Photographers love to make a photography tour to places which are of religious, cultural or unique value. Bodh Gaya remains on the map for not only Anthropologists and Buddhists but also for those who are passionate about photography and photojournalism.
For me the city has special value. I was born and raised in the neighbourhood city Gaya… and made several visits to the Buddhist’s religious place. When I picked my first DSLR and found the calling in street photography, my home city was always in mind. The opportunity came and I grabbed with both hands.
Here’s the snippet of my photography tour and your brief guide to one of the most loved cities, specifically for religious reasons.
Connect with me (Instagram) if you want to know more or join me in my next visit.
First thing first, how is the city connected?
Gaya is on the international air map, so traveling by air is indeed time saving in comparison to travel by train. There are direct flights to Gaya from Indian cities like Delhi, Varanasi or Kolkata. The international flights are also available from countries such as Thailand, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Japan.
Few of the international flights are seasonal, depending on the surge of pilgrimage activities in the city, others are regular. You’ll get plenty of options – just plan the trip based on your itinerary and the city of your origin.
Since this is not a purely tour guide post, I’ld spare specific trains and airlines available for the city. You can look for the trains on Indian Railways Online Booking website and flights on websites like makemytrip or cleartrip.
Alright, you’ve reached the city. How would you navigate within the city and from airport/ railway station?
If you visit Bodh Gaya by train, you need to cross the hustle of the main city – Gaya. Hiring a local taxi is best option. If you’re on budget, pick a public transport. It’s connected well with the main city, Gaya.
You’ll find Gaya crowded and vehicles continuously honking in the roads. You need to experience it at least once… That’s how small towns in India are, typically unstructured and chaotic. Bear with the authorities, it’s matter of time and it’s improving.
A huge arch at the entrance of Bodh Gaya would welcome you. Once you cross the arch, you’ll see remarkable difference in the city… A sense of calmness and serenity starts.
You can also hire tuk-tuk as last mile connectivity to navigate within Bodh Gaya.
What are the best months to visit Bodh Gaya?
October to March are best times of the year to visit the Bihar’s major pilgrimage spot. Days around Christmas becomes extremely cold and you should avoid it if you’re not comfortable with the foggy weather and temperature around 4°C.
Avoid summer months (April to June) because walking in the streets would be extremely uncomfortable. July and August months are rainy seasons. These are monsoon months and may surprise you with continuous rains.
What are best subjects for photography in Bodh Gaya?
Here’s the cream of the whole post! It was important and my responsibility first to help you with basic information on how to reach Gaya and navigate the city.
Monks, locals, monastery and streets are the best subjects in Bodh Gaya to shoot. I had mounted 50mm lens on my Nikon D750 DSLR. I love shooting portraits to showcase the local life, people and culture. For few photos, like the picture of the Mahabodhi Temple, I had leveraged wide angle lens at 18mm.
People are generally ok to photography and they would oblige you with their photos. You can get candid and posed photos without any apprehensions of objections by locals or tourists.
In few cases, locals are very enthusiastic about getting shot by foreigners and tourists for no specific reason. But you can continue to shoot what suits your narrative.
Monks and priests also won’t object for any photos, even close shots, barring you don’t disturb their processions or meditation or prayers.
Apart from people, you can take photos of the temples and monasteries… and don’t forget to take a landmark picture of the giant Budha statue.
I started very early in the morning, because that’s the time when people come to the main temple for prayers. In morning, the ambience is calm and relatively free from tourists. You’ll get less distracting street photographs.
If you spend 4-5 hours, you can cover most of the subjects of your photography interest, you can spend further time in meditation under the Mahabodhi tree, where Gautam Budha got enlightenment. The place is calm and perfect for spending an hour or so for meditation or yoga.
There are few yoga, meditation and Buddhism study centres in the neighbourhood (within 2-3 km of the main temple). Spend time with those institutes if you’re keen on understanding what they offer. Even if you’re not interested in enrolling with those institutions, you’d get good stories for your journalism, articles or blogs.
Should you stay back in Bodh Gaya?
I would recommend you stay in Bodh Gaya and explore neighbourhood cities like Rajgir, Nalanda and Gaya. These are old cities in Bihar and have lots of historical importance. Rajgir is an ancient city, famous for caves, forts and, Buddhists sites and monasteries. Nalanda has one of the oldest University “Nalanda University”. It’s declared as UNESCO World Heritage site.
To make a day’s trips to these locations, you can choose to stay in Gaya and hire can or take bus rides to these cities. Road trips are enjoyable — you’ll spot the rural side of Bihar on the way. Explore rural street photography on your road trips in Bihar.
Bodh Gaya has several hotels of International Standard… Look for the recommendations on TripAdvisor or any travel site and pick one based on your own preference of food, ambience and hospitality feedbacks.
What to eat while you’re touring Bodh Gaya streets and temples?
You’ll get good Indian, Chinese, Thai or Continental cuisine options in Bodh Gaya. Depending on whether you are looking for snacking or full meal/ lunch/ dinner, you can pick few of the recommended restaurants on TripAdvisor. I would abstain writing about any of them, because they didn’t pay me! (kidding, I never write paid reviews).
If you don’t like spicy Indian foods, you can request the chef, waiter or waitress to add spices in moderation.
To sum up, explore this part of the world to get unique photography perspectives and add in your street photography portfolio. The experience and results are unmatched. Let me know if you want to know more about the city or street photography.