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Dhanushkodi – The Abandoned Seaswept Ghost Town

By Mar. 5, 2014
Ruins of church at Dhanushkodi, Tamil Nadu Ruins of a church at Dhanushkodi - the "Ghost Town" off the coast of Tamil Nadu.

Dhanushkodi is a wonderful temple town located in the southern most tip of Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu, India. This place was completely washed away by the 1964 cyclone after which the village has been declared as a “Ghost Town”. The nearest town to Dhanushkodi is Rameshwaram, which is 18 kms away. Dhanushkodi is an abandoned town and permit visitors only during day and it is advisable to avoid the journey during night time.

Location:

Dhanushkodi is located in South-East of Pamban, Rameshwaram located in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. It has the only land border between India and Srilanka that is one of the smallest lands in the world, just 50 yards in length.

Dhanushkodi – literally means “bow’s end” (Dhanush – bow, Kodi – end, as it is believed to have appeared by the separation of Sethu by Lord Rama’s bow. This village with a breathtaking beauty consists of population not more than 500 people.

Occupation:

A few fishermen still stay here The main occupation of Dhanushkodi is fishing. Tourism is budding in this area, which is always under the careful eye of policemen and Indian Navy.

Old Infrastructure:

The infrastructure of Dhanushkodi was good until the village was affected by storm in 1964. Before the storm, Dhanushkodi was a flourishing tourist place with trains running from Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi. There were also many hotels, textile shops, Dharmasalas that feeds pilgrims and tourists. Since the distance between India and Sri Lanka was just 19 miles (31 kms) away, regular ferry services were also available between Dhanushkodi and Thalaimannar of then Ceylon (Sri Lanka), transporting a large number of travelers and goods across the sea.

According to the records, there was no railway station in Rameshwaram until 1964 as the railway line straightly ran from Pamban to Dhanushkodi, which had a railway station, a railway hospital, a post office and some State Government Departments like fisheries, public works and others. There was also a train service (train name: Boat Mail) from Madras Egmore (Chennai Egmore) station to Dhanushkodi, from where a streamer transports passengers to Sri Lanka via Palk Strait.

Unfortunately, a depression was formed in South Andaman Sea on December 17, 1964 that moved from Vavunia of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) with a wind velocity of 280 km/h, moved into Palk Strait in the night and crashed into Dhanushkodi on the night of 22–23 December 1964. The waves were reported to have raised up to the height of 8 yards when it crossed Rameshwaram.

On the night of December 22, 1964 the train no. 653, the Pamban-Dhanushkodi passenger was heading towards Pamban. The signal was cut due to heavy wind and the driver managed to run the train amidst the dark track. The train was only few yards away from Dhanushkodi Railway Station, it was hit by a massive wave that washed away the train, killing all 110 passengers (most of them were school and college students) and 5 railway workers. The accident came to limelight only after 48 hours when the railway headquarters issued a bulletin based on the information given by Marine Superintendent, Mandapam.

The the Chief Minister, M. Bhakthavatsalam confirmed that the accident did not take place on the Pamban Bridge, which was also destroyed in the heavy storm. After this deadly incident, Dhanushkodi was declared as the “Ghost Town” and unfit for living.

Recent Infrastructure:

Railway sources has recently said that a survey had already been taken in 2003 for construction of railway line between Dhanushkodi and Rameshwaram at a cost of Rs. 30 – 40 crores. Sources also said that there was no need for land acquisition except for a few purposes, as the alignment could be taken up for relaying the railway line.

The telephone facility is also not available in this place as a phone can be found few kilometers away.

The remains of the buildings that met with the dreadful incident, partly buried into the sand, weathered by the sea, still stand there adding mysterious beauty to the place. Even though the place was declared as the “Ghost Town”, a small number of fishermen still live in this village. There is no electricity in this village and the people have to rely on ground water for the drinking purposes. For vegetable, grocery and other needs, they have to move to Rameshwaram via cabs and during rainy season through boats. At times, the sea waves slowly recedes revealing the submerged town.

Places of Interest:

There are many Lord Rama temples dotting this area. Even after the 1964 deadly incident, the pilgrims kept visiting Dhanushkodi even though the place was cut off by train and road networks. They used to come by walk or they simply catch a cab for reaching this place. It is the place where Vivekananda set his foot in India from Colombo after his successful Chicago conference.

There are many temples around this area, attracting pilgrims. The number of tourists visiting these places are increasing day by day as taking bath in the confluence of Mahodadhi (Bay of Bengal) and Ratnakara (Indian Ocean) is considered as sacred practice in Rameshwaram island.

Anecdotes:

Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu is said to have broken the place Sethu with one end of his bow upon the request of the king Vibeeshana, the brother of Lord Rama’s ally, Ravana, the demon king and hence the name Dhanushkodi.

A line of floating rocks, islands and shoals are found in Palk Strait that are strongly believed as the Rama’s Bridge (Adam’s Bridge) constructed by the army of Sukreevan for the traverse of dynamic and invincible Lord Rama to Sri Lanka to save his wife, Sita from Ravana. There were many controversies related to the existence of Rama Bridge in Setu, even though Hindus believed its existence for million of years. NASA satellite images have confirmed the existence of this ancient bridge connecting India to Sri Lanka and aged the bridge to be around 1,750,000 years old that corresponds with Treta Yuga (more than 1,750,000 years ago).

Getting There:

Dhanushkodi can be reached easily through various mode of transport like cabs, buses and trains. There is no direct trains available to Dhanushkodi as the existing line was destructed during 1964 storm. However, there are many trains that connect Rameshwaram to major cities like Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tiruchi and Tanjavur. Train fare will range between Rs. 200 and Rs. 250. Traveling through train can be quite exiting as the train passes through Indira Gandhi Bridge.

Few buses ply from Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi in semi-deluxe and deluxe varieties, charging 50 to 100 rupees per person. Cabs can also be taken to reach Dhanushkodi at a cost of Rs. 250 for a trip of entire region.

Dhanushkodi cannot be reached by flight as there is no airport in Dhanushkodi. The nearest airport to this place is Madurai airport.

 

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