The manuscript collection of the French Institute of Pondicherry was started in 1956 under the auspices of its founder-director, the polymath Jean Filliozat, by collecting all material relating to Saiva Agamas. The collection contains approximately 8500 palm-leaf codices, most of which are in Sanskrit language and written in Grantha script, while others are in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Nandinagari and Tulu scripts. The collection is today included in the UNESCO “Memory of the World” Register.

The Saiva manuscripts of Pondicherry

The French Institute houses two large collections of palm-leaf and paper manuscripts that transmit a collection of Sanskrit and Tamil texts. The collection at the IFP comprises 8187 palm-leaf bundles, 360 paper codices and 1144 recent paper transcripts (i.e. copied by the employees of the IFP), which are now on-line.

At the instigation of the IFP’s founder director, the manuscripts were collected from a large area of the state of Tamilnadu and from a part of the southern coast of the state of Karnataka. The collection contains texts of every branch of precolonial Indian learning. Nearly half of the manuscripts contain texts related to Saivism, one of the major religio-philosophical traditions of India. It is in fact the largest collection in the world of manuscripts of texts of the Saiva Siddhanta, a religious tradition that spread right across the Indian subcontinent and beyond, as far as Cambodia in the East in the early part of the first millennium. This Saiva tradition represents the ancient mainstream Tantric tradition comprising the philosophical doctrines, rituals, and Yoga.

In recognition of its importance the collection of Shaiva Manuscripts of the French Institute of Pondicherry has in 2005 been deemed a UNESCO “Memory of the World” Collection. This has given a boost to our on-going efforts to the huge task of completing a catalogue of the whole collection

The Manuscript collection is conserved in an air-conditioned chamber. Many of the publications in the field of Indology are the fruits of working over many years with our extremely rich manuscript resources.

The IFP’s collection comprises of 8187 palm-leaf bundles, 360 old paper codices and 1144 paper transcripts.

Manuscripts outside Pondicherry

The National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) has also selected the IFP as one of its Manuscripts Resource Centres. These Centres have the task of surveying and cataloguing manuscripts in unknown collections in the regions surrounding them. Thus the IFP, in addition to maintaining its own manuscripts, is currently also surveying and cataloguing institutional and private collections around Pondicherry and in a few coastal districts of Tamilnadu.

Procedure for supplying Manuscript Digital Images

All photos of manuscripts are supplied for STUDY PURPOSES only. The readings may be cited with appropriate acknowledgements but the photos themselves may not be reproduced without permission. For permission to reproduce the photographs, please refer to the Photo Copyright Form.

The price of each digital image is 10 Indian rupees. Each image will usually include the verso of one folio and the recto of the next and so the cost will usually work out to 10 rupees per folio. (In the case of manuscripts with exceptionally long leaves, this may be double.)

After receiving the request for digital images of manuscripts, the Manuscript Request form / MOU will be sent to the researcher or can be downloaded from the IFP website. He / She will have to fill the form and send it back to the Archivist, French Institute of Pondicherry, along with the payment in India or in France (for payment particulars refer the copyright form). After receiving the payment, the digital images will be sent to them on a CD ROM. In addition to the cost of the images , we make a handling charge of rupees 100 in India and 500 outside India per order.

Those who come directly to Pondicherry to make their own digital photos may take the photos free of cost on the following conditions :

1) That optimal digital photos are taken with our guidance in our premises.

2) That whole bundles are photographed together (not just excerpts transmitting one text).

3) That the digital images are given to us (transferred onto a computer of the IFP and not deleted).

4) That a Manuscript Request Form is signed that cedes copyright to the IFP and in which the user undertakes to acknowledge the IFP’s manuscripts appropriately wherever their readings or other information about them is published.

5) That images of the manuscripts will not be reproduced without written permission of the IFP.