A visit to Dhanushkodi, the abandoned village of Tamil Nadu

When I first travelled 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 realised, 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 in 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 colour of the sea is turquoise here, you will never get bored watching the waves.

visit dhanushkodi
in the middle of two oceans

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 kilometres into the land and an entire town is still under water. During the recent tsunami of 2004, when the sea withdrew backwards, 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.

Dhanushkodi village
the fishermen of Dhanushkodi

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.

dhanushkodi places to visit
the ruins
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.

Dhanushkodi roadtrip

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
sunset from Pamban bridge

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 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 things to do

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.

There are many places in Tamil Nadu to explore, read about Thiruvannamalai and Kanchipuram.

Hope you like the post and got all the information for visiting Dhanushkodi.

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  1. Very nice place,visited last October,the turbulence of the sea on the right and the tranquility on the left is a thing to remember.We did not have lucky enough to see the fishermen at work though.Lived the ambience of the Vibhishan temple on the way back and the stories woven around it

    1. Anindita, glad that you had a wonderful experience in Dhanushkodi. The sea on both sides is a beauty to watch.

  2. Every place has its own beauty and this too. One of our friends was here one year ago and now reading your post looks like we might be the next 🙂

    1. I agree completely, every place has its own beauty. Hope that you will visit Dhanushkodi soon and return with lots of good memories.

  3. Amazing photos! This place looks totally beautiful. Will definitely put it on my bucket list 🙂

    1. Thanks Verena.

  4. Exploring the ruins is generally a fascinating thing to do, however, the history of Dhanushkodi is heart-rending. The optimism and the survival spirit of the villagers, despite of the wrath of sea, is commendable. It’s sad they are still deprived of the basic facilities like electricity, schools and hospitals, even after 40 years of the cyclone that devastated them. Love your photos, especially the sunset and the meeting point of two oceans. I didn’t know the Setu bridge history is related to Dhanushkodi. That makes it definitely a worth visit destination!

    1. Thanks Shaily,
      The government of India has officially declared the village not good for living. But still few villagers stay here. They are fishermen, electricity is not available but every house is provided with solar panels now.

  5. I love the fact you can stand in the water and be in between two seas. The beaches and water must be just breathtaking. I hope people are as conscious as you are of helping preserve that the area stays nice.

    1. Hi Sherrie, the beautiful beach of Dhanushkodi is getting littered day by day. An immediate action is necessary to preserve the serenity of this beautiful place.

  6. This is a beautiful article! I’ve never been to Rameshwaram. I’m adding it to my bucket list! Well done!

    1. Thanks Aaron

  7. What a fantastic looking place- the water on both sides sounds amazing, it must be an incredible place to catch a sunrise like you suggest! Joining the fishermen for a days work looks educational too.

    1. Thanks Hazel. Glad that you liked the post. Spending some time there with the fishermen was a great experience.

  8. The ruins are fascinating! I’m so sorry to hear that it is getting polluted 🙁 The original journey sounds like a really hard trek having to walk through land submerged in water.

    1. Thanks Candy

  9. I know you were expecting something different (or the same) when you returned but this was still a great experience you shared. Thank you for all the tips.

    P.s. I hope the plastics are cleaned and cleared soon.

    1. Hi Marquita, Hope that this place gets cleaned up soon. Glad that you liked the post.

  10. Love the old fort, interesting! Look like plenty to do near Tamil Nadu India.

    1. Thanks

  11. Love the old fort, interesting! Look like plenty to do near Tamil Nadu India.

    1. Yea Kumamonjeng, there are plenty of things to do in Tamil Nadu. A visit to Dhanushkodi is a great experience.

  12. This is such an interesting and fascinating topic, I agree we need to accept change but not for the worse, I can’t believe how easily a beautiful place can be polluted by so called progress. Thanks for sharing this lost village with us

    1. Thanks, glad that you liked the post.

  13. Great post, I had never heard of this place before. I will for sure keep it in mind. It’s great that it has been done up so it is easily accessible. The sunset here sounds so dreamy. Thanks for sharing

    1. Welcome Katie

  14. Dhanushkodi seems nothing short of enchanting! Such beautiful architecture with a stunning location, yet a tragic history. It’s awesome how you were around when the fishermen pulled their nets in, and I love how everyone was so happy to share their stories! I’d honestly never heard of this place but it seems so nice that I’ll have to visit it when I return to India one day. Did it seem very touristy to you, or were you one of the only outsiders? Awesome post!

    1. Thanks Zac, glad that you enjoyed reading about Dhanushkodi. You should definitely visit Dhanshkodi on your trip to India.

  15. How interesting to see how a couple of years has brought changes to the region. However, it sounds like many things remain as they have in the past. What a tragic story of devastation from natural disasters. Yet, it seems that the region has recovered and the people have made a good life. How fun to be able to step foot in two bodies of water simultaneously.

    1. Lance, walking into the water with the sea on both sides was an unforgettable experience. You should definitely visit Dhanushkodi on your next visit to India.

  16. I love abandoned sites like this. I wish the internet had existed when I went to India in order to find cool places like this. I know one day I will be going back to India, so I am going to add this to my list.

    1. Looking forward to reading about your next trip to India soon. You are most welcome to this beautiful country.

  17. I haven’t heard of this place and as someone who likes off-the-beaten-path places and small towns I know I’d like it. I really love the photo of the fishermen. Thanks for including tips as it is good to know to confirm the price of a meal before you order and that the police will not let you be there after 6. Very important!

    1. Thanks Lara, Glad that you liked the place.

  18. Pamban and Dhanushkodi are surreal. It would be a treat to go and experience the eerie atmosphere of the ruins for ourselves. What time of the year do you suggest?

    1. HiPunita, If you plan to visit Tamil Nadu, then I would suggest avoiding summers (March to June). It would be hot there. Apart from that, you can visit Dhanushkodi at any time of the year.

  19. How nice that it is way easier to access now! I would love to visit the beaches. Thanks for putting this fascinating destination on my radar 🙂

    1. Thanks Carmen

  20. After a month in India, and over two weeks solely dedicated to south India, I quickly realized that you never have enough time in this country. Next time I visit, I plan to stay for the permitted six months, so thank you for introducing me to Dhanushkodi. It looks gorgeous, filled with history, and who wouldn’t want to see where the Indian Ocean meets the Bay of Bengal?

    1. Cristina, am glad that you liked the post. Next time, be sure to spend some more time in South India.

  21. Loved the narration. Would definitely visit this place next time I come to Tamil Nadu.

    1. Thanks Abhirup

  22. This is a very beautiful place for those who need some peace from the city life

    1. I completely agree with you Shruti. Dhanuskodi is one such place

  23. What a beautiful place to visit! It must have been quite an experience to wade into the water between the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. I had not heard of the bridge built to Sri Lanka before, I’d love to do some more research on that.

    1. Hi Katherine, glad that you liked the place. Do visit Dhanuskodi next time you visit India.

  24. These are some really beautiful photos here. I still haven’t been to India, but I’m fascinated by these kind of places. This abandoned village looks very interesting, thanks for sharing it!

    1. Thanks

  25. Nice post, I love the second photo of the gentleman in orange smiling as he walks along the coast. You captured a really great expression of candid joy there, good shot!

    1. Thanks Erica

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