Poor families live on old Dutch cemetery ground

“Yes, I have some old stones in my back yard”, a relatively young mother answers our driver on the question where the old Dutch cemetery in Kollam was. It is December 2013, She guides us through an entry curtain and shows us what she has behind her little house. One of the first grave-stones we see is one from an Englishman who died in 1815, with only some part of the inscriptions being readable.

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Life among demolished Dutch cemetery at Thangassery beach in Kollam

Then she guides us to other houses in what turns out to be a fishermen’s colony living illegally on what once was the Dutch cemetery in the Thangassery beach area, 3 kilometres north of Quillon (now Kollam), in Kerala.

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To our great surprise and climbing through bushes in between obscure backyards we find some 20 remains of gravestones and tombs. On one of them lies a soap bar and is clearly used to do the laundry. Another one is being used as a dining table.

 

Renovation results

A bit further on the bay side we see what looks like ruins appear. A new walking way leads to what are the ruins of the Chief’s residence and a remaining wall of the small fort that the Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) built here in the 17th century. The Archeologicalcal Survey of India has renovated what has remained of nearly 200 years of Dutch presence here. As elsewhere in India authorities here are trying to attract tourists by renovating their European history. And yes, we meet some Indian visitors.

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Renovated wall of Dutch fort that was beautifully situated on the bay of Thangserry, Kollam, Kerala.

Fort map 1726

Francois Valentijn published in 1724 a map of the Dutch Coylan fort in his famous work “Oud – en Nieuw Indien, In Vijf Deelen, Dordrecht/Amsterdam.

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Courtesy Bauke van der Pol

The Dutch reduced the larger fort of the Portuguese, as they did also in Cochin, Nagapatnam, Cranganore and Cannanore. On the land side from left to right were the defence bastions Malabar (E), Ceylon (D) and Madurai (E) are still distinguishable. The foundation wall from right to left (E via C to D) is still being used as the road that we drove on, clearly lying higher the surroundings. The current light house is standing open the spot where the Dutch had their flag mast (G) as beacon.

 

 


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