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The Danish Tranquebar Association
Ideas and projects
The last decade has witnessed the development of a renewed interest in Tranquebar as an important monument of more than two centuries of Indian and Danish cooperation and intercultural exchange. This new development started when a handful of Danes who were involved in a school project in Tamil Nadu. After visiting Tranquebar and seeing the bad preservation standard of the old Danish fort they got the idea to work for its restoration. At first the project was simply to paint the main building where the Danish government had his residence during the first century of Danish presence in India. They were happy to get permission from the government of Tamil Nadu to restore the building and invested their own money and work to make things done. Inspired by this initiative the government of Tamil Nadu took over and fulfilled the restoration of the fort that was inaugurated in 2002 with both the Indian and the Danish flag flying from the top of the tower as a token of mutual friendship and interest in preserving our common cultural heritage. During the restoration period the old Danish landgate was restored by ASI and in Denmark The Danish Tranquebar Association was created. At present it has more than 300 dedicated members.
After the successful restoration of the fort the association undertook the cleaning and restoration of the graveyard in New Street. Before the end of this work happened the horrible tsunami of 2004. As a result the inauguration of the graveyard became a joint ceremony in memory of the victims of the tsunami in which more than thousand inhabitants from all religious groups in Tranquebar took part.
When the tsunami hit the town in December 2004 The Danish Tranquebar Association collected money in Denmark to help the hard hit fishermen´s community to get new boats. But at the request of the fishermen´s leaders the money was instead used to construct a huge granite coastal protection with permission from the government. The Danish money made it possible to build the first part and fulfilled the work. The association also bought a water tank lorry to the town and engaged in social help.
Partly as a consequence of the work of The Danish Tranquebar Association the Danish Bestseller Fund became interested in doing development work in Tranquebar. Bestseller has established an education of women in restoring Tamil buildings in order to preserve the Tamil cultural heritage. Bestseller has also started some projects for strengthening traditional skills, established a nursery for plants that are suitable for coastal protection and a public park at the seaside. The Fund has also started a bank for micro credit loans to help people without money to establish their own busines.
After restoration of the graveyard in New Street The Danish Tranquebar Association procured funding for restoration of the Danish Governor´s bungalow. As a result of this and of our work in Tranquebar as a whole a permission was obtained and a project was developed by the Danish National Museum in cooperation with Tamil authorities. The work is done by INTACH. The restoration of the building will according to the plan be finished March 2011.
Since the restoration of Dansborg in 2002 The Danish Tranquebar Association has worked hard to make it possible to restore the former Danish Commander`s building next to the Danish Governer´s building. Formerly the house was used by TELC as teacher training college. At present the building has collapsed, however. We have already procured the necessary funding for such a project, but we still haven´t been able to reach an agreement with TELC about either renting or buying the building.
We have renovated the roof of Ziegenbalg´s Prayer House in Admiral Street and we have fought for a renovation of the Sri Masillamani Temple. We are happy to see that this project is now under way.
We have helped Mr. Sultan from The Danish Shop to have the first edition of his book about the history and buildings of Tranquebar printed and published.
Ever since the beginning of our engagement we have been helping the museum at Dansborg to procure historical materials.
In order to strengthen the Indian-Danish cooperation the Tranquebar Association decided to establish Tranquebar Maritime Museum as a common cultural center. Because fishery has such an important role in the history and culture of Tranquebar it was obvious for us that the first exhibition should be about the fishermen and their history. We collected a wide range of items for this first exhibition that was opened in February 2010 by the leaders of the fishermen and representatives from our association. Since the opening the museum it has been situated in Van Theilingen´s House in King´s Street, the former residence of the Danish doctor. We have hired a former local headmaster with a strong interest in history to take care of the daily business. Until now the museum has had more than 10.000 visitors – a very fine and enjoyable outcome indeed! The museum has a department for marine archaeology the object of which is to explore the sea bed along the coast of Tranquebar where sailing ships have anchored in the Danish period from 1620 to 1845. During these two hundred and twenty five years goods have been brought from the ships through the huge waves to the beach. Often goods were lost in this process and we have knowledge of a number of shipwrecks in the Tranquebar area. Therefore an exciting part of our common cultural heritage lies hidden in the sea bed. Already our Maritime Department has explored the sea bed outside Fort Dansborg with a proton magnetometer which is an instrument that identifies metallic items on the bottom of the sea. This has given us the precise GPS-positions of a great number of such items still lying down there. In February 2011 a crew of professional divers will arrive from Denmark to explore this exciting area in depth.
Because Van Theilingen´s House is facing a total restoration we are now working to move the museum to a house and plot that we have rented in Queen´s Street. Here we plan to reopen the museum in the beginning of 2011 with an exciting exhibition about a historical type of boat, the Selling. This boat is locally known as a masula boat or a big net fishing boat. It was used for sailing goods to and from the big ships that were anchoring at sea. It was handled by 8 or 10 rowers and was also used for fishing. What makes the Selling so special is that its planks are sewn together. In this way the boat gets a high elasticity that makes it extremely suitable to pass through the strong surf of the Coromandel Coast.
The last Selling in Tranquebar was lost during the tsunami of 2004 and no museum in the world has cared to preserve a Selling. During the last year we have therefore explored the coast from Chennai to Nagapattinam in the hope to find one for our museum. Now we have finally found the remnants of a Selling and we have contact with experienced boat builders who as part of the new exhibition will restore the boat in presence of the visitors. In this way the museum will be turned into what we call a living museum.
In the Danish Tranquebar Association we are very happy that the government in Tamil Nadu has nominated Tranquebar as a major touristic place and provided great sums for the development of the town i.e. investment in better water supply, better roads, a more reliable system of electricity supply, a better sewage system and that the Dept. of Public Work has started on the big project of beautifying the square in front of the fort. In the future it will be possible to walk around the square on beautiful granite stones and to sit down for a while on one of the benches under shadowy trees and traditional Danish lamps to enjoy the atmosphere of the special environment.
We are also happy that the Bestseller Fund at our initiative has made a system for collecting and sorting waste in Tranquebar that both inhabitants and visitors appreciate very much.
When the first Danish ship anchored at Tranquebar in 1620 a cooperation between India and Denmark was introduced. It is the wish of the Danish Tranquebar Association that this cooperation will proceed and grow in the future for the benefit of both countries.

Foreningen Trankebar arbejder for at bevare kolonitidens danske levn i Trankebar, formidle kendskabet til den dansk-indiske historie i området, samt skabe et dansk–indisk møde- og kursussted i byen.

Den stiftende generalforsamling for “Foreningen Trankebar” blev afholdt d. 21. maj 2002 på Vestfyns Efterskole i Tommerup. Foreningen er registreret hos ToldSkat med SE-nr. 27 44 89 84.