Friday, November 7, 2014

A temple, a church & a graveyard - Tranquebar

More gems from my trip to Tharangambadi

Masillamani Nathar (Shiva) Temple

The temple to Lord Shiva is the oldest existing structure in Thrangambadi. King Maravarman Kulasekara Pandian granted land for the erection of a temple in 1306 according to an ancient inscription found on the walls of the temple. The structure stands at the edge of the sea and is constantly battered by the waves which is evident in the erosion visible around it. 

The stone temple was supposed to have three gopurams (dome like structures) but the sea took two of them a long time ago. It looks like some restoration work has been done on the temple but unfortunately it has been painted over in bright colours (not very 14th century!). 

The evening when I went around to the temple, it was closed. I could not see into the shrine. There were a few people there who had come to pay their respects to the deity behind the closed doors and a few either gazing at the sea or catching up with friends. 

New Jerusalem Church

The church is a pristine white building on King's Street with the initials of King Frederick IV and 1718 on it. 

It was a little difficult to locate as there are other churches in the vicinity and not all of them have sign boards. Also, it was mid-afternoon and the sleepy town seemed sleepier than ever. There was no one in sight and after mistakenly dropping in at a relatively new church, I found my way to the New Jerusalem Church. A caretaker was kind enough to take me around and proudly share the history of the church as well as information on the current activities in it.

The church was dedicated in 1718 and is an amalgamation of local Indian architecture and the European styles existing then. The church was built after the arrival of Zeigenbalg and his colleagues who were the first Protestant missionaries in India. He also was responsible for bringing a printing press to India around 1713 which was the first after a long gap in India (the first press arrived in Goa, brought by the Portuguese around 1556). Zeigenbalg died in 1719 and was buried in the church. 

The New Jerusalem Church has some old artefacts still in use and pretty stained glass windows.  

Old Danish Cemetery

Separated from the back entrance of the New Jerusalem Church by a small street, the Danish cemetery was probably laid out as soon as the first European settlers landed here. The gates were locked and no one seemed to know who to contact in connection with it. I have great fascination for visiting old cemeteries and looking at the gravestones of the people buried there. In my fancy I start wondering what stories lie beneath. Morbid? Possibly.

In this case I had to be content with my view through the bars of the gate. I was quite envious of the goats who had managed to get into the cemetery and were prancing about the interesting looking memorials in it. 

The lane which leads to the cemetery is lined with huts on either side, closely packed, along with animals, thatch, grains and people strewn on the road. If you don't keep a look out, it's quite possible to miss the gate altogether. 

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