Dhanushkodi – at land’s end
Posted by Admin on June 2, 2012
Dhanushkodi – at land’s end
Barely 20 km from the town of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Dhanushkodi gets its name from Dhanush (bow) and Kodi (end). The name alludes to an anecdote in the Ramayana, where Lord Rama broke the bridge constructed by his army of monkeys between the mainland and the island of Lanka with a stroke of his bow. Barely 50 yards long, Dhanushkodi is the sole terrestrial border between India and Sri Lanka. It was inhabited until 1964, when a terrible cyclone wrecked the village and swept a passenger train into the sea. Though Dhanushkodi today is a ghost town, it is still visited by pilgrims. Yahoo! reader J MADHU RANTHAKAN presents a photographic travelogue of a journey to land’s end.
A distant view of Dhanushkodi town from a vehicle. Pilgrims from all over India visit Rameswaram Temple to bathe in the holy wells and in the sea. It is a well-known pilgrimage site. Only a few, though, know the mythological and historical importance of nearby Dhanushkodi.
A view from Kothandaramaswamy Temple, located 12 km from Rameswaram. Popular belief goes that Vibishana, brother of the demon king Ravana of Lanka, surrendered before Lord Rama here. The mythological importance assigned to this town is that when Lord Rama returned to India after vanquishing Ravana, Vibhishana pleaded with him to break the setu (bridge) so that no other armies would use it. Rama acquiesced to his request and broke the Indian side of the bridge with the end of his bow. This place came to be known as Dhanushkodi (Dhanush is ‘bow’ and kodi is ‘end’ in Tamil) and remains to this day a holy place for Hindus.
Road leading to Dhanushkodi from Rameswaram. It was on this island in January 1897 that Swami Vivekananda, after his triumphant visit to Chicago to attend the Parliament of Religions in September 1893, set foot on Indian soil from Colombo.
Dhanushkodi is today a ghost town and human habitation is almost non-existent as only a few fishermen with their families now live here.
On the fateful night of December 22, 1964, Indian Railways train number 653, the Pamban-Dhanushkodi Passenger, left Pamban with 110 passengers and five railway staff. It was only a few yards before Dhanushkodi railway station when it was hit by a massive tidal wave. The train was washed away, killing all 115 on board. In all, over 1,800 people perished in the cyclonic storm. Following this disaster, the town was declared unfit for living.
All forms of transport to Dhanushkodi stop at Moonram Chathiram. From here, we hire a vehicle – a smelly van that carries fish – more suited to the sandy terrain, to traverse the mud tracks leading up to the ruins. A 7-km bumpy ride along the shore and sometimes into the sea water takes us to the actual ruins.
Dhanushkodi used to have a railway station, a small railway hospital, a higher secondary school, a post office, customs and port offices, temples and a church. Ferries between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar in Sri Lanka transported travelers and goods across the sea. There were hotels, textile shops and inns (dharmashalas) for pilgrims and travelers.
Remains of the ruined town. Groceries and vegetables were brought by the railways through the Indo-Ceylon Express also called Boat Mail), which connected Madras (now Chennai) to Colombo. Ferries from Talaimannar brought textiles and luxury goods. Before 1964, a train connected Sri Lanka to Madras. It stopped at a pier in Dhanushkodi. From there, passengers used a ferry to cross the 18-km Rama Setu.
Brick walls etched by time and tide tell tearful stories. The structures that withstood the tidal wave exist, buried under the sand and some partly weathered by the sea, adding a mysterious beauty to the place.
The remains of the church and railway station buildings. A few fishermen have settled here in thatched huts.
The walls of the church still stand.
A survivor of the 1964 cyclone who now lives in Dhanushkodi supplies drinking water to tourists from a well on Dhanushkodi beach.
It is amazing that the well, which is just a few yards from the sea, supplies sweet drinking water.
An array of fishing boats seen from the bridge.
A view from the centre of Pamban bridge. I was fortunate to get this shot without any vehicular traffic.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER:
J MADHU RANTHAKAN is a software professional and a hobbyist photographer interested in sculptures and heritage temple architecture. He also loves photographing nature and children. He is a native of Pollachi in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu.
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