Tranquebar was a part of Chola (10th to 13th century), Pandya (14th century) kingdoms. In 15th century, under the rule of the Thanjavur king, Raghunatha Nayak, Traquebar had been an active international trading port attracting Muslim traders, German theologians and Moravian entrepreneurs. At the time of the arrival of the Danes, Tharangambadi, as the place was then known, had already seen an influx of foreigners. Arab and later Portuguese traders had plied the coasts, and in 1620 when the Danish East India Company was established with the construction of the Dansborg Fort, trade languages on the coast were Tamil, Portuguese, Arabic and Malay. The construction of Fort Dansborg, an example of Scandinavian military architecture, built by a Danish captain named Ove Gjedde was a part of a treaty signed on 19th November 1620 between the King of Thanjavur and the King of Denmark mainly for exporting pepper from India. By 1777, the Danes took complete control of Tranquebar. Tranquebar was taken by the British in 1801, but restored to the Danes in 1814, and finally purchased by the British, along with the other Danish settlements in India, in 1845.
Being a pocket of Danish influence in India, Tranquebar has a unique legacy. The first Protestant missionaries to set foot in India were sent by Danish King Frederick IV to begin work at Tranquebar. As a result, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Pluetschau opened the first printing press of India and the New Testament was translated into Tamil for the first time in Tranquebar, India.
The architectural journey of Tranquebar can be traced back to the 14th century Masilamaninathar Temple built during the Pandya Regime. Then come 17th century colonial fort and 18th century churches. 21st century sees the crumbling heritage structures being restored by by INTACH. This involves The Bungalow on the Beach , Gate House, Shiva Temple, façade restoration of St. Theresa’s Convent, former Danish governor’s residence and Goldsmith Street houses.
Entry to this town is through an impressive two hundred year old Town Gate built with a Danish allure. Tranquebar conserves many other reminders of Danish heritage, most of them being colonial houses scattered around Kongensgade (or the King Street), the main street of Tranquebar. Homes with thick stucco walls, massive pillars supporting classical pediments, verandahs on second storey, carriage porches etc. remind us of the times when this busy trading centre was an outpost of Danish culture.
On December 26th 2004, Tranquebar was hit by the Tsunami. Developmental support and inherent craftsmanship of the townsfolk gave its residents a hope after the impact of Tsunami. Today, the town has a breezy and relaxed atmosphere.