When I first traveled to Dhanushkodi three years back, it was a place a bit difficult to reach. The bus service was only up to the village. From there we had to travel in local vans and then walk around 4 km to reach the so-called endpoint, the narrow strip of land which concludes between the bay of Bengal and the Indian ocean. The journey was itself thrilling, there was literally no road, we had to travel through land submerged in water. Only few people used to visit Dhanushkodi, mostly up to the ruins of “ ghost village” and do not venture to walk to the land’s end in the hot sun.
But everything changed now, a new road was built, up to the end. There are buses from Rameshwaram which will drop you at the tip of the land. More people visit here daily now. And of course, more plastic and wastes on the beach which was once very clean and beautiful. I couldn’t find the charm once I felt there when it was untouched. Anyway, we have to accept the reality, we should not turn our back when it comes to development. But I can say that Dhanushkodi was much beautiful before. Those who have not visited there before missed a beautiful experience.
After spending a day, exploring the village and the people, I realized, though there is better infrastructure now, the development has brought only little changes in the life of remaining fishermen living here. Their life is same as before, the village is still abandoned; no electricity, no schools or hospitals. Their life is struck by the memories that we forgot long back but still alive in their hearts even after 40 years.
Actually, my journey to Dhanushkodi was mainly with an intention to once more travel through the submerged land. But it is not possible now. Reached Rameshwaram early morning and took the first bus to Dhanushkodi. The sun was just coming up, the bus moved towards Dhanushkodi. The villages were still sleeping, there were only fewer vehicles on the road. The climate was cool and perfect. Both sides of the roads gave some beautiful views.
I could recollect few landmarks. After a 40 minute journey from Rameshwaram, the bus reached its last stop. The morning was amazing, spend some good time on the beaches. People were already there though it was only 6.45 AM in the morning. Dhanushkodi is a holy place for Hindu religion, more people come here to do the final rituals for the next life well being of their expired ones.
Dhanushkodi has been part of many myths and also one of the biggest catastrophes in the history of India. More than that the beaches of Dhanushkodi are extraordinarily beautiful. Geographically, it is the place where Bay of Bengal and Indian ocean meets. When you face towards the sea, the sea on your right side is Indian ocean, with rough waves and that on your left is the Bay of Bengal, comparatively calm. The depth of water here is very low, you can walk into the sea and feel the two oceans on your sides. The color of the sea is turquoise here, you will never get bored watching the waves.
The strip of land that stretches into the sea is believed to be “Ram Sethu”, according to Hindu mythology, a bridge built by Lord Rama on his way to the island country, Sri Lanka. Currently, researchers are supporting the story of this man-made bridge. We can see many small land strips on the sea which could be the part of the bridge. Sri Lanka is just 18 km from Dhanushkodi. Quite often the fishermen here are arrested by Sri Lankan coast guard for crossing the sea limit unknowingly. Sometimes, you get telephone network from Sri Lanka in your phones. Lighthouses from the other side are also visible at night.
Dhanushkodi was developed as a port during the British rule, to facilitate the movement of goods from India and Sri Lanka. The tea produced from Sri Lanka and the spices from India were shipped to Europe from here. Dhanushkodi was well connected by railways to other parts of the country. There was a boat service from here to Sri Lanka. During that time, many Tamil people were taken to work in Sri Lankan tea plantations. They later became a big community there and the civil war between the Tamils and Sinhalese ended up in a big bloodshed.
As more people began to come and there was nothing more left to do there, I picked up my bag and started walking back, towards the village. The village has a tragic story to tell. 40 years back, on December 23rd, 1964, a cyclone hit Dhanushkodi (a port city then) taking 1800 lives and the entire town under water. Though the cyclone lasted for an only short time, the devastation was huge. What we see now is just a small portion of a big city. It is shrunk to a small village now.
The government of India had officially declared Dhanushkodi as a “ghost village” which means it is not good for living. But still, people live here. Some of the villagers told me that sea has come 3 kilometers into the land and an entire town is still under water. During the tsunami of 2004, when the sea withdrew backward, they saw the old town under the sea.
I got the chance to be with the fishermen while they were on their work. As I was walking, saw them pulling out the fishing nets from the sea. The net was so big and it took hours to pull it completely to the shore. I joined them and stayed there till they finished their work. They briefed how to put the nets, how to pull it and what kind of fish they get. The final stage of pulling was little hard since the catch for the day was pretty good. People from around came together to help them. When everything was over.
A walk through the village will slowly dissolve you into its story. Around 500 people, most of them fishermen lives here, they stay in huts. Since this village is declared as abandoned, electricity is not there. There are no new buildings. The ruins are spread all over. You can see remains of the church, post office, railway station, medical college, water tank, hospital and many others which still stands even after 40 years.
People here extremely friendly, if we start talking to them, they will share their stories. Each one has a personal story to tell. The seniors in their families are the direct witness of the incidents happened during the cyclone.You can even find people who survived the cyclone.
It was evening when I returned back to Rameshwaram. The village stood behind me, as an example of human survival and optimism. It shows how capable we are, to forget our bitter past, to overcome whatever comes before us and move forward. As we say, life must go on.
The east coast of India has many beautiful places, you can visit Mahabalipuram, a heritage beach town very near to Chennai.
How to reach Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi is well connected by roads and railways. There are frequent bus services from major cities of Tamil Nadu. From Chennai, buses operate in every 30 minutes. Currently, there are two daily trains from Chennai which reach Rameswaram by morning. From the railway station, there are shuttle bus services to bus stand and Rameswaram temple. There will be autorickshaws outside the station all the time, just look for the bus before getting into rickshaws, that will be very economical.
To go Dhanushkodi, get down at the temple, from there you will get the bus (route no:3). The first bus starts by around 6.15 AM. If you catch that bus, you can reach there early and spend some good time there. There are buses towards Dhanushkodi between every 30 minutes. The last bus from Dhanushkodi is at 5.30 PM. It is better to check the bus timings once you reach there.
Apart from buses, you will get autos and taxis from Rameshwaram to reach Dhanushkodi.
The roads towards Dhanushkodi is scenic, perfect for a road trip. You can also plan for a drive, it will be a great experience.
Things to do in Dhanushkodi
I would suggest, the best thing to do in Dhanushkodi is the sunrise. If you reach there early, you can see a beautiful sunrise.
Sunsets are also very beautiful here.
You can go up to to the end of the strip of land and experience both the oceans on your sides.
Dhanushkodi is a long beach with soft sand, walk as much you want.
The village of Dhanushkodi is about 4 km before the end of the road. If you love fishes, then try having meals from the shops here. You will get many fish varieties, crabs, prawns etc.
On the way to Dhanushkodi, there are so many beautiful beaches. You can get down and spend some time.
The Kodantha Ramar temple is a good place to visit, it is on the way. Buses will stop near the temple.
Things to do in Rameshwaram
Rameshwaram is a major pilgrim town in South India. The temple here is very famous. The major attraction is the longest corridor of the temple. They have beautiful paintings on its wall. The town will be busy with pilgrims most of the time.
One of the greatest personality India has seen and our former President, Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam was born in Rameshwaram. His house is now a museum and opens to the public all day.
Pamban bridge ( Anna Indira Gandhi bridge) is also a must visit in Rameshwaram. To reach the bridge, you have to catch a bus that goes via this bridge and get down at the stop just before the bridge. Buses are available from the bus stand. Sunsets are amazing from here.
The Pamban railway bridge is also nearby. It was built during the British period, destroyed during the cyclone. But the bridge is reconstructed very fast. You will get a good view of trains passing through the rail bridge from the road bridge. If you are there for sunset, there is a train which passes the bridge around 6.30 PM.
There are many other places of religious importance in Rameshwaram. You can extend one more day and visit all these places. A weekend is enough to visit Dhanushkodi and Rameshwaram.
Few things to know before you visit Dhanushkodi
Weather in Dhanushkodi will be hot and sunny throughout. Prepare in advance to be in sun for a long time. It will get extremely hot after 10 AM in the morning. So reach as early as possible.
Carry enough food and water since there are no shops other than few people selling snacks.
For lunch, you have to reach the village. Fish meals are available everywhere. Just confirm the price before ordering your food.
As per my knowledge, police will not allow visitors to stay in Dhanushkodi beach after 6 PM.
Accommodation facilities are not available in Dhanushkodi, you have to come back to Rameshwaram. There are plenty of hotels available there in every category.
Dhanushkodi is an experience. You can plan to visit Dhanushkodi on a weekend. The beaches are one of the best in the country and also geographically significant. It is getting polluted at a faster rate. Even if it is for the religious purpose, dumping of clothes and other things on the beach are not something acceptable. Gradually, this pollution may affect the life of the fishermen. So be a little wise and responsible. We have to keep our places clean and beautiful.
Have a great time in Dhanushkodi.
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