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  • Naseef T. P

Tranquebar: The Shore of the Singing Waves

Tharangambadi translates as the shore where the waves sing. Anyone who visits the place will have an experience that makes it come true. Every wave here has a historical story to tell. It was a Dutch colony from AD 620 to 1845. That's why this area is very important in Dutch history. There are also some historical remnants here to evoke memories of the past. Major attractions include centuries-old temples, the Dansborg Fort, a museum, and the Masilamaninathar Temple.

Danish Fort Photographed by Naseef T.P.
Danish Fort Photographed by Naseef T.P.

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Danish Fort

Inscriptions from the 14th century describe Tharangambadi as a trading port that was part of the Thanjavur kingdom. A Danish colony was established here after the arrival of a group led by Ove Gjedde at the Thanjavur royal palace in 1620. As part of a settlement, the king leased land to Denmark. Later, after having a difference of opinion with the king, the Dutch turned to the construction of the fort because there was a fear of capturing the area. The Danish admiral who entered into an agreement with the king of Thanjavur paid 3111 rupees annually. In 1845, the Dutch handed over the fort to the British. Tharangambadi is the second-largest fort after Denmark's Kronborg, which is a World Heritage Site.

Danish Fort Facing the Sea
Danish Fort Facing the Sea Photographed by Naseef T.P.

Facing the sea, the construction of this fort started in 1620. The fort was built on land given to Raghunatha Naik, the king of Thanjavur at the time. Built in the Danish architectural style, the fort has grand halls, verandas, high ceilings, and columned structures, as well as rooms, kitchens, fireplaces, and chimneys.

Details of the Danish Fort
Details of the Danish Fort Photographed by Naseef T.P.

The core of the building is made of brick. There are three rooms on the left side of the trapezoidal-shaped fort. The central pillar of the hall bears the entire weight of the dome pots. Similarly, the main door of the fort faces north. An additional door faces east. The second floor of the fort has a set of guard rooms, and the staircase leading up to them is made of brick.

Danish Fort Entrance
Danish Fort Entrance Photographed by Naseef T.P.

Museum Space in Danish Fort
Museum Space in Danish Fort Photographed by Naseef T.P.

The front door opens into an open courtyard with a well-kept lawn. There are structures on the east and south sides. The south side is single-story. It includes the soldiers' barracks, kitchen, and store. The east side rises to the second floor. Also, the officers' quarters and the chapel functioned here. A museum spread over two rooms facing the sea on the eastern side is housed inside the fort. Visitors can see the historical remains of the 17th and 18th centuries. There are many remnants of the Vijayanagar Empire and Thanjavur Dynasty here. The exhibition includes everything from models of European ships to stone sculptures of Hindu deities, Dutch documents, objects used by them, clay objects, Chinese jars, swords, spears, and wooden objects.

Clay Pot Exhibit in Danish Fort
Clay Pot Exhibit in Danish Fort Photographed by Naseef T.P.

Stone Sculpture in Danish Fort
Stone Sculpture in Danish Fort Photographed by Naseef T.P.

Rear View of Danish Fort
Rear View of Danish Fort Photographed by Naseef T.P.

Masilamaninathar Temple

This is one of the few seaside temples in South India. The famous Masilamaninathar Temple is located 300 meters away from the Danish Fort. The main attraction of this 700-year-old temple is the combination of Tamil and Chinese architecture. This temple was established in 1306 on land granted by King Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan.

Also, Sri Masilamaninathar Temple is the oldest man-made structure in Tharangambadi, built centuries before the Danes arrived. The Shiva temple that holds huge delight among the locals had some of its parts destroyed during the tsunami, which also brought it closer to the sea. The lingam washed away in the 2004 tsunami and is now on display at the Danish Fort Museum.

Masilamaninathar Temple
Masilamaninathar Temple Photographed by Naseef T.P.

Chinese Elements Seen in the Details
Chinese Elements Seen in the Details Photographed by Naseef T.P.

Nandi Statue in Masilamaninathar Temple
Nandi Statue in Masilamaninathar Temple Photographed by Naseef T.P.

Danish Governor's Bungalow

This building is located on the opposite side of the fort. Built in the 1780s, this building served as the private residence of the Danish Governor. This bungalow has a European touch with yellow walls, beautiful windows, doors, and pillars. The initial structure has undergone a number of modifications.

Danish Governor's Bungalow
Danish Governor's Bungalow Photographed by Naseef T.P.

Zion Church in Tharangambadi

We see many buildings near the Danish fort that evoke bygone memories. Zion Church is one of its major attractions. It is one of the ancient churches that were part of the Danish settlement and is enclosed in Fort Dansborg along with a set of buildings, the notable ones being the fort built in 1620, the Masilamaninathar Temple built in the 13th century, the New Jerusalem Church built in 1718, the Town Gateway built in 1792, the Danish Governor Bungalow built in 1784, and a series of tombstones built during the 17th and 18th centuries. The settlement inside the citadel is modeled like a small European town, with a land gate and wooden doors leading to the main street, namely, King's Street. Zion Church was built in 1701 by Rev. Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg (the first Pietist missionary to India), which was also the first Protestant church in India. Built in vernacular architecture, this church stands out for its architectural splendor.

Zion Church in Tharangambadi
Zion Church in Tharangambadi Photographed by Naseef T.P.


Tharangambadi, which is in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, is known as the Danish Village of India. The beauty of yesteryear is brought before us by this shore of singing waves that bring different cultures together on the shores of the Bay of Bengal and Kaveri River.

It is a place that stirs the minds of travelers like the waves from the Bay of Bengal. The beach is also one of the most romantic beaches in India. This beach is decorated with casuarinas. One wishes to walk along this shore with the other half of his life, holding hands, to the sound of the waves. It felt as if it were this Mayanagaram, whose charms will make you visit again and again, about which Vayalar writes, "Will you give another birth on this beautiful shore"?

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