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.
Whats stylish, comes in 7 vibrant colours, fits in your pocket and clicks pictures aswell. No, iam not talking about the latest smartphone launched in the market but about the Instax Mini Series cameras manufactured by Fujifilm.
These Uber kool devices not only take pictures but print them in real time too. Just point, compose and click and wallah you have the print develop right in front of your eyes.
Imagine it’s your first office party and everyone is busy flaunting their gizmos to impress your Boss. You smartly take out an Instax click a few moments and share the print with your colleagues and peers. You have already made a lasting impression and your Boss starts taking notice. Be it a family gathering or a night out with your friends just carry an Instax along to capture and share the fun moments with your dear ones. As a Street Photographer I was invited to speak about the Mini Series at a promotional event organized by Fujifilm India. I got the opportunity to interact with leading lifestyle bloggers from the city who were equally excited and curious to learn about this range of product. Fuji currently has 4 models available in the Mini Series viz. Mini 8, 25, 70 and 90. Ergonomically these models weight upto a maximum of 300 gms (excluding batteries and film) hence they are pretty much easy to carry around. The film needs to be acquired separately and comes in a pack of 10. Of late I was travelling to the rural villages of Bengal for a documentary shoot and decided to carry my Instax Mini 8 with me. I took some instant clicks and shared it with the locals. Just as I was about to leave a child approached me with a smile and asked if she could have her picture taken. I was more than happy to oblige and she was even happier with her image. “I will frame this one” she retorted as she ran back to show it to her friends.
That’s the magic which Instax helped me create. So if you are young & stylish and want to spread cheer just pick up an Instax and start clicking….
West Bengal is renowned for its various rites and rituals and ‘Dondi’ is one such ritual among the many. Every year during April this event is executed on the occasion of Shitala Puja. The devotees particularly women go through this rigorously self-punishing task to offer their gratitude to the Goddess for keeping them guarded against ill health. The Goddess is also believed to bless her devotees and help the newly wed women to conceive. Thus infants and children are often seen to accompany their mothers during the course of the ritual.
Kalighat is one such place in Kolkata where you get to witness this event every year. It begins with the devotees taking a dip in the Holy Ganges before taking a mile long walk to the temple of Goddess Shitala. Enroute, they lie flat face down on the burning hot streets and repeat this several times till they reach the temple premises.
The local volunteers pour buckets of cold water on them to prevent the women and children from getting burnt by the hot asphalt.
The event culminates at the temple where the devotees perform a fire ritual by balancing burning clay pots on their heads and hands.
It is undoubtedly one of the toughest rituals one can fathom. Sharing some exhilarating and breath taking moments for your visual understanding.
With the Chinese New Year having passed just around the corner, I had this wonderful opportunity to visit the ancient Chinese Temple at Achipur some 40 odd kms from the city. I took a drive down to this historic site and was awestruck on arrival. The monument not significantly huge, had a small entrance and one had to stoop down to enter its premises.
The bright Red and Yellow interior attracts your attention immediately and the chinese inscriptions take you back in time. This 18th century temple was built in memory of Tong Achew, a chinese tea trader, who had arrived here via the river Hooghly. The place was christened Achipur after him. Tong passed away soon thereafter leaving this property to his ancestors and decendants.
‘Khuda’ and ‘Khudi’ are the deities that are worshipped here and many Chinese from Kolkata and abroad come down to offer their prayers during the New Year. The traditional way of offering prayer is by lighting candles and incense sticks before the deities. They are also offered fruits and alcohol.
A brief walk down to the river bank close by will bring you to the grave of Tong Achi. The bright red memorial is built in the shape of a horse shoe and has the temple visitors come and pay homage to him.
The occasion of Chinese New Year is also celebrated at different places in Kolkata. Tiretti Bazaar, Bow Barracks and China Town being the predominant few. There are street processions with dragon dance to the beat of the drums.
The saying “A Wrestler is born,not made” immediately reminds us of the bollywood flick Sultan which is based on the rise and fall of the wrestler, Sultan Ahmed Khan. Although the movie draws the audience to the actors brilliant portrayal of the character, many of us stand deprived of the reality of these men who belong to the Heritage Communities of Kolkata that are nearly on the verge of Extinction.There are only a handful of them left in the city who are trying their best to keep the age old art of ‘Kushti’ (Mud Wrestling) alive. In one of the recent Photography Workshops organized by Future Media School, a select few Photographers (including myself) got the opportunity to interact and spend time with these wrestlers at their Akhara (Desi Gym) situated on Mullick Ghat.
While most of the city was fast asleep on a cold winter morning, these wrestlers/pehelwans had already started their warmup session. Barebodied, the only thing visible on them was a piece of cloth called ‘langot’. A common warmup session included freehand exercises such as situps, push-ups and rolling of the gada. An average session lasts for about 30 minutes before the wrestlers take on each other at the Akhara.
The with state of the art tools the youngsters of this age decide to give the Traditional Gymnasiums a miss. The few who are practising at these akharas are financially backward. They can’t afford to pay for their daily diet of milk and almonds leave alone the hefty Membership Fees of the modern Gyms.
Swami Gyaan Yoganand Purimath is another such place that houses a Century old Traditional Gym /Akhara.Situated at 126, Cotton Street in the Burrabazar area, the narrow lane which leads upto it is near difficult to locate.
The Akhara is open seven days a week and operates in two time slots. Unlike the Akhara at Mullick Ghat this one has a lot of kids aged 7-13 years who come in regularly to get trained in the art of wrestling.
They undergo rigorous warm up exercises under the supervision of their trainers or’Gurus’. Being weak or falling out is a punishable offense. Speaking to one senior member at the Akhara, I came to learn that pehelwani requires following of a strict diet regimen and leading a disciplined life. The practise of wrestling makes an individual develop his inner strength and power rather than external muscles. This helps him stay fit and active in the long run.
Spending quality time with them was really an eye opener for me as I would now want to contribute in whichever ways possible towards Saving and Promoting this dying community.
My name is Ritesh Ghosh and iam an aspiring Street Photographer from Kolkata, India.
This would probably not have been my introduction 8 years ago when I was just a regular guy working as a cashier in a Private Bank. Although I had been creatively inclined since childhood, the 9 to 5 grind left me with almost no time to discover the potential within. I guess everything comes with an expiry date and so did my career as a Banker. It was in January 2014 that I decided to hang up my banker boots and opt for a “better”alternative. With the little savings that I had managed to accumulate and not knowing what exactly i wanted to pursue, I purchased my first DSLR camera, The Canon 600D.Looking at the world around me through the little glass window on my camera (better known as the viewfinder) I started getting intrigued day by day. As i was running out of money I decided to take up a job and moved out to Dubai for a year. During my stay abroad, I was following a lot of Photographer’s on YouTube when I came across this gentleman named Zack Arias who was shooting with the Fujifilm X100s. The sheer brilliance of this little mirrorless system was such that Mr.Arias had declared that “The DSLR is dead.” The statement was so convincing that I ended up purchasing the X100s for myself.
Coming back to India in October 2015, I started taking pictures on the streets of Kolkata. The 23mm f.2.8 on the X100s was just the perfect combination for capturing street action. Initially, I was a bit apprehensive about how my subjects would react. Approaching them with a smile made things work for me. The compact size of the camera did not make me look too intimidating and people wouldn’t really mind me taking their snap from a close proximity.
September 2016, and the latest addition to my Fuji Family has been the Fujifilm XT1. This beast with the 18-55mm(f.2.8) and the 16mm(f.1.4) is the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The power of the 16 megapixel X-Trans II censor produces beautiful images whether iam shooting street or nature.
With these two camera bodies and 3 lenses, I am throughly enjoying my photography experience and would like to take it up as a serious career option in the years to come.
Man – The mortal creation of nature has always been intrigued with the concept of Destiny. His inquisitive nature to delve into the depths of the future has led to the birth of Astrology,Numerology, Astronomy and the likes. In turn he has come up with several ways and means to control it. One of such devices being Gem Stones. It is believed that each mortal being on planet Earth is influenced by his/her planetary positions and in order to rectify the adverse effects there are specific Astro Stones. As a child I often fancied these colourful pieces of Gems and was nearly convinced that they had ‘Magical Powers’. With time my belief changed, just like the planets themselves, and I realised that these are just adorned by the weak hearted who are afraid to face their own future. Of late while taking a walk inside the Nakhoda Masjid, Kolkata, I came across this aged gentleman sleeping peacefully on the floor with one arm extended outwards. His fingers had wrinkled skin and were adorned with several rings. He had a childlike expression on his face as if he was secure as a baby in his mother’s arms. I could not help but click his picture and quietly walked away. The only thought that flashed across my mind was the proverb “Your future lies in your own hands”. Or are we mere puppets in the hands of our own future….??? I leave that for you guys to decide.