The sleeping Dutch of Sadras

Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Fort Tamil Nadu

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Three centuries ago, nearly every colonial power worth its saltpetre staked its claim to the Coromandel Coast of India and fought bitter wars reflecting the geopolitics in Europe. Among them were the seafaring Dutch, who established a strong commercial centre at Nagapattinam on the southeast coast. Further north, they built an imposing fort at Sadras, 70 km south of Chennai, and now known by its Tamil name Sadurangapattinam. The Dutch strengthened their presence here in the late 17th century and the fort was used more for commercial activities such as storage of commodities and trading rather than military purposes. Inside is an impressive granary, a stable and a unique platform used to mount elephants. The Battle of Sadras, in which the Dutch, protected by the French admiral Suffren resisted the British naval fleet, was fought in the 1780s. Both powers skirmished over the fort and it eventually fell to the British in 1818, though the Dutch were allowed to rebuild it according to a treaty. In 1854, the British ended the Dutch rule on the Coromandel Coast. The fort now sleeps in quiet. The cannons, rusted, are unthreatening. The cemetery inside the fort, with 19 graves between 1670 and 1790, is perhaps the most beautiful on the coast. The Dutch were master architects and their expertise was called in to build the Danish fort Dansborg in Tranquebar.

Enjoy these photos of Sadras Fort by AZHAR MOHAMED ALI with Travel editor BIJOY VENUGOPAL from Yahoo India's unique web live web travelogue The Great East Coast Road Drive, in which they drive from Chennai south to Rameswaram covering the many moods, attractions and flavours of the region.

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