An elegant Dutch map depicting Southern India during the apogee of the VOC’s involvement in the region, made for the diplomat Johan Nieuhof.
This fine example of the contemporary Baroque style of Dutch cartography portrays Southern India as it was conceived in the 1660s, during the height of the Dutch East India Company’s (the VOC’s) power in the region. The map was drafted for the diplomat Johan Nieuhof, and was published posthumously as part of his great work on India and Sri Lanka, Zee- en Lant-Reise door verscheide Gewesten van Oostindien (1682). The year that this map was printed, the VOC engaged the English East India Company in what was known as the ‘Pepper War’, a high-stakes trade game that nearly bankrupted the latter company.
While the map marks an advancement over Linschoten’s map of 1596 (no. 21), it nevertheless preserves many of the earlier work’s geographic misconceptions. Notably, the interior of the peninsula is shown to feature a single, central spine of mountains in place of the Western and Eastern Ghats and the Deccan Plateau. The still mysterious nature of the interior is beautifully demonstrated by the appearance of lions and ostriches (African Animals), which accompany depictions of tigers and elephants native to India.
The west coast of India features several important trading ports, including ‘Goa’, the capital of Portuguese India (the VOC’s arch-nemesis), ‘Mangalor’ (Mangalore), ‘Cananor’ (Kannur), ‘Calechut’ (Khozikode), ‘Cranganor’ (Kodullungur), ‘Cotchyn’ (Kochi, newly conquered by the Dutch in 1663), ‘Porca’ (Purakkad), ‘Coulan (Kollam), and ‘C. Comoryn’ (Cape Comorin).
The depiction of the east coast of India starts with ‘Madura’ and features the port of ‘Toutekryn’ (Tuticorin), ‘Adams Brug’ (Adam’s Bridge, the chain of islands which traverse the Palk Strait, dividing Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka), ‘Negepatnam’ (Nagapattinam, an important trading centre acquired by the VOC in 1658) and ‘Kranckebara’ (Tranquebar, the main Danish base in India). Also labeled are the ‘Seven Pagoden’ (the ‘Seven Pagodas’), referring the town of Mahabalipuram, which was famously rumoured to host seven major Hindu temples, although reality it was home to only one, the Shore Temple, built in the 8th Century BC.