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Jean Filliozat – French Indologist

Jean Filliozat (1906 – 1982) was a renowned French Indologist and scholar. He was an eye specialist, and his first introduction to Hindu culture was through the works of 19th century French poet, Loconte de Lisle, who had written a few Vedic and Hindu legends in verse. Filliozat studied Sanskrit, Tamil and Tibetan. His mentor in the area of Indological studies was Sylvain Levi, a great Indological scholar, under whose supervision Filliozat studied the Indo-European languages of Central Asia, as well as Chinese and Tibetan.

Jean Filliozat studied in detail the principal texts on Indian medicine and traced the beginning of the system to early Vedic literature. His book, The Classical Doctrine of Indian Medicine, in 1949, brought out the originality of the ancient Indian medical system.

Jean Filliozat taught Sanskrit grammar and Indian philosophy in Paris. He was professor of Indology in the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris, where research in specific fields of science was done from 1941. In 1952, he became professor of the Languages and Literatures of India in the College de France, the highest academic institution for higher research in different sciences. He became a member of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres in 1966.

Filliozat later became the honorary member of the British Academy. From 1945 onwards he was the secretary of the Societe Asiatique in Paris and in 1974 became its vice president. He served as the secretary of the 21st International Congress of Orientalists. He started the International Association of Sanskrit studies in 1973 and served as its vice president. He was conferred with Doctor honoris causa by the University of Varanasi in 1981.

His first visit to India was in 1947, and thereafter he made regular visits to organize Indological and Oriental studies in different fields. The Ecole francaise d’Extreme-Orient in Hanoi, which was a French governmental organization dedicated to scientific research on Asian cultures, established branches in other countries too with Filliozat playing an important role. He became the director of the Ecole in Puducherry from 1956 till his retirement in 1977. A branch of this institution was started in 1963 with the purpose of researching the spread of Indian civilization to Southeast Asia.

Jean Filliozat studied this topic in detail and attained success in linking the art and architecture of Cambodia to sources in the Sanskrit agamas. He was also the founder and director of the French Institute of Indology in Puducherry, started in 1955. He started a program for collecting manuscripts and documents of all the extant Sanskrit and Tamil works pertaining to temple-building, and information about the rituals and traditions connected with ancient temples from temple priests. This work was done with the help of many Indian scholars.

The publications of Jean Filliozat cover different aspects of Indology such as religion, philosophy, psychology, Yoga, ancient Indian science, medicine, history, epigraphy, archeology, languages such as Sanskrit, Tamil, Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, and many other Indo-European languages, manuscriptology, and palaeography. He translated works such as Yogasataka in Sanskrit with Tamil work Tiruppavai of Andal, the Tamil Vaishnava woman saint, into French. He also organized numerous lectures for the people at large to promote a better understanding of Indology and Hindu culture.

Source Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV page 95 – 96 – Rupa IHRF - 2011