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Nordic Ambassadors visits 400 years old Danish-Norway trading post

On their recent trip to Southern India, the Nordic ambassadors one of the earliest examples of the long Indo-Nordic trading relations. In Tranquebar (Tharangambadi) Denmark-Norway established a trading station in 1620, after a contract had been signed with the local ruler, the Nayak Ragunatha of Thanjavur. The Fort Daneborg, more or less finished in a year after the arrival of the Danes, has now been beautifully restored by the Tamil Nadu government.

Travelling to and from Europe was very hard.  Out of the 500 sailors who set out on the four ships, which left Copenhagen for India in 1618, more than 300 died during the two years long journey to India.  Also life in India was very challenging for them  A fascinating account of how it was can be found in The Life of the Icelander Jón Ólafsson, Traveller to India, Written by Himself and Completed about 1661 A.D., an Icelandic sailor who travelled to Tranquebar in 1624, and stayed there for a year before he returned.

For quite some time the contacts between the post in Tranquebar and Denmark were often sporadic. In a period of more than 20 years after 1839 no ship from Denmark arrived and only one Dane was alive when a new ship finally arrived.

In 1777 Tranquebar became a colony and experienced a boom in trade, the Danes taking advantage of its neutrality during the French Revolutionary Wars. However, for a period during the Napoleonic wars the British took control of the colony. The British left in 1815, but the colony was in decline and in 1845 Tranquebar was sold to the British. The Governor's building was restored by Denmark in 2011, while a number of historic buildings in the town have been and are being restored by a Danish NGO.

Tranquebar’s most memorable and longest-serving Governor was Norwegian Peter Anker, diplomat and accomplished amateur painter, who brought a big collection of Indian art to Copenhagen and Oslo.