Gautama Buddha who is renowned as the founder of Buddhism was born in a Royal family as Prince Siddhartha. He is known to have spent his early years in the lap of luxury unaware of the hardships of life.
It had been predicted that he would either become a great ruler or spiritually inclined forever. Afraid, his father had arranged to provide him with all worldly amenities inside the palace itself to refrain his son from exposure to the outer world. Once on a chariot trip he chanced upon an old man, a sick man and a corpse which went on to change his life forever. Troubled on sighting these he wanted to discover the ‘Truth’ of life and started meditating. After years of rigorous penance, he finally attained supreme knowledge under the Bodhi Tree at Gaya (later named as Bodh Gaya).
Every year on this day followers of Buddhism celebrate ‘Buddh Purnima’ to commemorate his enlightenment. It is believed that Buddha had been born, enlightened and died on the very same day. The auspicious day falls on the full moon night in the Hindu month of Vaisakh (April) and has been celebrated since decades. However; the decision to make it official was taken in 1950 at the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
This was a brief narrative of the cause which led to the celebration of the event which is immensely popular among followers of Buddhism.
As a photographer I had for long wanted to document this event and encashed in on the opportunity when one of my fellow photographer friend expressed his willingness to accompany me. We were on a train the very next day travelling to Gaya in Bihar. The sweltering summer temperature this time around was extremely uncomfortable hence I decided to travel light. My gear consisted of the XT1 body with the 16mm, two batteries and a vertical grip. The reason why I decided on the 16 was purely because of its wide aperture which would allow me to get the desired exposure in low light situations. The focal length was just kind of appropriate to handle close up shots in tight places .
Buddhist monks and followers from across the world had already gathered at Bodh Gaya a couple of days prior to the occasion. They wore white, ate vegetarian food and preached the lessons of the Lord. The Mahabodhi Temple was a sight to behold. It was decorated beautifully with flowers and the devotees were seen seated around the Bodhi Tree praying for inner peace. There was an area outside the main temple where the statue of Lord Buddha was being bathed at the recitation of the holy verses. The monks were seen to be seated in rows observing the process.
As the day progressed the temple authorities arranged for candle lamps which were to be used in the evening for a Candle March led by the head priest. It was indeed a pleasing sight to behold when the monks vacated the prayer vicinity holding the candles.
They took a complete round of the temple and arrived at the same spot before dispersing for the day. Another interesting place which I documented was the lamp room where hundreds of burning lamps were kept neatly arranged in rows. The glass windows of the room were kept closed to enable the lamps to burn longer pushing the temperatures up to 50 degrees or more making it difficult for one to stay inside for more than a few minutes.
With the battery grip on, I found it quite easy to move around swiftly. The 16mm lens sat well balanced on my camera and helped me to manage tricky lighting conditions inside the room. It was specially helpful when I was taking frames of the candle march during the blue hour. While I was shooting mostly in the autofocus mode there were instances which required me to focus manually. The focal length enabled me to reach out to places which were crowded with little room to spare. The 16mm which is already an immensely popular lens among Fuji users gets my full recommendation as a serious Travel and Documentary lens to have in your bag.