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Tharangambadi (formerly Tranquebar): Land of the Singing Waves

Posted on Fri, 10/19/2012 - 12:48 by easytours

Lying on the Coromandel Coast, in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, the small town of Tharangambadi (Tranquebar) is a vestige of Danish heritage in India.

In the 15th century, under the rule of the Thanjavur king Raghunatha Nayak, Tranquebar was an active international trading port attracting Muslim traders, German theologians and Moravian entrepreneurs. When the Danes arrived in Tharangambadi, as it was then known, Arab and Portuguese traders had already been plying the coasts. In 1620 the Dansborg Fort was constructed as part of a treaty between the Kings of Thanjavur and Denmark. The primary purpose of the treaty was pepper exportation from India via the now established Danish East India Company.

By 1777, the Danes had taken complete control of Tranquebar. In 1801, Tranquebar was taken by the British, but restored to the Danes in 1814. Tranquebar remained under Danish control until 1845 when the British purchased it and the other Danish settlements in India.

This pocket of Danish influence gives Tranquebar a unique legacy. The first Protestant missionaries who set foot in India were sent by the Danish King Frederick IV to begin work in Tranquebar. As a result, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Pluetschau translated the New Testament into Tamil for the first time.

Though the architectural journey of Tranquebar can be traced back to the 14th century Masilamaninathar Temple built during the Pandya Regime, by the 18th century the Danish influence was apparent not only in the Dansborg Fort, but also in the churches and colonial houses scattered around Kongensgade (King Street). Homes featuring thick stucco walls, massive pillars supporting classical pediments, second-story verandas and carriage porches remind us of a time when this busy trading center was an outpost of Danish culture. Entry to this town is through an impressive two-hundred-year-old town gate featuring Danish architectural influence.