The French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), UMIFRE 21 CNRS-MAEE, is a financially autonomous institution under the joint supervision of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAEDI) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). It is an integral part of the network of 27 research centres connected to this Ministry. It is also part of the research unit 3330 “Savoirs et Mondes Indiens” of the CNRS, along with the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH) in New Delhi.
Established under the terms of the Treaty of Cession of French Territories in India, the French Institute of Pondicherry was inaugurated on 20 March 1955. It was initially engaged, under the leadership of its first director (Jean Filliozat), in the study of Indian civilization and culture, and more particularly in the history and the religions of South India.
In the 1960s, a department of ecology was created to collect information on the conditions and evolution of the environment in South India (vegetation, soil, climate change, etc.) with its focus on the Western Ghats, one of the world’s 34 hotspots for biodiversity.
With the setting up of the department of social sciences in the 1980s, the Institute also extended its interest to the evolution and dynamics of Indian society.
The development of research and the necessity to support it with modern methodologies and equipment led to the creation of a laboratory of geomatics (LIAG) in the 1990s. With it, the Institute acquired modern tools for the representation and analysis of the relationships in space and time between these entities and their environment. The installation of the LAIG as a common tool greatly helped in identifying new areas for research.
The IFP also has a multidisciplinary library, which came into being as the result of a major restructuring of three research libraries in Pondicherry. This Centre holds specialized data of the research conducted at the IFP, which is augmented every year through a dynamic acquisition policy. The library is open to the public within a set of rules framed by the IFP.
In terms of Article 24 of the Treaty of Cession of French Territories in India (1956) the mission of the IFP is to function as an establishment for higher studies and research.
The aim of the Institute is to deploy its resources for projects in South and South-East Asia.
In keeping with its multidisciplinary nature, the Institute hosts, fully or in part, research projects spread over ten orientations:
The Library: The computerized collection comprises in particular: 60 000 books; 800 journals, of which 250 are regularly subscribed
The Manuscript Collection: 8 187 palm-leaf manuscripts (the largest collection of texts on Saivasiddhanta in the world and registered as such in the "Memory of the World" register of the UNESCO, with the IFP being regarded as a "Manuscript Resource Centre" by the National Mission for Manuscripts of the Government of India); 1 144 transcripts
The Photo Archives: a collection of 160 000 photographs, of temples and edifices in South India notably.
Promotion of knowledge The corpus of scientific knowledge at the IFP is made available to social, economic, cultural and political decision-makers in various forms : publications; expertise (in particular, in the area of environment); scientific events ; library ; promotion of scientific culture and technology (information, exhibits, etc.).
Training Within the framework of its research projects, the IFP welcomes, for various tenures, PhDs and masters level trainees of different nationalities (French, Indian, European and others).
The IFP’s research results are circulated through different types of publications :
Additionally, the Institute publishes a news bulletin, « Pattrika », in collaboration with the CSH in Delhi and the EFEO (3 issues per year). The Institute also organizes scientific events on different themes.
The personnel of the IFP consist on average of 80 persons:
Other than the personnel appointed to the Institute or remunerated by it, the Institute welcomes every year some researchers and research assistants on project contract and financed by outside sources, and experienced researchers and students of all nationalities, associated with projects of the Institute and carrying out resident study for various lengths of time. (for further details, see "Staff").
Agreements with French institutions: In addition to its agreements with the CNRS, CIRAD, EFEO, EHESS, EPHE, INALCO, General Council of the Reunion Island, Observatoire des sciences et des techniques, ISSC, the IFP has non-institutionalized partnerships with various other universities.
Agreements with Indian institutions: The IFP has agreements with universities, research institutes and the technical departments of governments (forestry and environment): CEFIPRA, Pondicherry University, Central Institute of Classical Tamil Chennai, Shree Somnath Sanskrit University, Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha Tirupati, Sri Chandra Sekharendra Saraswathi Viswa Mahavidyalaya Kanchipuram, Sri Rangam Srimath Andavan Asramam, Karnataka Forest Department, Sharma Centre for Heritage Education,…
Other cooperation agreements : The IFP works in collaboration with British teams (British Library and Wellcome Trust) and American teams (CEPF and The Regents of the University of California).
Part of the support (direct or indirect) to research projects, is ensured by external resources: Indian (Universities, National Mission for Manuscripts, National Remote Sensing Agency, CEFIPRA); French (Universities, IRD, CIRAD, EFEO, CNRS, ANR, ANRS, MEDD); International (European and American Universities, European Union, World Bank, ILO, Ford Foundation, AUF)
The budget of the IFP is made up of basic subsidies ( mainly from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and external resources (contracts,...). The scientific programmes are in majority self-financed, the basic subsidy being unable to support them anymore. The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) provides intangible resources (electronic library, lever effect in calls for proposals,...).
On a utilizable area of 3,000 m2 divided between a building dating from the 19th century, which was recently renovated, and a wing constructed in 2002-2003, the Institute avails of: 26 offices; three laboratories (computer, palynology, botany); two herbaria, one reading room with 30 seats; one conference room with 40 seats; various rooms for the storage of documents, one of which is for the preservation of valuable collections (manuscripts and photos) and one map library; one photographic laboratory; one exhibition hall; five guest rooms.
The Institute is served by an integrated and state-of-the-art computer network.