Kerala’s Coasts – Anchuthengu

Kerala has a rich history of revolutions. Revolutions that were against imperialism, capitalism and colonialism. It had the very first democratically elected communist government in the world. Probably it is at this relatively unknown and beautiful place that the revolutionary sprouts first germinated.

A little bit of History

Anchuthengu, previously known as Anjengo, is situated near Varkala in the Tiruvananthapuram district in Kerala. The place was a bustling center of trade during the 17th and 18th century. Conveniently located near to the Muthalapozhi estuary, goods could be transported easily to and from the town. To the East, the Vamanapurm River connected the town to the Eastern Ghats which was the source of exotic spices like cardamom and pepper. To the west, the Arabian Sea gave it access to the markets in the Arabian Peninsula, the Europe and the northern parts of Hindustan. Hence, when the British arrived at its coast, they did not plan to leave soon.

The British built a fort here in 1695. There was a treaty in place between the European colonial powers that gave trade monopoly to the nation which builds a fort on a foreign land. The British began to take full advantage of it by manipulating the price of pepper.

On 15th of April, 1721, the President of Anjengo fort and his army marched to Attingal to present gifts to the Queen. In the palace compound, they were disarmed, attacked and slaughtered. 133 Englishmen were killed in cold blood. The people of Anjengo then laid siege to the fort for several months until a back up British army arrived from Thalassery to secure the fort. This was the first organised revolution against the British in India.

The Fort

Anjengo fort
The front gate of the fort

Situated right at the seashore, the fort is square shaped with approximately 75 meter long walls. At each corner, there is a bastion, which could mount 8 cannons each. The cannons are now taken away and kept at different museums. Over one of the bastions facing the sea, a wooden pole was erected which probably served as a light source for the ships. At the side which is facing the sea, there are several stone poles erected which may have been used to carry out punishments.

At one of the inner corners, there is an entrance to a tunnel which is said to have led to a hidden location on the beach. After people started to go missing inside the tunnel, it was sealed off permanently with concrete. The small room that remains now serves as the office of the Archaeological Department.

The tunnel inside the fort
The tunnel inside the fort

There are several gravestones located in and around the fort – with poignant epitaphs of British men and women who lived and died away from their home.

The Lighthouse

The 38m high Anchuthengu lighthouse is situated opposite to the fort, at the other end of the road. From the inside, a spiraled stairway leads to a control room at the top of the structure. From the control room, there is a vertical ladder, which leads to the light room and from there, one could step out to the balcony.

The lighthouse
The lighthouse

The view from the balcony is a treat to the eyes with roaring Arabian sea at one end and calm Vamanapuram river at the other. Constantly blowing wind would be the cherry on top.

Since the lighthouse was open for public only from 3 PM, I had to wait for a couple of hours. But, it was definitely worth the wait.

A view from the lighthouse balcony
A view from the lighthouse balcony
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