Danish settlement, Tharangambadi, Tamil Nadu - A forgotten legacy of Denmark

The Danish fort Tharangambadi, TN upload.wikimedia.org

The Danish fort Tharangambadi, TN.blog.railyatri.in

.Danish East India Co. youtube.com

Just like the Portuguese, Spanish, French and the British, the Danes were  great seafarers and  explorers actively involved in international maritime  trade activities in spices, textiles,  tea, etc.  In 1616  King Christian IV  wanted to develop trade with  India and Ceylon, and had  his eye  set on the Coromandel Coast in India's southeast for its pepper and cardamom, etc. later The kingdom of   Denmark-Norway  had  a  settlement built in this part of south India  and started their own trading center with permission from the local ruler.  Danish ships began arriving  in Tharangambadi in 1620. .They  colonized some areas of India -Tarangambadi (Tranquebar), Serampore (1755 with royal order from the local ruler) etc. The Dutch East India company (May 1616) had its head office in Serempore.  The Danish East India Company established their first factory at Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu in 1620 and Serampore in Bengal in 1676. Cornelis-de-Hartmann was the first Dutch Citizen to reach India via Cape of Good Hope in 1596 AD. 1602 AD  and the first Dutch Company United East India Company was founded  and its first permanent trading post in Indonesia.  Dutch had a monopoly on the spice trade in India in the 17th century.

location mapTharangambadi (Tranquebar) .zoomcar.com

With the defeat of the Dutch in 1741in  a battle  fought at Kulachal between the Dutch East India Company and the ruler of Travancore, Anizham Tirunal Martanda Varma (1729-1758) the Dutch influence declined in India and finally they had to leave the subcontinent later. 

The Danish fort  Tarangambadi, TN.gettyimages.com

Tharangambadi also spelled Tarangambadi (Tranquebar) of Nagapattinam district, TN  a small coastal town is not only known of its scenic  beach  and  active sea waves, but also for the famous Danish fort -  the Dansborg Fort. This Danish  settlement  is just 120 km south of Pondicherry, a  former French colony near Cuddalore. The other Danish settlement being that of Serampore  now, a part of Kolkata city in west Bengal.  Restored back to old glory,  today the Danish Fort and the fortified town are  an important tourist spot and a reminder of Danish legacy.  The TN govt along with the ASI  took serious steps and conserved the fort and other buildings with help from INTACH ( the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) in 2012. 

 the Ziegenbalg Spiritual Centre tharangambadi. travelshoebum.com.

The  project called 'Destination Development of Tranquebar' by the Department of Tourism of Government of Tamil Nadu was an ambitious one. The foundation and base of the fort were strengthened to protect them from tidal waves and high tides. They built retaining wall and also increased the height  by 5 meters  by following the old traditional methods  for construction including the walls and a fallen  section on the west side -  55 m long and four meter wide. The ASI  used  materials such jaggery, gall nut and lime for  re-constructing the wall to main the heritage value. They toiled to put the small erstwhile  Danish town back to its splendor and majesty.  Cobbled path ways, granite benches on the beach, caste-iron gate, old styled street lights, etc are some of the additional wok undertaken. Most importantly, motor vehicles are not allowed inside the heritage area.  roughly five and half crore rupees was spent on the renovation work including the new museum project.  

Tharangambadi beach TN travelshoebum.com.

The Danish fort  Tharangambadi, TN facebook.com

The Danish fort Tharangambadi, TN blog.railyatri.in

The Danish fort Tharangambadi, TNblog.railyatri.in

Above image: A big cannon at the Dansborg Fort, Tharangambadi, facing the Bay of Bengal.  Constructed in 1620,  the self-contained fort  bears testimony to the Danes' heyday during that  period and their rich culture and construction techniques.  The Fort was declared a protected monument by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1977 and now houses a museum dedicated to the Danes in India.  The coastal town of Tharangambadi was  a   fortified Danish town  completes with churches, fort, Governor's house, and other colonial office buildings. The fort has a row of rooms on the ground and on the first floors, soldiers’ quarters, warehouse, poultry room, gunpowder room and a kitchen.  For safety considerations  the fort and other sites were all enclosed by  high wall with bastions  in the midst of  rural landscape. 

gateway Danish town, Tarangambadi...blogger.com/ .blogger.com/

gateway Danish town, Tharangambadi..blogger.com/ dreamstime.com

Above image: Fortified Danish settlement. Most of the walls around  the town’s fortifications still stand including the bastions and a lone gateway. The  narrow arched gateway  on the western end of the town,  dates back to 1791 while on the south side the simple gateway with no decoration or ornamentations is much wider and  allows  larger vehicles into the town. The  entrance to the fortified town is  through Landporten (Town Gate) sporting Danish royal seal.

mission plaque.telegraphindia.com

Danish , Tarangambadi, mission  TN .telegraphindia.com

Above image:  On  the beach of Tranquebar in a quiet place stands a plaque commemorating the landing of the Tranquebar Mission -the first protestant mission in India that  first revolutionized the  printing field. The missionaries printed the first Bible in Tamil......... 

.Danish East India Co..google.com

The Danes had held the colonies for 200 years and unlike the British, they  focused more on mercantile trade than cherishing imperialistic expansion. As the competition among the European powers - Britain, France, Portugal and Denmark  became  acute   except the British others were off the race one by one. Soon after the exit of the French,  the Danes  made their exit after 1846, leaving a rich Danish heritage and architecture behind their former settlements. Here, the Danish history dates back to 1620 and is much older than the one at  Serampore in West Bengal.  Once  a pre-colonial city on the west bank of the Hooghly River .near  Kolkata.  It was part of Danish India under the name Frederiknagore from 1755 to 1845.

.Danish East India Co..google.com

The Danish trade delegation led by  Trade Director Robert Crappe on the south east  coast of India had run into all kinds of problems, in particular, from the Portuguese colonists. After surmounting major roadblocks, Crappe successfully negotiated the treaty with Ragunatha  Nayak (1600-1634),  ruler of  Thanjavur Kingdom  and signed it 20 November 1620.  Being  shrewd, the ruler wanted to have trade relationship with the Dano-Norwegian delegation and as per the treaty immediately granted  a village in the coastal area and the rights to  construct a "stone house" (Fort Dansborg) and levy taxes.  A new chapter had begun for the Danes on the Indian subcontinent.

Plagued by many unexpected problems,  the Dutch India  company ran into rough weather on many fronts  for several reasons and in  1627 the colony's finance was in a shambles and they had to be content with only three ships.  Their coffer being almost empty, unable to pay the  the agreed-upon tribute to the local Nayak  ruler in 1650,  the Danish East India Company drew the curtain down in 1655. This made the   Nayak ruler recapture the fort at Tharangambadi with help from the natives. The wall around the town of Tranquebar was built by one  Eskild Andersen Kongsbakke, the last Dane to leave this place in 1660.  

It is the largest Danish settlement outside of Denmark and  though the  Danes left Tranquebar in 1845, the fort here still emanates the colonial charm and the legacy of  hardworking Danes.    .