What an exciting morning we had in Sadras on 27 February 2012. I revisited the Dutch fort there and to my delight it looked much better than in 1989. At that time there was a huge red stone rubble wall lying across most of the terrain of the fort.
It has now been cleared by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). The walls of the fort have been restored so that it is closed now. There is much more to see now than 23 years ago.
When we arrived after a 70 kilometre drive from Chennai to the south, the gates of the fort were open. A guardsman opened the gate of the small Dutch cemetery that is inside. It has 19 tombs. Each of them tells a story. The first one left from the gate is from Jacobus Leonardus Topander, born in Amsterdam on 22 April 1715. When he died on 28 May 1767 he was the chief of the VOC (Dutch East Indian Company) comptoir (a small trade settlement) in Sadras. With him is his youngest daughter Esther Clasinawaarde, who died at 25 while giving birth to Jan Leonard. He died on 18 January, at the age of 0 month and 1 day, the tombstone says.
It is the only one I can write up. With 33 degrees in the sun I cannot stand the heat much longer. My notes will get blurred from perspiration. So Chris and I make a few pictures and then walk towards the two big halls that can be seen going towards the sea.
This was the granary in the fort
The path across the fort has been cleared . A second hall with some rooms is now accessible. The ASI also unearthed in 2003 the floor of a kitchen, living quarter and a water harvesting system.
Floor of the kitchen
Renovated residence with in the fort
Times of India article
So we do not agree with The Times of India Chennai journalist Hussain Kodinhi who on the day we arrived in Chennai, 25 February, had a big article published under the headline: Sadras Fort Cries for Attention. “The remains of the Dutch Fort, once an important centre for production and trade of muslin cloth, are now covered in wild grass”.
Mr Kodinhi also has some of his facts wrong. The remains of fort were clearly not discovered 20 years ago, but a long time ago. When I was here in 1989 there was already an Archeological Survey of India sign at the fort.
The story is based on an interview with the retired ASI superintending archeologist K.T. Narasimhan who was from 1992 to 2003 based in Chennai and largely responsible for restoration of this and other forts. This man is clearly disappointed that since his retirement not more areas within the fort have been excavated. Indian officials at the ASI office in Malhaballapuram have only one employee to clean the 7,5 acre fort compound. They are also short of funds.