The Danish Fort in Tharangambadi needs periodic upkeep - it has potential to become a major tourist spot

Danish fort, Tharangambadi

The reason why I have written this post on the Danish fort in Tranquebar is a fortnight ago my son and his  family visited Tharangambadi from Nagapattinam for sightseeing purpose and here my grandson had a swell time with the beach neary.  As for my son and his wife, disappointment was quite writ on their face and they complained that the tourist spot, though an amazing one and one of a kind in South India, was not well taken care  and the government  was not focussing its attention to convert into a classic tourist spot though the former Danish colony is fully worthy of it. They told me that nobody in the corridors of power understood the historical and aesthetic value  of this site and its upkeep is poor.  .

Since  restoration of the Danish fort in 2012 in collaboration with INTACH the periodic maintenance minor repair work, white washing, etc., appear to have been ignored. But for the two protectant churches and a couple of buildings,  the ingeniously fortified Danish colony  does not look clean and tidy. The fort complex inside and outside appears dull as the color coating has faded away and in some places one could  see dark patches, marring its majestic look.  Particularly, in the museum building,  besides fading of color coating on the walls, plastering itself is pearled off and it is  noticeable behind some of the exhibits on display. Further, there has been  complaints  that the museum exhibits are  not professionally organized and displayed.  In some places inside the fort, it appears, there is a thick growth of wild grasses/ bushes that might invite poisonous critters. Periodic landscaping and frequent removal of grass in the site close to the fort were done. 

I very much understand the frequent fading of color coating on the outer walls of the Dansborg Fort because of its proximity to the sea and prevalence of humid weather. There are special exterior color powders  available on the market and using them  for outer portions will improve the look and the life of outer coating.

As the central and state governments' proposal to  improve the long Coastal Highway from Chennai to Kanyakumari via Pondicherry,  Velankanni and  Thoothukudi is on the anvil, the state tourism department  government can give priority and improve the Danish colonial site with better boarding and lodging facilities, and amusement park.

Why does the Danish Colony in Tharangambadi assume historical importance? 

Often referred to  as "a land of singing  waves", the sweet sounding euphonious Tarangambadi town  of Nagapattinam district, Tamil Nadu, has a fascinating attraction. It is that of  an  unsung Danish colony here, which is not popular as Pondicherry, a French settlement more than 110 km south of Chennai.  A preponderance of Indians, including those from the state of Tamil Nadu,   may not be aware that Danes of Denmark colonized a small part in the coastal  Cauvery delta area (during the Tanjore Nayak period under Raghunatha Nayak) to engage in trade. Tranquebar, as it was called by the Danes ( local name was a tongue twister), with its rich Danish legacy and heritage lies aloof out of limelight and this is primarily  because of poor publicity by the tourism department to popularize it and its isolated location. 

Restored back to old glory,  today the Danish Fort and the fortified town are  an important tourist spot and a reminder of Danish influence  in this small time. 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. After that first round of the Dansborg fort restoration, the  Danish Tranquebar Association whose members take key role to preserve this rare site for the next generation of people  hoisted the Indian flag and the Danish flag to remember the Danish contribution in primary education in this area, albeit missionaries attempt to convert locals to Christianity opposed by the Danish Trading co.

Danish fort,Tharangambadi

Entrance, Fort Dansborg.Tharangambadi,

1784 Governor's bungalow. Danish fort, Tharangambadi,TN

Dansborg Fort  Tharangambadi,TN

Above images: Danish colony, Tranquebar, TN:The outer walls of the buildings, fort, etc appear faded, showing lack of periodic maintenance. The governor's bungalow and the entrance town gate  with the royal Danish insignia inscribed on it  are no exception. Occasionally one could see graffiti on the walls of the historical gate....................................

Tranquebar, Tamil Nadu, India

Set in a  rural coastal town, SE Tamil Nadu,  the sudden  kaleidoscopic change of scenario may take the visitors back into a unique unconventional historical oddity and the array of buildings there is incongruent—yes, it is a former Danish colony.  This small slice of Denmark is historically and culturally  important for the following reasons:  

01. Tranquebar or locally Tharangambadi  is home to the largest Danish fort - the Dansborg Fort outside Denmark (built in 1620). 

02. During their active period this was the second largest Danish castle in the world after Kronborg (also known as Elsinore), the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet

03. The Dutch East India company (May 1616) had its head office in Serampore (now in West Bengal) close to Kolkata  established their first factory at Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu in 1620 and Serampore in Bengal in 1676. Unlike the wily british, they were just traders interested in spices, etc; no land grabbing which was the forte of the English company.

04. Declared a protected monument in 1977 by the Tamil Nadu government, the self-contained  sturdy fort  is a testimony to the Danes' heyday during their period of seafaring, maritime skills,  rich  construction  and engineering techniques.  

05. Danes were the first to introduce Protestantism in India  then, In the early 1700s came up  the Tranquebar Mission or the Royal Danish Halle Mission as it was also called - the first protestant mission in India. It became the first organized missionary undertaking in the history of the Protestant Church despite opposition  from the  Danish trading company whose civil servants had followed a policy of non-interference in the lives of the locals. 

06. India's first  printing press was established in Tranquebar in 1712 to print the first Bible in Tamil and  their first ever endeavor  revolutionized the  printing field in this country.

07. Confronted with tough competition with other European powers, in 1842 when they could no longer afford to maintain overseas colonies, sold this dilapidated Danish fort along with Serampore, the Danish settlement in Bengal to the British East India Company.

08. Though the Danes packed off from  Tranquebar in 1845, the sturdy fort that still stands on the shore with a vista of vast sheet of aquamarine bluish water having  salty tang and crying seagulls being busy picking fish, they  still retains the colonial charm and  their rich heritage. A silent reminder of their foot print in this tiny idyllic  coastal town of Tamil Nadu and the ephemeral nature of past colonial powers.