New Delhi: The continuing legacy of Buddhism in India, the place of origin of the ancient religion, as well as its growth in places like China, Japan, Korea, Argentina and Sri Lanka among other countries will be showcased through films, exhibitions, art and discussions in a first-of-a-kind festival here.

Noted filmmaker art-historian and photographer Binoy K Behl who has travelled 19 countries to study Buddhist art endeavours to do so by preserving the treasures of Indian Buddhist heritage.

His 12-part documentary series titled 'The Story of Buddhism' "provides a comprehensive perspective of the ancient monuments and art heritage of Buddhism in India," says Behl.

Two of his films "Ladakh – A Cradle of Buddhism" and "The Second Buddha" from the series will be screened in the festival of Buddhist films, the first to be held in India that begins here on Friday and goes on till May 1.

The festival "The Inner Path" at the Indian Council of Cultural Relations Centre will also showcase works of renowned directors and film-personalities from countries like Argentina, Korea, Sri-Lanka, China and Japan.

Behl, who holds a Limca Book Record for having traveled to all the corners of India, had earlier completed a series of 26 documentaries on "The Paintings of India" and 26 documentary films on "The Sculptures of India," which were telecast on TV channel DD Bharati.

"I have been an art and heritage lover throughout my life, and I have traveled all over the world, giving lectures on the profound knowledge of Buddhism. The idea of organizing a Buddhist film festival in India is an attempt to link this profound knowledge of Indian heritage to the rest of the world," says Behl.

The filmmaker says the fountain of knowledge was never meant to be kept in universities, so he decided to contribute to the initiative.

Buddhism, essentially, originated in Bodh Gaya in Bihar, and from there it traveled and flourished in other parts of world and that has made India famous globally. People in today's world may not identify with places like Bodh Gaya, Nalanda or Ajanta, but Buddhism certainly has created a reverential figure about India and Indian people in the minds of the foreign natives, asserts the filmmaker.

"The idea to organise such an event evolved last year during the Global Buddhist Congregation 2011 held in New Delhi. It was after that event that we decided to carry the message forward," says Aruna Vasudev, renowned film critic and President of NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) India, who conceived the programme.

Filmaker Suresh Jindal of Devaki Foundation who is collaborating with NETPAC for the festival says, "Buddhism talks about India's place in global culture. It forms a strong link between India and the world and hence, it's an attempt to strengthen this link."

Although Buddhism originated in India, the religion developed and flourished more vigorously and rapidly in the other parts of the world and not essentially in its birth place, he says.

"Buddhism blossomed beautifully in China and America, but needs to be encouraged in India, where it originated," says Jindal.

Binoy K Behl hopes for taking the idea to the smaller towns such as Kanpur, Agra, Patna, among others.

The Buddhist festival here will screen 20 documentaries, features and shorts and speak of the different aspects of Buddhism and Buddhist iconic figures.

There will be panel discussions on Boddhisatvas, talks on different traditions of Buddhist philosophy by Buddhist scholars and photography exhibitions. An exhibition titled "The Greatest Journey of Ideas: Spread of Buddhism" comprising of photographs taken by Behl during his travel to 19 different countries to capture the Buddhist Art would also be displayed during the festival.

It is proposed to make "The Inner Path" an annual festival.