102.ANDHRA PRADESH. (6) Sacramento, Yanam, Coringa.

Between Antarvedi in the south to Yanam in the north the river Godavari meets the Bay of Bengal by means of 4 distributaries, forming a classic river delta, rich with soil brought in by the river. This is the rice bowl of India made all the more useful and productive by an intricate network of canals and waterways. The irrigation system is credited to the British administration and more specifically to an irrigation engineer who has become a legend by the name of Sir Arthur Thomas Cotton. The importance of the irrigation system built by Sir Cotton is of immense importance to the region and is so acknowledged by the people benefited by it. You will see the statues raised to the memory of Sir Cotton everywhere competing for space with the post-independence political leaders. In 2015 a ‘Pindaparidhanam’ ceremony was conducted on the banks of Godavari to the memory of Sir Cotton, a honour reserved for one’s departed ancestors. That gives us an idea about the degree of reverence the people have for this irrigation engineer.

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Sir Cotton on Horseback at a village square.

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Sir Cotton with Lord Parashurama for company.

 

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Bust at a village in West Godavari district

  

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Among the statues at Yanam

 

Starting from Dindi on the banks of Godavari we decide to make a stopover at Yanam (which is a part of the Union Territory of Puducherry) but before we do that we have another spot to visit, a lighthouse in fact.

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The new Lighthouse (L) and the old one (R)

 

 

 One has to pass through Bojjavaripeta and Kandikuppa in the Amalapuram Taluk to reach a fishing village called Pora to find a lighthouse named Sacramento Lighthouse. Is the name not a contrast to the surrounding places? Does it not sound very foreign? The lighthouse got it’s name from a ship that floundered and perished in the sands near the coast. The sand bars formed along the coast in this area of east Godavari district are notoriously treacherous. To ensure safety of the ships the Sacramento Lighthouse was completed in the year 1895.

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The orignal 1895 lighthouse, now discarded.

 

 The picture below shows the lighthouse compound with the staff quarters bearing the imprint of colonial administration.

 

 

 Sacramento Lighthouse is difficult to reach. It is not the distance but the terrain. One has to drive through a maze of village roads, cross a number of fish and prawn culture ponds, cross a couple of mangroves and at last a bridge so narrow, a car can barely pass. This must be one of the narrowest motorable bridges anywhere!!

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village on the way.

 

 

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A Bridge Too Narrow

 

 The striking part of the region indeed the whole of Andhra Pradesh is the existence of large number of statues at every conceivable place.

 

 

XXXXXXXX  YANAM

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Yanam Entrance

 

 

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The trademark gates of Puducherry at all the 4 places

 

When you cross the last distributary of the mighty Godavari, you drive into the former French territory of Yanam. Yanam which is now a part of the Union Territory of Puducherry and the surrounding areas of Andhra Pradesh have nothing to distinguish between them. One can walk from one to the other without knowing. The only differentiating factor perhaps is the price of fuel and liquor which is lower on the Yanam side.

We try to find some ‘French’ past- architecture, art, food, monument etc. There is none or next to nothing. Yes, there are a couple of government buildings and a Church. Surprising? Or we were not properly guided.

 

 

 What dominates the town is the post-independence riverside beach and recreation area on the north Bank of Godavari, replete with statues of politicians and the large plaques indicating which politician inaugurated the statues.

 

 

Yanam has a couple of good restaurants purely local and do not indicate even remotely any French influence. Culturally the place is pure Andhrite. We could witness the procession of Virabhadra right in the centre of the town.

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 Yanam is now shaping up in a different way. It is the hub for the KG-2. The Krishna-Godavari Gasfields. Reliance group is quite active here.

 

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XXXXXXXXXXXXXx Coringa.

The area north of the mouth of Godavari where there is considerable drilling activity for natural gas is also a bilogical hotspot. The dense mangrove forest has prompted the Andhra government to declare a sizable area as a wildlife Sanctuary. Coringa is located between Yanam and the port town of Kakinada to the north.

 

This sanctuary will not survive long despite the dense mangrove cover. It is under threat from all directions. To to the south are the gas drilling activities. To the west are the prawn culture ponds which are almost inside the sanctuary. The overall picture of the sanctuary indicates that it is being turned into a picnic spot. A road  inside is even named. To add to the problem are the huge number of students who make the sanctuary a lovers lane.

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Nobody seems to be bothered about the wildlife for which the place was set up.

 

At low tide the mudskippers are quite active in the mangroves.

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The extensive wetlands facing the Bay of Bengal and the meeting of the Godavari made this area economically important during the British regime. This is born out by the fact that there used to be extensive shipping activity along this part of the coast. In spite of the wetlands and the mangrove cover the area boasted two lighthouses. We have seen one at Sacramento and another one was supposed to be functional at a place in the mangroves in the past. It is no longer functional and cannot be reached by road. There is a possibility of reaching the place by a boat journey of four hours as indicated by the boat operators. We decided to pass it and be satisfied with a pictureof it found in the sanctuary.

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Text by Suryakiran Naik. suryakiran.naik@gmail.com

Photographed by Veena Naik & Suryakiran Naik

95.TAMILNADU (10). POOMPUHAR, PUDUCHERY, ALAMPARAI.

In the last post (No. 94) I made an error by omitting a place we visited lying between Karaikal and Cuddalore. Poompuhar cannot be ignored.

The southern Coromandel Coast mostly within the territory of Tamilnadu state is thick with history.This history is not only of the European colonization but goes back to the ancient times when many places along the coast were centres of international trade. One such place which is said to have flourished from 200 BC onwards is Poompuhar. The seaside town which was once the second capital of the Chola dynasty and a major centre of international trade with both eastern and western people. Silk appears to be a major item of exports from here. The ancient port as destroyed and is now found by the archaeologists submerged off the coast for up to 5 Kms. Erosion of land or a Tsunami have been cited as possible causes.

There are no archaeological remains on the shore. A small maritime museum displays a few objects, not very impressive.

  The beach is a major attraction and the tourism department of the state seems to have made efforts to promote the destination.

 Poompuhar has a lighthouse which resembles the one at Mallipatnam in design and the colours.

 There are a couple of temples, quite nice. We did not go into the details. One is of Godess Kamakshi.

One impressive feature of the Poompuhar beach is the fish trading activity. This is of two types. Fresh fish is sold fried in the several small kiosks. Apart from fish Crabs and Prawns are also sold. The tourists seem to be providing the client base.

 The second one is sale of dried fish. This appears to be economically more important. This market has a vast variety of dried fish in sizable quantities. I cannot imagine a tourist carrying dry fish in his bags on his way back home. It is seriously smelly. The market must be for tradesmen dealing in fish for other parts of the State or the local consumers.

 

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 Our next stop after Cuddalore is Pondicherry or Puducherry as it is now renamed. The former French colony was established in the year 1674 and this status lasted till 1954. This is about 280 years and much less than the 450 years’ rule of the Portuguese in Goa. The Portuguese were the First-In-First-Out of the European colonialists in India. One feature of this French territory and also the other three in the country is that they are highly fragmented parcels of land. (There are other two- Chandranagore in present day in W bengal and Musulipatnam in Andhra Pradesh- French territories that did not last till 1954).

 One has to pass through other territories (which were earlier British possessions) to reach another part of the same geographical entity. This situation still continues and is more relevant from the point of view of the liquor trade. When you enter Puducherry from the south, you drive a bit and re-enter Tamilnadu, drive a bit more and get back into Puducherry and so on until you drive past the last little parcel of land and drive into Tamilnadu. It is not at all easy to understand which part of political India you are in. The only determining indicators are the liquor shops on Puducherry territory. In Tamilnadu territory you will not find them. They cannot compete with the prices in the Puducherry territory.

Here is the Google map:

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The only other way to assure yourself that you are in Puducherry is to find a policeman with a red flat cap. They are found only in Puducherry and nowhere else in this country.

Puducherry town smells of Europe. The neatly arranged streets with European names and the design of the buildings distinguishes it from the rest of Tamilnadu.

The buildings:

 The Streets:

The Street Names:

 The old lighthouse near the beach, the Café and the statues makes it look older.

We had a long walk on the beach, north to south in the evening avoiding the main tourist circuit. But then Puducherry is all about tourism. Wherever we went along the seashore it was Tourists , the European tourists. They sustain the place’s existence as an independent entity. The same cannot be said of the other three parts of the Union Territory.

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Early morning the next day we drive northwards with an intention to make the night halt at Mahabalipuram. The territory between Puducherry and Mahabalipuram is very interesting. It has water on both sides. There is a huge lagoon separated by a narrow stretch of land through which the East Coast Road passes. It is early February and there are still some migratory birds seen here in the lagoon.  Before the halt at Mahabalipuram we visit another seaside place.

Kadapakkam is not a famous place but is worth visiting. It has the potential to develop as a tourist destination. It has a pretty beach, a beachside early 18th century fort, a lighthouse and temples, of course.

We leave the East Coast Road and and drive eastwards to come to the Lighthouse. The lighthouse is located quite far from the seashore.

Very close to the lighthouse is a temple of Lord Vishnu.

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It has these figurines which are found at many other Tamil temples. Are they the guardians of the temples?

 

The beach is along the shallow waters of the lagoon. The place also has an active fishing community.

The area we are visiting used to be a seaport in historical times, probably even before the Fort was built. It used to be known by the names of Idaikazhinadu (the name of the region), Alamparva and Alampuravi. Recorded history starts from the rule of the Nawabs of Arcot under the Mughals. The Muslim kings built this 15 acre fort between 1736 and 1740. During the early colonial period the fort came under the control of French as well the English. The trade in Ghee, Salt and cloth because of which the place prospered seems to have declined in the later years and that led to its eventual abandonment. It is said that the fort was in a much better condition before the 2004 Tsunami.

And  the fort. It is being looked after (or not looked-after) by the Tamilnadu Government Department of Archaeology.  I think although the fort is not great in terms of antiquity, it deserves to be looked after.

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Having said that I am aware of the difficulties involved. The sheer size of the place, the salty and sandy terrain, the winds and the heat makes it a difficult task. The masonry work which has crumbled will be a challenge to restore.

It is to the credit of the villagers that the fort is free of trespassers. We did not see any squatters except a few goats and no encroachments.

 

There is an excellent motorable road up to the fort and that is another reason the tourism angle should not be ignored. Going  by the lack of plastic waste, not many people seems to be visiting the place.

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If you are at Alamparai at mid-day, it is extremely hot outside and the only shade is provided by the Palm tree. What will you do?

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Call the barber and have a shave!!

 

Text by Suryakiran Naik

Pictures by Suryakiran Naik & Veena Naik

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

94.TAMILNADU (9).TRANQEBAR & CUDDALORE

We leave behind Karaikal with a French past and move towards Tharangambadi with a Danish history. It is only 15 or so kilometres drive and we encounter this on the road.

A man is herding ducklings, very young, on the road as if they were goats. Normally such young chicks are carried in baskets. This looks very strange and we follow this procession for quite some time but could not communicate with the person. The language barrier was impregnable. This scene will remain in our memory for long.

The plight of the ducklings will be clearer in this video:

 

 

 

As we enter the Tharangabadi town which is within the district of Nagapattinam, we see a memorial column erected on the main street. The first reaction is that it should be a Danish monument. No. it is not. It is a column erected in honour of Rao Bahadur Ratnaswamy Nadar by his friends and admirers. This guy must have been a merchant and the inscription omits to mention debtors and creditors.

 

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Rao Bahadur Ratnaswamy Nadar Memorial Column.

We move on after withdrawing money from the Indian Bank branch near this monument. The bank has a huge crowd. Most of the people are here to borrow money against gold and not exchanging the old notes for the new.

Tharamgabadi earlier known as Tranquebar was a Danish Colony or Trading Post depending upon how you interpret it. The Danes (from Denmark, not to be confused with Dutch from Holland, as many people do) were never a major colonial power but they had small enclaves on all the continents. The Asian venture was mainly for the spice trade. They appeared at this place headed by a naval commander by the name of Ove Gjedde in the year 1620 and made a deal with the local ruler Raghunatha Nayak of the Thanjavur Nayak Kingdom. This lasted for 225 years when in 1845 the Danes ‘sold’ the place to the British. The colonial history of India is replete with such incidences wherein the Europeans bought and sold ‘colonial possessions’. Apart from the trade the Danes brought the Lutherans here to compete with other Christian denominations.

To their credit the Danes have not forgotten their tryst with the colonial history and are maintaining the Tranquebar heritage town in Independent India.

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Entrance to Tranquebar

 The picture below will give an indication that someone drove a truck through this narrow gate and damaged the 18th century masonry.

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The small settlement with a small fort and church have been well maintained. The renovation work is still going on and a museum has been set up.

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The main street leading to the Fort and the beach.

Tranquebar has a pretty beach as well, although the port and the harbour where the Danes landed is not to be seen.

At many places on the Tamilnadu coast one can see these ’embankments’ against the sea eroding the land. I hope the sea does not enter from and here and come out somewhere on the Karnataka coast on the east.

We are a bit early to reach the place. The Museum has not opened. We move around the settlement and return for the opening of the Museum. This place is maintained by the Archaeology Department of Tamil Nadu State. It provides useful information about the trading activities of the Danes. All of their ships visiting the place are duly recorded.

Here are the exterior views of the Fort:

And some of the displays inside:

The fort appears to have been well planned, even a room was provided for storing Wines and Beers. Very thoughtful of the Danes.

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Anna is checking the room to see if any bottles have been left behind.

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 On the wildlife side the fort is the bastion of Rose-ringed Parakeets who roam freely.theynhave made appropriate holes in the walls for their activities.

 There is something to be said about the Lutheran missionary who was active in this place as he is credited with many ‘firsts’. They were the first Protestant Missionaries in Inda.In 1713 they produced the first Almanac in India and to top it all they produced the first book in English language to be printed in India in 1716.

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 Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg headed the first Protestant Mission in India and was active at Tranquebar from 1706 to 1719 when he died there.

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 The church built by him is well designed interiors with the congregation divided into three segments all facing the pulpit which appears to be an improvement on the ‘theatre’ type of sitting arrangement.

 Good Bye Tranquebar. We are moving on to another part of history.

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 Our travel plan for this and the next was a bit flawed. We missed something on the way which we will always regret. We missed the Pichavaram Mangroves, one of the world’s largest mangrove forests.

We pass the towns of Sirkazhi and Chidambaram on the way to reach Cuddalore another historical costal town. We put up at a hotel with Air-Conditional rooms.

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In the field of complexities of the colonial world this place takes the cake. It had English Slave Traders, Dutch, French, British, Marathas, Muslim kings from Mysore and just about everybody in the fray at various times. It had its share of naval battles as well. The rivalry of English and French related to Pondicherry also spilled over into Cuddalore which is just 23 Kms. away.

Elihu Yale a Christian slave trader operated from here from here from 1653 AD. He made enormous amount of money some of which was spent in creating the famous Yale University in the United States. Surprised?

Shivaji the Maratha King acquired the fort at Gingee, 90Kms by road now (I don’t know the distance on horseback at that time). Cuddalore fort was also within the ambit of Ginjee fort and became a part of Maratha empire. In 1690 after Shivaji’s death his son Rajaram fought the Moguls from Gingee and it even the capital of Maratha empire for a few months. The Moguls laid a long 7-year siege of the territory but ultimately Chattrapati Rajaram escaped. During this siege, C Rajaram wanted to sell the fort at Cuddalore to the highest (European) bidder. Here the slave trader Yale who was by then the Governor of Madras skilfully negotiated the purchase. In a bizarre agreement, it was agreed that the sale would be inclusive of ‘surrounding villages’. To decide the ‘surrounding villages’, it was agreed that the British would fire cannons in all directions and the boundary will be decided on the basis of where the cannonballs landed!!!!!. This is how the British empire was built.

 For all this history, there is hardly anything left behind in material terms. The fort seems to have been raised by the French when they came into possession. There is a structure which can hardly be called a Fort.

Here is the front view:

And the garden along the riverside. The cross is artistic, should be French.

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The river (or the creak) flowing by the side.

The rear-side looks more respectable though not quite for the kind of history it has.

The Silver Beach not far from the Fort is another feature of the town whoch otherwise has many industries.

A Church on the way to the fort is worth having a look at.

There are temples of course but we are late for the visit after all this history and tired after driving, so we retreat to our Air-conditional room. Tomorrow we have to in Pondicherry.

Text by Suryakiran Naik

Photographs :Suryakiran Naik & Veena Naik

suryakiran.naik@gmail.com