Lighthouses of India: Tamil Nadu and Puducherry

This page lists lighthouses of Tamil Nadu, the state on the east side of the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent. Also included are the Puducherry and Karaikal districts of the Union Territory of Puducherry (formerly called Pondicherry), which is the former French India.

The Tamil Nadu coastline, facing the Bay of Bengal, is almost everywhere low and sandy, with numerous offshore shoals. Chennai (Madras) is the state capital and largest port, but there are many smaller ports.

India was part of the British Empire until 1947, so the lighthouse heritage is British. However, only a fraction of the original British lighthouses remain in use; new towers have been built at most of the stations. India has also built many lighthouses at new locations in recent years.

Lighthouses and aids to navigation in India are administered by the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL), an agency of the Ministry of Shipping.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume F of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 112.

General Sources
DGLL - Lighthouses
Lighthouse information from DGLL, including photos for most of the lighthouses. Select "Chennai" on the dropdown menu.
Lighthouses in India
Photos available from Wikimedia.
World of Lighthouses - India
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Indian Lighthouses
Historic postcard images posted by Michel Forand.
Leuchttürme Asiens auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.

Mahabalipuram Light
Mahabalipuram Light, Mahabalipuram, December 2005
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by Benjamin Chun

East Coast (Bay of Bengal) Lighthouses

Tiruvallur District Lighthouse
** Pulicat (2)
1986 (station established 1862). Active; focal plane 53 m (174 ft); white flash every 5 s. 49 m (160 ft) hexagonal cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted with horizontal black and white bands. Vasant Viswanathan has a good photo, The Hindu has a closeup photo by V. Ganesan, and Google has a satellite view. In January 2014, the lighthouse was opened to visitors for the first time. Pulicat Lake is a large lagoon on the border between Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Pulicat, on the south side of the lagoon entrance, was settled by the Portuguese in 1502. Captured by the Dutch in 1609, it served as a Dutch base in India for many years; the British occupied it in 1825. The original lighthouse was a "column" 18 m (60 ft) in height. Located at Lighthouse Village on Pulicat Island, the barrier island, on the south side of the lagoon entrance; the island is accessible by passenger ferry from Pulicat. Site open, tower open but the schedule is not known. ARLHS IND-055; Admiralty F0950; NGA 27068.

Chennai District Lighthouses
Chennai Entrance Channel
Date unknown. Inactive since 2008. Approx. 24 m (79 ft) control tower. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. Located north of the harbor facilities in Chennai. Site status unknown. Admiralty F0938; NGA 27074.
**** Chennai (Madras) (4)
1977 (station established 1796). Active; focal plane 57 m (187 ft); two white flashes every 10 s. 46 m (151 ft) pentagonal cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and double gallery, attached to a 3-story circular harbor control building. The two seaward side of the lighthouse are painted with horizontal red and white bands. A photo is at right, Kelly Cheng also has a photo, R. Srijith has a view from the beach, Wikimedia has two photos, and Google has a satellite view. Waves from the great tsunami of 26 December 2004 damaged the base of the lighthouse, but there were no casualties. The lighthouse reopened to tourists in November 2013 after being closed for 22 years; visitors can take an elevator to the lower gallery on the 9th floor. Located at the modern harbor of Chennai (Madras), on the north side of the central city. Site open, tower open daily except Mondays (a small fee is charged). ARLHS IND-010; Admiralty F0936; NGA 27072.
New Chennai Light
1977 Chennai Light, Chennai, June 2011
Flickr Creative Commons photo by okramesh
* Madras (2)
1844 (station established 1796). Inactive since 1894. 49 m (160 ft) round fluted stone tower with gallery; lantern removed. Balu Velachery's photo is at right, Huelse has a historic postcard view of this tower and the High Court building (next entry), the British Library has a historic photo taken in 1860, Forand has a historic postcard view showing the tower with its lantern, and Google has a satellite view. The first light at Madras was a lantern on the Exchange Building (now the Fort Museum) in the British Fort George. The light was moved to this tower behind the fort, and then to the neighboring High Court after that building was constructed in 1892. In 2012, repairs were ordered when the tower was reported to be in poor condition. Located in downtown Madras, now called Chennai. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS IND-027.
* Madras (3)
1894 (station established 1796). Inactive since 1977. The lantern was mounted one one of the ornate towers of the High Court building, which was constructed adjacent to the old lighthouse in 1892. Huelse has a historic postcard view of the court and old lighthouse, and Google has a satellite view. The lantern is not evident in modern photos, so presumably it has been removed. Located in downtown Madras, now called Chennai. Site open. ARLHS IND-026.

Kanchipuram District Lighthouses
*** Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) (1) (temple)
1887. Inactive since 1900. Approx. 20 m (66 ft) square stone structure with gallery atop a monolithic stone temple (carved from a single rock), dating from around the start of the 8th century AD. Wikimedia has a closeup, a distant photo is available, and Forand has a historic postcard view. Fires were lit atop this temple for centuries as a guide to seamen, and in 1877 the British placed a lantern atop the temple for the same purpose. The lantern was removed long ago. Site and temple open daily; visitors can climb to the gallery level.

1844 Chennai Light and High Court Building, Chennai, August 2005
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Balu Velachery
**** Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) (2) (lighthouse)
1900 (station established 1887). Active; focal plane 42 m (138 ft); white flash every 10 s. 26 m (85 ft) round stone tower with lantern and gallery; unpainted; lantern dome painted red. 2nd order Fresnel lens in use. Benjamin Chun's photo is at at the top of this page, a closeup photo is available, Wikimedia has numerous photos, Forand has a historic postcard view, Huelse has a closeup postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. This is probably the best known and most often visited lighthouse on India's east coast. In 2013, it was one of the first lighthouses in India identified for tourist development. In January 2014 a lighthouse museum was added to the station. Built atop a large rock at Mahabalipuram, about 65 km (40 mi) south of Chennai. Site open, museum open daily, tower open daily 2-4 pm. ARLHS IND-016; Admiralty F0932; NGA 27108.

Viluppuram District Lighthouse
Marakkanam (Kadapakkam)
2013. Active; focal plane about 35 m (115 ft); three white flashes every 20 s. 32 m (105 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern, gallery, and a round observation platform. Lighthouse painted with red and white spiral bands. The Hindu has a photo of the new lighthouse, placed in service in November 2013. Located in Marakkanam, a town about 40 km (25 mi) north of Puducherry. Site open, tower status unknown.

Puducherry (Pondicherry) Lighthouses
Note: Founded in 1673 by the French East India Company, Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry in English or Pondichéry in French) was the chief French colonial settlement in India. After nearly three centuries of French rule, it was united with the Republic of India in 1954 and has been governed as a union territory since 1956. The union territory also includes the enclaves of Karaikal in Tamil Nadu (see below), Yaman in Andhra Pradesh, and Mahé in Kerala.
* Puducherry (Pondicherry) (1)
1836. Inactive since 1979. 27 m (89 ft) round fluted stone tower with lantern and gallery, rising from the center of a circular 1-story keeper's house. Lighthouse is white; lantern dome is metallic green. Aldo de Leeuw's photo is at right, Wikimedia has a closeup photo by Mohan Krishnan, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Forand has a closeup postcard view and a distant postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. This elegant lighthouse had several uses after deactivation; in recent years it was a toy museum. However, the territorial government has now assumed ownership and is restoring the lighthouse as a museum of the city's French architectural heritage. Located on the sea front in Puducherry. Site open, tower closed as far as I know. ARLHS IND-052.
* Puducherry (Pondicherry) (2)
1979 (station established 1836). Active; focal plane 48 m (157 ft); two white flashes every 15 s. 46 m (151 ft) hexagonal cylindrical concrete tower with an expanded watch room, lantern and gallery, plus two additional galleries lower on the tower. Lighthouse painted with horizontal black and white bands. Sea-Seek.com has a photo, we have a DGLL photo, Pondynews.com has a small photo (bottom of the page), and Google has a satellite view. Located just off the beach in Puducherry, across the street from the historic lighthouse. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS IND-012; Admiralty F0926; NGA 27112.

Cuddalore District Lighthouses
*
Cuddalore (3)
1981 (station established 1889). Active; focal plane 18 m (59 ft); white flash every 5 s. 18 m (59 ft) round concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white. Sea-Seek.com has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. The original light was on a flagstaff; it was replaced in 1902 by a round tower seen in Forand's historic postcard view. (DGLL's page is incorrect in saying that there was no lighthouse here before 1981.) The tsunami of 26 December 2004, did serious damage in and around Cuddalore. More than 500 people were killed. The port area was devastated, but the lighthouse survived. Located just inside the port entrance in Cuddalore. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS IND-029; Admiralty F0920; NGA 27120.
Puducherry Light
1836 Pondicherry Light, Puducherry, April 2010
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Aldo de Leeuw
* Porto Novo (Parangipettai)
1981. Active; focal plane 36 m (118 ft); white flash every 15 s. 39 m (128 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and double gallery, painted with horizontal red and white bands. A 2009 photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. This was another location hit badly by the tsunami of 26 December 2004. One of the keepers lost his father and his son to the tsunami. The three daughters of the head keeper were also washed away, but they were rescued by local villagers. Named by Portuguese sailors, Porto Novo (Parangipettai) is a historic European base (its Tamil name means "home of the foreigners"). However, it is only a minor fishing village today. Located about 8 km (5 mi) northeast of Bhuvanagiri. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS IND-053; Admiralty F0919; NGA 27132.

South Coast Lighthouses

Note: The strait separating India and Sri Lanka, known in Tamil as Sethusamudram ("sea bridge"), is crossed by a chain of reefs and islands called Adam's Bridge (also called Rama's Bridge, or Rama Setu in Tamil). North of Adam's Bridge, the strait is a shallow embayment called Palk Bay or Palk Strait. South of Adam's Bridge is a much deeper embayment called Mannar Bay or the Gulf of Mannar. In its natural condition Palk Bay is too shallow for modern ships. The government of India has studied the possibility of dredging a deepwater channel some 83 km (45 mi) long to open the strait to the largest ships. The Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project has met considerable resistance from environmental groups, and it is not clear that it will ever be undertaken. However, in preparation for possible shipping increases, several large new lighthouses have been built along the strait.
Nagapattinam District and Karaikal Lighthouses
* Poompuhar (Pumpoohar, Puhar)
2010. Active; focal plane unknown; four white flashes every 15 s. 30 m (98 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower with lantern, gallery, and an octagonal observation level below the lantern. Lighthouse painted with red and white vertical stripes. Pagu Pandian has a 2011 photo, Alende Devasia has a 2012 photo, another photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. The light is listed as "Pumpukar" by NGA. Located near Kaveripatnam, about 30 km (19 mi) north of Karaikal. Site open; the tower is to be open to the public, according to one news source. Admiralty F0918: NGA 27134.
* Karaikal (Karikal, Caricall) (3)
1901 (French) (station established 1853). Active; focal plane 18 m (59 ft); two white flashes every 10 s. 18 m (56 ft) round cylindrical white concrete tower with gallery; lantern removed. GlobalSecurity.org has two photos, Sea-Seek.com has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. The first lights were displayed here from a flagstaff; a masonry "column" was built in 1864. Karaikal is a former French settlement, now part of the Puducherry union territory. More than 500 fishermen from the area were killed by the tsunami of 26 December 2004. Located just off the beach at Karaikal. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS IND-037; Admiralty F0916; NGA 27136.
* Nagappattinam (Negapatam) (3)
1923 (station established 1846). Active; focal plane 48 m (157 ft); two white flashes every 20 s. 50 m (164 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery, painted with horizontal black and white bands; lantern roof painted red. A district government photo is at right, a 2011 photo is available, Rajarshi Banerjee has a nighttime photo of the lighthouse in action, The Hindu also has a photo, and Google has a good satellite view. This is India's southernmost port on the Bay of Bengal. The British built a 20 m (66 ft) lighthouse here in 1846, and the present lighthouse replaced a 23 m (75 ft) tower built in 1870. Nagappatinam District had the heaviest loss of life during the tsunami of any place on the Indian coast: more than 6000 villagers and fishermen were killed. The lighthouse and its staff survived, and the tower can be seen in this photo of the ruined coastline. Located just off the beach in Nagappattinam. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS IND-045; Admiralty F0914; NGA 27140.
* Calimere Point (Kallimedu)
1890. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); three white flashes every 10 s. 16 m (52 ft) round cylindrical tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white; lantern dome is red. A 2011 photo is available, we have a DGLL photo, and Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse and the next one mark the northern entrance to Palk Bay. On the beach nearby a 4 m (13 ft) brick ruin is said to be the remains of a thousand-year-old lighthouse. Located on Calimere Point, about 60 km (37.5 mi) south of Nagappattinam. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS IND-024; Admiralty F0910; NGA 27144.
Nagapattinam Light
Nagapattinam Light, Nagapattinam
Nagapattinam District government photo
* Kodikkarai
1997. Active; focal plane 45 m (148 ft); white flash every 10 s. 45 m (148 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and double gallery, painted with horizontal red and white bands. The lantern was used previously at Pulicat Light. Marcus Sherman has a 2008 photo (also seen at right), Mohanram Kemparaju has another photo, and Google has a satellite view. Kodikkarai is an alternate Tamil name of Calimere Point. Located about 9 km (5.5 mi) west southwest of Calimere Point Light. Site status unknown, probably open. ARLHS IND-039; Admiralty F0902; NGA 27145.

Thanjavur District Lighthouse
* Mallipattinam (Mallipatnam, Malipatinam)
2010. Active; focal plane unknown; four white flashes every 15 s. 45 m (148 ft) octagonal cylindrical concrete tower with lantern, gallery, and an octagonal observation level below the lantern. Lighthouse painted with red and white vertical stripes (the first Indian lighthouse to have this daymark). Bing has a satellite view. Located on Palk Strait at Manora, about 50 km (30 mi) west of Calimere Point. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty F0901.9; NGA 27148.

Pudukkottai District Lighthouses
* Ammapattinam (Manamelkudi) (2?)
2005. focal plane 49 m (161 ft); two white flashes every 15 s. 45 m (148 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and double gallery, painted with horizontal black and white bands. A photo is posted on Facebook, and Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse and similar lights at Pasipattanam and Rameswaram were built by the slipform method to improve navigation in the Palk Strait. The immediate purpose was to help Indian fishermen stay in Indian territorial waters without straying over into Sri Lankan waters; ultimately they may guide ships through the Sethusamudram Ship Channel, which would allow large ships to pass between India and Sri Lanka. An inauguration ceremony for the three lighthouses was held here on 9 October 2005. A 1909 light list records that a light was shown from the port flagstaff. Located on a point of land south of Manamelkudi, on the west side of Palk Strait about 65 km (40 mi) southwest of Calimere Point. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS IND-020; Admiralty F0901.7.
Kodikkarai Light
Kodikkarai Light, Kodikkarai, January 2008
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by Marcus Sherman

Ramanathapuram District (Adam's Bridge Area) Lighthouses
* Pasipattinam
2005. Active; focal plane 49 m (161 ft); three white flashes every 10 s. 45 m (148 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and double gallery, painted with horizontal red and white bands. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. Located at Pasipattanam on the west side of Palk Strait, about 10 km (6 mi) north of Thondi. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS IND-050; Admiralty F0901.5.
Rameshwaram (Rameswaram)
2005. Active; focal plane 16.5 m (54 ft); two white flashes every 20 s. 15 m (49 ft) square masonry tower with gallery, painted with red and white spiral bands. We have a DGLL photo (bottom of the page), and Google has a satellite view. Like the lights at Manamelkudi and Passipatnam, this lighthouse was built as part of the Palk Strait Lighthouse Project. In 2013, this was one of the 15 lighthouses identified for tourist development by DGLL. Rameswaram, the principal town of Pamban Island, is an important destination for Hindu pilgrims. Located on the northeasternmost point of Pamban Island. Site status unknown. ARLHS IND-058; Admiralty F0906; NGA 27167.
* Pamban Channel (2)
1879 (?) (station established 1845). Active; focal plane 29 m (95 ft); three white flashes every 9 s. 20 m (66 ft) round masonry tower, painted with horizontal black and white bands. A photo and a distant photo are available, and K.S. Chandra has a photo taken from the Pamban Channel Bridge, but clouds veil Bing's satellite view of the area. The original lighthouse, listed as "Palk Bay" on Findlay's 1879 list, was a round 17 m (56 ft) stone tower. Pamban Island is on the Indian section of a limestone ridge, known as Rama's Bridge or Adam's Bridge, that connects India and Sri Lanka. The "bridge" was dry land as recently as 6000 years ago, but the rising sea has broken it into a chain of islands. Pamban Channel separates the island from the Indian mainland. The lighthouse is located on the north side of Pamban Island east of the Pamban Channel Bridge. Site status unknown, probably open. ARLHS IND-048; Admiralty F0900; NGA 27168.
* Kilakarai (Kilakkarai)
1979. Active; focal plane 35 m (115 ft); white flash every 15 s. 30 m (98 ft) hexagonal concrete tower with lantern and double gallery, painted with horizontal red and white bands. Haji Basheer has a view from the town, another view is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located at Kilakarai, on the northern shore of Mannar Bay about 16 km (10 mi) south of Ramanathapuram. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS IND-038; Admiralty F0738; NGA 27172.

Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) District Lighthouses
* Pandiyan Tivu (Thoothukudi, Tuticorin) (3)
1935 (station established 1845). Inactive since 1979. Approx. 22 m (72 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower painted with horizontal black and white bands. Lantern removed. A sunset photo shows both Tuticorin lighthouses, Forand has a historic postcard view, and Bing has a good satellite view. Located about 150 m (500 ft) north of the modern lighthouse. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS IND-063.
* Pandiyan Tivu (Thoothukudi, Tuticorin) (4)
1979 (station established 1845). Active; focal plane 48 m (157 ft); white flash every 10 s. Approx. 40 m (131 ft) round cylindrical tower with lantern and double gallery, painted with black and white spiral bands. A 2011 photo and a similar photo are available, a sunset photo shows both Tuticorin lighthouses, and Bing has a good satellite view. The first light at this station was shown from a flag post; this was replaced by an 11 m (36 ft) masonry obelisk and then by the 1935 lighthouse. Located on an island (tivu) protecting the harbor of Thoothukudi (Tuticorin), a seaport on the west side of Mannar Bay. The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway and the lighthouse is accessible by road. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS IND-062; Admiralty F0734; NGA 27176.
* Manapad (Manappad) Point
1888. Active; focal plane 45 m (148 ft); two white flashes every 10 s. Approx. 18 m (59 ft) round masonry tower painted with red and white spiral bands; lantern dome painted red. Keeper's house and several other light station buildings. Leo Fernando's photo is at right, a sunset photo and another good photo are available, and Google has a fine satellite view of this station. This well-known lighthouse is close to a Catholic church built in 1581 by Portuguese missionaries. Located on Manapad Point, a prominent cape about 20 km (12.5 mi) south of Tiruchchendur. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS IND-044; Admiralty F0730; NGA 27200.
Manapad Point Light
Manapad Point Light, Manapad, May 2008
Panoramio photo copyright Leo Fernando; used by permission

Kanyakumari District (Cape Comorin Area) Lighthouses
** Cape Comorin (Kanyakumari)
1971. Active; focal plane 63 m (207 ft); two white flashes every 20 s. 30 m (98 ft) square masonry tower with gallery and a small lantern, painted with red and white horizontal bands. A DGLL photo is at right, Krishna Kumar also has a closeup, Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan has a view from the sea, and Google has a satellite view. In 2013, this was one of the 15 lighthouses identified for tourist development by DGLL. Kanyakumari (also spelled Kanniyakumari) is the southernmost tip of India, at 8°05' N latitude. The British renamed it Cape Comorin, a name found on most foreign maps but rarely used in India. It is a very popular tourist destination, and many tourist web sites say "one can get a panoramic view" from the lighthouse. Located on the heights above the point of the cape. Site open, tower probably open but no information is available on the schedule. ARLHS IND-080; Admiralty F0726; NGA 27484.
* Muttom Point (Muttam Point, Kadiapatam) (4)
1910 (station established 1845). Active; focal plane 43 m (141 ft); white flash every 5 s. 22 m (72 ft) round masonry tower with lantern and gallery, painted with black and white horizontal bands; lantern dome painted red. Mohanraj Kolathapilly has a good closeup, Wikimedia has a 2007 photo, and Google has a satellite view. A surviving British lighthouse, Muttom Light can be seen from a popular beach. Early mast and post lights here were followed by a 22 m (72 ft) granite tower in 1875. In 2013, this was also one of the 15 lighthouses identified for tourist development by DGLL. Located on a small rocky promontory 32 km (20 mi) west northwest of Kanyakumari and about 18 km (11 mi) southwest of the city of Nagarcoil. Accessible by road. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS IND-103; Admiralty F0724; NGA 27472.
Kanyakumari Light
Cape Comorin Light, Kanyakumari, November 2006
Flickr photo by Bambaran reprinted as a DGLL photo

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: West Bengal, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh | South: Sri Lanka | West: Kerala and Karnataka

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Posted January 20, 2006. Checked and revised February 4, 2014. Lighthouses: 28. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.