The well laid out seashells pulled me for some admiration and that’s how I landed into a hearty conversation with the seller. A man dressed in crisply ironed clothes arranging the shells replied 60 upon being asked the price of a medium-sized shell. I wanted to pick one for my father. Having read about Ram Setu in Ramayana, I was curious to know if the bridge still exists and if it is visible. This is when his eyes gleamed and he started revealing all the layers of his home town, Dhanushkodi.
A road trip from Bangalore to Dhanushkodi
Diwali is the time when we head to our homes, but when we can’t, we get on the road for a trip. Last Diwali was one such Diwali when we planned to trace some stories of Ramayana in Rameswaram. We started from Bangalore before dawn and upon hitting Hosur, we found the shops selling crackers lined up along the highway. To our surprise, the shops had already seen the light of the day. I insisted on picking up a few so that I don’t miss Diwali at home.
Road trips for us are all about enjoying the pit stops on the way and our first one on they way from Bangalore to Rameswaram was Madurai. We halted for a day at Madurai to see the glorious Meenakshi temple and relish some local cuisines. The highways of Tamil Nadu are a delight to drive on and the next day we cruised our way through the butter highways dotted with tall coconut trees. In few hours we drove on water and reached Rameswaram. Yes, we almost drove on water!
Don’t believe me? Read this – When we drove on water!
We had our base at Rameswaram to visit Dhanushkodi. Google maps guided us well till Dhanushkodi and then we parked our car to get on to the minibus which took us almost till the last point of Indian land.
Our visit to Dhanushkodi
The bumpy bus ride to the island will remain etched forever in my mind. I had taken the front seat next to the driver to not miss on the adventurous experience of getting driven on sand and water. The child in me was thoroughly enjoying the ride while holding the camera and phone carefully. A good 20 minute drive later, we were given 30 minutes to spend on the island, to appreciate the lovely beach, to try to make out where Srilanka is (I had read that Srilanka is very closeby from Dhanushkodi).
There were few hutments selling shells and shell jewellery to tourists and few fishermen engaged in arranging for the day’s meal. I picked up a shell from a seller and got into a warm conversation about his lifestyle, Sri Lanka, Ramayana, Ram setu and then about THE CYCLONE. I felt hollow within myself when he recalled his life before the angry ocean engulfed their everything. He recited his stories without expressing his pain but my eyes got moist and heart- it surely missed many beats.
Few tourists walked another 2 kms to reach the actual last tip of the land. I was lost in my thoughts about this island which is bordered by waterbodies which are starkly different. On the one side, there is Bay of bengal, so calm and peaceful while on the other, there is Indian Ocean which is ruthless and always agitated. My chain of thoughts broke when Rajat showed me our minibus’s driver who was calling all the passengers to hop on the bus.
The ride back was equally enthralling and I got to see some pretty white swans too. The minibus dropped us at the same point from where we had boarded. We strolled our way to other side to find the remanants of a railway station, tracks, post office, church and few unidentifiable structures. As we walked the white sands of this virgin beach, we heard the Indian Ocean roaring at us. Imagine a ghost town with eerie ruins, sparing population and roaring water waves. It’s enough to scare the bravest of people. These days, the flocking tourists keep this abandoned town alive.
Dhanushkodi in Mythology
As per Hindu mythology, this is the place from where Lord Hanuman along with his army built a stone bridge (Ram Setu) to cross the sea to reach Lanka (now Sri Lanka) to rescue Sita from the demon king, Ravana. No wonder, Sri Lanka is less than 30 kilometres away from Dhanushkodi. Thereafter the war, Lord Rama broke the bridge with the tip of his bow, thus the place derives its name from Bow ( Dhanush) and End / Tip ( Kodi).
The cyclone swept the flourishing town to leave it devastated
Today’s ghost town of Dhanushkodi was a flourishing town till 1964 before a cyclone engulfed the town also washing away the Pamban rail bridge which was the only connection of the town to the mainland. Along with the bridge and Pamban Island, the cyclone washed away a train with 115 passengers as it was about to reach Dhanushkodi railway station. To the plight of the locals who were victims of this outrageus cyclone, the news of this ravage reached the mainland only after 3 days as there was no source of contact left. This poor town which boasts a tip of earth followed by a vast white sand beach falls shattered by the cyclone leaving no dreams to foster.
Even after the government declared Dhanushkodi a place unfit for habitation, there are as many as 500 people mostly fishermen still live there with families. They make a mere living at the place which was once an important port for India.
Dhanushkodi indeed took my breath away with stunning views of clear sparkling water but I can’t overlook how it captivated me with sadness on the sight of obliterated remains of the town. It’s a place where beauty, faith, myths and tragedy are entangled and seems to remain so forever.