Tamil Muslims are Tamils who practice Islam and Muslims who consider themselves as "Tamils". The community is at least 4.5 million people in India, primarily in the state of Tamil Nadu. The Tamil-speaking Muslims are descendants of marriages between early West Asian Muslims and Tamil women as well as local converts. Tiruvannamalai, the heritage town has a population of 14% of Tamil Muslims. 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. This image of a Muslim leather seller was shot in Tiruvannamalai by Abul Kalam Azad in 2012.

Leather seller, 2012

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Abul Kalam Azad is a visual artist based in India. Abul’s photographic works are predominantly autobiographical, and they explore the areas of politics, culture, micro-history, gender, and eroticism.

His works attempt a re-reading of contemporary Indian history – the history in which ordinary people are absent and are mainly represented through beautiful images and icons.

During the early 90s, for a brief period, he worked as a photojournalist with leading National/International agencies including the Press Trust of India. Mid-90s, he renounced his journalism career to become an independent artist.

Besides, Azad’s maverick and pioneer experimental hybrid art that blends different styles and techniques pushes the boundaries of contemporary Indian photographic art practice.

His current projects focus on a search inside South Indian maritime history and connected cultures, inspired by ancient literature, folklore, and rituals. His works have been exhibited in prestigious museums/galleries in India and abroad since the mid-90s. He is the recipient of various awards that includes Charles Wallace Award, French Government Scholarship award, Govt. of India’s Senior Art Fellowship, and India Foundation for the Arts Grant.

Abul Kalam Azad is the founder of Ekalokam Trust for Photography, a non-profit foundation committed to creating, protecting and sharing contemporary photography and other allied art forms. He also extends his services as Editor-in-Chief of Photo Mail, an online photo-art magazine.