Aug 29, 2010

I learnt Indian history from the Dutch today!

Dutch East India Company. As this bug bites me more and more every day, I finally ended up travelling to The Hague where the Dutch National Archives is located, which is the treasure house of all the antique VOC records! 

As I entered the building, I felt like setting foot on a venture of a lifetime (like boarding the Titanic! :). I got the 3 historical documents that I had requested for. These were HUGE books, with sizes of around 1 feet x 1.5 feet,and weighing almost 4 KGs each! These were the travel journals prepared by Dutch east India company in circa 1672 (yes, almost 340 year-old books!!). Such a journal was published almost each time when a VOC ship sailed back to Holland. The books I read, had precise details on Dutch occupation in India, with detailed maps of the cities and towns, the culture of the inhabitants, their food habits, the vegetation, etc. etc. It was just mind blowing to see several maps of my birthplace, the port town of Tuticorin (had been spelt as Tute Coryn). [image credits: Nationaal ArchiefOne of the maps shows intricate details of pearl fishermen (Paravas community) displaying oysters in the market, fished from the sea, while some Dutch men stand by. It also shows a VOC ship supervising the fishing activities. Sea farers diving into the sea for pearl fishing can also be seen- and much more intricate details that today’s Tuticoriners would not even know that these existed here! 

Well, Tuticorin is just one place where the VOC had a trading post. I also saw several maps, and records of Masulipatnam (Machilipatnam), Pulicat (Pazhaverkadu), Negapatnam (Nagapattinam), Cotchin (Cochin), Covelang (Kovalam), and many more places. And remember, today’s India was not the only country under the VOC. Cities like New Amsterdam (New York city), Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town), Batavia (Jakarta, Indonesia) were too!

Here’s a VOC map of port town Tutecoryn (1672) and a Google map of today’s Tuticorin city (2010). I still like the VOC map of Tutecoryn much more, with its beautifully illustrative and intricate details! 

View Larger Map

Well, we must not forget the most important thing here- 400 years ago, our place’s map had been drawn by a European company, and today, our place’s map is being created by an American company. 
What are WE doing????? It’s heart-breaking indeed.

1 comment:

  1. The shipyard of the Dutch East India Company in Amsterdam, circa 1750.

    The Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC) was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia. It was the first multinational corporation in the world and the first company to issue stock.[2] It was also arguably the world's first megacorporation, possessing quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, imprison and execute convicts,[3] negotiate treaties, coin money, and establish colonies.[4]



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