This is a travel story of how we explored Tranquebar, a Dutch town near Chennai.
My Mulish Explorer
Neha, my best friend came to Chennai to visit us. She is the only friend who dared to come and meet us atleast once in our place of posting, be it far flung remote area of Arunachal Pradesh and getting bitten by a weird insect at midnight or the hip and happening Chandigarh, The city beautiful or the terror stricken Kaluchak area in Jammu. This time in Chennai it was all about beaches and masti.
The itinerary for the Chennai visit included beach hopping; relishing South Indian food and a must do visit to Pondicherry. But Neha was not an easy one to please and she demanded more, she wanted to explore more. She sat for hours on Google researching and then theatrically declared;”Let’s go to Tranquebar”
Eh? Tranquebar (I gave an unconvinced expression)
Neha assertively enunciated;” Tranquebar is a Dutch town near Chennai”.
On Neha’s conviction and my initial hesitation we set out for Tranquebar
Managing our Way
Chennai to Tranquebar is approximately 262 kilometers. After a fun visit to Pondicherry we hit the roads to Tranquebar in our red car, lovingly called Dhanno.
Let me share a fun anecdote of struggling with language issues and finding our way enrote to Tranquebar. While we were asking for directions we got these puzzled looks from people. Needless to say, language is a problem down south and the more you hit the interior areas, the Hindi/English understanding people reduce further and you are left with sign language. To add to our disadvantage the milestones were in Tamil and wherever we could see something English, it said Tharangambadi so and so kilometres.
We were super confused and started pulling Neha’s leg, “beta kissi South ke gaon mei pahuncha dena, raat ko gaddi mei hi sona padega” (we will reach a small village and will have to sleep in the car itself). But Neha cheerfully held the fort and pat came the reply from Google Mata, ‘Tharangambadi was formerly known as Tranquebar and is a panchayat town in Nagapattinam district in the state of Tamil Nadu”.
Ok, Ok. Understood.
Henceforth we started asking directions for Tharangambadi and the puzzled look vanished away. In another hour of beautiful countryside drive we reached Tranquebar and were greeted by a statuesque town gate, a remnant from Dutch civilization here. Beyond the gate it was a different world all together.
The Mystic Shiva Temple
This place is as old as 14th century and there is a beautiful Shiva temple of that era right on the voracious shore. You can sit for hours here and be lost in nothingness.
I felt like re-pledging my marital vows here. The temple surely has some romantic vibes. Oh wait, did they just have a traditional marriage ceremony in the Temple premise and I was quietly seeing and dreaming away sitting at the shore.
The Monarchical Danish Fort
Danish people landed ashore in 1620. Danish admiral Ove Gjedde felt the place would be a potential trading centre, made a deal with Raghunatha Nayak and built the Fort Dansborg.
The dilapidated fort has a charm of its own. You can sit on the terrace, facing the sea and imagine how Dutch royal ladies wandered about enjoying a fine evening, chit-chatting in their accent and sipping tea. Oh, the thought itself time transported me.
And then Neha jolted me out, “Oye, madam tu phir baith gayee. Come let’s see around the fort” (lazy bum you sat again).
Modish Breakfast at the Heritage Hotel by the Sea
We were a little low on cash and had to settle for cheaper but a clean guesthouse though all of us were drooling over the beauty and grandeur of the Neemrana properties. They have three heritage hotels on the main road of Tranquebar town. Each one of it equally beautiful but the Bunglow on the Beach definitely get a thumbs up!
As a compromise, Soumen offered to sponsor our breakfast in this hotel. And, what a breakfast we had. Sitting in an antique room decorated with Ming dynasty crockery (all in blue), a small room directly facing the swimming pool and looking out to the sea, we relished our English breakfast. It can’t get better than this. Truly a royal breakfast!
Meddlesome At the Danish Church
Among the first Protestant missionaries to set foot in India were two Lutherans from Germany, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Pluetschau, who began work in 1705 in the Danish settlement of Tranquebar. Ziegenbalg translated the Old and New Testaments into Tamil, imported a printing press, and printed the New Testament in Tamil in 1714. In fact the Tranquebar town was first in doing a lot of things as you can see in this stone plaque picture below.
Two old bells on both sides of the church entrance beguiled us and we spent some time toying with it. The graveyard behind the church was fascinating for we loved to read and pronounce the complicated Danish names.
The Militant Sea
The sea at Tranquebar can wake up the dead. It is deafening loud but there is a Nature’s rhythm to it. We enjoyed the sea when it is at its best, sunrise and sunset, and totally fell in love with it. My personal favourite was the narrow rock jetty extending a bit into the main sea. Standing there you feel the sea embracing you.
We stayed on the beach till late at night, dancing, singing, running, collecting shells, clicking pictures. Another advantage of visiting an offbeat, less visited beach – you can be just yourself.
The Murky Town Roads
The small Dutch hamlet looked dreamlike amidst light drizzle. Rain has that kind of effect on town roads. We walked for hours soaking into the beauty of this prestigious town of the bygone era.
This is my story of exploring Tranquebar, the colonial Dutch town near Chennai.
If you are staying in Chennai or nearby don’t miss this offbeat, Dutch hamlet, Tranquebar and enjoy soaking into the colonial era.
Picture courtesy: Neha Kohli
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