Both Chris and I like trains, so we went by train from Cochin to Tellicherry, some 20 kilometres before Kannur our destination according to our programme. Five hours in AC, three chairs, talking with some Indian travellers, a little walk now and then, reading Indian newspapers and magazines that can be bought at most where the train stops.
In Kannur we had one day to see the Portuguese fort St. Angelo and to visit the Indian family of my good friend and IRC colleague Cor and Smitha Dietvorst. Our guide Caesar Perreira had already red eyes from alcohol at 10:00 in the morning.
Quite a bit of The St. Angelo fort in Kannur built by the Portuguese stands today. Walls, bastions, barracks and cannons are still there, maintained by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). The fort houses in fact a sub office of the ASI. After a while looking around we meet one of the Tourist Policeman at the fort. It is Gokulan Veena. He is very pleased when I show him the picture of him and his colleague in the Bauke van der Pol book. He shows it to everyone who he sees and carries the book around as a trophy. And yes, he wants to have a personal copy. We notice that many Indian school classes visit the fort.
The fort was taken over by the VOC in 1663 with the help of the moslim Ali Radja of the Arakkal dynasty. The Ali Radjas were already trading from Kannur in the fifteenth century and teamed up with the Dutch to get rid of the Portuguese hindrance for their trade. Until 1771 the Arrakal dynasty worked together peacefully with the Dutch sharing the trade of cardemon and ginger. The Dutch sold the fort in that year to Ali Radja for 100,000 rupees. In 1790 the British occupied it.
This shared history is probably the reason that this fort is definitely the best that we have seen on this trip.
Dutch in Kerala
We also visit the private Arakkal museum that tells the history of this dynasty. It is small but it has good information panels. It also has an interesting section on the Dutch in Kerala.
Dutch section in Arakkal Museum
Detail of plaquette
Dutch impact in Kerela
There is also an interesting website on the Dutch in Kerala. http://dutchinkerala.com/english/
The authors of this site write that “the contributions of Dutch to Kerala had long term impacts. The Portuguese ruled Kochi for more than a century. Though the Dutch ruled for a short span, the British who came later emulated the Dutch. K.P Padmanabha Menon, K.M Panicker, Dr. T. A. Punnen and Prof. A. Sreedhara Menon had done in-depth study on Dutch. The Dutch had more tolerance towards other religions than the Portuguese. The Portuguese blindly followed the sentiments of the Catholics which created much turbulence.”
“The influence of Dutch in Kerala can be grouped under the following sub-headings:
- Botany & Medicinal Plants
- Industry & Commerce
- History & Culture