Tranquebar has little variety in shopping goods, while a slightly wider range of goods is found in Porayar, 10 minutes to the West; the nearest shopping centres being Karaikal, half an hours drive to the South, and Pondicherry to the North, 3½ hours distant by car or bus.
At the time of the arrival of the Danes, Tranquebar, and most of the Coromandel and Malabar coasts, had already seen an influx of foreigners. Arab and later Portuguese traders had plied the coasts, and in 1620 when the Danish trading post was founded with the construction of the Dansborg Fort, the trade languages on the coast, apart from Tamil, were Portuguese, Arabic and Malay.
Tranquebar was then under the rule of the Telegu Naiks (Naikers) of Thanjavur (Tanjore). As the rulers were from present Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra the whole of the Thanjavur Kingdom could best be described as a Telegu/Mahrathi colony in Tamil Nadu.
The Danish trading post was founded partly by chance. The Danish king Christian IV had established an East India Company in 1620 and ships were sent to the East with the purpose of establishing a base in Sri Lanka. When this project failed, the leader of the expedition, Ove Gjedde, travelled on to the Coromandel Coast and made contact with the Naik of Thanjavur who offered a lease of Tranquebar against the payment of a yearly tribute. Accordingly Tranquebar did not become a Danish colony, but remained a trading post within the Kingdom of the Naik.
Tranquebar was only successful as a centre of trade for short periods, trading in textiles, spices, slaves and arrack, often profiting more from trade with present Indonesia (notably Aceh) than from sending shipments to Europe. The number of Danes in Tranquebar seldom amounted to more than fifty. Other nationalities than Danes, notably German pastors and missionaries, positively influenced Tranquebar and the Kingdom of Thanjavur.
The first Protestant church in Tranquebar, the Church of Zion, was built by the Danes in 1701, but sermons were reserved for Europeans only. The second Protestant church, the New Jerusalem Church was completed in 1718 through the efforts of a remarkable German missionary Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg. Ziegenbalg arrived in Tranquebar 23 years old in 1706 and died in 1718, the first inhabitant of Tranquebar to be laid to rest on the New Jerusalem Churchyard.
A third church, the Bethlehem Church was built in Porayar in 1746. The church is located 4 Kilometres from Tranquebar Old Town. Porayar was part of the former trading post perimeter.
Tranquebar was finally sold to the British in 1845. A number of non-British European residents, including Danes, stayed on as pensioners until their death.
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