In This Issue
About Us
About Pattrika
This newsletter, conceived to give a glimpse of the many and varied projects conducted by the French research centres in India, circulated for several years as a "dead-tree" newsletter, then as a large PDF file. After a pause for reflection in 2016, we decided to relaunch it in a more convenient online format as a biannual newsletter. This second issue in the new format covers the second half of 2017, with one or two allusions to significant events from just outside this period. Click here for previous issues
Contact Us
IFP: ifpinfo{at}ifpindia{dot}org

EFEO: administration{at}efeo-pondicherry{dot}org

CSH: communication{at}csh-delhi{dot}com
Research
The Groves of Ayyanar (EFEO)

As part of my postdoctoral research project at the EFEO, I am interested in guardian deities, known as kaval teyvam in Tamil Nadu. These deities are usually worshipped in shrines situated on the edge of the village, or sometimes in a "sacred grove", away from the settlement. The most famous guardian deity is probably Ayyanar: his main role is to protect the village and its surrounding area, notably from demons and evil spirits, and to guard the irrigation tank. Helpers, such as Karuppuccami or Maturai Viran, usually surround Ayyanar to assist him. Guardian deities are ambiguous in nature: they are both protective and fierce. To please and to appease them, devotees make offerings. While Ayyanar receives only vegetarian ones, cockerels and billy-goats may be sacrificed for his associates. Another way to please Ayyanar is to offer him terracotta horses, modelled and baked by local potters, at the time of the annual temple festival. On 4 September 2017, in a forest shrine located in Pallavadi (Viluppuram district), I had the privilege to attend a ceremony called Kumbhabishekam, during which colourful twenty-foot-high statues of Ayyanar and his helpers had holy water poured over them and were ritually consecrated by priests and villagers.

Observing such a festival in such a numinous place stimulates a host of questions: about the continuity of worship of divinities largely ignored by the oceans of religious literature in Sanskrit; about the relations between humans and their environment that these "sacred groves" express; and about the transience of the magnificent terracotta sculptures, gradually jostled aside and reduced to shards by the arrival of fresh rivals every year.

Contact: Michael Bruckert, michael{dot}bruckert{at}gmail{dot}com


International Labour Migrations and Access to Land (CSH)

Because of the money sent by migrants from the Gulf, new houses are built in Nepali rice fields. (Tristan Bruslé, 2017)

India and Nepal share a millennia-old history whose richness goes beyond their geographical proximity. Their relationships are not only marked with a wide variety of political and economic but also with linguistic and cultural aspects, all often linked with migration. However, while Nepal has witnessed several waves of migration over the centuries, the recent impact of globalization involves a new approach of migration studies.

Tristan Bruslé (CNRS researcher), whose PhD was on Nepali migrants in Northern India, now focuses his research on other perspectives and concerns about population's dispersion, especially the working habits and social change. His work on "International labour migration and access to land", part of a broader project about the evolution of peasantry around the globe funded by ANR, aims to understand the crucial role of agricultural lands and how expected household incomes sent by migrants eventually impact the access to these lands in rural Nepal. Tristan Bruslé presented his major findings at the Centre for Himalayan Studies on 14 December 2017.

Mostly based on field survey among diverse remote communities, this project has a hitherto unseen value. The fieldwork in Sunsari district (Terai plain) yet highlighted the very unequal distribution of labour migration to Malaysia, India and the Gulf. Some villages indeed have a major part of their inhabitants abroad, while agricultural daily work and activities remain dominant in some others. This is mainly due to the local establishment of migrant communities, which plays a key role in the unequal access to migration and so, has different consequences on access to land.

Contact: Tristan Bruslé, tristan{dot}bruslé{at}csh-delhi{dot}com


Advancing agroecology in India and Europe for Sustainable Development and Equity (IFP)

Millet field in the Jawudhi hills, Tamilnadu

The AGROECO project questions agroecological innovations in India in a comparative perspective with some European countries. Rural, agricultural and environmental development policies have reinforced economic specialization and socio-spatial segmentations. This agricultural and food model is not sustainable from an ecological or socio-economic perspective either in India or Europe. Contemporary applied agroecology envisions an opposite project: the hybridization of protected and non-protected spaces, emphasising local synergies and harmony between plant and animal species, bio-geochemical cycles and time to take full advantage of ecosystem functions with better social inclusion and revitalization. Agroecological science and technological innovations and adaptations are flourishing, and with them new discourses and development strategies. They put nature at the centre of agro-ecosystems, reconsider territorial interactions, build knowledge through the dialogue between laboratory and farm, reconfigures power relationships at different scales. At least these are the dominant narratives. A critical approach is necessary to evaluate how these principles are actually implemented. The project, that is yet to be fully funded, links together both academics and NGOs. Our specific contribution focuses on epistemic questions on the knowledge-technology-society systems, the articulation of temporal and spatial scales, the analysis of power and collaborative relations in the international circulation of knowledge in agroecology.

Contact: Hélène Guetat-Bernard, IFP, helene.guetat{at}ifpindia{dot}org


Quantitative Pollen based Landcover (vegetation) Reconstruction in South India (IFP)

The quantification of pollen-vegetation relationships in India and in particular, tropical south India is broadly the main objective of the current research underway in the laboratory of palynology and paleoecology at the IFP. This is the key step forward to integrate the available Indian pollen data into existing land cover reconstruction models such as REVEALS and LOVE (Sugita, 2007a, b). Such models allow the translation of pollen data into percentage (past) landcover -- thereby providing a basis for ecologists and others to have a long-term trajectory of vegetation changes in a form, more easily applicable to say, conservation, restoration of the (vegetation) landcover and land-use planning. The main application of such quantification is in the interpretation of past pollen records, especially during the Holocene. Such past records are obtained from both terrestrial and marine sites, several of which are being analyzed in the framework of the IFP's ongoing projects. Considering the novelty of quantitative pollen based past plant cover reconstructions, the IFP is also involved in a ongoing INQUA project Enhancing quantitative reconstruction skills in South Asian Palynology and Paleoecology, in which framework, a workshop cum training program will be organized from January 29th to February 4th 2018.

Reference: Sugita 2007a & b: The Holocene Vol 17, Issue 2, pp. 229-241 & pp. 243-257

Contact: K. Anupama, IFP, anupama.k{at}ifpindia{dot}org