Mahabalipuram in the East Coast of Tamil Nadu used to be one of the two major port cities in the Pallava kingdom of Tamil Sangam-era (3rd century BCE to 3rd century CE). The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram is a collection of 7th- and 8th-century CE monuments. It has 40 ancient monuments and temples, including one of the largest open-air rock reliefs in the world: the Descent of the Ganges or Arjuna's Penance. Although the ancient history of Mahabalipuram is unclear, numismatic and epigraphical evidence suggest that it was a significant location even before the monuments were built. It is speculated that it is the seaport of Sopatma mentioned in the 1st-century Periplus of the Erythraean Sea or Ptolemy's port of Melange in his 2nd-century Geographia. Another theory posits that the port of Nirppeyarvu mentioned in the Perumpanarrupadai from the late 19th century to early 20th century may be Mahabalipuram or Kanchipuram. A living museum, the well preserved life-like carvings are a sight to watch and an artifact to possess. This photograph is shot by Abul Kalam Azad in the year 2013.

The real and the carved, Mahabalipuram 2013

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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.