March 21, 2023

If you’ve watched Ramayana, you probably might remember the Vanersena building a bridge made of rocks with Ram written on it. 

According to Indian mythology, the bridge was named Ramsetu, and it connected Rameshwaram Island and Mannar Island (Sri Lanka).

It happened at the southern tip of India and the place is now known as Dhanushkodi.

However, it was declared as a ghost town by the Madras Government, following a gruesome tragedy.

Dhanushkodi Before The Night Of 22nd December 1964

Dhanushkodi was like any other normal town before 22nd December 1964. Back then, it wasn’t a town of ruins, as it is today. The town had a railway station, a hospital, a higher secondary school, port offices, a church and a temple. 

The town was a busy one, with a ferry station ferrying people to even Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. 

The railway station also had decent traffic, with one daily train- The Pamban Dhanushkodi Passenger.

The Night Of 22nd December 1964

It was the night that changed the fate of Dhanushkodi forever. 

A super cyclone with a wind speed of 270 km/hr hit the coast of the small, bustling town. The tidal waves were rumoured to be as large as 20 feet in height. 

At 23:55 that night, the Pamban Dhanushkodi Passenger was a few kilometres away from the Dhanushkodi railway station when the signal failed. The driver decided to take the risk as it was dark all around and the signal showed no signs of lighting up. 

A few moments later, the train was washed over by a tidal wave, killing 115 people on board.

The wave also destroyed the Pamban bridge, the only thing connecting Rameshwaram Island to Mainland India.

However, the incident saw one of the bravest acts in India. Two railway employees, a winchman and a bridge inspector of the Pamban bridge who were on patrol duty on the 22nd, survived by clinging to the remains of the bridge for 12 hours.

They were rescued by a boat on 23rd December and later awarded for their dedication towards their duty.

The tragic incident resulted in the death of over 800 in Dhanushkodi alone, and over 3,000 people were stranded in the town.

Life After The Cyclone

The repairing of the Pamban bridge was made a priority after the disaster. It was completed in just 45 days. Today, the island is connected by both rail and road. 

Dhanushkodi is now a popular tourist spot among people who like unusual destinations. The place has the Bay of Bengal on the eastern side, and the Indian Ocean on the western side.

But life could never resume the way it was in Dhanushkodi. A few fishermen still inhabit the town and call it their home. A home with a tragic past and a recovering future.

The town left in ruins by a cyclone, 1964

The town once bustling with locals and holidaymakers alike was emptied abruptly and completely. On December 22, 1964, a massive cyclone swirled across Dhanushkodi with winds gusting up to 170 mph and the entire town was in ruins and deserted in the aftermath, just as it has stayed to this day. Tragically nearly 1,800 people lost their lives, and all the houses in the town were razed to the ground. The Madras Government quickly labelled the town as ‘not fit for human habitation’.However, today only a small number of fisher families live here in their thatched huts.

The Lost Land has slowly gained tourist attention

More than 53 years after the tragic incident, the town is slowly coming alive and has started to appear on the radar of intrepid travellers looking for an offbeat destination. Its serenity and peace, azure sea, soft white sand and ruins along its sandy shoreline fascinate travellers.

You can see the ruins of a temple, railway station, a church and homes of the then inhabitants. Besides, visitors can relax on the beach and listen to the sounds of the mighty waters of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Also, there are one or two small shacks and a tiny tea stall on the beach.

Dhanushkodi and its Mythological Connection

As per mythology, Dhanushkodi was the spot where Lord Rama and his army built Ram Setu, otherwise known as Adam’s Bridge across the sea connecting Rameshwaram Island (Tamil Nadu) and Mannar Island (Sri Lanka), to rescue his wife Sita from the clutches of the demon king Ravana. After rescuing his wife, Lord Ram destroyed the bridge with arrows from his bow, on request of Vibhishan (new Lanka King), thus the name of the town became ‘Dhanushkodi’, meaning ‘end of bow’.

How to get there

As there is no direct connectivity to Dhanushkodi, you need to reach Rameshwaram first, which is located approx. 12 miles from Dhanushkodi. Rameshwaram is well-connected via rail from the major south Indian cities, like Trichy, Chennai, Thanjavur and Coimbatore. Or, you can take a flight to Madurai, which is approximately 3.5 hours drive away from Rameshwaram.

From Rameshwaram, you can drive or take a bus to Dhanushkodi until a certain point, i.e. Moonram Chathiram. From there, you need to board the tempo/tiny truck that will ferry you to Dhanushkodi – the journey itself is fascinating as you’ll be travelling along a thin strip of land with sea on both sides.

Point to note: Entry after 5 pm is not allowed. No cafes, rest rooms or hotels in Dhanushkodi. The entire tour to and from Dhanushkodi can be covered within 2 hours.

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