The fort that walled the tsunami

Fort Dansborg, popularly known as the Danish Fort, at Tranquebar, was built by Admiral Ove Gedde, Commander in the Royal Danish Navy, starting 1620 AD. The land was given by the then Thanjavur King Raghunatha Nayak, at an annual rent of Rs 3111. This fort served as the trading base for the Danes during their time in India, 17th-19th century AD.

A stone plaque at the east side of the fort

While currently Fort Dansborg refers to just the fort building, in earlier times, it included the entire walled city comprising of the streets and other buildings. The wall, it is said, was about 50 metres from the shoreline which has receded about 300 metres over 300 years (Source: Book titled Early interactions between South and Southeast Asia).

Map of Tranquebar, 17th century, showing the boundary wall of the settlement (Source: Book titled Early interactions between South and Southeast Asia)
Original remnants of the wall which was built to enclose Tranquebar
Now engulfed by water, the wall ruins must be offering a good view
Now engulfed by water, the wall ruins must be offering a good view to those who dare to venture thus far
The fort building (excluding the original sea-facing city wall) is currently located just 100 metres from the Bay of Bengal shoreline
Designed with its own high wall, the fort was built using locally available bricks and limestone plaster, and bastions with black stone
The main gate of the fort faces north
The main gate of the fort faces north
There was also an entry point from the east
A cannon post facing the bay
A cannon post on the east, facing the bay
Moat remnants
A moat (ruins visible at bottom right) was built around the fort to keep enemies at bay (literally!) but the rising water levels soon rendered it useless (Pic: Thara Mohan)
At sunrise
At sunrise
A rocky view
A rocky view
On a Sunday evening
On a Sunday evening

The fort was directly in the line of the tsunami of Dec 2004. An example of the excellence of Danish military architecture, it withstood the devastation that flooded the streets, washed away homes and claimed about 700 lives in Tranquebar.

Adityan, a local guide, says that the foundation of the fort was laid so wide and deep that almost nothing could (and can) harm it. The Danish were safe from the sea, but they were unable to keep away other predators (including from amongst themselves!). The Danish East India Company had to sell off its property in India in the mid-1800s, mainly due to bankruptcy.

Pics taken at Tranquebar, May 18-19, 2014

Earlier posts on Tranquebar:
Tranquebar: the history missing in our history books
The First Ziegenbalg Monument

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