Art historian-cum-filmmaker Benoy K. Behl’s two important films on the Buddhist heritage and famous sculptures of the country would be screened in the Capital this week.

The Search Beyond, a film on the Buddhist heritage of the country, will be screened at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts here this coming Friday. “The film is about continuing Buddhism in Ladakh and Spiti. It is also about the masked dance of lamas called Cham. This dance signifies the victory of knowledge over ignorance. In Buddhist thought, the greatest evil is the ego. It is that sense of the self which is the greatest illusion that we must lose in order to gain true knowledge,” says Mr. Behl.

The day before the Cham, he says, the monks pray to gather their spiritual powers for the sacred dance. “The prayers have deep Tantric meaning. Symbolic weapons are used to subdue malevolent deities…. Men, women and children gather at the monastery from nearby and far-off villages. For these deeply devout Buddhists, the sacred performances allow them to be in the presence of the deities they worship,” adds Mr. Behl.

Mr. Behl’s other film The Heart of the Mountain from Doordarshan series The Sculptures of India will be screened at India Habitat Centre this coming Sunday.

During the Shunga and Satavahana periods, says the filmmaker, various themes and traditions of Indian art were formulated. “There was a common artistic tradition and the same motifs in Buddhist and Jaina art. The exteriors of great rock-cut caves had images of the life of nature,” adds Mr. Behl.

“On a high hill, a grand Chaitya-griha and Viharas were created in the 1st to 2nd Centuries AD at Karle. This is the largest of all Chaitya-grihas to be carved out of the living rock. These magnificent Chaitya-grihas are not architecture but sculpture on an epic scale. One can imagine how vast the task must have been to create such rock-cut shrines. The cutting of the rock began from top to bottom and front to back creating the spaces and leaving stone for pillars to be shaped later,” says Mr. Behl.

Mr. Behl is known for his work in the documentation of the vast art heritage of the country, predominantly in remote areas. An acclaimed photographer, he has taken over 34,000 photographs of Indian monuments and art heritage.

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