The Coromandel Coast is the southeastern coast region of the Indian subcontinent, bounded by the Utkal Plains to the north, the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Kaveri delta to the south, and the Eastern Ghats to the west, extending over an area of about 22,800 square kilometres. Its definition can also include the northwestern coast of the island of Sri Lanka. The coast has an average elevation of 80 metres and is backed by the Eastern Ghats, a chain of low, flat-topped hills.
Coromondel is the Dutch pronunciation of "Karimanal", a village in the Sriharikota island in the north of Pazhavercadu (Pulecat Lake). Pazhavercadu (Pulecat) was an early Dutch settlement along with Masoolipatnam in present-day Andhra Pradesh. There is a Dutch Cemetery belonging to the seventeenth Century at Pulecat. It is said that the first Dutch ship stopped here for fresh drinking water, and upon asking the name of the place Karimanal was spelled as Corimondal (K replaced with C and d inserted).
The land of the Chola dynasty was called Cholamandalam ( ?) in Tamil, literally translated as The realm of the Cholas, from which the Portuguese derived the name Coromandel. The name could also be derived from Kurumandalam, meaning The realm of the Kurus.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the coastal economy. Rice, pulses (legumes), sugarcane, cotton, and peanuts (groundnuts) are grown. Bananas and betel nuts are grown together with rice in the low-rainfall region of the interior. There are casuarina and coconut plantations along the coast.
Large-scale industries produce fertilizers, chemicals, film projectors, amplifiers, trucks, and automobiles. There is a heavy vehicle and armoured car factory at Avadi and a nuclear power station at Kalpakkam.
Roads and railways linking Chennai, Cuddalore, Chidambaram, Chengalpattu, and Puducherry run parallel to the coast.
The coast is generally low, and punctuated by the deltas of several large rivers, including the Kaveri, Palar, Penner, and Krishna River, which rise in the highlands of the Western Ghats and flow across the Deccan Plateau to drain into the Bay of Bengal. The alluvial plains created by these rivers are fertile and favour agriculture. The rivers remain dry during most of the year. There is little forest cover, but marshes, swamps, scrub woodlands, and thorny thickets are common.
The coastline forms a part of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The important ports include Chennai, Thoothukkudi, Nellore, Ennore and Nagapattinam, which take advantage of their close proximity with regions rich in natural and mineral resources and good transport infrastructure.
The Coromandel Coast falls in the rain shadow of the Western Ghats mountain range, and receives a good deal less rainfall during the summer southwest monsoons, which contributes heavy rainfall in the rest of India. The region averages 800 mm/year, most of which falls between October and December. The topography of the Bay of Bengal, and the staggered weather pattern prevalent during the season favours northeast monsoons, which have a tendency to cause cyclones and hurricanes rather than a steady precipitation. As a result, the coast is hit by inclement weather almost every year between October and January.
The high variability of rainfall patterns is also responsible for water scarcity and famine in most areas not served by the great rivers. For example, the city of Chennai is one of the driest cities in the country in terms of potable water availability, despite high percentage of moisture in the air, due to the unpredictable, seasonal nature of the monsoon.
The Coromandel Coast is home to the East Deccan dry evergreen forests ecoregion, which runs in a narrow strip along the coast. Unlike most of the other tropical dry forest Biome regions of India, where the trees lose their leaves during the dry season, the East Deccan dry evergreen forests retain their leathery leaves year round.
The Coromandel Coast is also home to extensive mangrove forests along the low-lying coast and river deltas, and several important wetlands, notably Kaliveli Lake and Pulicat Lake, that provide habitat to thousands of migrating and resident birds.
By late 1530 the Coromandel Coast was home to three Portuguese settlements at Nagapattinam, São Tomé de Meliapore, and Pulicat. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Coromandel Coast was the scene of rivalries among European powers for control of the India trade. The British established themselves at Fort St George (Madras) and Masulipatnam, the Dutch at Pulicat, Sadras and Covelong, the French at Pondicherry, Karaikal and Nizampatnam, the Danish in Dansborg at Tharangambadi.
The Coromandel Coast supplied Indian Muslim eunuchs to the Thai palace and court of Siam (modern Thailand). The Thai at times asked eunuchs from China to visit the court in Thailand and advise them on court ritual since they held them in high regard.
Eventually the British won out, although France retained the tiny enclaves of Pondichéry and Karaikal until 1954. Chinese lacquer goods, including boxes, screens, and chests, became known as "Coromandel" goods in the 18th century, because many Chinese exports were consolidated at the Coromandel ports.
Two of the famous books on the economic history of the Coromandel Coast are Merchants, companies, and commerce on the Coromandel Coast, 1650-1740 (Arasaratnam, Oxford University Press, 1986) and The World of the Weaver in Northern Coromandel, c.1750-c.1850 (P. Swarnalatha, Orient Longman, 2005).
On 26 December 2004, one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern history, the Indian Ocean earthquake, struck off the western coast of Sumatra (Indonesia). The earthquake and subsequent tsunami reportedly killed over 220,000 people around the rim of the Indian Ocean. The tsunami devastated the Coromandel Coast, killing many and sweeping away many coastal communities.
Four ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Coromandel after the Indian coast. The Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand was named after one of these ships, and the town of Coromandel, New Zealand was named after the peninsula. Coromandel Valley, South Australia, and its neighbouring suburb, Coromandel East, gain their name from the ship Coromandel, which arrived in Holdfast Bay from London in 1837 with 156 English settlers. After the ship reached the shore, some of its sailors deserted, intending to remain behind in South Australia, and took refuge in the hills in the Coromandel Valley region.
A red nail varnish made by Chanel is named coromandel due to its suggestions of exoticism. One of the earliest superfast trains of Indian Railways that runs between Howrah and Chennai is named Coromandel Express.
The 1955 historical novel Coromandel! by John Masters describes a young English adventurer arriving in the 17th century at the Coromandel Coast. He is the founder of the Savage family, whose descendants live during British rule in India and appear in other books of Masters' series.
There is a well-known poem by the Indian poet and freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu titled 'Coromandel Fishers'. The little-known early 20th-century poet Walter J. Turner wrote a poem titled 'Coromandel'.
"The Courtship of the Yonghy-bonghy-bo" by Edward Lear is set on the Coast of Coromandel.
Coromandel wood is referred to by Dame Edith Sitwell in her poem "Black Mrs. Behemoth", part of "Façade". She likens the wood's grain to the rolling, curling smoke of a blown out candle. Sir Osbert Sitwell (Dame Edith's brother) composed a poem titled "On the coast of Coromandel".
Coromandel Sea Change is a 1991 novel by Rumer Godden about a diverse group of guests staying at a hotel on the Coromandel coast during an election campaign.
The coast is noted in M.M. Kaye's novel The Far Pavilions. A work of fiction, the lead character, Ashton Hilary Akbar Pelham-Martyn, retires to the Coromandel Coast early in the tale.