Monday, January 2, 2023

Going Dutch

If, as they say, Madharasapatnam was the original name of the city that was once called Madras, what would you imagine Sadurangapattinam was known as? Even though it was not the British who discovered this place, their fellow colonists adapted this town's name, referring to it as Sadras, before settling down to build a fort to protect their factory here.

Even though it was the Dutch who took the lead (after the Portuguese, of course) in building trading settlements along the east coast, they discovered Sadras about a decade after Cogan and Day had set up their factory at Madras. The Sadras Fort was set up in 1648. Compared to Fort St George, this fort at Sadras is a very spartan affair; thin redbricks packed in place with mud seems to have been the default option for the walls of the Sadras Fort and buildings inside it. Very few of those buildings remain standing; those that do seem to have served as warehouses or granaries. There is also a dilapidated elephant mounting (or loading?) station. But for the most part, the space enclosed by the fort's walls is bare and the walls themselves do not look like they could survive a sustained onslaught.

And the fort gate. Unlike Fort St George, with its multiple gates, the Sadras Fort has only one, on the landward side. It is quite easily accessed from the road; the two cannons at the gate remind you it was once a much coveted spot, which moved from Dutch hands to the British in the early 19th century and remained with them until 1947. Today, there are no tourists here. The ASI does a fair job of keeping it the way it is. It is likely that the bulk of the visitors to this fort would be folks who come to the nearby Madras Atomic Power Station, who look up to the two bastions on the seaward side and take the effort to explore the other side!


No comments: