Going on vacation doesn’t necessarily mean visiting extravagant destinations with meticulously-planned travel itineraries and visas. Believe me, there are many hidden gems yet to be discovered. Recently, I stumbled upon one such place – Tranquebar, where I had the pleasure of spending a day on the beachside.
For those who don’t know Tranquebar, the name may evoke images of a luxurious beachside bar. But it is a place imbued with significant historical significance.
It’s an 8-hour long drive from Bangalore. But the journey was filled with visits to charming towns with stunning temples, such as Thiruvannamalai, Chidambaram, and Thirukadaiyur. Each temple has fascinating narratives and exceptional sculptures that are sure to leave you in awe.
My final destination – Trankebar, a place named by the Danes and later, anglicised by the English as Tranquebar. And the locals call it Tarangambadi, which means ‘land of singing waves‘. A fitting name as the constant sound of the waves serves as background music throughout the village’s streets.
Danish History in India
The Danish East India Company was established during early 17th century, for trading with India and the East Indies. The Danish expedition first landed in Tanjore. The King of Tanjore, Raghunatha Nayak, granted permission to establish a settlement on the Coromandel Coast. The Danes had to pay an annual tribute in return. They built a fort at Tranquebar and established their first trading post in India. The Danes traded in spices, silk, indigo, and saltpetre.
The Danish East India Company faced stiff competition from other European trading powers such as the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. However, the Danish trade remained active until 1845. Later, it was sold to the British East India Company along with other Danish trading posts, like Nicobar Islands & Serampore.
The Dansborg fort, which still stands tall, was the residence and headquarters of the Danish officials for about 150 years. It is a two floor building, but most of the enclosures and gates are now locked. The lower floor used to function as a storage space and also functioned as the residence for soldiers.
There is also a silent cannon pointing towards the sea on the front side of the Dansborg Fort. It is now a museum hosting a collection of artefacts from the colonial era.
The Kings Street
The King’s Street brims with historical landmarks and structures. It links the 200-year-old entrance arch ‘Gateway of Tranquebar,’ to the beach. The entire stretch of Kings street, highlights the Scandinavian influence in the area.
The promenade, lined with pretty lights, leads to an endless expanse of blue. As I strolled from the gateway to the beach, I felt like I was walking back in time. I imagined those lights replaced by men standing with burning torches and ships docked at the port. Imagination has no bounds.
The classical streetscape and old names still remain. If someone wanders around the town, they wont miss King’s Street, Queen’s Street, Admiral Street, Goldsmith Street, Mosque Street, etc.
Places to visit includes : Dansborg fort, Governors Bungalow, Zion Church, New Jerusalem Church, Masilamani Nathar Temple.
British Bungalow on the Beach
At the far end of the promenade, on the left is a beautiful Colonial Bungalow facing the sea. It was restored and is now managed by Heritage Hotel Company , Neemrana. I decided to experience one day at this beautiful place living like a governess.
We got a stunning beach view room called “Crown prince of Denmark”. Yes, every room has a unique name. The balcony opened up to endless expanse of the blue horizon. The high rise ceiling and rafters running through the roof is breathtaking. There were sturdy wooden furnitures & antique artefacts aptly placed in each room. The latches of the room definitely needs a special mention.
In the midst of the frenzied pace of city life, it’s easy to forget what true silence feels like. What we perceive as peaceful and tranquil also has some source of background sound. However, for many of us, the absence of the sounds of vehicles and crowds is perceived as silence.
As I sat upon the balcony, gazing at the setting sun, the salty ocean breeze caressing my face, and the soft melody of waves kissing the shore, I felt a stirring of poetry and romance within me.
As luck would have had it, we were the only guests living like the owner of the building for a day. Food was extremely authentic and served well based on our choice.
While I enjoyed being a single guest during the day, the eerie silence, complete stillness around, age old creaky wooden floors and antique objects brought in a sense of spookiness and an unsettling feeling. I blame it on horror movies & Netflix shows and my wild imagination. Such huge mansions are always associated with a creepy stories. I could imagine hazy images of a danish official wandering around especially in the night in his old outfit. Yet, the soothing lullaby of the waves quickly put me to sleep, and no visit by any dane/english official.
When standing before a magnificent sunrise, flanked on one side by a 14th-century Pandya temple and on the other by a 17th-century Danish fort, time loses its significance.
Although, I can spend another day gazing at this astounding sea view, it was time to pack my bags and head back home.
Danish Delight – My Opinion
Despite its captivating history dating back to the 14th and 16th centuries, Tranquebar remains obscure. Though the place is a fascinating historical site, with cultural significance, distinctive architecture and artefacts, it is not adequately promoted. In fact, I was unable to locate a single souvenir to commemorate my visit.
My concern regarding the preservation of Tranquebar’s historical features continued to linger. Particularly due to the scarcity of information provided about each monument. While many tourist destinations seem overhyped and overpriced, Tranquebar remains relatively unknown. This lack of attention has resulted in poor upkeep of the area. In my view, a lot could be done to improve the state of the place.
As someone who grew up in Tamil Nadu, I was not aware of Tranquebar until recently. When I brought this up to my cousin, who had spent a considerable amount of time in Denmark, he shared an intriguing insight. In the museum of Denmark, he noticed an official badge with Tamil inscription as “Tarangambadi”, which prompted him to investigate the meaning and location of Tarangambadi.
“Nevertheless, for those who appreciate a more authentic and pristine experience, history of Tarangambadi offers a unique glimpse into a bygone era.“
6 Comments Add yours
Historical architectural Tharangambadi kadal karaiyil amaithulla meega alagana puthumaiyana parvaiyil sitharikkapatta arumaiyana vlog.
Thanks Amma for reading it
Wow Excellent narration about the historical place. For a moment I felt presence of the whole place you have narrated. Thanks for sharing it Lavanya.
Thanks for reading Priya
Thanks to your writing ……….will add this to my bucket list