Caturmahapratiharya - In search of Buddha

September 18, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Bodh Gaya, IndiaBodh Gaya, IndiaWhere Buddha Shakyamuni was enlightened  

Caturmahapratiharya is a series of images from the four key places of the life of Buddha Shakyamuni: Lumbini – Nepal, where he born; Bodhgaya – India, where he achieved enlightenment; Sarnath - India, where he revealed the Dharma by giving the first teaching on the four noble truths; Kushingar - India, where he died.

These places are out of the usual touristic circles and are mainly visited by pilgrims form other Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka and Thailand.

I traveled on the second half of August/beginning of September, during the monsoon season. Tourists are generally advised to choose different periods to visit India, but this was the only time I had available. However, from a photography point of view, it turned out not to be a bad choice. It was indeed very humid but I was not after blue skies and strong light. Overcast skies made it for me. Also, the off-season period meant less people around and cheaper prices. With a little bit of patience, I could wait for the bus groups to leave and I had the whole site for me before the next group came in.

Having been in India before, I wanted to travel light. The heavy climate made every movement an effort. Airport security checks on domestic flights were a pain. My bag got systematically emptied and every piece of equipment scanned individually. I wanted also to work inconspicuously. An electronic shutter has been a bless. A small camera with small lenses proved to be ideal for this project. However, my camera and lenses were not weather sealed and because of humidity some times I got condensation on the sensor and inside the lenses.

Tripod was a no-no. Local people are not used to see tripods and even walking in the streets with the tripod in my hand drew a lot of attention. The use of tripod was not allowed in many sites and I was immediately identified as doing professional movies for which I was either asked for money or for a special permit. Even if I had a very small tripod with me, I went handheld most of the times.

Long exposures were also a no-no. I did not want to spend much time on the same spot, messing with ND filters. While photographing, people usually gathered around me, asking all sort of questions, money etc. Being alone, made things more complicated. In such a heat, I would have need to use the in-camera long exposure noise reduction, which would have doubled the waiting time. If I really wanted a long exposure, I shot bursts of 60/80 images and then stuck them in PS.

While the circumstances forced me to use a classic photographic approach where I pre-visualized, set the exposure, lift the camera to the eye and shot, it has been going back to the roots and give up all the fancy stuff.

This was my third time in India. The country has developed in the last ten years and in the cities the prices have increased. However, the value of the services remains low and people seemed to have become more arrogant. What has not changed though, is that, as a foreigner, they don’t miss a chance to try to rip you off, which is somehow in contrast with the spirituality of the country.

After Caturmahapratiharya, I went to chill out in McLeod Ganj, north of Dharamshala, in the Himachal Pradesh. Here reside the Tibetan government in exile and the Dalai Lama. All in all, the country remains “Incredible India”.


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