Machilipatnam has a knack to disappear from public imagination only to resurface in a new avatar. When we decided to visit the sleepy harbor town in coastal Andhra, my friends wondered what we want to see there.
Historic Facts about Machilipatnam
Here are my very own findings about this intriguing place of historic depth:
- Maisolos, as it was known to the Romans during 3rd century BC, was a major trading port on the Coramandal Coast of India in the Krishna basin due to a natural harbour. Many gold coins from the Roman and the Satavahana era have been discovered here during excavations. The harbour also gives the town its folklore name of Bandar. Now before our Hindi speaking friends relate it to monkey, let me inform you this Bandar is from Persian origin meaning a port.
- Arab traders visited here during the 13th century and the town constantly changed hands between various kingdoms till it came under the rulers of Golconda. They named the East facing gate of the famous Charminar in Hyderabad as Machili Kaman or Fish Gate, as it faced Machilipatnam.
- Portuguese ruled the port between 1598 and 1610, only to be kicked out by the Mughal Canons, who after plundering Golconda Fort, also wanted to control the sea trade.
- Then the Dutch came who built a small fort and armoury, which proved inadequate to save them from the onslaught of the British East India Company who built their first factory here.
All these war stories, the lure of an abandoned fort, palace of the local ruler, and whim for some beach time made us visit this coastal Andhra town about 340 KM East of Hyderabad. After all, this was the port from where the famed Golconda diamonds were exported out of India for centuries.
Machilipatnam is district headquarters of the Krishna District, and boasts of one of the largest Collectors bungalow in India, a legacy of the British Raj. It is a major education and commercial hub in coastal Andhra Pradesh.
Dutch Fort Complex – My amazing experience
Day started slowly at Machilipatnam, and we decided to go to the Dutch fort and armoury. Nobody in our hotel or taxi stand seemed to have a clue as to how to reach there. Finally a shared auto rickshaw agreed to drop us close to the fort called Bandar Kota locally, the reason being nobody understood when we said Dutch Fort.
We walked for about 10 minute through a village, before reaching the fort. The fort was under renovation and we tried to strike a conversation with the workers. They were replacing the decayed wood planks under the roof, and doing other repairs to bring back the lost grandeur of the fort. It seemed like the fort was getting a makeover to welcome more visitors soon.
The Dutch Fort has many big and small rooms, narrow staircases, leading to roof that is collapsed at places, a live testimony of facing the many cyclones that the area usually witnessed. I wondered if it were the damages incurred during one of the gun battles in the past. I ask the guy who pretended to be in charge. But he had no clear answer and said that it could be due to cyclones or the cannons that caused holes in the roof. We saw a tower next to the fort and decided to explore further.
The tower is an interesting building, standing alone in the corner of a park. We tried to find a stair to climb the same but there was none. About 100 meters from the tower is the abandoned armoury, now in bad shape but you can see from construction that it was built to last any accidental blast of all the gunpowder stored in its bowels. Built in layers with brick walls and pillars that radiated out of the main building to lower the impact of any flying debris, one cannot stop but admire the design. Dutch fort complex is a photographer’s dream place with its ruined, rugged, desolate, almost haunting charm, and we clicked the buildings from every possible angle.
We continued our exploration in the nearby village and also found the dilapidated sugar factory built by British. Further down the road there is a cemetery and memorial built by then District Collector G Thorn Hill in memory of 30,000 people who perished in a tidal wave that struck Machilipatnam on November 1, 1864.
While coming back we met this farmer who was feeding his rooster dry fruits! These roosters were earlier used in cock fights. Though the cockfighting is now banned, people continue to pamper their roosters.