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.