Dhanushkodi is a ghost town at the south-eastern tip of Pamban Island in the Tamil Nadu state of India. Pamban Island is home to Ramsehwaram Township. Dhanushkodi is about 30 kilometers from Sri Lanka and 25 kilometers from Rameshwaram. Once upon a time the town was connected with train from Chennai and through boat service from Sri Lanka. This was the main route for people travelling to Sri Lanka. Passengers would reach Dhanushkodi in train called Boat Mail and then board the boats to travel to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka.
Before 1964, Dhanushkodi was a happening pilgrimage town flourishing with tourist. Apart from one of the busiest railway station, this small town had many buildings which included hotels, government offices, hospital, textile shops and dharmashalas catering to these pilgrims & travelers who would arrive in town from all over the country. As per Ramayana, Rama and his army built the bridge around 5089 BC connecting Dhanushkodi with Sri Lanka. The bridge is called Adam’s bridge or Rama Setu. It was built by Rama so that his army can cross over to Sri Lanka. Over a period of 7000 years the bridge is said to have submerged in water. The aerial pictures taken from satellites do indicate an existence of land route connecting with Sri Lanka.
The town was ravaged by cyclones over a period of time and it is said that during 1948-1949 cyclones, this town sank about 5 meters this submerging many structures of the town in water. Later, the cyclone of 1964 destroyed the whole town. It is said to be the fiercest cyclones in the 20th century in the area. The cyclone completely destroyed the train connection between Pamban to Dhanushkodi which resulted in washing away of bridge and a whole train with 115 people on board. Altogether, about 1800 people died in the cyclone post which the government declared the town as a “Ghost Town” and thus unfit for human inhabitation.
I must say that the town may be a ghost town now but it holds a rich history beneath it both literally and historically. There are lots of places and points which connect you with both contemporary and old history that takes you thousands of year back. Off course, there are many unresolved mysteries around the town which may take many years to unravel.
My Voyage to Dhanushkodi
I went to Dhanushkodi last December as it was one of the destinations in my 7 day long southern odyssey. We went to Rameshwaram from Madurai. The journey took around 3 hours and we checked in hotel around 1.00 pm. After settling down, we left for Dhaunshkodi by 2.00 pm. Within 40 minutes we reached the last point where motor-able road ends.
From there on, one has to hop on to jeep service which plies up till old abandoned railway station. As the there is no concrete road and the distance of about 6 kilometers has to covered via sandy road through marshes and water, it is not advisable to take your personal vehicles. The local drivers are well versed with the route. One can either hire the whole minivan or pay as per person basis. The typical charges are 100-120 per person both ways.
Rameshwaram is well connected with buses and Train service. There are abundant buses from various cities and the Rameshwaram railway station is connected with various cities in the country through direct trains including Mumbai, Varanasi and Bhubaneswar. If you are traveling from nearby cities like Madurai and Bangalore and have couple of other places on your agenda, then the best option will be to hire a cab. This will give you huge flexibility to move around easily.
Madurai is the nearest airport which is 170 kilometers away. Madurai international airport is connected with direct flights from Chennai, Hyderabad and Colombo. It is serviced by couple of airlines like Air India, Jet Airways, SpiceJet, Srilankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka with daily flights and is connected with many cities in India and outside through direct flights.
Staying at Dhanushkodi
There are many hotels and dharamshalas available. One can rent rooms as well as halls around. This being one of the very important pilgrimage towns, one can for sure will find something to spend night at. However, it is advisable to book upfront to manage any seasonal rush. When I was trying to book a room around 1st week of December for my December end trip, I was surprised to find that no rooms were available either directly or through travel portals. To my relief, one of the travel portal Must-see India arranged rooms for me at very reasonable rates.
Tips to move around
I went in December and around that part of the year jeeps go up till abandoned railway station. However, during the period of April-August, the jeeps go further 4 kilometers till the point that is called as Rama Setu point. This is the place from where the historical Rama Setu or Adam's bridge starts. The point is also called as Land's end point. The jeeps drop people at railway station where people get about an hour to move around and then the same jeeps brings back the people.
I was there only for a day but I will strongly recommend to plan at least 2 days there to completely absorb the place and grab a piece of history preferably during the period between April till August.