Nagore Shahul Hamid / 1490–1579 CE). After visiting the Nagore Dargah, she traveled to Tiruvannamalai where she lived the rest of her life. During the eighties, the Nawab of the time built a Dargah in the Car Street, Tiruvannamalai in honor of Syedini Bibi. There is very little information about this Sufi fakir, however several mystical stories connected to her tomb are spread via word of mouth.

Sufi woman mystic Syedini Bibi's Dargarh at the Car Street, Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives
Woman mystic Sufi Syedini Bibi’s Dargah at the Car Street, Tiruvannamalai / Image (C) c2013 / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC archives

There are several other Dargah’s and Sufi saints related to this ancient town. Sufism, a concept in Islam is defined by scholars as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam; others insist that it is a perennial philosophy of existence that pre-dates religion, the expression of which thrived within the Islamic religion. Some hold that the essence of Sufism has also been expressed via other religions and meta-religious phenomena, while others believe Sufism to be something totally unique within Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a Sufi. They belong to different “orders” (turuq, meaning congregations formed around a master). The “orders” meet for spiritual sessions (majalis), in meeting places known as zawiyahs, khanqahs, or tekke.

The history of Islamic rule in Tiruvannamalai

The history of Tiruvannamalai revolves around the Annamalaiyar Temple. The recorded history of the town dates back to the ninth century, as seen from a Chola inscriptions in the temple. Tiruvannamalai has been ruled by the Pallava kings, the Chola Kings, the Hoysola kings, and the Vijayanagar Empire. It is during the 17th century, Tiruvannamalai came under the dominion of the Nawab of the Carnatic. As the Mughal empire came to an end, the Nawab lost control of the town, with confusion and chaos ensuing after 1753. Subsequently, there were periods of both Hindu and Muslim stewardship of the temple, with Muraru Raya, Krishna Raya, Mrithis Ali Khan, and Burkat Ullakhan besieging the temple in succession. As European incursions progressed, Tiruvannamalai was attacked by French Soupries, Sambrinet, and the English Captain Stephen Smith. While some were repelled, others were victorious. The French occupied the town in 1757 and it came under the control of the British in 1760. In 1790, Tiruvannamalai town was captured by Tippu Sultan, who ruled from 1750 till 1799. During the first half of the 19th century, the town came under British rule. Inspite of the active presence of Islamic rulers and dynasties, the percentage of Islamic people is confined to 1.02% of the total population (according to Censes 2011). There are number of Sufi Dargahs in this ancient town.

EtP’s ongoing Project 365, a PUBLIC PHOTO ART project, is collectively photo documenting Tiruvannamalai using traditional and modern photographic techniques. As part of Project 365, M. K. Iqbal, a photographer hailing from Kerala proposes to document the Sufi tradition, its institutions, people and its relevance in Tiruvannamalai.

M. K. Iqbal / project 365 photographer
M. K. Iqbal / project 365 photographer

M. K. Iqbal is a documentary photographer with considerable experience in videography as well. Iqbal runs Studio Moon in Vaduthala in Alappuzha District in Kerala. Iqbal dropped out of a pre-university course in commerce to join the Cameraman Institute in Ernakulam for a one-year diploma in photography and videography. He developed into a professional photographer under the guidance of photographer Suleiman in Kochi. He became a freelance soon afterwards, but left it for a brief while to pursue social activism. He joined Campaign Advertising in Bangalore and learned the art of industrial photography. Later he joined the Madhayamam Daily in Ernakulam in 1993 and worked there till 1997. In 1997, he left for New Delhi where he had a successful stint as a freelancer, working for a string of magazines, both print and online, which range from Mean Time magazine to Tehelka. Iqbal’s passion for his own land and its people led him to implement several projects, the major ones being Project Mainstream in Mumbai in 1998 and “My Land and the People” sponsored by the Varthamanam Daily.

Sufi - 'mysticism and practice' in the temple town Image (C) Iqbal MK / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC Archives
Sufi mystics and Islam in the temple town / Image (C) Iqbal MK / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC Archives
Sufi - 'mysticism and practice' in the temple town Image (C) Iqbal MK / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC Archives
Sufi mystics and Islam in the temple town / Image (C) Iqbal MK / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC Archives
Sufi - 'mysticism and practice' in the temple town Image (C) Iqbal MK / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC Archives
Sufi mystics and Islam in the temple town / Image (C) Iqbal MK / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC Archives
Sufi - 'mysticism and practice' in the temple town Image (C) Iqbal MK / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC Archives
Sufi mystics and Islam in the temple town / Image (C) Iqbal MK / Image courtesy Project 365 PUBLIC Archives

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) Iqbal MK / 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. 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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Project 365 initiators and partners