Dutch cemetery, bird sanctuary draw lot of visitors

The Dutch East India Company's principal trading post, Pulicat, will soon get due recognition, thanks to the Tiruvallur district administration taking up mapping of landmarks.

“There are monuments or remnants that need restoration in Pulicat. We are looking at the Dutch cemetery, bird sanctuary, two temples, two churches and two mosques that get a lot of visitors. The monuments are of tourist, historical or archaeological importance. The site of Fort Geldria constructed by the Dutch is also there,” said an official source in the district.

The district administration would then call for consultants to prepare a detailed project report to improve these monuments. The report would be submitted to the Tourism Department for sanction of funds.

Karthik A. Bhatt, a researcher on Chennai's history and blogger, said Pulicat has several places of interest that visitors could be shown around. “When I went there with a couple of friends, we had a local person showing us around. One day was just not enough to look around. What struck me most about the Dutch cemetery were the two beautifully sculpted skeletons placed like dwarapalakas in Hindu temples at the entrance. A couple of English tombstones also stand in a far corner of the cemetery. The cemetery is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India,” he said.

Legend has it that the Dutch first established contact with local Muslim traders in 1610 and they helped the Dutch get a trading grant from Queen Obayama, the wife of King Venkata II, Vijayanagara ruler. It was from Pulicat that the Dutch successfully carried out much of their trading operations for the next 200 years, before surrendering the settlement to the East India Company in 1825.

Convener of INTACH's Chennai Chapter V. Sriram explains that the Dutch settlement in Pulicat was a very important event in the history of Madras. “If there had been no Pulicat, there would be no Madras. The Dutch were very successful in cloth business, which the British were also into. The British, who were in Masulipatnam, came looking for another place to do trade and they saw the Dutch and they came and settled in Madras. For some time, the British and the Dutch had the same Dubash - Malayappa Chetty – after whom a street is still in George Town.”

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Deepa H. RamakrishnanJune 28, 2012