Tharangambadi, Tamil Nadu

Matthäus Seuttercirca 1740

Kalakriti Archives

Kalakriti Archives

This fine map depicts the environs of Tranquebar, a Danish enclave located along the coast of the Tanjore region, based on drafts made by German Lutheran missionaries during the early 18th Century. The elaborately decorative map features the town of Tanquebar and the Castle of Dansborg in the lower center, while the limits of the Danish-held territory are delineated by a border canal. The countryside assumes the appearance of a bucolic, carefully manicured plantation landscape with rolling fields and rows of trees neatly aligned along country roads. The map labels the locations of Hindu Temples (‘Pagoden’), Christian Churches, Garden houses, flood control stations along the rivers and canals, fords, bushes, as well as different tree species, including cocoanut palms, palms for oil and Aalamaram (banyan) trees.

Tranquebar was, for over two centuries, the epicentre of the Danish presence in India. Envious of the astounding profits made by the Dutch and English East India companies, in 1616, King Christian IV chartered the Danish East India Company (Ostindisk Kompagni). While a small nation, Denmark was a wealthy and highly enterprising maritime power that maintained an outsized role in global trade. Admiral Ove Gedde led founded a Danish settlement at Tranquebar, then home to a small Jesuit mission, famous for being where St. Francis Xavier preached the gospel in 1542.

At the request of Fredrick IV, in 1706, two Pietist Lutheran missionaries, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (1682-1719) und Heinrich Plütschau (1677-1746), were dispatched from Halle to Tranquebar. Upon their arrival, they founded the Danish-Halle Mission, the first Protestant mission in India and set a trend for academic excellence. Ziegenbalg soon mastered the Tamil language and by 1713 imported the first printing press to the East Coast of India. He was responsible for writing and publishing the first Tamil grammar and the earliest Tamil translation of the New Testament.

The missionaries maintained a great interest in geography and the physical improvements to the landscape around of Tranquebar. The present map is based on one of their most important maps and depicts the enclave as it appeared during the 1720s.

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  • Title: Tharangambadi, Tamil Nadu
  • Creator: Matthäus Seutter
  • Date Published: circa 1740
  • Location Created: Augsburg, Germany
  • Physical Dimensions: 53.3 x 63.3 cm
  • Type: Document
  • Medium: Copper engraving with original hand colour
  • Title (Original): Accurater Geographischer Entwurf der Königlichen Dänischen Auf der Küste Choromandel in Ost-Indien belegenen Stadt und Vestung Trankebar oder Tarangenbadi u: Dansburg, nebst denen dassu gehörigen Flecken und Dörfer ..., Carte ans Licht gestellet von I. E. R. in Küpfer gestochen und verlegt von Matthæus Seutter.
  • Creator's Lifetime: 1678/1757