Jani Jermans – Travel Diaries

October 10, 2021

Tranquebar (Tharangambadi) – The Forgotten Town

Filed under: India — jani @ 9:49 am

About Tranquebar:

Tharangambadi, formerly Tranquebar, is a town in the Mayiladuthurai district of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on the Coromandel Coast. Tranquebar was established on 19 November 1620 as the first Danish trading post in India.

I came across an article which brought to our attention of a town named Tranquebar, now it’s known as Tharangambadi (means – Place of the singing waves), which was a Danish colony for sometime. We have always heard about Pondicherry which had French influence. The sad part of it was not many knew about this small town and when I enquire, most of them were never heard of this town. Sur and myself decided to explore least known places of our country, visit and then write about so that others also can travel to such places. So we were glad that we found this town. Multiple times, we were trying to book for a weekend trip. Unfortunately the only good hotel recommended was The Bungalow on the beach – 17th Century, managed by Neemrana Hotels and it was always fully booked. So once Covid situation improved and we were fully vaccinated and ready to explore, first thing came in our mind was Tranquebar and thankfully this time it was available. We also had Kiran and kids (Kaavya and Vihaan) joined with us that made all the more fun.

Day 1: As usual we started our trip by 5 AM to avoid the traffic. On the way we stopped for a breakfast in Aananda Bhavan Delight which is in Bangalore Salem Highway, Omalur, Tamil Nadu. We had stopped earlier at the same place for lunch and had their vegetarian meals which was really great but the breakfast didn’t meet the same expectations of that but was ok. They also have cleaner rest rooms which makes it the ideal stop for a break.

Then we headed straight to the property, as we enter the main street of Tranquebar, there is a Town Gate and then we reached The Bungalow on the beach after 8 hours of drive. We had to wait for an hour since the rooms were still not available as the guests were just checking out. So they gave us a room on the ground floor to freshen up. So we decided to do the lunch first instead of waiting for an hour. For the lunch table was set in an open area near the garden. The property seems to be in an ideal location as all the sightseeings are around the property and also it’s very close to the beach. Only concern was there were too many house flies and it was a little annoying for all of us while having food. We ordered local Tranquebar fish curry, rice and white penne pasta. The fish curry all that I could taste was just the tamarind, rice was very sticky and pasta was just average. Everything went wrong with the food. Finally Kiran asked for curd and somehow they managed to eat a little curd rice. So we didn’t have the best of first impression and we were like how are we going to spend 3 nights here.

Post lunch, our rooms were ready and we headed to our rooms Prince Christian and Princess Louise. It’s a heritage property but not well maintained. The beds were shaky and the bed bars were lose etc. The staffs tried to fix it but it was not at all worth for the money the property charges for. Since not many properties around, didn’t have much choice as well. We freshened up and took siesta since all of us were tired after a long drive. We woke up in the evening, ordered for tea, coffee and snacks. They had French Fries and Onion Pakoda and it was good. We were little scared to try dinner after a disastrous lunch, so we decided to skip dinner as we didn’t have energy to venture out and look for options outside the property. Kids managed with the snacks that we carried for our journey for their dinner and then we crashed for the night.

Day 2: After a good rest we went for breakfast. They had bread, omelettes, dosa and Upma. So we ordered bread, masala omelette and Dosa. Had a cup of coffee and then we headed for our sightseeing. We thought we can see the local sightseeings later as they were all close by and decided to visit the nearby places which are worth visiting. So we chose to travel to Velankanni which was just 1.5 hours from Tranquebar. We enjoyed the lush green fields, palm trees, coconut trees and cotton fields on the way. We reached the Velankanni Church, which is the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health, also known as Sanctuary of Our Lady of Velankanni, is a Marian shrine located at the small town of Velankanni in Tamil Nadu, South India. The Roman Catholic Latin Rite Basilica is dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health. Devotion to Our Lady of Good Health of Velankanni can be traced back to the mid-16th century, and is attributed to three separate miracles at the sites surrounding the Basilica: The apparition of Blessed Mary and the Christ Child to a slumbering shepherd boy, the healing of a handicapped buttermilk vendor, and the rescue of Portuguese sailors from a deadly sea storm. Initially, only a simple and modest chapel was built by the Portuguese sailors who washed ashore safely. More than 500 years later, the nine-day festival and celebration is still observed and draws nearly 5 million pilgrims each year. The Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni is also known as “the Lourdes of the East” because it is one of the most frequented pilgrimage centres in India.

Since this is based near coastal area, the weather was really humid and hot. As usual except myself no one was enjoying the weather. This is a huge area with multiple chapels, churches and grottos. We went to the chapel which is built on the spot, where the handicapped buttermilk boy was healed, and then visited the adjacent grotto, old main church and then headed to the church which was built in memory of the golden jubilee of the old church. Then we stopped for an ice cream break and then headed to the main church which was under construction and it was on the opposite direction. Be prepared to walk in the scorching sun, but visiting the church was surreal and divine. Then we headed to main church, the ground floor was under renovation and the mass (prayer) was going on in the first floor. So we couldn’t go inside, we stood outside, prayed and left the place. There is also a beach close by but others didn’t have my enthusiasm to visit due to the heat as they all wanted to get inside the AC car. So we walked back to the parking lot, got in the car and drove back to the hotel. Since none of us were hungry, we skipped lunch, had siesta and then woke up to order some tea, coffee and snacks. They had sandwiches which had both veg and chicken option. The chicken sandwich was really yummy and we enjoyed the snacks and then went around actually to see the Tranquebar sightseeings that were closeby.

We went to see the Danish fort which was right across the hotel that we stayed in. We had to rush since it closes by 5:30 PM. Fort Dansborg called Danish Fort, is a Danish fort located in the shores of Bay of Bengal in Tranquebar (Tharangambadi) in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Fort Dansborg was built in the land ceded by Thanjavur king Ragunatha Nayak in an agreement with Danish Admiral Ove Gjedde in 1620 and acted as the base for Danish settlement in the region during the early 17th century. The fort is the second largest Danish fort after Kronborg. The fort was sold to the British in 1845 and along with Tranquebar, the fort lost its significance as the town was not an active trading post for the British. After India’s independence in 1947, the fort was used as an inspection bungalow by the state government till 1978 when the Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu took over the control of the fort. The fort is now used as a museum where the major artifacts of the fort and the Danish empire are displayed.

There is also The Zieganbalg Museum Complex which is a private museum opposite to the fort, however it was closed since we got delayed. This seems to have many interesting articles, the most important one being the first printing press of India. The first book, a bible printed in Tamil was printed here.

Then there was The Masilamani Nathar Temple which is an interesting piece of architecture, the Masilamani Nathar temple is a mix of Chinese and Tamil architecture, built possibly to attract Chinese traders to Tranquebar and it is 700 years old. This was closed when we reached there, so went to another new temple closeby and we were right on time for the evening Aarti and we took the blessings and came back.

At the entrance of Town Gate we also The New Jersalem Church which houses tombs date back to 18th Century. We didn’t stop over as we were crossing this multiple times and also there is another church named Zion Church, which was the first protestant church in Tranquebar and one of the oldest as well.

Then we headed to the beach, The beach in Tharangambadi has been identified as the one of the most Ozone-rich beaches in the world by various studies conducted by the Danes in 1960s and Indian researchers. The ozone content in air is said to be high between April and July. The presence of rich Ozone (O3) content helps in absorbing the hazardous ultraviolet rays coming from the sun which remains an unknown fact for most of the locals. We cannot get into the water since this area is dangerous due to high tides and there were lot of cops to watch over to ensure people comply with the instructions for their own safety.

After enjoying the beach, as we were returning back, we saw a local vendor selling Sukku Coffee (pronounced locally as Chukku which means dry ginger) or Sukku Malli Coffee (Malli means coriander seeds), but there is no caffeine in it and not sure why is it called coffee, but this dry ginger concoction is one of the best home remedies used commonly in Tamil households. It aids in digestion, helps reduce cough, cold and headache and as Dry ginger is supposed to have a lot of medicinal properties as well. This drink is best for the winter/rainy season as it helps with cold and cough. (Preparation: 100 gm of Coriander seeds, 50 gm of dry ginger, 1 teaspoon of pepper corn, 5 pieces of Cardamom and 2 small pieces of Cinnamon Sticks. All of them are roasted and grounded and this powder can be stored for a longer duration. When you are ready to prepare the drink, you have to just boil 400 ml of water and put 4 teaspoons of this powder and add Palm Candy to sweeten and your drink is ready. (Palm Candy/ Panakarkandu in Tamil) is produced from the sweet “Neera” from Palmyra. Palm Candy is a nutrient rich, Low Glycemic Crystalline sweetener; it is completely natural. Palm Candy It has a number of minerals, vitamins, calcium, iron& phyto nutrients including zinc and potassium.

After enjoying the healthy drink, we walked back to the hotel and kids and Sur were tired so they all skipped dinner and crashed for the night. Kiran and myself used this private time to catch up with each other in the balcony area. We ordered some starters like tawa fried fish and chicken fry. The staffs were very helpful and they ensured this time the fish was made well. The chicken was little over fried and rubbery. But we forgot about that since the fried fish was so good. Finally we had something best and we ended up ordering thrice. We had one of the best evening with the sound of wave, great food and some music which Kiran played. After few hours, we called it a day since we had another long drive next day and we crashed for the night.

Day 3: We woke up, had our usual breakfast, then headed to Pondicherry. Pondicherry (now known as Puducherry) is the capital and the most-populous city of the Union Territory of Puducherry in India. The city is in the Puducherry district on the southeast coast of India and is surrounded by the state of Tamil Nadu, with which it shares most of its culture, heritage and language. Since Kiran and kids had not been there, we thought we will drive down as it’s jusy 3 hours from Tranquebar.

We enjoyed the scenic view enroute. Kiran didn’t feel great that day, so we were scouting for Patanjali store for Kutajarishta which helps with upset stomach. We had to take a detour and found a shop near Cuddalore (pronounced as Kadalur) which was near the railway track. Once we reached, we found it was closed permanently and was not updated online.

We found few ladies chatting nearby along with a gentleman whom I asked for other Patanjali stores close by. They suggested one near the temple a km away. Then the gentleman volunteered to take us through in person. So proud to meet another such kind hearted soul, helping us out. May God bless him and his family. Then we reached the store and they informed that medicines are not available in Cuddalore and we might find only Pondicherry. So we had to come out of that small roads and finally hit the road back to Pondicherry.

Somehow we couldn’t locate the Patanjali store in Pondicherry which was close to Aurobindo Ashram. We took 2-3 turns in the car but there was no luck. So we decided to go to the Himalaya Pharmacy which was on the main road to buy the tablets. Kiran and myself wanted to check for one last time, if the pharmacy person could help with Patanjali store before we purchase the tablets. He guided us which was in the next lane. It was not available there as well as this particular product had to be pre ordered. So we returned back to the pharmacy, purchased the tablets and left from there.

Next door we saw the ice cream parlor, so we took a break from the scorching sun for an overload of ice creams and we got to taste new flavour rose petal ice cream and which we all enjoyed.

Then we hit our roads to reach Auroville, that was the place we needed to visit if we had just a day. So we reached the Auroville. Auroville (City of Dawn) has it’s origins in the French language Aurore (Dawn) and Ville (City) is an experimental township in Viluppuram district, mostly in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, with some parts in the Union Territory of Pondicherry in India. It was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (known as “the Mother”) and designed by architect Roger Anger. Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity. We parked the car and went to the reception area, saw a small video about Matrimandir and then got our free passes to go to Matrimandir. It’s shaded area for a Km to walk in order to see the Matrimandir.  This was conceived by Alfassa as “a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection”. Silence is maintained inside the Matrimandir to ensure the tranquility of the space, and the entire area surrounding the Matrimandir is called the Peace area. Inside the Matrimandir, a spiraling ramp leads upwards to an air-conditioned chamber of polished white marble referred to as “a place to find one’s consciousness”. But visitors are not allowed to go inside, so we have to see from a distance from the view point. Matrimandir is equipped with a solar power plant and is surrounded by manicured gardens. The firangipani trees, polished rocks, varieties of butterflies and banyan trees, makes the walk very interesting to Matrimandir.  Then we came back to the reception and there are few places for shopping and food. We had snacks and then thought will go to the beach. As we were close to the beach, the kid wanted pizza, so we stopped at Celine’s Kitchen and ordered pizza. They had the best pizzas specially the Indiana Pizzas. It was already dark and we didn’t have time to go to beach by now, so we drove back for 3 hours to reach the hotel. As it was drizzling, there was traffic and we reached the hotel, pretty late. While others went and crashed, I caught up on my work and then caught up on my sleep.

Day 4: We had our usual breakfast and then checked out. We were in a shock to see the bills. They had charged for water which was given in the room, for the bad lunch and snacks which was supposed to be complimentary. When we brought to their notice, management immediately rectified and charged only for our dinner and waived off others. Even though the room rate is unreasonable and overly priced, the staffs were very helpful and went out of their way to help.

We checked out of the hotel and then headed to Bangalore for another 8 hours drive. As soon as we started it was drizzling and then started pouring, it took few hours for us to get out of that heavy rain. As we hit Salem, it was just drizzling and was better. So we stopped at Radisson, Salem for lunch. This is the place, we end up visiting often while on this highway. For some or the other reason we miss their lunch buffet. Last time, due to covid, we didn’t want to try as it was so crowded. This time we reached after 15 minutes of buffet closure. So we ordered the chicken dishes, biryani, and burgers. First the chicken gravy was served without chicken and when we informed the staff, we got those chicken pieces back in the gravy. We loved their chocolate dessert and were back to the road. Almost after 9.5 hours of drive we reached Bangalore and it was worth the drive and a good break for all of us.

The good news is that all of us are fully vaccinated, and I do hear few are reluctant to get vaccinated. I request all of you please get yourself vaccinated at the earliest and stay safe.






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