Danish fort and German missionaries

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
Trip End Jan 09, 2014

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Flag of India  , Tamil Nādu,
Thursday, December 19, 2013

The storm and the sound of the sea rage over the Dansborg Fort and the hotel Bungalow on the Beach. Here we stay three nights in Tranquebar, a small town on the Coromandel Coast in Nagapattinam District in Tamil Nadu, South India. It is a pleasant drive to it from Pondicherry. And it is good to have a look at the Danish heritage here, after we enjoyed the French heritage and its goodies in Pondicherry.

The Danish East India Company was formed in Denmark in 1616. In 1620 Christian IV, king of Denmark entered into a treaty with Ragnnatha Nayak, the king of Tanjore by which the Danes were give permission to erect a fort at Tranquebar and pay an annual rent of Rs 3111. Tranquebar (Indian name Tharangambadi) was a Danish Trade Settlement until 1845.The Danish fort is a robust building that now houses a small archeological museum.

The Danish king Frederick IV send two German missionaries from Halle to spread the gospel in the Danish settlement. They were Bartholomeus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Pluetschau, they founded the Tranquebar Lutheran mission. In the hotel we meet 32-year old Kevyan from Germany who is doing his dissertation on the perceptions of the foreign missionaries about Indian missionaries and the other way around. According to him there is a fight going on between scholars if Tranquebar is not more German than Danish. Anyway, here is where the Indian Lutheran church started.

A few Indian tourists visit the fort, and some of them stay in the hotel. The Bungalow on the Beach is actually not on the beach because it is walled. Outside are rocks, inside there is a nice swimming pool in which Chris is doing his 50 lanes of swimming regularly.

Heritage hotels

The building was in Danish times the Governor's Office, the British since 1845 used it as Collectors Bungalow. After Independence it must have been empty for many years. The Neemrana 'non-hotel’ hotels group www.neemranahotels.com took it over in 2002 and renovated it. In a photo book the hotel shows one page with the state it was in before renovation and the next one how it looks after renovation. They have 21 heritage hotels all over India. They are all historical buildings that the group have renovated. The one in Pondicherry where we had an excellent meal was marvellous.

Next to the hotel is the Danish Governors Bungalow, constructed in 1785. When the British bought Tranquebar from the Danes in 1845 it functioned as a district court. After Indian’s Independence in 1947 it had various capacities. Because of not being used it detoriated tremendously. Only after the 2004 tsunami that hit this coast and it’s people hard, the Denmark National Museum took the initiative to renovate it. 

We went inside and saw that the building has potential to become a tourist place such as a restaurant. Chris noticed that there was no bathroom in the building and the sink of the kitchen on the first floor was not linked to a sewer line. The hotel people told me that since 2012 the Tamil Department of Tourism is considering what to do with this building.

Gijsbertus Zegelaar

In the pillar of the entrance gate of the Old cemetery we find Dutch presence. It is the epitaph of Gijsbertus Zegelaar. It is rectangular plaque of red granite with Dutch inscriptions wit capitals in relief:









6 JUNYAo 1730, 7 OVERLn


Ao 1783 oud 53 jaar 2 M & 28. D.

According to Kryger and Gasparski in their book Tranquebar: cemeteries and grave-monuments of 2003 the church records for 3 Sept. 1783 they studied have an entry: "(indecipherable from Negapatnam Gisbertus Zegelaar". According to New Jerusalem Church records a girl was baptised Jacoba Gysbertus on 7 Sept. 1783. The mother was Mrs Christina Magdalena Zegelaar.

Bauke van der Pol has found out that Zegelaar fled from Nagapattinam to Tranquebar with his wife as he was accused of having given up the defense of Nagapattinam to the British too easy. 


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lorraine on

hey chris and dirk,

No phonecalls..... wonder what the boys are up to !!

had a nice lunch with aunty baker and we were thinking about you. hope to get a call soon. God bless - love Lolly

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