Friday, November 5, 2010

My next stop - Tranquebar!

Many times, the very sound of some places intrigue you even before you have experienced them. And one name which has been on my mind for over two years now is this little serene village called Tranquebar, near Pondicherry.

Not sure what is it - the name, the culture, the history - but there is a mystic charm about this place in my mind ever since I heard/ read about it. And I am hoping to plan this trip real soon.

Here's my small introduction to Tranquebar based on the facts I have found and recommendations from friends who have been there. Hope it comes handy to anyone planning a trip that side -

Tranquebar (or Tharangambadi in Tamil), located in Nagapattinam district, about 100 km south of Pondicherry, is a serene village on the Coromandel Coast of India popularly recognised for the centuries-old cultural concoction that it so powerfully exudes – the traditional Tamil architecture entwined with elaborate medieval European designs and sensibility.

A Historical Kaleidoscope at the Seashore

A one of its kind of a Danish colony in India that was later taken over by the British, you know you are at Tranquebar when you witness a heavenly beach with magnificent specimens of Danish architecture adorning the shore including a church where the first Bible was printed in Tamil language, the 400 year old Fort Dansborg, an ancient Hindu temple and the remains of a printing press where the first book in English was printed in Asia.

If you are a beach bum and want to relax in a tranquil environment laden with an interesting history, Tranquebar – “the land of the singing waves” is an exotic holiday worth considering. A highly prosperous and one of the most actively popular trading posts of the Danish in the early 17th century, the charm of this little hamlet around the sea shore offers a beautiful mix of languages, cultures, races and religions that is carrying on in its relaxed, unhurried manner.

An Architectural Wonderland at Coromandel

To enjoy the quintessential allure of Tranquebar, you can either walk around or consider a pedal biking option to traverse through the historical remains spread across the town. Pedal bikes are easily available on rent, it seems.

Sight-seeing options are plenty but a great way to begin would be to take a leisurely walk on King’s street - the main street of Tranquebar. You will find a memorial at the spot where the Danes landed first in 1620, from where you can see part of the ramparts that were built around the Town Gate of Tranquebar.

A little further and you can enjoy the combination of colonial and Indian architectural facets adorning the series of churches on the street that include – The Zion Church (the oldest protestant Church in India), The New Jerusalem Church set up by Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg - the first protestant missionary from Denmark whose most prominent work was his translation of The New Testament into Tamil in 1715. The Ziegenbalg Museum Complex marks the very first printing press in India at Tranquebar - the Tamil Bible printed here was incidentally the very first publication in India.

You can wander around the grand bungalows of the Danish Governors' and the British Collector's residence and head towards the Masilamani Nathar Temple on the beach dating back to the Pandian era, before settling down at Fort Dansborg which is considered to be one of the most strikingly beautiful structures at Tranquebar and the only surviving imperial fort on the Coromandel Coast. The 400-year old, two storeyed -fort’s archeological museum has an interesting Danish saga to tell which apparently has also been an inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

And finally comes the most gorgeous part - the Tranquebar beach, considered to be one of the best at this scenic coastal stretch across the Bay of Bengal. To take a break from your fast paced city life, here is another fantastic experience that you shouldn’t miss for anything - watch the waves, sit on the ramparts of the fort and thank God that there are no hordes of tourists and diesel spewing buses, clogging the little lanes and the shore.

You can finally end your day with a beer at The Bungalow on the Beach at King’s Street, one of the most plush hotels emanating the mystic old world charm of the British Collector’s house. While Neemrana group offers luxury accommodation through this hotel along with The Gate House and The Nayak House, budget travellers need not worry since the Tamil Nadu House has affordably priced-accommodation. While there are small, local restaurants serving meals, The Bungalow on the Beach is the only one to offer a dining option amongst the hotels based here.

A recent development

There is a stark revelation these days which is apparent in this quaint fishy village which used to be the hub for Danish dignitaries, Muslim traders, German theologians, Moravian entrepreneurs, and sea merchants from all corners of the globe during the pre-British Raj days. The glorious architecture which was so synonymous with the local flavour of Tranquebar was washed down by the 2004 Tsunami. Currently, all the damaged-historical monuments are being restored. You could also visit the Arts and Craft Centre which is being developed for presenting the traditional arts and crafts of this region.


  1. Great post Amu! I look forward to making a trip down to this quaint little beach town...
    The only Tranquebar I had heard of was the one near Tanzania

  2. :) Looking forward to discover it myself and will then post my first-hand experience

  3. Amu - more about places u've already visited.
    Kevin is going to tranqebar and staying at the bungalow next month.
    @ahmed : the beach off the coast of tanzania is zanzibar

  4. on their way, raje. very soon :)

  5. Have heard a lot about this quaint danish colony. Thanks for the info. Would be planning a trip soon.

  6. Hi Amrita, when you DO decide to go, give me a call! Nice post, by the way . One more thing, which very few people know - it has the 2nd highest ozone content in the air ( in the world) and believe me , you can literally feel it. Best time to go is to coincide with a full moon have to see that beach bathed in silvery light to believe it. Hope you do go soon!