Discovering a Colonial Past in Tamil Nadu – Self Drive Adventures

Southern India is culturally one of the richest regions in the world because of its multi-layered influences that live on to this day. A good road trip idea would be one that charts the East Coast Road for the best colonial sites, starting from Chennai’s biggest landmark. With a self drive car rental easily available nowadays, this history trip is not a complicated one to arrange. Here are the highlights that visitors can enjoy.

Fort St. George

When it comes to colonial legacy, one cannot omit Fort St. George from the list. The oldest bastion of European power in the sub-continent, today it remains a seat of power for modern politics in the city. It is also the seed from which the giant metropolis was born. Some of the major attractions here include the St. Mary’s Church, one of the oldest in India, and the Wellesley House, known for its quintessential British designs.

The biggest attraction at Fort St. George is the museum, offering culture and history enthusiasts with a smorgasbord of information. Relics here include old coins and other artifacts that chart the growth of the East India Company on these humid shores. Uniforms and letters written by English viceroys are also exhibited here.


South India is sprinkled with remnants of many colonial chapters. Not many know that the Danish also had a presence on the shores of the subcontinent for a significant amount of time. Tharangambadi earlier referred to as Tranquebar is a 270-km drive away from Chennai along the East Coast road. This offbeat destination is a treasure for history aficionados, chronicling a lost chapter of Indian history. The Fort Dansborg remains the centrepiece attraction here. It was constructed in the early 17th century, making it one of the oldest European stations in the country. The sea view adds to the allure of the place and the unique Danish architecture is another reason to visit.

Tranquebar Museum is another important stop. Visitors can observe relics and artifacts from the glorious Vijayanagar and Thanjavur dynasties. Highlights also include manuscripts in Danish, old Chinese porcelain and weapons. The New Jerusalem Church in the main part of town is another heritage attraction, recently renovated after being damaged in the 2004 tsunami.


Pondicherry appears on many holiday lists because of its beaches and bohemian vibes. The French legacy of this town is another endearing factor. Today, the traffic policemen still wear their capos and some monuments on the promenade reflect on French occupation, standing side by side with celebrations of an independent India. The French connection also remains in the cuisine – one can easily find a decent baguette in many of the bakeries. The French quarters are also one of the most resplendent heritage neighbourhoods in the entire country – leafy streets still retaining their European names and the timeless architecture adds to the character of the place.

Tamil Nadu today is a land of many identities, all complimenting each other. Enjoy the wind off the highway and the centuries-old attractions that loom large over the coastal landscape. For those looking to rent a car Chennai has the best options. Apart from affordable rates and a wide range of vehicles, platforms like Zoomcar assure complete freedom and privacy. Many informed travellers are choosing self drive for these great reasons.

Leave a Comment