Tranquebar, Trankebar, Tharangambadi, Tamil Nadu, Danish Colony, Colonial Heritage, History, East Coast, Coromandel Coast

Exploring Tranquebar

There are two ways to explore the former Danish colony of Tranquebar (or Trankebar as the Danes spell it) or Tharangambadi (as it is known officially). The first is as a day trip from Pondicherry or Nagapattinam or any of the nearby temple towns and the second is to base yourself at Tranquebar, like I did, and then explore the town at leisure.

Tranquebar, Trankebar, Tharangambadi, Tamil Nadu, Danish Colony, Colonial Heritage, History, East Coast, Coromandel Coast

This coastal town is on the east coast of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, about a 100 km south of Pondicherry. Either way, you will soon discover that the sea and the citadel of Fort Dansborg at Tranquebar are its best known sights.

In fact, the first thing a visitor to Tranquebar will see is the Dansborg citadel — to me, it looked like a giant slice of commercial kesar ice cream shimmering (or melting) in the heat.

And if you stay at The Bungalow on the Beach, like I did, then a view of the sea and the Dansborg Fort, is a constant (see the header and the photo on the left).

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A holiday at Wallwood Garden in Coonoor

My first night at Wallwood Garden in Coonoor was a memorable one. I had arrived earlier that evening and was shown to my room immediately by Geetha, the manager. “You must be so tired — first the flight from Mumbai to Coimbatore, and then the drive to Coonoor ! Since you’re a writer and will appreciate some quiet, we have put you in Camphor.” Writer? Me? I was so chuffed at being called a writer that the rest of Geetha’s words about the room and its amenities didn’t register as I was mentally preening. Till she mentioned the word “room heater”. I snapped out my self-absorbed reverie to see her pointing towards the said contraption and showing me how it worked. “Surely, I won’t need this, right? I asked. I may also have giggled nervously. “I’m afraid you will for it gets very cold after sunset. Besides, there are extra blankets and quilts in the cupboard should you need them,” Geetha said seriously. “You did read the mail we sent about the weather and appropriate clothing for Coonoor, didn’t you?” I hadn’t read the mail, but wasn’t going to tell her that. “Of course, of course,” I said airily, ushering her out of the room.”I’ll be fine and will manage”. That night I needed two blankets + one quilt + the room heater to “manage”. I don’t know when I stopped shivering and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning to the most awful racket; it took me a few seconds to figure out that the sky wasn’t about to come crashing down on my head and that it was a family of monkeys partying on the roof. And that’s how my holiday at Neemrana’s Wallwood Garden began ! Continue reading “A holiday at Wallwood Garden in Coonoor”
Nigiri Library, ooty, Ootacamund, Udhagamandalam, Libraries of India, Tamil Nadu, Books, Reading, Travel

Travel Shot: The Nilgiri Library

The Nilgiri Library in the hill station of Ooty (also known as Udhagamandalam or Ootacamund) in Tamil Nadu was established in 1859 and moved to its present premises, a handsome red and white Victorian building, in 1867. According to an information board at the Library:

On 28th August 1967, the foundation stone of the main building was laid by the Hon. Mr. A.J. Arbuthnot, then Chief Secretary to the Madras Presidency. A religious ceremony was conducted by Rev. Dr. G.U. Pope. A parchment in the name of the “Holy Trinity” was placed under the stone work… The site on which the Library stands once housed the Jail and Post Office !

I came to know of the Nilgiri Library when I was doing research on Ooty prior to my short #NilgiriMountainHoliday about two months back. Just reading about the library and its collection of over 25,000 books, rare volumes as well as a beautiful reading room was enough to make me head straight to the Library on my arrival at Ooty.

The Members Only sign at the entrance did make my steps falter a bit, but I was confident that I could persuade the Library staff to at least see the reading room, if not their collection.

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A holiday at The Bungalow on the Beach in Tranquebar

When I arrived at The Bungalow on the Beach in the sleepy coastal town of Tranquebar — or Tharangambadi as it is locally known — around 11 am on that humid and muggy August day last year, I was in a bit of a funk.

My train to Karaikal (the nearest railway station) from Chennai had arrived nearly 4 hours late, which meant that I had missed breakfast (my most important meal of the day) and also a morning’s worth of exploring Tranquebar. Not only was I hungry, I also had the beginnings of a migraine which, I knew from past experience, had the potential to ruin my holiday.

My mood did not improve over the peaceful drive from Karaikal to Tranquebar or the first sight of the blue-green waters of the Bay of Bengal or the beautiful heritage Bungalow that was going to be my home. The warm welcome at the Bungalow did make me feel a little better, but by that time all I wanted to do was to do was to sleep off my migraine.

But when I was ushered into Princess Louise, which is what my room was called, all thoughts of sleep vanished. 🙂

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The underrated wonder that is Mahabalipuram

I first heard about Mahabalipuram in a chapter of my Class 8 or 9 Hindi textbook. While I don’t remember who the author of that piece was, I do remember that it was about the ruminations of a sculptor who wondered about the glorious temple ruins by the sea-shore and how they came to be.

Though the chapter didn’t mention Mahabalipuram as the place the sculptor was talking about, my Hindi teacher said that is where the story was based. He also elaborated a bit on the history of Mahabalipuram and that had me hooked. My young and impressionable teenaged mind found the description of a bygone era and the desolation of temple ruins by the sea-shore very romantic.

The visual stayed with me through school, college, university… till I actually visited Mahabalipuram in 1996. This was in the summer of that year and the heat and tourist hordes dispelled any romantic notion I had about Mahabalipuram. But the monuments left an impression on me — enough to make me want to re-visit it.

It took me almost 20 years visit Mahabalipuram again.

Mahabalipuram, Mamallapuram, Pallavas, Shore Temple, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tamil Nadu, Heritage

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Pathu thoon or the 10 pillars at Madurai

It is our last evening in Madurai and our group has just finished touring the Thirumalai Nayak Mahal. We have one more halt to make before dinner — a shop selling the local Sungudi sarees —  and then board the overnight train to Chennai.

Since I am not interested in buying sarees, I decide to wait outside the shop. A couple of others from the group join me as well and we get chatting about that and this. When Sriram, our group leader, comes up to us and asks if we would like to see something interesting a short walk away we are only too happy to say yes.

Sriram leads us down the street and then through a narrow alley or two before turning into another narrow lane. He stops, points at something (see photograph below) and says, “See this !”

Pathu Thoon, 10 Pillar, Rang Vilas, Thirumalai Nayak, Heritage, Travel, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

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