‘The colors of Deepam’ by leading Project 365 photographer Dinesh Khanna

Karthigai festival in Tiruvannamalai hills is very famous. On Karthigai day, a huge fire lamp is lit up on the hill, visible for several kilometers around the hill. The fire (dheepam) is called Mahadeepam. As part of Project 365, Photographer Dinesh Khanna will be creating visuals of Tiruvannamalai Deepam Festival. A five member team, comprising of Project 365 photographers Arnav Rastogi, Bhagyashri Patki, Biju Ibrahim, Leo James and Shiv Kiran will be working with Dinesh Khanna and document the Deepam Festival.

Photographer Dinesh Khanna
Photographer Dinesh Khanna

Dinesh Khanna is one of the leading photographers of Project 365. He is based in Delhi. There are infinite ways of seeing. But when you see the world through Dinesh Khanna’s eyes, you are overcome with an innate sense of awe, besides many other emotions. The reason perhaps is the fact that he shoots from the heart. And it’s his incredible way of juxtaposing what he sees and what he feels that creates images that stay with you forever.

Even though his father was a professional photographer, Dinesh took his time to meander through his advertising career and eventually gave in to his true calling. His dad often urged him to use the camera, travel more often and take pictures of whatever he found interesting. He even grew up learning to make his own prints in the darkroom they had at home. But the rebel in him chose not to follow the conventional ‘son-takes-over-from-father’ routine simply because he felt it was against his principles to adhere to what the caste system followed, something he strongly did not believe in.

However, photography was not just in his blood, it was the one great love and passion of life he could no longer ignore. At first, Dinesh took up a lot of commercial work, which displayed his immense talent and creativity. Gradually, he began traveling more, exploring more, photographing everything that ‘engaged’ him and in the process, enjoying every moment of what he was doing. From Street photography, to portraits to interiors of homes and hotels, travel pictures, photo stories, editorial and food photography, Dinesh’s work spans a varied mix, with many a common aspect… a love for life, a love for colours and a love for people being a few.

His photographs radiate a powerful and positive resonance which is why we want to stop and stare. Not just to admire the sheer beauty of the image, but also to appreciate seeing things the way he sees them. It’s what you call ‘insight’ in advertising terms. For example his iphoto series on ‘kissakhursika’, is a series on chairs. A simple everyday object that we may not even give a second glance to. But the way Dinesh has interpreted this very khursi, as he takes us on a visual journey portraying the significance of the chairs common people sit on (be it watchmen or barbers or children) and the ironic symbolism of a ‘khursi’ in the political context is so basic yet so bold and captivating.

Dinesh’s ‘Incredible India’ series that was created to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Taj Mahal earned him much fame. So did his solo exhibitions and pictorial books ‘Bazaar’ and ‘Living Faith’ which were born from his many travels and beautifully captured images from various melas, markets and sacred sites in small towns and rural areas.

His works also include stunning portraits of “Artists, Musicians, and Writers” “Mothers & Daughters” and a series on common man at work called “Earning Dignity” which all capture expressions and emotions in a stark yet subtle manner. His photos have also been published in monthly columns like ‘Double Take’ and ‘Urban Trivia’ for First City magazine, which display India’s ironic ‘Tryst with Urbanity’ and also ‘Cellphone Diaries’ for Better Photography.

Dinesh is also the co-founder and managing trustee of the Nazar Foundation in Delhi, a non profit trust that promotes the art of photography through various workshops, interactions and exhibitions. Doing this is his way of sharing his passion with budding and even experienced photographers. This organization also sponsors the biennial ‘Delhi Photo Festival’ which is an incredible platform for photographers to showcase their works.

Dinesh Khanna has displayed his work at several solo and group exhibitions, nationally and internationally at The Habitat Center, India International Center, Palette Gallery, Vadehra Gallery, New Delhi, Oxford Gallery, Kolkata, NCPA, Mumbai, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, New York, The Asia Society, San Francisco, Mondavi Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, Whitechapel Gallery, London and at FotomuseumSwitzerland.
A few of his photographs were also recently featured in an exhibition of paintings titled Soul of Asia Art – an exhibition curated by Sushma Bahl as part of the 44th International Film Festival of India, Goa, 2013.

Based in New Delhi, Dinesh is currently working on his next pictorial book ‘Benaras: Everyday in Eternity’ apart from various other assignments. Whether he is taking pictures of martinis, majestic hotel suites, of a teenager on a terrace or bangles in a bazaar, his work exudes emotions that every viewer can relate to at a very simple level. And we look forward to more.

Dinesh will be reaching Tiruvannamalai on 30th November 2014. During his stay, he will also be presenting his works with our rural audience (the dates will be announced at a later stage). Thank you Dinesh Khanna, for being part of project 365 and visiting this ancient town.

WELCOME.

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, Korkai and the Cauvery basin culture and lifestyle.

Disclaimer: All rights reserved. All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of the author and belongs to PROJECT 365 PUBLIC ARCHIVES. Text by Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi Nadar / EtP. Profile by Ami Jangal / 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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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

Ganesh Chaturthi / Birthday of Ganesh 2014

Ganesha Chaturthi  is the Hindu festival celebrated in honour of the Indian mythical god Ganesh (also called as Ganapathy, Pillayar, Vinayakar etc.,), the elephant-headed, the son of Parvati and Shiva, remover of obstacles and the god of beginnings and wisdom. The festival, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is observed in the moon Calender month of Bhaadrapada starting on the shukla chaturthi  (fourth day of the waxing moon period). The date usually falls between 19 August and 20 September. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the waxing moon period).

Project 365 Director Abul Kalam Azad and photographers Arnav Rastogi, Bhagyashri Patki, Leo James and Shiv Kiran have been documenting the happenings of this important South Indian Festival ‘Ganapathi Chaturthi 2014’ in Tiruvannamalai.

DAY ONE

The festival mood was felt even before a week. On the first day, many traditional clay artisans had created temporary stalls around the town, with huge lumps of clay, Ganesha moulds and PoP (Plaster of Paris).

Ganesh Chaturthi Day 1 / Image © Leo James
Ganesh Chaturthi  / Image © Leo James 2014
Ganesh Chaturthi Day 1 / Image © Leo James
Ganesh Chaturthi  / Image © Leo James 2014

Ganesh Chaturthi Day 1 / Image © Leo James

Ganesh Chaturthi  / Image © Leo James 2014

Ganesh Chaturthi  / Image © Abul Kalam Azad
Ganesh Chaturthi / Image © Abul Kalam Azad 2014

The huge Ganapathi sculptures were carried from one place to another using different vehicles – jeep, bullock carts, motor bikes etc., Almost every street had  images of Ganesha installed and decorated in public pandals (temporary shrines).

VinayakaGanesh Chaturthi Day 1 / Image © Leo Jamesr Chathurthi Day 1 / Instagram Image © Leo James
Ganesh Chaturthi  / Image © Leo James 2014
Ganesh Chaturthi Day 1 / Image © Abul Kalam Azad
Ganesh Chaturthi  / Image © Abul Kalam Azad 2014

The market was flooded with fruits and flowers to be offered to Lord Ganesha. Special umbrellas and decoration items made the local market colorful.

Ganesh Chaturthi  / Image © Abul Kalam Azad
Ganesh Chaturthi / Image © Abul Kalam Azad 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James 2014

In homes, pillayar idols are decorated with Bermuda grass known as arukampul (அருகம்புல் )and Modak, ladoo and other dishes are offered. The favorite food items of Vinayakar, including aval (rice flakes), pori (pop rice), kadalai (roasted chickpea) are distributed to the neighborhood families as part of the celebration.

Ganesh Chaturthi  / Image © Abul Kalam Azad
Ganesh Chaturthi / Image © Abul Kalam Azad 2014

ORIGIN

Though the actual origin of the festival is unknown, according to the legend, the festival marks the auspicious day of the birth of Lord Ganesha. The story goes as follows- Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of resolution, was away from Kailash due to some work. As Parvati was alone at home, she felt the necessity of some one to guard the door to her house while she took bath. When she did not get any one, she conceived of the idea of creating a son who could guard her. She then created Ganesha out of her sandalwood paste and breathed life into the idol. She then asked him to stand on the gate and do not let any body enter until she came out. Unfortunately, Shiva returned home in the meantime. As, Ganesha did recognize him, he stopped Shiva from entering as per his mother’s advice. This badly enraged Lord Shiva, who cut off Ganesha’s head by his trident. When Parvati saw beheaded Ganesha, took on the form of the Goddess Kali and threatened to destruct all the three worlds. The earth, the heaven, the nether world, all was shaken and every body ran to Shiva for solution. In order to appease Lord Parvati and save the world from destruction, Lord Shiva sent out his followers to find a child whose mother is facing another direction in negligence, cut off his head and bring it quickly. The first such child that came in the eyes of the Shiva followers was an elephant, so they brought the head of this elephant and Shiva placed it on the trunk of Parvati’s son and gave life into him. Parvati was the overwhelmed with happiness and embraced her son. They named her Ganesha i.e the Lord of all Ganas (followers).

Ganesh Chaturthi  / Image © Abul Kalam Azad
Ganesh Chaturthi / Image © Abul Kalam Azad 2014

The festival is celebrated as a public event since the days of Shivaji 1630–1680). However, the present kind of celebrations of Ganesha Chaturthi came in fashion in 1893, Lokmanya Tilak, an Indian freedom fighter and social reformer reshaped the annual Ganesh festival from a private family celebration into a community event. The day was conceived to be the National Festival in order to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins in the society. Tilak chose this festival for this purpose because Lord Ganesh was considered to be the ‘ God of Every man’. It then served as a meeting ground for people of all community and religion on a public platform. Since then the festival has served its cause of existence. Even now people irrespective of caste and community barriers celebrate this festival with great joy.

DAY TWO

During the second day, the eyes of the Ganesh are opened and it is believed that Ganesha shower his blessing upon the world on this auspicious day. Poojas are conducted at home as well to commemorate the birth of Ganesha.

Vinayakar Chathurthi Day 1 / Instagram Image © Arnav Rastogi
Vinayakar Chathurthi Day 1 / Image © Arnav Rastogi 2014
Vinayakar Chathurthi Day 1 / Instagram Image © Leo James
Vinayakar Chathurthi / Instagram Image © Leo James 2014

LORD GANESHA – “THE MYTHICAL CHILD OF EVERYBODY”

Vinayakar Chaturthi / Instagram Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki 2014

Sculptures of Ganesh has been created all over the world and probably is one of the most common art form. Off late Ganesha comes in different shapes and forms. Children enjoy and fancy this “god of all” and their enjoyment known no bound. They often spend their time around the installed pandals and prefer sleeping outside guarding their ‘Pillai Yar’.

Vinayakar Chaturthi / Instagram Image (C) Leo James
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James 2014

DAY THREE

The third day, the Vinayakar idols were taken in a procession to nearby lakes and water bodies. Most of the idols are taken to the Lotus pond where it immersed, whilst the gathered chant ganesha hymns.

Vinayakar Chaturthi / Instagram Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki
Vinayakar Chaturth / Instagram image (C) Bhagyshri Patki
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Shiv Kiran
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi 2014

The ancient practice in contemporary times

Originally Ganesh idols were made of clay and worshipped with different variety of herbal leaves, plants and immersed at the end of the festival in a water (lake) along with the Idol. The herbal and medicated plants, leaves and the clay would purify the lake water. Those times, people used to drink lake water, and to protect people from infections and viral diseases especially in this season, this tradition was introduced. Since the festival is celebrated as a public event since the days of Shivaji, (1630–1680), the popularity of the festival became very high and clay idols became unaffordable due to the huge demand. The use of PoP became the practice which is not at all an environment friendly approach. The original purpose is somehow thwarted.

Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Instagram Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Bhagyashri Patki 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Shiv Kiran 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Shiv Kiran 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Arnav Rastogi 2014

After the ceremony and immersion of the idols, a separate team of volunteers strive to clean the pond, collect the left over bamboos and temporary structures.

Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Leo James 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Shiv Kiran 2014
Vinayakar Chaturthi / Image (C) Shiv Kiran 2014

Kannan, a local person is coming out of the now PoP filled dirty ‘Lotus pond’ where Idols of Ganesh were immersed, no longer a source of drinking water. The joy and celebration of the ancient practice is much welcome, however, the incredible original vision of purifying and valuing our water bodies has taken its own course. In contemporary times, one is left with the responsibility to re-define these practices in the current context to create a harmonious Earth for our future generation.

Disclaimer: All the images published in this blog is copyrighted property of the author and belongs to Project 365 PUBLIC archives. Prior permission is required to reproduce and / or and / or print in any form. If you need more information contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / ekalokam@gmail.com