CECI n'est pas EXECUTE Emmanuel Francis

Emmanuel Francis

Research Fellow
Institutional affiliation(s): CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research)

Professional contact information
190 avenue de France 75013 Paris – office 664



Holding degrees in classical philology, Asian history and philology, and a doctorate in languages and literatures from the Université catholique de Louvain, Emmanuel Francis is a historian, Sanskrit and Tamil scholar, epigrapher and manuscript specialist. His research is focused on Tamil country with a particular emphasis on the following problematics:

The ideology of the Pallava dynasty (4th-9th centuries, South India). Epigraphic and iconographic sources show that the Pallava articulated a royal discourse that was, if not polemical, at least divergent in relation to the Brahminic conceptualization of society and royalty. Indeed, the dynasty is presented as coming from a line of Brahmins who progressively became career warriors and acceded to the throne. In this way, the Pallava laid claim to both “spiritual” and “temporal” powers combined, which Brahminic ideology distinguished as two separate instances, represented by the Brahmin and the warrior, respectively.

Political discourse in the Tamil language in the premodern period. Contrary to the model of “vernacularization” proposed by Sheldon Pollock (The Language of the Gods in the World of Men, 2006), according to which Indian vernacular languages have become literary languages in imitation of the Sanskrit model, there is strong continuity between the heroic poetry (Puṟam) of the Tamil Caṅkam corpus (beginning of the first millennium) and the political discourse in Tamil which begins to proliferate around the year one thousand, with Tamil epigraphic panegyrics in verse (meykkīrtti). This continuity is attested and marked by several milestones along the way (epigraphic panegyrics; Nantikkalampakam, a 9th-century Pallava court poem).

The first inscriptions in Indonesia. This corpus of twelve Sanksrit inscriptions, dating back to the first millennium and attributed to the kings Mūlavarman (Eastern Borneo) and Pūrṇavarman, contain specific forms of “localization,” i.e. a local adaptation of the influence of India: sacrificial posts (yūpa) commemorate gifts and not sacrifices; the footprints of a venerable being are offered up for devotion, but they are not the feet of a divine, mythical or ancestral figure, but rather those of an actually living person, namely the king.

Cultural and social history of the Tamil language. From the first poems of Caṅkam literature (the oldest from the first centuries of the common era) to the appearance of modern prose (19th century), via a rich epigraphic corpus (over 30,000 inscriptions, including royal panegyrics), coin legends, grammars, commentaries of classical literature, Christian texts (catechism, translations of the Bible), the Tamil language has been inscribed on several media (stone, metal, palm leaves), has been used for a variety of purposes and conceived of in different ways. In the 20th century, it has become one of the founding elements of Tamil identity. The history over the long term of the manifestations, usages and conceptions of the Tamil language sheds light on this long progression, and reveals the determining role played by various figures (poets, kings, men of letters, local elites, Christian missionaries, colonial administrators).

The Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai manuscripts. The Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai, perhaps composed in the 7th century of the common era, is a Tamil poem glorifying the god Murukaṉ. It belongs both to the so-called Caṅkam corpus and to the Tamil Shaiva canon (Tirumuṟai). Thanks to the digital manuscript collection put together by the EFEO, the CSMC and NETamil, the elaboration of the critical edition of the Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai has begun. Furthermore, these manuscripts provide access to particularly rich paratexts and to a particularly large number of metatexts (commentaries), which are currently being studied.


Key words

History of Tamil country
Classical Tamil literature
History of the Tamil language
South Indian epigraphy
Tamil manuscripts
Royal panegyrics in Sanskrit and Tamil
Royal ideology


Research groups

2014-2018 | Coordinator of the Regionalism and Cosmopolitanism research group



10–11/2010   Series of courses: “Art and Epigraphy of Tamil Nadu,” Universitas Indonesia, Jakarta

03/2010   Series of courses: “THEO 2839: Royalty in South India. The Pallava, kings and Brahmins, between humanity and divinity” as holder of the Baron Satsuma Chair in Far-Eastern Civilizations, Institut orientaliste, School of philosophy, arts and literature, Université catholique de Louvain

2009–2010  Weekly course: “THEO 1341: Hinduism,” Theology School, Université catholique de Louvain

2004–2009   Seminars: “Introduction to Tamil epigraphy,” “The Trichy inscription (Tamil Nadu),” “Introduction to Tamil studies,” “The Pallava inscriptions of the Shore Temple in Māmallapuram,” “Inscriptions of Tamil country,” “Praśasti and Meykkīrtti by Rājendracōḻa I: Sanskrit and Tamil royal panegyrics of the 11th century,” “Introduction to contemporary spoken Tamil,” Post-graduate inter-university seminar: “Particular questions in Indology” of the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (Belgium), Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve & Fondation Universitaire, Brussels


Selected bibliography

“Tamil through Epigraphical Lenses”  [Review Article of Murugaiyan (ed., 2012), New Dimensions in Tamil Epigraphy: Select Papers from the Symposia held at EPHE-SHP, Paris in 2005, 2006 and a Few Invited Papers]. Indo-Iranian Journal 58 (2015), p. 49-69.

“Royal and Local Bhakti under the Pallavas” In Mapping the Chronology of Bhakti. Milestones, Stepping Stones, and Stumbling Stones. Proceedings of a Workshop held in Honour of Paṇḍit Varadadesikan, p. 97-133. Valérie Gillet (ed.). Pondicherry: Institut français de Pondichéry & École française d’Extrême-Orient (“Indologie” series n° 124), 2014.

[with Charlotte Schmid] The Archaeology of Bhakti I. Mathurā and Maturai, Back and Forth. Emmanuel Francis & Charlotte Schmid (eds.). Pondicherry: Institut français de Pondichéry & École française d’Extrême-Orient (“Indologie” series n° 125), 2014. XIII-366 p. including 93 ill.

[with Charlotte Schmid] “Introduction: Towards and Archaeology of Bhakti” In The Archaeology of Bhakti I. Mathurā and Maturai, Back and Forth, p. 1-29. Emmanuel Francis & Charlotte Schmid (eds.). Pondicherry: Institut français de Pondichéry & École française d’Extrême-Orient (“Indologie” series n° 125), 2014.

“‘Woe to Them!’: The Śaiva Curse Inscription at Mahābalipuram (7th century CE)” In The Archaeology of Bhakti I. Mathurā and Maturai, Back and Forth, p. 176-223. Emmanuel Francis & Charlotte Schmid (eds). Pondicherry: Institut français de Pondichéry & École française d’Extrême-Orient (“Indologie” series n° 125), 2014.

Le discours royal dans l’Inde du Sud ancienne. Monuments et inscriptions pallava (IVème-IXème siècles). Volume 1 : Introduction et sources. Louvain-la-Neuve: Université catholique de Louvain (Publications de l’Institut Orientaliste de Louvain n°64), 2013. XLII-319 p. including 254 ill., 5 maps and 3 diagrams.


Last update: 17 September, 2015


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