RESTORATION OF A PART OF THE DANISH FORT AT TRANQUEBAR
|Land Gate before conservation||Land Gate after conservation/restoration|
The Danes constructed a big wall all around the settlement of Tranquebar, which
they modelled after small European towns of the 17th Century AD. The Land Gate with wooden doors was the way leading to Kings Street was constructed during 1792 AD. King's Street is the main street in this small settlement. The Dansborg, the Danish fort built by Ove Gedde in 1620 AD.
The plan for Fort Dansborg Outer length of the building (towards the sea) is about 60 m. Outer width of the building (towards the drill ground) is about 45 m. Outer width of the building is about 11 m.
|Sketch 1||Sketch II|
The Land Gate was in very bad condition in 2001 AD. The plaster of the gateway had peeled off. This place surrounding the gateway was encroached by local people and their huts hid many parts of it. Most of these encroachments were removed by the revenue authorities later. The Fort was also in urgent need of conservation with the brick core being exposed and several cracks in the roof.
|View 1||View II|
Dr. R. Kannan, Ph.D., I.A.S., Commissioner of Archaeology and Museums,
Thiru K.T. Narasimhan, Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey
of India, Southern Circle inspected this place on 17th July 2001, soon after
Dr.Kannan took charge of Archaeology. The District Collector, Thiru Sudeep Jain,
I.A.S. was present for some time. Dr.Kannan used the Participatory Approach of
learning from the expert as well as those who had Indigenous Technical Knowledge and involving everyone in the task.
The fort was a complicated structure and they had to spend four to five hours in this fort in order to understand the monument. It was found that there was immediate need for conserving the monument. The fort is in North-South orientation with doors at the East for ingress and a veranda on the West. Thiru Narasimhan found that there was a unique architectural feature in the monument. The central portion of the fort had four camel hump shaped domes on the roof with tie rods functioning as stays. The entire load of the domes was transferred on to a central pillar in the hall. Tie-rods have been used, as brick pinning alone would not serve the purpose since the domes are rectangular in shape and of very large size. The northern and southern portion shad barrel vaulted roofs. These had cracked in the central portion of the vaulted portion. The crack was longitudinal along the entire roof. Plastering on the roof and the walls had peeled off. This exposed the inner core of bricks to nature. The wood frames of the windows and doors had rotted due to exposure to 100% humidity since the fort is abutting the sea. Monsoon rainwater sprays into the interior, since no sunshades had been provided in the original construction. Due to leakage in the roof and also due to a hole in the load-bearing wall on the western side, water poured into the core of the walls. This was the condition of the fort during Commissioner's inspection. Thiru K.T.Narasimhan gave a note of inspection suggesting the immediate repairs to be undertaken and the lines on which repair is to be carried out.
In October 2001 AD, the Archaeological Chemist Thiru Ashok Deen accompanied Dr.Kannan. They shifted some artefacts in dire need of restoration to Chennai as listed below:
These were conserved and returned to the museum for display with good lighting as per museological principles. The Danes also gave some artefacts, photographs and laminated maps etc for display as a donation to the museum.
The work of restoration and conservation of the Land Gate was started in February 2002 and was over by April 2002. The Archaeological Survey of India did this. This was the work that gave confidence in the abilities of Indian workmen to the Danes.
The Collector of Nagapattinam recommended that a group of Danish people called Friends of Tranquebar who wanted to restore Tranquebar fort might be allowed to do so. Since the Collector had recommended, they were allowed to restore the southern portion of the fort (Old Governor's residence). Restoration work started in April 2002. It was executed under the supervision of the State Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamilnadu.
This work was undertaken by Thiru Chella Pillai, Retired Archaeological Engineer, Archaeological Survey of India, Chennai Circle with technical help from Thiru Mathivanan and Thiru Aadsarathy, Conservation Assistants, Archaeological Survey of India, Chennai Circle. Thiru Krishnamurthi, Thiru Swaminathan, Thiru Narayanan, Engineers, Thiru Subramanian, Archaeologist, State Department of Archaeology also were involved under the overall guidance of Thiru K.T. Narasimhan and Dr. R. Kannan, Ph.D., I.A.S. The Commissioner made nine visits in the period of sixty days in order to supervise the work. He also designed the interior and exterior illumination.
|The longitudinal crack along the centre of the barrel- vaulted roof was stitched with||The longitudinal crack along the centre of the barrel vaulted roof was stitched with copper strips and by pouring lead for anchoring the strips into the masonry. Lead and copper are not corroded by saline air or water.|
|The walls were de-plastered and washed several times. They were allowed to dry between washes to remove salinity||The wall was replastered with combination mortar with the ratio of 1:1:5 (cement, lime and sand). This was the first layer of the plastering.|
The sand was sieved with 12 mesh sieve and ground with the help of an electrical wet grinder. Lime was brought from Pollachi and it was mixed with sand and sand to pickle. While using combination mortar, juice of gallnut and jaggery in 12 kilograms per cubic metre in equal proportion was used. This was pickled for 20 days. The second layer of plaster was in the combination of lime and sand in 1:3 ratio. The juice of agave leaf was used in good measure to combat salinity. Gallnut and jaggery was used as stated above. This was applied with the help of a small spade. The sand was pulverised with hand mortar. The third and final layer was made with in the combination of 1:1: 3 (white of egg 1, red oxide powder 1, synthetic iron oxide powder 3). This coating was applied with a brush and a square polished wooden board. It will give fine finishing. This will give the yellowish colour that characterised monuments of the 17th Century AD. The egg coating is non-sticky in nature. Therefore, the wall will not need any white washes in future. This coating was also given to the roof even on the top side. This gave the roof a shiny golden hue.
The chimneys were finished so that no leakage of water through them could occur. All new structures like a water tank that was added during the period when it used by the P.W.D. as a Guest House were removed. The removal of the later additions restored the fort to its 18th Century condition. The fort had already been once altered and renovated in the 18th Century after its construction in the 17th Century AD.
The windows and doors were renewed with Burma teakwood. The old rusted iron rods in the windows and in the ceiling to hang fans from were removed. Matt finish stainless steel rods were put in the windows. The wooden doors and windows were sprayed with polyurethane melamine with a compressor so that it will last long in the face of prevent 100% humidity and salinity from the sea as well as monsoon spray.
Pipes embedded in the walls for running electrical wires were removed and the wiring pipes were
concealed beneath the floor except in one instance when there was no other alternative. Dr. R.
Kannan designed the interior and exterior lighting. M/s. Bajaj Electricals executed the work with
fire retardant cables. BGNF14 model castle lights with Metal Halide Lamps were used for exterior lighting.
This lighting has given uniform light green coloured light making the fa?ade look beautiful in the night.
The completion of the work of renovation was celebrated on July 14, 2002 AD. The Collector of Nagapattinam and the Danish friends Karin Knudsen, Viggo Knudsen, Poul Petersen, Ruth Klit Poulsen, Ulf Groenlund, Betina Christensen, Bent Christensen, Louis Kjaard took a walk along King Street. Dr.R.Kannan.and Thiru K.T. Narasimhan joined later. The B.B.C. Correspondent Charles Haviland covered it On-Line and on World Service Radio. It has been covered on Star TV as well. The local people were present in full strength. They gave a cultural programme. All those present marveled at the wonderful restoration. They paid rich compliments to the skill of the Indian workmen and archaeologists. The southern portion (Old Governor's Residence) has been restored.
The northern and central portions await conservation. The archaeological prescription has been given Dr.Kannan. This has to be translated into reality just as has been done with the southern portion.
The rampart wall had caved in for a distance of about 100 metres. An excavation was conducted by State Department of Archaeology to ascertain the number of offsets that formed the foundation of the rampart wall. Excavation took place till virgin soil. Dr.Kannan suggested the lines for repair as follows on 8-10-2002.
It may be necessary to go down up to the level of the last two offsets. It may not be necessary to go down to virgin soil as the portion above it is well stabilized for more than two hundred years. The gate of the castle may be made with teak wood reapers strung together on a teak wood frame on the inner side. This will give the same look and construction as a 17th Century AD European castle, which is what it looks like in old pictures and drawings. The weathering course of the arch above the entrance has too many layers resulting in unnecessary head load. The superfluous layers may be removed and water tightening may be done. The removal may be done by a power tool (chipper) to ensure minimum vibration. There is dampness in the vaulted basement portion of the main building of the fort. It is likely that there will be savings due to using the excavated old bricks and the bricks bought and stocked by the State Department of Archaeology a few years ago. These may be utilized for digging a trial trench in the basement (vault) of the main fort structure. This trial trench should be dug under archaeological supervision to avoid the possibility of damage to the foundation. This will help to find out the ancient drainage and foundation details of the main structure on the western side. The trial trench may be dug at the central portion of the wall sides and not near the pillars to avoid any destabilization of the ancient structure.
This is the first conservation work of a historical monument done directly under the auspices of the State Department of Archaeology & Museums in its history. This work involved coordination with several agencies of the State and Central Governments and private persons. It was the excitement of participation that enabled the work to be completed with in a very short period of three months. The persons who were involved right from the Commissioner worked from early morning till late into the night without caring for personal comforts or even adequate food. The hardships were shared by everyone equally. This fostered team spirit and true Participatory Approach. The work was appreciated by the local people, the State and Central Governments and even by Her Excellency, The Queen of Denmark, Queen Margerethe II. It has become a great tourist attraction on the East Coast Road. At the end, every one felt very happy. Labour Omnia Vincit Labour always wins It is now time to take the good work forward for full conservation and restoration of the fort to restore it to its old glory.