Fort Geldria , Pulicat, Tamil Nadu - a forgotten Dutch Fort that needs restoration

 Fort Geldaria,in Pulicat,TN, 

The Dutch landed in India with a view to expanding their trading activities - export of Indian textiles primarily and import of spices from the East Indies. Their trading activities lasted from 1605 to 1825 despite severe competition from the Portuguese and the British.   First began their operation in  Pulicat, later it became the governorate of Coromandel.  Dutch East India Company fleet operated in the Coromandel region  covering present  Tamil Nadu coast from 1610  until the company's liquidation in 1798.

Dutch ship approaching Bombay (Mumbai)

Above image: The Dutch East India Company, also called the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC in Dutch, was founded to engage in  trade, exploration, and colonization throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Started  in 1602, it lasted until 1800. It was one of the first and most successful international corporations,  owning several ocean going ships. The first permanent Dutch trading post was established in 1603 in Banten, West Java, Indonesia.  By 1669 the Dutch East India Company was the richest company in the world.....

Fort Geldria in Pulicat, TN, built in 1613  on the banks of the lake to protect their settlement against raids from the Portuguese and others operating in this region,  was  named for Geldria, the native province of  Wemmer van Berchem, the General Director of the Dutch company.  The company got permission from the ruler - Eraivi, a wife of king Venkata II of Vijayanagar to build the fort for protection. The fort came up amidst protests  from the Portuguese who raided many times. The ruler took a firm stand and stood in favor of the Dutch company. 

Flag of Coromandel, Dutch

Dutch settlements in India.

Fort Geldria in Pulicat, TN,

Being the seat of the Dutch Republic's first settlement in India, it was  the center of  administration in 1616. The Pulicat lake gave access to the Bay of Bengal and Coromandel coast and  it was strategically an important place for the European traders. Consequently there arose a series of rivalry among the international traders - the Portuguese and the British. The fort had  a garrison of 80 to 90 men to protect the company's possessions and it was the only fortified Dutch settlement in India and in the 17th century it protected important sea routes on the Coromandel coast.  Other settlements happened to be mere trading posts controlled  by the Dutch Company. The fort gave refuge to people, escaping from the Portuguese colonies. 

Rectangular in plan, it is a  well built fort with walls and seven bastions  surrounded by a wide moat. Beyond the moat the ground closer to the fort walls is at a high level. The bastions can be accessed through the ramp and each one has battlements and seven or eight openings to position the cannon in firing mode.

During the heyday in Pulicat there were several hundred  handlooms operating  and the Dutch Co was  the main byer, exporting the textile from this area as well as from  the hinterlands of Tamil, Telugu and and the output was good enough for   Kannada regions. In 1620   a gunpowder factory in Pulicat came up Pulicat and the output took care of the needs of several Dutch  settlements and Dutch ships for decades. The first VOC mint in India was established in in 1615  at Fort Gelria. The  Dutch minted "Kas" copper coins (pagodas) with VOC monogram and a Sanskrit legend  for trade purposes and the minting continued until. 1674, In the later part of  the seventeenth century, the fort began to lose its influence as a center for trading as it was  unable to cope up with tough trade wars with other European powers.. In the year 1689, the Dutch administration  shifted to Negapatnam and then to Ceylon.when a new mint was established at Nagapattinam. These coins were widely used in Ceylon.

Fort Geldaria,in Pulicat,

Above image: Fort Geldria in Pulicat, TN. Built by the Dutch on an existing fort, in the course of time changed hands and in 1714  it was repaired and renovated. The British occupied it from 1781 to 1785........ 

 By 1825, the Dutch company lost all their properties and settlements.  On 1 June 1825, seven years after the possessions had been restored to the Dutch, Dutch Coromandel was again ceded to the British, owing to the provisions of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824.  From 1st June 1825 the Geldria Fort remained under the British  until Indian Independence. About 400 years old, the fort in Pulicat, about 60 km from Chennai, is under the  Archaeological Survey of India.(ASI) and is in ruins. The Venetian map dated 1574, contains one of the oldest references to Pulicat. The fort has a look of a Dutch cemetery with  76 tombs most of them  retaining  the architectural legacy of the past Dutch colonial settlement. The Dutch had their heyday here, considering the rich Dutch heritage, the ASI should come forward  to repair and restore this site back to its old glory.