The ghost town

Roofless churches, ruined post offices and a railway station without a platform evoke feelings of eeriness in Dhanushkodi

A long barren stretch of sand, not a soul in sight, a few dilapidated buildings, a small temple and two mammoth blue expanses of endless oceans, the quiescent Bay of Bengal and the belligerent Indian Ocean on either side make up this uninhabited town of Dhanushkodi. Churches without rooftops, post offices without walls and a railway station without a platform evoke feelings of eeriness even in broad daylight.

Once Upon a Time

Situated on the southern-most tip of Rameshwaram island, Dhanushkodi is the nearest landmass of India from Sri Lanka (18 miles). A flourishing town during the British regime, Dhanuskodi was a self-sufficient and prosperous place with a railway station, hospital, primary schools, post office, customs and a port office. There was a daily steamer ferry service from Dhanuskodi to Talaimannar (Sri Lanka), which carried passengers and goods from both sides. A famous tourist and pilgrimage place, Dhanushkodi had several hotels, lodges and shopping centres.

Death and decay

A depression that formed in the South Andaman Sea on December 17, 1964, developed into a cyclonic storm and made landfall in Dhanushkodi on the fateful night of December 22. Menacing seven-metre high tidal waves caused devastation and heavy casualties in the entire town and washed away an incoming train (Pamban-Dhanushkodi passenger) into the sea, killing over 100 passengers. After this catastrophe, instead of rebuilding it, the Tamil Nadu government declared Dhanushkodi a “ghost town”. No one is allowed into Dhanushkodi after sunset.

The Confluence

The rugged sandy topography allows four-wheel drive vehicles and brave bikers to reach the end of the strip where the two oceans meet. Standing on the edge of the confluence, watching the fine sand swirl like an enchanted dervish, trying to distinguish between the mighty oceans and listening to the howling wind in conjunction with the countless ripples of waves, will transfer you to a meditative state where all thoughts come to a standstill and you will be conversing with the surroundings in a silent language of your own.

Rama Sethu (Adam’s Bridge)

The name Dhanushkodi means “end of bow”, referring to the bow of Lord Rama, who used it to break the bridge after the war was over with Ravana, the king of Lanka. As legend has it, Lord Rama had built the bridge of “floating stones” to reach Sri Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from the clutches of Ravana. Satellite pictures have confirmed a million-year-old link (Adam’s Bridge) under water. Even more fascinating are floating stones in the Hanuman Temple of Rameshwaram, strengthening the religious belief that these stones have been blessed by god.

Pamban Bridge

An architectural wonder, India’s first sea bridge on Palk Strait connects Rameshwaram to mainland India. It refers to both the rail and the road bridge. The old rail bridge ravaged by the 1964 super cyclone was repaired in a record time of 46 days. The road bridge offers a spectacular view of the Indian Ocean, which sometimes seems vaster than the sky.

Dhanushkodi is not the place for a typical weekend getaway. There are no “sightseeing” attractions here or any opportunity of shopping and eating. It’s a sandy grave of a thriving town, a desolate desert with decrepit structures and a grim reminder of our place in the cosmos. Visit Dhanushkodi between October and March to get submerged in nothingness with no sense of time and space.

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The New Indian Express