About 15 odd kilometers away from the famous Mahabalipuram-also known as the Jewel of the Coromandel Coast-lies the hidden town of Sadurangapattinam. A small town tucked away next to Kalpakkam, was once famously known for a fairly big Dutch settlement. The Sadras Fort is one such imprint that the Dutch have left us with before they were driven away by the British.
Excavated in the year 2003 by a team from Archaeological Survey of India, the Sadras Fort continues to be maintained by this body. Here’s the link to the first ever story that was published in The Hindu on what was found: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/2003/04/18/stories/2003041803600500.htm
The entry fee is free at the moment; however, we wish they did collect a token to ensure they get minimal funds to maintain the place.
Restored to a large extent, some parts of the Fort still stand strong. If you get a chance to climb to the top of the front wall from the side and get to the top, you’ll get a fantastic view of how big this fort actually was. Be careful to not step on any loose stones while you are climbing. As you move towards the center of the wall, you will land up inside a bastion-like structure. We did notice that there were about three of them (we are guessing there were originally four). These bastions would have been used for defense purposes, more like watch towers that helped attack the enemies/ intruders from all directions, without any obstruction. This is when we noticed that fairly old couple entered the fort and were on their way to the other end of the fort; back to them a little later 🙂
Once you are back down, do walk straight up. Don’t enter the small cemetery that you will see on your right yet; we would suggest that you save the best for the last. As you walk straight down, you will notice that the Fort had a lot of spaces that might have been used for administrative purposes. You must remember that this Fort served the purpose of a port as well, specially for muslin cloth, spices and pearls. It is therefore obvious that the Sadras Fort was constructed for a strategic reason.
Along the way, it is noticeable that this fine structure did have a well-planned drainage system too! In fact, a well can be located as you enter the fort premises.
By the time we got to the other side of the fort, it was a good 10 minutes and the view was absolutely breathtaking. This side of the fort is a little dilapidated, so please ensure you hold on to something while you are trying to climb up. This is where you get a beautiful view of the Coromandel coastline. Where better than to have a port/ fort, eh?
As you get back on the ground, on either side is a granary. Each granary is big enough to have stored thousands of bags of anything. The granaries seem to have been constructed in such manner that one had to go past a lot of hurdles before they got to the “treasure”. As we got out of the second granary is when we bumped into this old Danish couple who we got talking to and had quite an animated conversation about the Dutch in India. As we got talking, we realized that they have seen India more than any Indian would have in a lifetime! Both of them seem to have crossed 70 years of age. Talk about relationship goals!
Soon, we were back at the entrance and finally managed to enter the small cemetery within the premises of the fort. It seem to have been dedicated to generations that belong to a family, including that of a child (because it visibly seemed smaller than the rest of them). towards the end of this cemetery is a secret chamber. There was also one that seemed to be going underground, but we couldn’t get access to that. This is probably where the Dutch stored their goods.
In short, the Sadras Fort is a definite experience. Don’t forget to add this to your bucket-list if you are visiting Mahabalipuram soon and get a look at the Dutch history that remains on the Coromandel Coast.