Earth Sublime

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tranquebar – Where time stood still

Again it was my love for history that led me to Tranquebar, a sleepy old town, situated about 55 kms from Chidambaram. In fact, Tranquebar is quite close to Poompuhar and one can cover both these places at once. Starting at around 10.30 in the morning, we reached Tranqebar at about 12.15 pm. It was almost the same road that we had taken to go to Poompuhar the other day. As I drove along, I could not help think that I was in fact serenading the east coast as all the places I went to or crossed were right on the coast be it Pondicherry, Cuddalore, Chidambaram, Poompuhar or Tranquebar.

Soon the sign board announced ‘Tranquebar’ and we had to pass through an arch of sorts which perhaps dates back to the time when the Danes lived here. For it is in Tranquebar that the evangelist Lutheran missionaries first set foot in India. A stone memorial on the beach marks the place of their having arrived here in 1702. Tranquebar has a fascinating link to the past. To encourage trade with other countries, the Rajah of Tanjore gave permission to the representatives who had come from Denmark to build a fort and reside here as well. The fort still stands on the beach with the upper floor being converted into a museum.

We decided to check out the museum and after paying a nominal fee, entered the fort. The fort is not unduly large with the ground floor consisting of many open rooms. Inside the museum, my eyes first fell upon a copy of the treaty that was signed by the Rajah of Tanjore and the king of Denmark. There are many other things of interest right from the swords used by the soldiers to the cannon balls. There is also a portrait of the Raja of Tanjore – Sarfoji.

The beach is vast with many derelict structures (perhaps a temple?). It seems however that the ruins are testimony to many a romance evident by the number of couples seen here. There is also a hotel here called ‘Bungalow on the beach’ which almost resembles a villa. In fact, one would be forgiven if one were to think that one has stumbled upon a place in Spain or France for that matter.

One church here, the Zion church was built in ……… As we went exploring the place, we found that the streets still have names like Kings Street and Queens Street. At one end of Kings’ Street, there is to be found the statue of Ziegenbalg, the missionary who first arrived here. And a plaque there informs the tourists to “be the first” for Ziegenbalg has a number of firsts to his credit – first to …………………..

Soon it was time to say good-bye to this idllyic place, another example of an Indian King’s largess that allowed foreign presence on Indian land.

From Tranquebar, we halted for lunch at Sirkazhi and then reached Chidambaram. After a quick nap, it was time to hit the road again. Again, one has to be rather careful while driving for there is heavy traffic coming from both sides, the Pondicherry-Chennai route being one of the most traveled routes.

We reached home by 10.00 pm. It was by far one of our most enjoyable and informative trips.


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