Thursday, 1 March 2018

The French Institute of Pondicherry: Release of DVD on Jain Sites of Tamil Nadu

During the last week of January 2018 Mr K.Ramesh Kumar of French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP) informed me over phone that the release of the DVD  on "Jain Sites of Tamil Nadu" would take place during the first week of February at IFP campus and requested me to participate in the function. Later I got the invitation from them through email. Alongwith Mr Thillai Govindarajan I wanted to participate in the function. Due to unavoidable circumstances he could not come.

On 5th February 2018, I went to IFP and participated in the function. Before going through the function proceedings, I wish to take the readers in and around IFP. 

Release of DVD
The DVD release function started at 3.00 p.m. The DVD was released by Isabelle de Marguerye (Deputy Consul, Head of Social Affairs, French Consulate). It was received by, among others, Svastisri Laksmisena Bhattaraka Bhattacaryavarya Mahasvamigal (Head, Melsittamur Jinakanchi Jain Math), Mr B.Thillaivel (Commissioner, Department of Hindu Religious Institutions & Wakf, Government of Puducherry), Mr S.Ganessin (Director of Art & Culture Department, Government of Puducherry) and the Jain personalities from Lucknow and Chennai.  Prof. Frederic Landy (Director, French Institute of Pondicherry), Mr Hukami Chand Jain (Member, Jain Association of Pondicherry) and others took part in the function. 
 Introductory address by Prof. Frederic Landy, Director IFP, (L) Isabelle de Marguerye  
 The first copy of the DVD is being received by Mahasvamigal  
Features of DVD being explained by Mr Rameshkumar
Releasing the DVD Isabelle de Marguerye said that although Tamil Nadu had more than 450 Jain sites, only a few of them have been properly documented. The Jains played a key role in the development of the Tamil culture since the 3rd century BCE. But many Jain monuments are in ruins, and they are disappearing due to lack of maintenance and care. There was a felt need to document all the existing Jain monuments by undertaking a comprehensive field survey and preserving for posterity an important aspect of the country's culture, at least through digital archives. The Jain sites were studied with reference to the classical literature, inscriptions and archaeological reports. The photo documentation of the sites was done through field visits and by preparing a series of maps to geographically locate all the Buddhist sites of Tamil Nadu, she added. 

Frederic Landy said that it was a long lasting project with challenges. The sites were photographed in very difficult conditions and the team risked their life and located and documented them with geographical information, he said.The study has also documented 13 rituals and festivals of the community and around 7,873 images of temples/cave temples, rock shelter sites and dilapidated temples. 

The specialities of the DVD and the challenges faced by the team during the field study was explained by Mr K. Rameshkumar (Head, Photo Archives, IFP)The project which started in 2008 aimed on documenting 464 Jain sites, including 82 sub sites consisting structural and cave temples, rock beds, rock shelters, rock cut images, inscriptions, loose sculptures and converted sites. 

During the function I had the chance of meeting of many Jains and scholars including Prof. Kanaka. Ajithadoss, Mr Sridharan Appandairajan, Mr Villianur Venkatesan, Mr Veeraraghavan, Mrs Mangayarkkarasi, Mr Ramachandran and others.  Though I had been to the institute many times since 1999, this became unforgottable one.

Happy moments with friends and scholars


Just a flashback
Mr Thillai Govindarajan, who carried a project entitled "Jainism in Thanjavur district" (Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections at the Victoria Albert Museum in London, New Delhi, May 2010) under my supervision, and I accompanied the team headed by Dr N Murugesan, on 3 November 2011, and showed them the Jain Tirtankaras identified by us. They were found in this DVD, with due acknowledgement, which I will write in detail in another post.