Benoy K. Behl

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Benoy K. Behl is a film-maker,[1] art historian and photographer[2] from India, who lives in New Delhi.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Benoy K. Behl was born in New Delhi on 10 September 1956 and has a B.A. (Honours in English) degree from the University of Delhi (1973–76).[citation needed]

Photography & Documentaries[edit]

Behl has taken photographs in India and across the world. He has photographed historic monuments, ancient art and ancient Buddhist paintings of India and he has also photographed Badami caves, Lepakshi Temple, Brahadeeshwara Temple, Ellora Caves, Bagh caves etc. and published in international magazines like National Geographic.[4][5] He has photographed paintings of Ajanta Caves without using flash and exhibited such photographs, numbering more than 1000, at several places including overseas locations such as Malaysia.[6]

Documentary films[edit]

His first two documentary films, made during 1976 were telecast by Doordarshan (Govt. Owner T.V.,India). Other documentary films made by him include Another Look at Khadi (on Gandhi's socio-economic philosophy), First Himalayan Car Rally, The Sculpture of India,[7] The Paintings of India,[7] Divine Marriage[8] etc. The Sculpture of India, which was telecast by Dooradarshan, presents the development of Indian sculpture starting from Indus Valley Civilisation to 17th Century.[7]

A series of documentary films shot by Benoy K.Behl, showing India's heritage especially from remote and inaccessible places were shown at India International Centre, New Delhi during August 2009 and this two-day film show, titled The Journey Within was inaugurated by Information and Broadcasting Minister, Government of India.[7] He has also produced a series of documents called Spectacular India for Doordarshan.[9] which covers historical monuments from Kashmir to Leh, Kangra etc.

He has taken more than 35,000 photographs and made more than 100 documentaries[10]

He has made a critically acclaimed film on Guru Padmasambhava which has been screened at many forums.[11]

Recently made landmark film on yoga entitled Yoga - An Ancient Vision of Life.[12][13] The film was made by Behl along with his old friend Rahul Bansal. It was shot across India, and in Germany and the U.S.A.[14][15] "A few thousand years ago, one is not sure exactly when, thinkers in India began to look inward. They realized that joy and peace could only be found within us, not from the circumstances of the external world. They began to map and study the world within. A vision of life was developed, which permeated all aspects of life.[16] This is ‘Yoga’ and is the basis of the Indian spiritual faiths.[17] It is also in the heart of all classic Indian artistic pursuits."[15][18]

The film also has the last interview with Guru BKS Iyengar.[19]

Indian Roots of Tibetan Buddhism[edit]

A film made by Benoy Behl for Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. It has extensive interviews with the Dalai Lama. The film has won several International Film Festival Awards, including at the prestigious Madrid International Film Festival.

You can see the film on the Ministry of External Affairs’ channel on YouTube. [1]

Press reports about the acclaimed film are on the links below. [2][3]

Series of films on 'Spectacular India'[edit]

The Hindu newspaper states: "Art historian and filmmaker Benoy K Behl has completed shooting and documentation of the culture of the six North-Eastern states and West Bengal for his series on Doordarshan titled "Spectacular India". The 52 film series also showcases the tribal dances of the North-East states."[4]

India has a rich variety of culture, landscape, architecture, traditions, customs, dances and music. This series of films presents significant glimpses of this "spectacular country".

These 52 films take us on an enthralling journey from the Kashmir Valley to Kanyakumari and from Tripura to the coast of Maharashtra.

The camera takes us into the lives of the forgotten Aryan tribes living in a remote corner of Ladakh, who wear numerous fresh flowers in their head-dress every day; to the invisible Aakash Linga in the Chidambaram Temple in Tamil Nadu; to the frozen icy deserts of Spiti; to the great Nunnery of Buddhist Anis in remote Arunachal Pradesh and to the exquisite Raas Lila of Manipur.[5]

Doordarshan' series of 26 films 'The Paintings of India' by Benoy K Behl[edit]

In the words of Anandajoti posted on Dharma Documentaries: "Benoy Behl is one of the great art historians of India, and I have shown his films on Buddhist art on another post; and also his articles on Indian art.

Last year I was fortunate enough to be given six DVDs containing his whole series of 26 films on the subject of the Paintings of India, which was broadcast in 2005, and it took me nearly six months to savour them all.

Now Benoy Behl has made excerpts from the series, and uploaded them to his YouTube site, and I have made two playlists of them which I embed today and next week." [6]

Doordarshan's series, "The Paintings of India" is the first major work which connects the tradition of paintings from the time of Ajanta to the present day. The films show many sites of paintings which have never been clearly photographed before.

A vast archive of over 2500 selected masterpieces of Indian miniature paintings has been created in this series. The best paintings from the reserve collections and galleries of the top museums and private collections all over the world have been filmed. [7]

Doordarshan’s 'The Sculpture of India' by Benoy K Behl[edit]

This series of 26 films produced for Doordarshan presents the tradition of Indian sculpture spanning 5,000 years, from the Indus Valley Civilization to the 17th century.

These films trace the development of philosophic concepts, themes, the creation of deities, of temples and of bronze images which come out of their shrines and even the temples. These are understood in the light of the highly developed Indian tradition of aesthetics and the guidelines suggested in the Chitrasutra of the Vishnudharmottara Purana, the oldest known treatise on the making of artistic images.

The films also explore the traditions of patronage which prevailed and developed over the centuries in the Indian subcontinent. The fundamental role of art in Indic life and philosophy is explored and presented. We see how styles are born and shaped by movements and directions taken by philosophic streams.

The films have been shot extensively in India, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and from Tripura to Gujarat. The 26 films present an overview of the tradition, including many monuments which are not often visited, such as the Pilak stupa in Tripura and the Charang monastery in an upper part of Kinnaur.

Scores of museums all over India and in Europe and USA have cooperated for this shooting and large numbers of selected masterpieces have been shot. [8]

Buddhist art[edit]

Behl has extensively photographed buddhist art and sculptures in India as well as in Afghanistan, Siberia, China, Tibet, Japan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka,[20][21] Mangolia etc.[22] etc. After documenting Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, he also visited Uzbekistan and Kalmykia Province of Russia to trace the 400-year-old Buddhist tradition in Europe.[20]

Pre-Historic Art[edit]

Benoy K.Behl has also photographed Indus Valley Civilisation sites like Lothal, Dholavira as a part of documenting Indus Valley Art for his films.[citation needed]

Ajanta paintings[edit]

Hundreds of Ajanta paintings are photographed using low light photography technique by him and Benoy K. Behl is recognised as the first notable photographer to use zero light photography at Ajanta and photographs of the colour paintings of Ajantha are exhibited by Benoy K. Behl at several places.[23]


Benoy K Behl is a great ambassador of yoga who has spread the knowledge and true meaning of yoga across the world. See the Pioneer newspaper link about his exhibition on yoga in 20 countries. [9][10]

Limca Book of records[edit]

The Limca Book of Records, which records achievements in India, has estimated that Behl has criss-crossed across India to an extent of about 1,60,000 km (till 2006) while producing his documentaries on art and sculpture of India.[21]

Behl is also mentioned by Limca Book of Records 2012, as most travelled photographer to document Indian art influences across the world; and to have travelled Nagaland, Assam, Tripura, Spiti, Ladakh etc. to document Buddhist and other art.[3]

Updated record in Limca Book of records 2015: Benoy is the only person to document Buddhist heritage of 19 regions in 17 countries. He has delivered 349 lectures in 186 major universities/ museums/ cultural institutions in 21 countries around the world. He has made 128 documentary films on Indian art and cultural history. His exhibitions have been held in 253 major cultural institutions in 30 countries. He has taken over 44,000 photographs of monuments and art heritage in India and across the world.[24]


Photographs taken by Behl are exhibited at several places like Fung Ping Shan Museum, University of Hong Kong (Feb–March 1995),[25] National Museum New Delhi (21 June 2002 to 4 August 2002), Nehru Centre, New Delhi,[26] London,[27] Tokyo,[27] Washington D.C.[27]

His exhibitions are on permanent display at[5]

He has travelled around the world eight times, giving more than 300 lectures in about 170 locations which include Universities, Museums, Institutions all over the world.[27]

India-Japan Relations[edit]

Benoy K Behl has done pioneering work on establishing cultural links between India and Japan. [11] His works has been reported in numerous newspapers, including The Times of India. Behl's film on the subject on Indian deities worshipped in Japan can be seen on the YouTube channel of Ministry of External Affairs, Govt. of India. [12][13]


  • THE ART OF INDIA, Sculpture and Mural Painting, Ancient and Medieval Period,

The Hindu Group of Publications, 2017 and 2018.

A special publication in two volumes of more than 500 pages from The Hindu Group.

The book presents a vast perspective on the history of Indian art: ranging from the eighth century Sun Temple at Martand in Kashmir, which in its time may have been one of the grandest structural temples standing in India; the trans-Himalayan Buddhist monasteries; the breathtaking architecture of the Ramanathaswami Temple in Rameswaram; the rock-cut Jaina reliefs Kazhugumalai; the glory of the Konark Temples in the east; the Jaina temples in Rajasthan; to the Sun Temple at Modhera in Gujarat, one of the most profusely carved in the subcontinent. A review of the book in Frontline magazine.[14]

A review of the book in The Hindu newspaper.[15]

  • The Ajanta caves: Benoy K Behl with a foreword by Milo Cleaveland Beach and a note on the Jataka stories by Sangitika Nigam. Thames & Hudson, London and New York.[28]
  • The Ajanta Caves: Ancient Paintings of Buddhist India Benoy K Behl[29]
  • Benoy K. Behl has also written features on art history, sculpture, history and related subjects and contributed numerous photographs to various publications like National Geographic, Frontline, Mint, The Hindu etc.

Positions held[edit]

[citation needed]

Position Institution/place period
Visiting Professor College of Arts, University of Delhi 2009
Consultant Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India
Chairman Bharatheeya Vidya Bhavan – Buddhist Art 2012


  1. ^ Man Mohan (28 August 2011). "Beyond Taj Mahal". The Tribune.
  2. ^ Sengupta, Nandini (20 August 2011). "The Buddha of Siberia". The Times of India.
  3. ^ a b "Most Travelled Photographer". Limca Book of Records, 2012. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012.
  4. ^ "Interactive Map : India's Sacred Art". National Geographic.
  5. ^ a b c Diwan, Kunal (26 December 2007). "Delhi historian makes it to National Geographic". New Delhi: The Hindu.
  6. ^ Majorie, Chiew (10 August 2009). "Shooting in the Dark". Malaysia: The Star. Archived from the original on 2 October 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d Tankha, Madhur (22 August 2009). "On a grand tour from past to present". New Delhi: The Hindu.
  8. ^ Ila Sankrityayan, Pioneer (21 April 2012). "Why Honeymooners flok to Meenakshi Temple". New Delhi: The Pioneer.
  9. ^ "Glimpses of India from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Tripura to Goa". The Hindu. 4 August 2010.
  10. ^ Vijetha, S. N. (26 July 2011). "From the pages of History". New Delhi: The Hindu.
  11. ^ Vijetha, S. N. (21 February 2013). "Catching up with "The Second Buddha" of the Himalayas". New Delhi: The Hindu.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b Vijetha, S. N. (16 September 2011). "Tracing India's root to Bamiyan". New Delhi: The Hindu.
  21. ^ a b "Indian roots of China, Tibet art discovered". Live and The Wall Street Journal. 28 August 2007.
  22. ^ Pant, Yamini (30 September 2009). "The World's a stage". The Times of India. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  23. ^ The Times of India, PTI (26 May 2002). "Ajanta paintings come to light". New Delhi: TOI. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Madhu Sinha Roy (19 February 1995). "Camera sheds light on dark inner sanctum". Hongkong: The Hongkong Standard. Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
  26. ^ Centre, Nehru (15 May 2012). "Exhibition of Photographs". New Delhi: Nehru Centre.
  27. ^ a b c d Pioneer, Ritika Arora (16 June 2012). "Indian ethos is very modern". New Delhi: The Pioneer.
  28. ^ Behl, Benoy K. (2005) [1998]. The Ajanta caves: artistic wonder of ancient Buddhist India. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0500285015.
  29. ^ Behl, Benoy K. (2005). The Ajanta Caves: Ancient Paintings of Buddhist India. Thames and Hudson.

External links[edit]