The Dansborg Fort at Tranquebar – Happy Birthday to Me!

Fort story – Why now?

Because it was my birthday weekend. And I love travelling. Especially climbing Forts. And I have never been to a fort on the sea side. Good reasons all I must say. Agree? What made it even more of a plausible idea was the place of stay. The Bungalow on the Beach, a Neemrana hotel. There are very few hotels that offer the option which is a combination of staying in a heritage bungalow, sea breeze, overlooking a 400 year old pretty-pink fort. Right? If you know of any other that matches this description, do tell, will add it to my bucket list of forts to climb on my birthdays… before I can’t!

Fort way – far yet close enough when on a scenic route.

Located in the Coromandel coast, Tranquebar is a quiet town that was a Danish settlement till 1845. We reached Tranquebar/Tharangambadi (place of singing waves) on a very warm Friday afternoon.  The country roads were scenic in the monsoon month. Green and winding all the way from Pondicherry to this heritage port town.

The fort being closed on Fridays, we enjoyed hanging around in the cool environs of the hotel which was used as Collector’s Bungalow in 1845 during the British rule. There after it changed a few hands. First it was bought over by the family of Vallaiya Nadar, then by Taj Coromandal, when Neemrana bought this totally ruined building and restored it to it’s beautiful state as we experienced and were so charmed by it. It is the biggest building in Tranquebar town with arguably the best views of the Fort and the beach.

Fort history – bite size

  • It was during the 1620 AD, under the rule of Vijaya Raghunatha Nayak that Tranqubar was leased for a rent of Rs. 3,111/- per month to the king of Denmark, Christian IV.
  • The Danish East India Company wanted to set up a trading center here, clearly motivated from the profit made by the British and Dutch East India Companies.
  • The Danes built the Dansborg Fort soon after and attracted the traders passing through the East Coast. Later, the British during their rule, bought it from the Danish in 1845AD for Rs. 12.5 lakhs.
  • After independence in 1947, the Dansborg Fort went through the controls of Union and then State Govt. as inspection bungalows, Currently, the fort is with the Tamilnadu Archaeological department and houses an archaeology museum.

Fort facts – enjoy

  • The Fort faces Bay of Bengal and the sea is just about 200 meters from the walls.
  • It has two levels – the lower level, that housed the soldiers (barracks), horses, elephants besides kitchen, store for materials to be traded and prison cells. The upper level with larger rooms and sea-view was used as the residence for governor, senior merchants and priests. This is now a museum with exhibits from the Danish era at Tranquebar.
  • A moat was constructed in front of the fort gate way which has completely disappeared now. The well and the parade ground to train the soldiers can be seen.
  • Several parts of the fort have been repaired and reconstructed. It has a fairly large four sided structure with bastions at each cardinal point.
  • There’s an old Danish Cemetery on the western side of the Fort.
  • When the Tsunami hit this town in the December of 2004, nearly 800 people died. The 400 year old Dansborg fort however was not affected.

Fort town – a walk around this heritage town

A walk around the town, that would take just about a couple of hours, would seep you into history, heritage and architecture. This very quiet little heritage town has many cobbled roads, beautiful street lamps, restored quaint little houses and… no shops and restaurants. No pubs or bars as well. Note to self, carry your own drinks and chill them in the room refrigerator for even the hotel has no liquor license.

Barthelomaeus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Pluetschau, the German Missionaries came here to spread the Gospel in the Danish settlement and founded the Tranqubar Lutheran mission. This town thus became the gateway of Protestantism in India.

A printing press was installed in the year 1712 and in 1715, The New Testament, translated into Tamil by Ziegenblag was printed here in the Tranquebar Mission Press. We were here as the place was being set up for inauguration the next day by the German consulate.

The 700 year old Masilla Mani Nathar Temple built in 1306 AD by the Pandya king Maravarman Kalusekara Pandyan shows the influence of Chinese architectural designs with that of Tamil. It is said to have been done to attract the Chinese merchants visiting this coast.

While on your walk, check out the following and tick them off on the map that you can pick up from the Bunglow on the Beach and match them to the pictures here:

  • The Zion Church built in 1701 on Kings Street
  • The New Jerusalem Church built in 1718, the first protestant church in India.
  • The Ziegenbalg’s house on Admiral Street
  • The First Printing Press all restored for inauguration
  • The restored houses on Goldsmith street by BestSellers, an NGO working on restorations in Tranquebar.
  • The maritime museum with bones, boats and fishing nets.
  • The Governor’s bungalow, under restoration
  • The City Gate built in 1792
  • The century old Tranquebar Post office, functioning in the same place in… well, Post Office Street ofcourse!

Fort-y tales – check out some of the earlier ones  by clicking on the links here, more to come.

Chitradurga Fort – Karnataka

Fort Aguada – Goa

Golconda Fort – Hyderabad

Devanahalli Fort – Bangalore

Kenilworth Castle – UK

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