Dhanushkodi – The Ghost Town
A cyclonic storm with high velocity winds and high tidal waves hit Dhanushkodi town from 22 December 1964 midnight to 25 December 1964 evening causing heavy damages and destroying the entire town of Dhanushkodi.
This is the simple epitaph one can read on a memorial at the Dhanushkodi Bus Stand.
Dhanushkodi is on the southern tip of Pamban Island in Tamil Nadu, India. The place is about 28 kilometres away from Sri Lanka. It is believed that there is geological evidence suggesting that this 28-km bridge known as Rama Sethu or Adam’s Bridge once connected the Pamban Island tip to Talaimannar in Mannar Island, Sri Lanka. The place is serene, secluded and far from the maddening crowd.
We had been to Rameshwaram a couple of times but had always missed out on Dhanushkodi, and hence were determined not to miss out this place on our current visit. We had our breakfast in Rameshwaram and set out in search of the ghost town in an auto rickshaw which took us through a relatively lonely but scenic road with a wonderful view of the Indian Ocean. After traversing about 13 Kilometers, we reached a beach and the driver signaled us to get off, indicating that we had reached our destination. The place had some small eateries and stalls on the fringe of the beach as well as buses and auto rickshaws parked waiting to ferry passengers back to Rameshwaram. Apparently this was the final terminus for them.
We walked towards the Indian Ocean roaring magnificently and spent some time taking pictures and simply marveling at majesty of the ocean.
A few enquiries later enlightenment dawned on us. This beach was New Dhanushkodi and the original Dhanushkodi village was still some 7 Kilometers. Further and there was no road to reach this ghost town. The only means of transport was to take one of the numerous Tempos or Jeeps which drove across sand and water to ferry people to and fro from Dhanushkodi.
Soon we were seated in a crowded tempo which slowly weaved and heaved its way across the sand, the experience was indeed unique. It was as if we were driving into no man’s land where there was no road, no pathway, no signals, all we could see was just sand and more sand along with water and more water. There were times when it seemed that that the driver was driving straight into the ocean and suddenly he would take a sharp turn to get onto a bank of sand amidst the accompaniment of excited shrieks from the passengers. Finally after about 30 minutes of this adventurous ride we reached the ghost town of Dhanushkodi. We were told we had an hour to explore the place before our tempo would make its way back. We scrambled off to make the most of this time.
The place seemed to have frozen in time on that fateful day of 23rd, December, 1964, when a cyclone with a wind velocity of 280 Kilometers/Hour and tidal waves of over 23 Ft. height battered it. A train which used to run up to Dhanushkodi in those days was washed away by a huge tidal wave along with all 115 on board. The entire town of Dhanushkodi was ruined and more than 1800 people lost their lives.
The Government declared Dhanushkodi as a ghost town and not fit for habitation.
Today skeletal remains of some of the stone structures stand as a silent testimony to the havoc wreaked by nature on that fateful December night. We looked at the remains of the Railway station and could almost hear the frantic long whistle of the passenger train as it was tossed aside by a huge tidal wave in the pitch darkness of the day of the cyclone. We looked at the remains of a church and the calm soothing notes of the choir wafted into our ears, who were the people who had attended their last service here before being washed away to oblivion?
We looked at the remains of the post office whose address had been wiped off the face of the earth. We looked at a school and were haunted by the chirpy chatter of children playing innocently, unaware of the looming tragedy.
Dhanushkodi, was indeed a ghost town, we thought as we sank into the sand to view the place where the Indian Ocean merged with the Bay of Bengal. The place had a sepulchral calm, it was peaceful, but the peace was of an eerie kind, as the place seemed to cling to its past. Probably, that was the very reason why this destination was so unique, we thought.
Soon, it was time to bid farewell to the ghost town and we made our way back to the tempo for our 30 minute sand drive back to civilization.
We turned for one last look at the ghost town and our eyes fell on the remains of the Railway Station and we thought; “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.
Watch this video taken on the way to Dhanushkodi – https://youtu.be/iWynaBf26Jg
For more information, you may visit this site: Wikipedia