Pulicat, The Portuguese established a trading post 1502

The Portuguese established a trading post in Pulicat in 1502.

Pulicat (Pazhaverkadu) is a historic seashore town in “north of Chennai” in Thiruvallur District, of Tamil Nadu state, South India. It is about 60 km north of Chennai and 3 km from Elavur, on the barrier island of Sriharikota, which separates Pulicat Lake from the Bay of Bengal.

Portuguese trading outpost

In 1502, the Portuguese traders established a trading outpost here during the rule of Krishnadeva Raya and soon dominated the port until 1560. These private merchants were out of reach of the official authority in Goa and some were viewed as renegades, bandits and pirates. In 1515, they built a church dedicated to Nossa Senhora Dus Prazeres (Our Lady of Joys) which was renamed to Our Lady of Glory. It is the oldest church in the present Madras-Mylapore Diocese and is still used, but in poor condition.

In 1520, there were 200 – 300 Portuguese inhabitants in Palaverkadu. By 1545, there were 600 – 700 families and from 1565 their population was in decline.  By 1600, Pulicat had only two or three thousand residents.

The Portuguese established a trading post in Pulicat in 1502 with the help of the Vijayanagar rulers. They built a fort there and held this fort until 1609 when they were defeated by the Dutch. The Dutch occupied Pulicat fort in 1609. Between 1621 and 1665, 131 slave ships were deployed by the Dutch to export 38,441 Indians captured on the Coromandel coast and transported from Pulicat to be sold as slaves to Dutch plantations in Batavia. Pulicat was till 1690 the capital of Dutch Coromandel. It repeatedly changed possession, until finally occupied by the British in 1825. It became part of the Madras Presidency, which later became Madras state in independent India and renamed Tamil Nadu in 1968. The Dutch church has been built over several times and is rather dilapidated today, and the Dutch fort has fallen into ruin. The old lighthouse still stands at the opposite bank of the lake. The cemetery dating to 1622 has been taken under the wing of the Archeological Survey of India and so has survived the passage of time. The grand, Dutch inscribed tombs and graves, carved with skeletons rather than the cross, have been quite well preserved. The cemetery lies behind the market and visitors often don’t know that it is there. Many thousands of visitors per year come to the area which is renowned for its history and natural beauty. Modern Pulicat is a model for religious unity. Every year April Month, people of pulicat irrespective of religion celebrate “Kottaikuppam Madha Thiruvizha” Kottaikuppam – Kottai means Fort & Kuppam means group of people live. Madha Thiruvizha means Festival for Lord Mary.


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