|Danish fort, Tharangampadi, Tamil Nadu. www.thehindu.com|
|Danish fort, Tharangampadi, Tamil Naduwww.enidhi.net|
Danish India, the former colonies of Denmark–Norway (since 1813 Denmark ) in India, had held colonies for a long time - 200 years. However, their presence was not significant unlike the British or Portuguese colonists. The Danes were not imperialistic, hence they were neither a military nor a mercantile threat to other European powers. They didn't have enough money power to monopolize trade sea routes. Being smart, they made a mark on the international trade under a neutral flag and the wars among the European powers were of help to them. Hence, they had a hold on their Danish settlements in India - the town of Tharangampadi in present-day Tamil Nadu state, Serampore in present-day West Bengal, and the Nicobar Islands, currently part of India's union territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Once the French was off India, the Danes also made their exit after 1846, leaving a rich Danish heritage and architecture behind their former settlements.
|Danish India. Credit: www.thehindu.com|
India, Tamil Nadu state, Tranquebar (Tharangampadi), danish colony from 1620. www.alamy.com
The Danish also established several commercial outposts and governed from Tranquebar (Tharangampadi). They were Oddeway Torre 1696 - 1722 on the Malabar coast, Dannemarksnagore 1698 - 1714 at Gondalpara, southeast of Chandernagore, Calicut 1752 - 1791 and other places.
The arrival of Danes led by Trade Director Robert Crappe here on the coast of India was ridden with a lot of problems. Sailing on the scouting freighter the Øresund a month before his main fleet, they ran into trouble with the Portuguese vessels off the Karaikkal coast (now part of Pondicherry state). They sank the ship, killing many or taking as prisoners. Further, the Portuguese made threats and discouraged the Danes from opening trade posts here. However, Crappe and 13 of the crew gave a slip and reached the shore where they were caught by the Indians and taken before the ruler of Thanjavur Kingdom, Ragunatha Nayak (1600-1634), a devout, humane Hindu ruler of fine disposition. He evinced interest in having trade relationship with the Dano-Norwageon delegation and finally granting them a village and the rights to construct a "stone house" (Fort Dansborg) and levy taxes. Crappe successfully negotiated the treaty with Ragunatha Nayak and it was signed on
20 November 1620. A new chapter had begun for the Danes on the Indian subcontinent.
|Map of Denmark. steamcommunity.com|
However, the Danish company failed on many fronts for several reasons and in 1627 the colony was in such a poor financial state with only three ships, the Danes were unable to pay the agreed-upon tribute to the Nayak ruler. In 1650 The Danish East India Company was dissolved and in 1655 the Nayak ruler recaptured the fort at Tharangampadi with help from the natives. One Eskild Andersen Kongsbakke, the last Dane in the colony in 1660 built a wall around the town of Tranquebar.
The legacy of the Dano-Norwegian colonial presence in the town of Tharangampadi is of particular interest to us and it will benefit the posterity. The gateway inscribed with a Danish Royal Seal, a number of colonial bungalows, two churches and principally - the Dansborg Fort, constructed in 1620 bear testimony to the Danes' colonial period and their rich culture and building designs. The Fort was declared a protected monument by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1977 and now houses a museum dedicated to the Danes in India. Since 2001, Danes, on their own accord, have been active in mobilizing volunteers and government agencies to restore Danish colonial buildings in Tranquebar.