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Origins of the Urban Development of Pondicherry according to Seventeenth Century Dutch Plans

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Jean Deloche

II. Pondichery under the Dutch (1693-1699)

Texte intégral

1On September 7, 1693, Pondicherry fell into the hands of the Dutch and remained five and a half years in their possession (until March 1699). During that period, they tried to develop the settlement into a great manufacturing centre.

2First, with the agreement of Raja Ram, the ruler of Senji, they enlarged the territory under their control. Then, they planned a new town, based on the grid pattern.

Pondicherry Territory after the Conquest

  • 56 Instead of calling this river Chunambar, they named it Codriever (Kuduvaiyar), a designation given (...)
  • 57 Ampalattānta, a contraction of Ampalattāṇṭavar, Shiva, kuppam, village. It is probably the modern v (...)

3In the detailed plan of the territory made in November 1694, the surveyor has represented the extended territory held by them, with drawings of sand dunes, houses and groves. It consisted of the area already owned by the Dutch, north of the deltaic river, shown in fig. 2, to which had been added the land situated between the Ariyankuppam river and the Chunambar,56 including several hamlets: Wieram Patnam (Virampattinam), Arrian Coepon (Ariankuppam), Nonde Coepon (Nonankuppam) and Ambeltandecoepon (Ambalatandakuppam).57 All these settlements, from north to south, were connected by roads.

4It is interesting to note that, among the landscape features which have been marked, we find landmarks such as “pagodas” and “stone figures”. Near Ambalatandakuppam, for example, the surveyor mentioned a “grove where a statue stands with several earthen horses, named Toeradjaponcoijel”. This spot, where there is an Ayyanar kovil (temple), with terracotta horses, still exists. It has been recently renovated and the statue (newly painted) of Turadiyappan (Tūrāṭiyappaṉ), and those of his companions, Madurai Viran and Bommi Amman, can be seen (a proof that the surveyor did his job carefully!).

Fig. 9. The Town of Poedechery with indications of the new constructions 20 November 1694. Jas Verbergmoes (VEL 1098)

Fig. 9. The Town of Poedechery with indications of the new constructions 20 November 1694. Jas Verbergmoes (VEL 1098)

Fig. 10. Plan de la forteresse de Pondichéry et de ses environs, anonyme 1700 (Centre des Archives d’Outre Mer 32 A, 5)

Fig. 10. Plan de la forteresse de Pondichéry et de ses environs, anonyme 1700 (Centre des Archives d’Outre Mer 32 A, 5)

5We also find represented the fishermen’s villages and particularly the numerous salt pans of this area which, for the Dutch merchants, must have been of a much greater significance!

Planning of a New Town

  • 58 It is mentioned in a letter written by François Martin in 1699, quoted by P. Kaeppelin, op.cit., p. (...)

6Within these limits, the new rulers worked out a great urban project. They thought that not only the Indian artisans and merchants, who had left the place at the beginning of the siege, would return, but also that new settlers58 would be attracted by the opportunities offered to them by the Company. They therefore planned a new town on the western side of the establishment.

7The very meticulous and detailed plan, “measured and mapped” by the land surveyor, Jacob Verbergmoes (fig. 9), shows the main features of their design.

  • 59 Ibid.

8We notice that they did not alter the layout of the “old town,” i.e. the fort area, to the east of the marshy depression. When we compare the plan dated 1693 (fig. 4) and the plan dated 1694 (fig. 9), we find, for this area, almost the same representation in both of them. They kept the rough fence bordering its northern and southern part. They did not modify the fort and its outer works; on the contrary they even repaired the breaches made in the walls and the damage done to the bastions.59 They did not demolish the Malabar church (for the native Christians) or the French storehouses and gowdowns, but they decided not to rebuilt the blocks of stone houses, to the east of the fort, which had been destroyed by François Martin during the siege. The streets therefore had the same alignments.

9On the western side, on the other hand, they completely changed the structure of the town.

10First, they seized the properties of the French Company and the religious orders, particularly the gardens. In Verbergmoes’plan, the gardens of the French Company to the north of the fort and to the west of the Uppar river and the big plot of land occupied by the Jesuits, are all designated by “king’s gardens”, and the “garden of the French” is designated to be a “weekly court” (fig. 9).

11Then, they planned a new town, composed not only of the northern tract, partially and irregularly inhabited, but also of the the southern land, beyond the Uppar river, covered with fields, groves and gardens. This layout was a great innovation (fig. 11).

12It consisted of large rectangular blocks of houses separated by straight streets, intersecting at right angles: a simple structure which corresponded to a spatial-functional distribution of the different Indian communities (Brahmins, weavers, merchants, farmers, craftsmen) which the Dutch wanted to establish there.

13In the northern part, the brahmins (brāhmaa), who were mostly living near the Isvara temple (as seen in fig. 5), remained at the same place, along with pandarams (paṇṭāram), a caste of non-brahmin sivaites selling garlands of flowers. Close to them, a portion of street was reserved for the devadasis (tēvatāci), dancing girls dedicated to the service of a deity and generally to temple prostitution (hence this abusive name of whores given to them).

  • 60 āar, land owners, cēṇiyar, weavers.
  • 61 Kōmuṭṭi, merchant and shopkeeper of Telugu origin.
  • 62 Akampaiyar, an agricultural caste.
  • 63 One division of this caste, the stone masons, has been omitted.
  • 64 Baḍaga (Kannada), vaṭakkattiyā (Tamil), northerner, i.e. of Telugu origin (vide Hobson-Jobson, s.v (...)
  • 65 Mokarir (Arabic), clerck, writer, scribe.

14About half of this northern area was reserved for weavers, including velala cheniyars (vēḷāḷar cēṇiyar60); a quarter of it, to merchants: chettis (ceṭṭi) and komuttis kōmuṭṭi61). (Four blocks of houses were assigned to farmers: agambadi velalas (akampaṭiyar62 vēḷāḷar) and pallis (paḷḷi). The rest was intended for different castes of artisans: kammāḷar (copper and silversmiths, carpenters and blacksmiths),63 oil-pressers, kanakars (kaṇakkar) or village accountants, barbers, betel sellers, potters, lime-kiln workers, painters, badaga mokarias (baḍaga64 mokarir?65) or scribes, peons and parias, all of them distributed along the western side.

Fig 11. Poedechery The New Town 20th November 1694 Jas Verbergmoes (VEL 1098)

Fig 11. Poedechery The New Town 20th November 1694 Jas Verbergmoes (VEL 1098)
  • 66 Kavarai, merchant of Telugu origin.
  • 67 Reṭṭi, farmer of Telugu origin.
  • 68 One division of this caste, the stone masons, has been omitted.

15The southern part was almost equallly divided into weavers, including velala cheinars, merchants: chetttis, komuttis and kavarais (kavarai66) and farmers: velalas, agambadi velalas, badaga velalas (baḍaga vēḷāḷar), pallis and reddis (reṭṭi67); to which we have to add, settled in a disorganised manner, barbers, trumpeters, betel sellers, oil pressers, painters, and, at the southern limit, the kammāḷar (copper- and silversmiths, blacksmiths, carpenters)68 and the peons. It was also planned to establish there, in three streets, brahmins and pandarams.

16In this new set up, we note the importance given to people of Telugu origin: kavarais, komutis, reddis, badagas, which is striking.

17In order to protect the new town, they planned to build an enclosure with “a parapet and a moat” and, with stone redoubts erected on the corners and at certain places (marked A in the plan, fig. 9).

Realization

  • 69 Letters from François Martin to the Directors, dated July and November 1699, quoted by P. Kaeppelin (...)

18Now, we have to ascertain whether this plan of much consequence was implemented. In fact it was based, as said above, on the assumption that the working population, scattered in neighbouring villages, would come back to Pondicherry. Unfortunately, inspite of the proposals made by the Dutch, the local inhabitants did not return to the town and stayed in Goudalour (Cuddalore).69

  • 70 “There is a “fossé qui n’est pourtant ni assez creusé, ni assez large pour empêcher... même des gen (...)

19François Martin says that the enclosure of the new town, which was completed in 1695, consisted of an earthen embankment covered with a row of bushes and thorns, provided with six redoubts, erected at irregular distances, and surrounded with a moat which did not have sufficient depth and width.70 This enclosure with two gates set in it (the Madras gate to the north and the Valdaour gate to the west) contained vast areas, intended for the prospective inhabitants, which were completely empty.

20In fact, four years later, when the French returned to Pondicherry, the whole tract, south of the Uppar river, which was supposed to be developped, was still under cultivation. On the other hand, in the northern part of the town, the Dutch design had been partly implemented.

21Immediately after coming, François Martin set to work and managed to attract craftsmen and merchands. In September 1699, several of them joined the Company; in February 1700, there were 500 (weaving) looms in the town and, very likely, all these artisans had set up houses in the northern part of the town designed by the Dutch.

22This newly settled tract is shown in all the early plans of the Compagnie des Indes and, as these representations reproduce exactly the features of the Dutch original documents, except for the southern portion of the new town which has been omitted, we can infer that the Dutch design had been put into effect by the French.

  • 71 Archives nationales, Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer, Aix en Provence, DFC, portefeuille 32 A, 5.

23In the Plan de la forteresse de Pondichéry et de ses environs (anonyme), dated 1700, we find, to the north of the Uppar river, the same sections of the town enclosed by neighbouring and intersecting streets as those displayed in the Dutch plan of 1694 (vide figs. 9 & 10).71

  • 72 Bibliothèque nationale, Service hydrographique de la Marine S.H.M., port. 204, div. 4, p. 1, 88. C (...)
  • 73 For example the grove with earthen horses, drawn to the south of Virampattinam, is also mentioned i (...)

24The Plan général des dépendances de Pondichéry... avec les ouvrages proposés et faits en 1702 et 1703, by the French engineer de Nyon,72 reproduces all the characteristic topographic traits of fig. 8 (showing all the land owned by the Dutch in 1694), and this in minute details.73 In this document, it is interesting to note that, though modifications have been carried out, with the erection of a new pentagonal fort encompassing the fort barlong, the layout of the old settlement and of the new town, north of the Uppar river, is almost the same as the one shown in the Dutch plan, with the same street pattern intended for the Indian population.

  • 74 Archives nationales, Centre des Archives d'Outre-Mer, Aix en Provence, DFC, portefeuille 32 A, 11.

25Finally, to some extent, the Carte générale des villes, forts et dépendances de Pondichéry... avec les nouvelles acquisitions faites depuis l’année 1707, dated 1714,74 though showing the beginning of a tentative urban development to the south of the Uppar river, has retained the same general features.

  • 75 It is probably the plan mentioned by G. Jouveau-Dubreuil as an undated plan and considered by him a (...)

26Obviously, all these plans were copied from or inspired by the Dutch plans. Significant is the fact that, in the first French plan, the scale is in Dutch rods (100 perches de Hollande à 10 pieds de France la perche)!75 It is therefore an unquestionable fact that the Dutch are at the origin of the grid pattern carried out by the French in the first half of the 18th century. It is also beyond doubt that, in their project to relocate the Indian community in a separate area, to the west of the settlement, and keeping the old town on the seashore for themselves, the Dutch are also at the origin of the separation between Ville noire and Ville blanche (Black Town and White Town). In the French plan dated 1700, the western settlement is called Ville neuve; in the other one, dated 1714, a distinction is made between “la ville haute habitée la plus grande partie par des noirs” and “les deux basses villes (on both sides of the fort) occupées en partie par des François”.

Notes

56 Instead of calling this river Chunambar, they named it Codriever (Kuduvaiyar), a designation given to a small tributary of this branch of the delta.

57 Ampalattānta, a contraction of Ampalattāṇṭavar, Shiva, kuppam, village. It is probably the modern village of Manaveli, to the south-east of Ariankuppam (vide fig. I).

58 It is mentioned in a letter written by François Martin in 1699, quoted by P. Kaeppelin, op.cit., p. 443.

59 Ibid.

60 āar, land owners, cēṇiyar, weavers.

61 Kōmuṭṭi, merchant and shopkeeper of Telugu origin.

62 Akampaiyar, an agricultural caste.

63 One division of this caste, the stone masons, has been omitted.

64 Baḍaga (Kannada), vaṭakkattiyā (Tamil), northerner, i.e. of Telugu origin (vide Hobson-Jobson, s.v. badega, p. 46).

65 Mokarir (Arabic), clerck, writer, scribe.

66 Kavarai, merchant of Telugu origin.

67 Reṭṭi, farmer of Telugu origin.

68 One division of this caste, the stone masons, has been omitted.

69 Letters from François Martin to the Directors, dated July and November 1699, quoted by P. Kaeppelin, in op.cit., p. 343.

70 “There is a “fossé qui n’est pourtant ni assez creusé, ni assez large pour empêcher... même des gens du pays un peu déterminés de le passer. Les terres ont été jetées en dedans et relevées qui font une espèce de rempart avec les haies et les épines qui sont plantées dessus pour couvrir les soldats qui sont en garde. Mais ce qui fortifie cette enceinte, ce sont six redoutes que les Hollandais y ont fait élever; elles ne sont pas en égale distance l’une de l’autre; ils ont été forcés de se conformer au terrain; il y a du canon dans presque toutes” (letter from François Martin to the Company, dated September 14, 1699, in P. Kaeppelin, op.cit., p. 444).

71 Archives nationales, Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer, Aix en Provence, DFC, portefeuille 32 A, 5.

72 Bibliothèque nationale, Service hydrographique de la Marine S.H.M., port. 204, div. 4, p. 1, 88. C 136520.

73 For example the grove with earthen horses, drawn to the south of Virampattinam, is also mentioned in the French representation as a “taupe aux chevaux”.

74 Archives nationales, Centre des Archives d'Outre-Mer, Aix en Provence, DFC, portefeuille 32 A, 11.

75 It is probably the plan mentioned by G. Jouveau-Dubreuil as an undated plan and considered by him as the earliest French plan of Pondicherry (in an article entitled: Plan de Pondichéry en 1699’, Revue historique de l’Inde française, vol. IX, pp. 259-264). In his analysis, he says that, according to a letter dated September, 14, 1699, “le chevalier des Augiers emporta avec lui une carte qui est tirée sur une que les Hollandais ont dessinée de l'étendue des retranchements de l’enceinte de la peuplade” and that “il s’agit donc bien de la carte tirée par des Augiers sur celle des Hollandais.” Moreover, he also notes that the scale is in Dutch rods.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 9. The Town of Poedechery with indications of the new constructions 20 November 1694. Jas Verbergmoes (VEL 1098)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/5658/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 780k
Titre Fig. 10. Plan de la forteresse de Pondichéry et de ses environs, anonyme 1700 (Centre des Archives d’Outre Mer 32 A, 5)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/5658/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 800k
Titre Fig 11. Poedechery The New Town 20th November 1694 Jas Verbergmoes (VEL 1098)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/5658/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 856k

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2004

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