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History gets a facelift in Tamil Nadu's city of ruins

Danish National Museum preserves historic Danish Governor's Bungalow

Published on 17 July 2011

Author(s): Times of India/M T Saju

Type:  News

Tranquebar (or Tharangampadi) was a Danish settlement between 1620 and 1845. The Danish East India Company was formed mainly to export pepper from Tranquebar to Denmark

Tranquebar is a city of ruins. Wherever you look in this erstwhile Danish colony, you see dilapidated buildings and deserted houses. While some structures have already faced the wrath of nature due to lack of maintenance, some have got a fresh lease of life.

The historic Danish Governor's Bungalow is one such dilapidated structure that got a dramatic facelift, thanks to the initiative taken by the Danish National Museum. Once the centre of power, this bungalow was in ruins when the Danish government with the help of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) decided to restore it in 2008.

"Built in 1784 by the Danes, the building was the official residence of 33 successive Danish governors. The bungalow was in a bad shape when we took over. It was a challenging task to replace the pillars, walls and ceiling following the original plan," says Asaithambi Gurusamy, architectural conservationist, who headed the renovation team of INTACH when it began the work in 2008.

According to Gurusamy, they tried to stick to the original plan, from brick to ceiling of the building. "The brick sizes vary from time to time. The Danes used country bricks which are smaller in size compared to the bricks available today.

The roof (called Madras terrace roof) was dilapidated. So we had to replace it without loosing its originality. We went through minute details.We also got enough support from the Danish engineers who visited the place a number of times," he says.

Tranquebar (or Tharangampadi) was a Danish settlement between 1620 and 1845. The Danish East India Company was formed mainly to export pepper from Tranquebar to Denmark. But the company couldn't dominate the trade in the region the way the others did, so the Danes transferred their settlement to the British East India Company in 1845.

As per the agreement, all public buildings and properties, barring a couple of churches, were handed over to the British. But though the English had won over the Danes, they couldn't win the heart of Tranquebar. Everything in Tranquebar has a Danish touch.

The Governor's Bungalow was lying abandoned for a long time. "It's good news that the historic building has been restored. Even though the Danes left long ago, they still consider this as their second home," says Indran, a manger in a nearby hotel. The erstwhile collector's bungalow, built by the British in 1845, was restored by the Neemrana Group, the Delhibased heritage hotel experts, in 2004.

Sources close to INTACH Puducherry chapter say 90% of the renovation works are complete. "Only some minor finishing work is left which will be completed in a couple of weeks. It will be inaugurated in September," says a member in the team that renovated the building.

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