Dhanushkodi – The Town That Continues to Fascinate Amidst Ruins
The southern tip that is the closest point to Srilanka is also the place where Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean merge. While you will feel heady standing at the southern tip of India, you will also be moved when you see the town that was once alive is now reduced to rubble.
Dhanushkodi was a major point of entry to India, until 1964 when a massive cyclone devastated the entire town, washing away the railway track, a steam engine, its carriages, buildings, temples and nearly the entire town. The partially drowned and partially visible railway track makes us understand the extent of the damage that the town faced due to cyclonic storm and deadly waves that washed the entire town away. The on lookers and locals told us that train ferried passengers between Dhanushkodi and Rameswaram. The buried railway track is the harsh reminder that the town that once flourished.
The buildings that braved the fateful day still exist partly buried in the sand and partly weathered by the sea adding a mysterious beauty to the place. A rusted four-pillared structure, a ruined church, town post office, now a broken red arch and welcomes us to this lost land. A ruined railway station and a temple lie among the debris. We could see several shells of the structures poking above the white sand against a calm and quiet sea. Dhanushkodi is the living example of the uncertainty of our lives.
On 1964, 23rd December early morning around 3 am, cyclonic storm that passed through Dhanushkodi at a speed of 120 km per hour ripped the town off. The giant waves that swept through swallowed most part of the town instantly with over 2000 people went into the sea. The ruined remains still reflect the tragic account of the devastation and the scale of damage that nature could bring about.
Even though the town was wiped away by the 1964 cyclone, small numbers of temporary settlers live in thatched huts during the fishing season. It seems the stretch along Dhanushkodi is one of the richest fishing belts in India.
Despite the ruins, Dhanushkodi welcomes hundreds of tourists every day. It continues to fascinate tourists from across the country belonging to diverse age groups, genres, demography etc.,
While the town is totally deserted and ruined, the vans that are waiting to take tourists through the town is absolutely pathetic. The van that can comfortably accommodate 10 people, dumps 35 people inside and takes them through the most difficult and uncomfortable ride. I don’t know why Tourism Department is not taking any initiative to arrange for a comfortable site seeing ride instead of depending on those madly crowded vans.
In this silent and fascinating beach, we could see people selling sea shells, oysters and other sea based products and there were small hut stalls selling cool drinks. But all of them are in a very bad condition. Every time when a strong breeze blow across, the hut-stores covered with jute sacks and torn clothes will shake and you will think that it is going to get blown away. Though few fishermen live in small huts at Dhanushkodi still, no facility is seems to be in place to make it suitable for human habitation. It is even more painful to know that State and Central government has declared that Dhanushkodi is unsuitable for human habitation and hence the town remains completely discontinued from the administration.
For those spiritually-inclined, Dhanushkodi is an important place for holy dipping and every year on auspicious days thousands of domestic and foreign tourists through the place for worship and holy dipping. The problems they face due to unavailability of even basic facilities in the town is unexplainable. Only when State Government and Department of Tourism intervene we can expect some development in Dhanushkodi and its neighbouring places.
When State Government takes initiative, Dhanushkodi can get a fresh lease of life and it can become one of the foremost shore towns of the state. Ruined churches, buildings, schools, temples and homes could be reconstructed and make way for a renovated town.
Is it enough if we simple say that Dhanushkodi is not suitable for human habitation?. Only when you can see in person the plight of those (locals) suffering there you can understand that how important it is to establish some basic facility for sanitation, power, infrastructure, food, healthcare etc., If government can take some serious measures to improve the living conditions of people living there and offer more facilities for tourists, then Dhanushkodi will get a fresh lease of life and the destination will attract more visitors.
Another important attraction is the mysterious Ram Sethu, otherwise known as Adam’s Bridge. This is a bridge made entirely of limestone that barely connects the Indian mainland with the Sri Lankan mainland. This bridge has high religious significance, as followers of the Hindu faith believe that Lord Rama built the bridge in his quest to reach Sri Lanka, to secure his wife Sita.
Dhanushkodi is 18km away from Rameshwaram. Dhanushkodi is an abandoned town and permit visitors only during day. So you have to stay at Rameshwaram.
How to get there:
Rail: There are direct trains from Chennai to Rameswaram – Sethu Express and Rameswaram Express. From Rameswaram several buses ply to Dhanushkodi.
Road: There are no straight buses from Chennai. However, there are buses from Madurai to Rameswaram.
Air: Madurai is the nearest airport.