Eleven years ago,the Archaeological Survey of India discovered that a flourishing Dutch trade centre existed just 70km south of present-day Chennai at Sadras.Today,the excavated sites that threw up precious remains are covered in wild grass.
For two decades,former ASI superintending archaeologist K T Narasimhan excavated the site,discovering the remains of a fort,two granaries,one with a capacity to store 5,000 bags of rice,a cemetery of the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie ),and residential buildings.
Many of the artefacts unearthed are in the Government Museum at Egmore.Sadras was an important centre for the production and trade of muslin cloth,prized by the Europeans.Apart from the granary and cemetery,most of the excavated sites are unattended,covered by vegetation.Though it is a protected monument,no ASI staff or security personnel are at the fort.A daily wage labourer guides tourists around the structure.
The cemetery has 19 tombs,one of which is destroyed now.A beautiful brick-walled well,which was discovered during excavation,lies abandoned.An important discovery was a circular tank used for dyeing muslin cloth,which cannot be seen anymore.Two other structures,believed to be a post for troops and a residence,are in ruins.
The brick wall on the northern side of the fort has not been repaired though a portion is close to collapse.
Officials at the Mamallapuram ASI sub-circle office,responsible for the maintenance of the fort,said no work had been done there after 2003.We are planning to send a proposal to Chennai regarding the renovation of the wall,but nothing has been decided yet, said P Vasudevan,senior conservation assistant,ASI,sub-circle Mamallapuram.
Officials say they dont have enough staff to maintain the monument.With just one employee,it is hard to clean the 7.5-acre compound regularly.We are also short of funds, said Vasudevan.
Tags: ASI, Dutch Fort, Monument, Sadras, Trading Centre