The sleeping Dutch of Sadras

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.

The arched gateway, with the silent cannons.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Fort Tamil Nadu
The arched gateway, with the silent cannons.
Headstones inside the Dutch cemetery at Sadras Fort.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Dutch Fort Tamil Nadu
Headstones inside the Dutch cemetery at Sadras Fort.
Inside the Dutch cemetery, with its awe-inspiring graves.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Fort Tamil Nadu
Inside the Dutch cemetery, with its awe-inspiring graves.
Detail of a headstone.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Fort Tamil Nadu
Detail of a headstone.
They have been sleeping in grace for two hundred years.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Dutch Fort Tamil Nadu
They have been sleeping in grace for two hundred years.
Inside the warehouses.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Dutch Fort Tamil Nadu
Inside the warehouses.
The collapsed ceiling.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Dutch Fort Tamil Nadu
The collapsed ceiling.
Wide and vacant, the quadrangle inside the Dutch Fort at Sadras.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Fort Tamil Nadu
Wide and vacant, the quadrangle inside the Dutch Fort at Sadras.
Maintained by the ASI, the fort has barely any visitors even on a Sunday, says the old caretaker.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Fort Tamil Nadu
Maintained by the ASI, the fort has barely any visitors even on a Sunday, says the old caretaker.
The warehouses inside the Dutch Fort at Sadras.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Fort Tamil Nadu
The warehouses inside the Dutch Fort at Sadras.
Overgrown with weeds, the structures deteriorate slowly, despite the tag of architectural protection and the sad lack of information placards.
Travel Great East Coast Road Drive Sadras Fort Tamil Nadu
Overgrown with weeds, the structures deteriorate slowly, despite the tag of architectural protection and the sad lack of information placards.

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