The Story of Buddhism
(As told through ancient sites and art heritage)

(12 Films of 25 Minutes each)


This series follows upon the great success of the exhibition entitled ‘The Path of Compassion’ of Benoy K Behl’s photographs of this subject. The exhibition is permanently installed at Ryukoku University, Kyoto; Jade Buddha temple, Shanghai; Dun Huang Research Institute, Dun Huang; at the Buddhist tourist sites of Mt. Wutai and the Yungang Grottoes in China, at Ulan Bator and at the Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon. The exhibition has also been very enthusiastically received in 12 countries around the world, where it has been displayed at over 50 venues. In Japan, for instance, it has been shown at 9 institutions and is scheduled to be held at 91 more locations over the next few years.

This series of films is the very first that depicts all the ancient Buddhist sites of India.  The films also depict many of the important Buddhist sites of other Asian countries.  The story of the Buddha and of the development of Buddhism is traced through  the art and architecture of over 100 major monuments.

The art of Buddhism is some of the most gentle and sublime art of the world. This exquisite heritage of philosophy and art developed in India and spread to all the countries of Asia. 

The exquisite art of Buddhism takes us to a peaceful sanctuary, far from the clamour of the material world.  Through their lilting grace, these paintings and sculptures remind us that there is an end to the sorrow of the world, and that this is through a deep sense of compassion for the whole of creation.

The four great Buddhist pilgrimage sites of Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar are among the most revered places in the world. These are held sacred by more than 353,141,000 Buddhists and even today vast numbers of pilgrims come to these sites from all the Asian countries. These four sites will be depicted, as well as the site of Kapilavastu, where the Buddha lived as Prince Siddhartha.

Emperor Ashok in the 3rd century BC was the first great royal patron to honor Buddhist sites.  The great stupas which he made, his commemorative pillars and sculptural railings are some of the most beautiful and oldest surviving architecture and art of the subcontinent.

From the time of Ashok onwards, Buddhism spread not only to all corners of India but also all over Asia.  The religion and the art associated with it had a transforming effect on the countries which it reached and, till today, Buddhism flourishes all over the continent. 

In the 1st century AD, the Kushana King Kanishka gave royal patronage to Mahayana Buddhism. Thereafter the Mahayana tradition, which later also developed into the Vajrayana tradition, became dominant in India.  This form of Buddhism also travelled northwards from Kashmir to the trans-Himalayan regions and to China, Korea and Japan.

Whereas in the early form of Buddhism the image of the Buddha was never made, from the 1st century AD onwards, Buddhists began to make and worship his images.  Earlier Buddhism concentrated solely on self discipline as a means   of striving for enlightenment, Mahayana Buddhism brought the new concept of Bodhisattvas.  These were beings who delayed their own salvation, to help others on the path.  They could be prayed to for their help. 

At the great universities of Nalanda and Vikramshila, the qualities of the Buddha and the qualities which led to enlightenment were studied in great detail. These were personified in a pantheon of deities which was created.  The devotee was to meditate upon the deity till he fully imbibed the grace and qualities which were presented.  Then he had become the deity.  Such deities were widely represented in sculpture and paintings, which were aids to meditation.

These films will provide a comprehensive perspective of the monuments and art heritage of Buddhism in India, from the earliest times.  The films will cover a wide range of the heritage of both Theravada and Mahayana-Vajrayana orders, providing a view of the richness of the whole Buddhist tradition. The films will also show the roots and the development of iconography of the various Buddhist schools, in the sites and great universities of Eastern India.

The producer and director Benoy K Behl is one of the most prominent documentary film-makers in India and his films are shown regularly in the best time-slots on television channels. He is also a world-renowned art historian and an authority on Buddhism. His book on the earliest Buddhist paintings of Ajanta is published by Thames and Hudson, London and New York and studied in many countries. He is invited to lecture at prestigious universities, museums and Buddhist temples around the world.  As Consultant to the Government of India, he wrote the successful application for the UNESCO World Heritage Listing of the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya.

 The production of this series of films is supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.


Shooting locations will include the following:

Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh

Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh

Kapilavastu (Piparahwa and Ganwaria), Uttar Pradesh

Lumbini, Nepal

Bodhgaya, Bihar

Rajgir, Bihar

Vaishali, Bihar

Vikramshila, Bihar

Kesaria Stupa, Bihar

Nalanda, Bihar

Lauriya Nandangarh, Ashoka Pillar and Stupa, Bihar

Nandangarh Buddhist Stupa, Bihar

Bharhut, Madhya Pradesh

Sanchi stupas, Madhya Pradesh

Satdhara stupas, Madhya Pradesh

Pipaliya stupas, Madhya Pradesh

Sonari stupas, Madhya Pradesh

Bhojpur stupas, Madhya Pradesh

Dhekinath Stupa, Gyaraspur, Madhya Pradesh

Bagh caves, Madhya Pradesh

Amaravati, Andhra  Pradesh

Chandavaram Stupa, Andhra  Pradesh

Battiprolo Stupa, Andhra  Pradesh

Ghantashala Stupa, Andhra  Pradesh

Jagyapeta Stupa, Andhra  Pradesh

Gumadiduru Stupa, Andhra  Pradesh

Guntupalli caves, Andhra  Pradesh

Sankaram, rock-cut caves and stupas, Andhra  Pradesh

Salihundam stupas, Andhra  Pradesh

Ramatirthapuram Buddhist site, Andhra  Pradesh

Thotlakonda stupas, Andhra  Pradesh

Bavikonda stupas, Andhra  Pradesh

Panigiri stupa and railing fragments, Andhra  Pradesh

Nagarjunakonda, Andhra  Pradesh

Karle caves, Maharashtra  

Kondawane caves, Maharashtra

Bhaja caves, Maharashtra

Bedsa caves, Maharashtra  

Junnar caves, Maharashtra

Kanheri caves, Maharashtra

Ajanta caves, Maharashtra  

Ellora caves, Maharashtra

Pitalkhora caves, Maharashtra

Aurangabad caves, Maharashtra  

Nashik caves, Maharashtra

Kondivte caves, Maharashtra

Sopara 3rd cent. Stupa, Maharashtra

Junagarh caves, Gujarat 

Talaja caves, Gujarat

Teevardev Vihara, Sirpur, Chattisgarh

Anand Prabhu Kutir, Sirpur, Chattisgarh

Svastika Vihar, Sirpur, Chattisgarh

Udaygiri, Orissa

Khandgiri, Orissa

Pilak Stupa, Tripura

Harwan, Kashmir

Parihaspura, Kashmir

Tabo monastery, Spiti

Lhalung monastery, Spiti

Nako monastery, Kinnaur

Range-rig-rste monastery, Kinnaur

Mulbek statue, Ladakh

Alchi monastery, Ladakh

Sumda monastery, Ladakh

Mangyu monastery, Ladakh

Phugtal monastery, Ladakh

Basgo monastery, Ladakh

Lamayuru monastery, Ladakh

Hemis monastery, Ladakh

Rumtek monastery, Sikkim

Phodong monastery, Sikkim

Enchey monastery, Sikkim

Gorsen Chorten, Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang monastery, Arunachal Pradesh