DHANUSHKODI-The Silent Beauty!
Thanks to the long midterm break, we got south bound and availed the opportunity to explore the beauty of Southern India. The aim was to explore places of some significance in this part of the country. One such place at the confluence of archeological, geographical, historical and mythological marvel is Dhanushkodi. Some of the websites even mention it as one of the seven wonders of India.
Dhanushkodi is a mesmerizing place. It was (now totally abandoned) a small township at the southern tip of Rameshwaram island, on eastern coast of Tamil Nadu. In fact it is India’s Eastern most projection into the Bay of Bengal. It is about 29 km West of Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. The interesting fact is that it is the shortest land border in the world between any two countries measuring only about 45 meters.
Location of Dhanushkodi on India’s Tip
To reach Dhanushkodi one has to cross another engineering marvel at the Pambam bridge. It is a road bridge measuring 2340m and a cantilever broad gauge rail bridge along side it on the sea. Till the Worli sea link opened in Mumbai which exceeds it in length by only about 60 m, the Pambam bridge was India’s only sea bridge. The cantilever ‘opens’ to give way to the naval traffic. The bridge connects Rameshwaram with mainland India. The rail journey over the sea bridge is also a treat for train enthusiasts.
Author on board a train over sea at Pambam Bridge
The Majestic Pambam bridge
The cantilever ‘opens’ for naval traffic
Prior to 1964, a rail link connected Dhanushkodi directly with Mandapam on main land when it was washed away by a cyclone causing massive destruction and loss of about 1800 lives. An entire train with 115 passengers on board perished in the high tides. Today, 4x4 busses and jeeps connect the destroyed town with Rameshwaram over a 20 m wide stretch of land which during various times of the day is completely submerged under water and the vehicles literally ply over submerged land. It is an enthralling experience as these vehicles run on water and beautiful blend of sea, land and sky can be seen in the true purple spirit.
Dhanushkodi lies on a limestone or shoal ‘ridge’ under water. This ridge connects the main lands of India and Sri Lanka. The ridge appears on the Google Earth as a bridge or a continuous belt of land under water. Higher parts of the ridge appear as islands on the Palk Strait. It is here that the Sethu Samudram Project is being conceived after destroying part of this ridge. Geographically speaking, this shoal ridge separates the two water systems of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. So technically, each sea lies on either side of Dhanushkodi.
Mythologically, Lord Rama had built a bridge called Ram Setu between mainland India and Sri Lanka in order to get his army across the sea and after he won the war, Vibhishana requested Rama to destroy the bridge with his bow to prevent Lanka from further attacks and hence the name ‘Dhanushkodi’(‘Dhanush’ – Bow, ‘kodi’- End Of). There were two Generals in Rama’s army by the name of Nala and Nila who had the powers of making stones float on water. Today there is a temple at Dhanushkodi which has a small tub of water in which a coral ‘stone’ floats quite easily. These corals are likely to be the stones which have been referred to in Ramayana.
The ghost town still survives and comes to life on your visit. One can see the remnants of a church, post office, railway station, community hall, besides many smaller dwelling places. One is able to imagine the life at one of the remotest corners of India. Today a number of vendors selling refreshing drinks stay in the town during day to serve the tourists. One of them proudly showed us a paper clip mentioning that his father had won a swimming competition in crossing the sea to Sri Lanka. The competition across India’s ‘English Channel’ was reportedly organized by the Dhanushkodi town administration.
Remnants of a church at the ‘ghost town’.
Dhanushkodi is a must visit place for any person interested in geography, mythology or archeology. It is a place stuck in timeless history and has a fascinating aura around itself.