For 225 years, Tranquebar was a Danish trading station. However, this era came to an end in 1845, when Denmark sold the colony to Britain for just over 1 million rigsdaler.
Today, the town is part of India, which gained independence from Great Britain in 1947.
After the Danish departure from Tranquebar, however, the sands of time have slowly eaten away at the old buildings. Many have been torn down while others have collapsed, but there are also some that remain standing.
In recent years, notice has been taken of the cultural-historical pearl that is Tranquebar. The ‘Tranquebar Initiative’ was formed in 2001 with the purpose of restoring and saving those important buildings which played a significant part in Denmark’s past as a trading and maritime nation.
The first to be renovated was Fort Dansborg, which has since opened its doors as a museum.Since then, the Commander’s House and the Governor’s Residence have also been restored to their former glory. The association has headed the restoration work in collaboration with several funds, the National Museum of Denmark and the Indian authorities.
There are also some buildings that are still used for their originally intended purpose. These include a couple of churches, but most notable is the old school, which is still used by local children today.
If you take a walk around the old streets you will find still more traces of the European colonisers, not least in the street names, many of which still have Danish names such as Kongensgade, Dronningensgade and Guldsmedegade. These streets also have a number of houses, monuments and other buildings preserved from Danish times.
Apart from these traces of the Danish colony, Tranquebar, with its approximately 10,000 residents, differs little from countless other provincial Indian towns. Nonetheless, for the curious tourist with an interest in history, this fact may only serve to make it more fascinating.
The town and area has not been greatly affected by tourism. There are only small stores selling the daily groceries and other necessities along with a handful of hotels and restaurants.
In the surrounding region, Tamil Nadu,the same spices and fruits that formed the basis of Tranquebar as a trading station are still grown today. For example, you can find orange and lemon orchards, cinnamon trees and fields where vanilla is cultivated, precisely the combination of scents and tastes recognisable from Tranquebar Gin.