MAHÉ, Union Territory of Puducherry

Anonymouscirca 1750

Kalakriti Archives

Kalakriti Archives

An especially fine mid-18th Century manuscript map of Mahé, France’s base on the Malabar Coast.

This magnificent plan is certainly among of the most beautiful and finely drafted French maps made in India during the period. It depicts the town and environs of Mahé, a small enclave that, from 1724 to 1954, was France’s only possession along the west coast of India.

The map depicts Mahé as it appeared around 1750 and employs an eastward perspective. The town is located along the south bank of the mouth of the Mahé River, where it meets the Arabian Sea, with all of the water spaces on the map coloured in an especially attractive light green wash, typical of the period. The surrounding countryside is covered by plantations, expressed in a most elegant pictorial fashion, while all major buildings are depicted, employing a pink hue, then commonly used on engineers’ plans.

The detailed key in the upper right identifies 79 key sites on the map (divided into three colour-coded columns: black, red and green, including military architecture, public buildings, churches, hospitals, prominent residences, streets and alleyways.

A prominent feature of the map is Mahé’s elaborate defensive system, as devised by the brilliant military engineer Louis de la Roche Paradis in 1740. It was anchored by Fort Mahé (Black column A), located in the center of the town, while the three forts were perched on highlands in the interior, Fort Dauphin (Black B), Fort Condé (Black C) and Fort St. Georges (Black D), guard the landward approaches. A comprehensive series of redoubts and batteries completed the defensive system.

Several key sites in the town proper are named, highlights of which include: the Main Church (Black I); Government House (Black K); the Grand Powder Magazine (Black L); the Commandant’s residence (Black M); the French East India Company office (Black N); the Carmelite monastery (Black P); the hospital (Black R); and the foundry (Black S).

The area immediately along the seacoast, below the European town, labeled “Macoirie”, features the village populated by Indian residents.

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  • Title: MAHÉ, Union Territory of Puducherry
  • Creator: Anonymous
  • Date Published: circa 1750
  • Location Created: Mahé
  • Physical Dimensions: 61.2 x 95 cm
  • Type: Drawing
  • Medium: Manuscript, pen and ink and watercolour on paper
  • Title (Original): “Plan de la Mayé Coste Malabare par les 11 dgs 40 ms latitude Nord”