When we think about beaches in India, the places that come to our mind are Goa, Kerela, Pondicherry, Maharashtra and many more. Being popular these places are commercialized and crowded with a plethora of services and facilities available at your door step. But, how about a serene and tranquil place, where you will wake up to the drumbeat of the sea waves, where sea breeze knocks off all tension from the bones, where eyes continue to swim in the sky trying to catch up with the sun. This post is about such a place which I visited during my South India trip last year.
Tharangambadi formerly Tranquebar which means “place of the singing waves” a panchayat town in Tamil Nadu. Also a Danish colony like Port Blair and Sreerampore in West Bengal.
Starting early in the morning from Pondicherry I was hoping to complete the 120 km ride and reach Thrangambadi by 10 am but that didn’t happen, as after riding few km it started raining. I was sodden and stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. The break was long as the rain seems to be out on a mission continuously hammering, of course, to fix the nature’s cycle. Meanwhile, I treated myself with three cups of cloudy and smoking coffee, every time hoping by the time the storm brewing in the cup is finished the sound of the rain falls, knocking on the roof and window panes will stop. Eventually, it stopped and I resumed my journey. Twenty kilometers on the road and the rain announced its arrival yet again, it was so swift this time that I had to take shelter of a tree, but the good thing was it left swiftly as well.
While planning the South India trip I was not aware of the vernacular name “Thrangambadi”- “Tranquebar” was in my mind. So, during the ride, I was looking for name “Tranquebar” on the milestones and road signs but couldn’t find any. At a junction, I found a small board with a left arrow pointing for Tharangambadi which confused me for a moment but the locals cleared my confusion about the names and told me to register the name “Tharanagambadi” in my mind. The last stretch of 30 km was uneventful and the Danish colony welcomed me through its huge town gate.
A narrow stretch of 200 meters with façade of Danish architecture, buildings, and churches on both sides ended in front of the complex. The Danish fort (Dansborg Fort) which was built in 1620 was on my left and the sea was right in front of it. But before exploring the place further I needed an accommodation, as I was drenched and it was a priority for a change of clothes. As this place is not commercialized like others with hotels, eateries, shops and facilities in every nook and corner it was difficult to find one. A local pointed me towards a huge bungalow which is an old heritage Collector’s Bungalow right in front of the sea as the only hotel in the vicinity. However, it was way out of my budget as the daily rate was Rs 5000.
I restored to my mobile and apps to search an accommodation when a man approached me and enquired if I am looking for an accommodation. On my nod he took me to his home and offered me a room for Rs. 500 and I happily obliged.
I change my clothes and was out to explore. At first, I visited the museum on the Queen’s street which showcases the life of fisherman like fishing nets, boats and also the remains from the Tsunami of 2004. The museum is small and housed in a hut under the supervision of a local fisherman. He says that the museum is maintained by Denmark and it tributes to the local fishing community as fishing plays a major part in the history of Tranquebar.
After the museum, I went to see the Dansborg fort. A beautiful Danish architecture standing tall on the shore maintained by the Tamil Nadu government as an archeological museum. It houses barracks, kitchen, church and lodging for the governor and other senior officials. The museum exhibits lamps, sculptures, cannon balls, plates, seals, locks and Danish coins. There is also an execution place, a jail and a stable for the horses inside the fort. I must say that the museum did not impress me much but the fort did. Outside, the remnants of the fort jutting out into the bay which was once the rampart of the fort. The fort survived many tides and strong waves of the Tsunami in 2004 leaving behind an eroded brick pier which was once used to transport goods to the fort. The beach was not like any other beaches that I have seen in India. It was devoid of shops and eateries, only a lady selling boiled peas and a pushcart selling ice creams. I had a stroll on the shore and through my squinting eyes I soaked the sight of the waves, soon I reached another oldest structure of Tharangambadi. A 700-year-old Masilamani temple which also survived the Tsunami of 2004 and was reconstructed after. Beside the temple is the Danish Governor’s house which is now a Neemrana property “The Bungalow on the Beach”.
Time flew by fast; it was getting dark, I sat on the shore feeling satisfied with having absorbed this beautiful historical place within me and also in my camera. I enjoyed the salty wind and rhythmic pounding of the sea waves, throbbing the rocks, spreading their water swiftly, massing one after another, and the waves fell, withdrew and fell again.
Pin this place in your travel map if you are a history buff, photographer or simply if you want to spend a day relaxing in a quaint beach town.
How to get there:
Karaikal is the nearby town that is accessible by both road and train from major cities. From Chennai, there are overnight trains and from Bangalore there are buses to Pondicherry, from there Karaikal is 130kms away. From Karaikal, Tharangambadi is just a bus ride of 17 km.