French people in India
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There is a small but recognizable community of French people in India (French: Peuple français en Inde), who are Indian-born and are descended from former French settlers and colonists who settled in India since the 17th century as well as recent expatriates from France.
The French in India are an artifact of the French Presence there, which began in 1673 with the establishment of French India and continued until 1962 when the French territory was formally transferred to India. The French presence was always small and minor compared with the British Presence and the French in India were generally ignored.
There were 12,864 French nationals residing in India in 1988. Nearly all are in the Union Territory of Puducherry in southeastern India (11,726 individuals in 1988), with much smaller numbers in Karaikal (695 individuals), Mahé (50), Yanam (46), and 342 elsewhere in India. They form a small minority, accounting for less than 3 percent of the present population of Puducherry.
Today, Pondicherry still has a community of French people living in the city and French is also an official language. There are 6,500 French people registered in South India, and of these about 5,500 are in Pondicherry. The French Indians are the wealthiest group in Pondicherry (aside from those running the Aurobindo Ashram), deriving much of their income from pension (some 20 percent are retirees), social security, welfare, and other programs of the French government. They are also entitled to emigrate to France, although few do so and the French Government does not encourage the practice.
Young French entrepreneurs who want to set up business ventures in India, found their own companies and grow their businesses in cooperation with Indian companies. French companies in India are present in various sectors such as energy, IT, environment, automobiles, traditional manufacturing industries like St Gobain and also in engineering. They also have exporters of fish and other seafood, textiles, leather and luxury goods. L’Oreal has a presence in India and Louis Vuitton has taken a stake in Hidesign in Pondicherry
The French Community in India is a consolidated group, brought together by a number of different organizations that aim to promote French culture in India. The French Club of Bombay is an organization that unites French speakers living in the city. The club meets at different locations in various parts of Mumbai so that meeting places are convenient and have a good attendance.
Culture and Religion
There are a number of French institutions in Puducherry such as a Consulate, French schools, the French Institute, and L'Alliance Française. The French spirit can be discerned in the very layout of the township. The magnificent statues of Joseph François Dupleix and Joan of Arc, the warrior saint of France tells about the significant French influence on the history of the place. A fascination for the French language and French culture is very common. Many French tourists visit Puducherry out of curiosity and because it feels familiar to their home country to a certain extent.
While the majority of the population of France and the rest of the French diaspora is composed of people of the Christian faith, the majority of the French community in India, in contrast, are Hindu. These French Hindus are mostly disciples and followers of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. The French Christians in India are mostly Roman Catholics with a smaller number of Protestants (Huguenots).
- Abhishiktananda (born Henri Le Saux), French Benedictine monk
- Pierre Ceyrac, French Jesuit priest, engaged in charitable work
- Jules Monchanin (known as Swami Paramarubyananda), French Catholic priest, monk and hermit
- Mirra Alfassa, also known as The Mother - Spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo
- Yvonne Artaud - French educator, ethnologist, psychologist and artist
- Andre Beteille (born 1934) - Indian sociologist
- Christabel Chamarette - Senator for Western Australia (Born in India and is of French Huguenot descent)
- Alain Daniélou - French Historian, Intellectual, Musicologist & Indologist
- François Gautier - Writer and journalist based in India
- Catherine Grand - Wife of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, the first Prime Minister of France
- Maïna Kataki - Founder of the charity, Samarpan Ashram
- Kalki Koechlin - Indian actress
- Pavitra - Early disciple of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother
- Satprem - Author
- Jenny Shircore - British make-up artist
- J. R. D. Tata - Pioneer aviator and businessman, former CEO of Tata Sons (1938-1991)
- Simone Tata - Chairperson of the Trent Limited