Dhanushkodi – the Ghost Town becomes a dream destination
As we drove through the road with the sea on both sides, light showers in a hot sunny day added a spark to the surreal beauty of nature around. This was our trip to the ghost town of Dhanushkodi – one that made a permanent space in our minds for times to come. Here in this post I will tell you the inspirational story of Dhanushkodi, the southern tip of the Rameshwaram Island .
Where History meets Mythology
Have you heard of the mystical and elusive Rama Setu, aka, Adam’s bridge? The series of limestone rocks under the sea has been a topic of debate for long. It is widely believed to be connected to the Hindu epic Ramayana. It’s said that the “vaanar sena” (monkey army) formed the bridge for Sri Ram and his army to reach Lanka to bring back his abducted wife. Geologists however challenged the statements and claimed it to be a natural formation. Well, whatever you believe in, this is a sight that anyone would cherish. Alas, thanks to the rising sea levels you can’t see it any more. So I just have the satellite images sourced from Wikipedia to show you.
My brain believes in the geologist’s version while my heart seeks comfort in the story I have been reading since childhood. The monkey army laying one boulder after the other to pave way for Ram to reach Lanka to rescue his wife.
Why is Dhanushkodi the Ghost Town of India
Let me go back in time for a bit. Once upon a time Dhanushkodi was a flourishing town at the tip of India. Regular ferries used to ply between Mannar in Sri Lanka and Dhanushkodi in India during friendlier times. Back then Sri Lanka was called Ceylon, a Portuguese name given by the colonists. It was a busy trade route. Trade as well as religious pilgrimage was at its peak as both Hindus and Christians considered it sacred. Then came that ominous night of 22nd December 1964.
The massive cyclone, probably the worst that India has seen in the last century ravaged both Rameshwaram and Mannar (in Sri Lanka). Dhanushkodi was the worst affected. Everything was marooned – the houses, structures, a Ganesh temple – all gone in hours. The death and destruction was unimaginable.
Following this tragedy, the government of Tamil Nadu declared it uninhabitable. Dhanushkodi thus earned the tag “ghost town”.
Revival of Dhanushkodi as a dream destination
A handful of fishermen families still stayed back, even after Dhanushkodi was declared ghost town. For them, it was home. They would have to travel several kilometers on foot to sell their fish and obtain grocery for their survival. With no trade or tourism, the life here came to a standstill. But the lack of any human activities restored the serenity of the beaches.
It was many decades later that the government took initiative to revive tourism here. Till 2017, there was no proper road connecting Dhanushkodi to the main town of Rameshwaram. But despite difficulty offbeat travelers would off-road and to bask in the untouched beauty of Dhanushkodi. Awestruck by the beauty of my nature and the taste of local fish, they went back spreading the word of mouth. Suddenly the ruins of lost town gained popularity and Dhanushkodi became one of the best offbeat destinations in India.
Many families took this opportunity to set up stalls for selling hand-made sea-shell artifacts. In 2018, they constructed a road connecting the main town to Dhanushkodi. Tourism flourished like never before.
Dhanushkodi at present
You can now visit Dhanushkodi only between 6 am to 6 pm. Four-wheelers are restricted from entering after 11 am. So if you reach late, you will have to walk 2 km to the beach. There are guards the Dhanushkodi beach to oversee the tourist activities. They don’t allow too many people to bathe in the beach at the same time. All this has been done to reserve the sanctity of the beaches. If you drive here, you will find the azure sea on both sides.
You can park your car somewhere and step into the velvety soft sand to experience the beauty of the Indian ocean here. You can also stop at the forests which are adjacent to the beaches. It’s funny how everyone gathers at the tip making it overcrowded, while long stretches of my beaches remain absolutely desolate.
The confluence of Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal is stuff of dreams. It’s called “Arichal Munai” in Tamil. Do you know hundreds of flamingos flock into Arichal Munal during the winter months?
But even as recently as 2017, some officials from municipality came and started demolishing shops here without official orders. The locals fought and stopped it. When their home was declared uninhabitable, they stayed back, they believed, they struggled and came out victorious in their battle of survival. So on your next trip, make sure you stop at the local shacks, eat fried masala Pomfret and crab, buy exquisite sea-shell artifacts and chat with the locals. Now the last thing can be difficult as they are poor villagers who are not conversant in Hindi or English. But they are very friendly and accommodating.
What can you do in Dhanushkodi?
If you liked the story of this ghost town, and want to visit it, here’s a quick recap of what you can and should do.
- Arrive here at 6 am for watching the sunrise
- Drive through the amazing road that runs between the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal
- Stand and stare at the untouched natural beauty of my shores and the colorful fishermen boats floating in the clear azure waters
- Walk in my shore-forests
- Reach the tip of the land and bathe in the shallow waters
- Watch the changing colors of water in Arichal Munai
- Buy amazing souvenirs from the local shops
- Eat fried fish and crabs in the shacks
How to reach and where to stay in Dhanushkodi?
The only way to reach Dhanushkodi is from the nearest town Rameshwaram. Rameshwaram is an island connected to mainland India by a hundred-year old railway-bridge as well as a modern flyover. The best way to reach Rameshwaram is by train from Chennai to Rameshwaram. Chennai located 600 km from Rameshwaram, is the nearest big international airport. It is followed by Bangalore which is 606 km from Rameshwaram.
We drove from Bangalore to Rameshwaram. Though it’s a 600km odd journey , we experienced the smoothest drive through the best roads of the country. You can get all you need to know in our blog post about Rameshwaram trip. We stayed at Hyatt Place Rameshwaram – a reasonably priced 4-star hotel. You can browse large number of other options of accommodation in Rameshwaram here.
I can only hope to do justice to this breathtakingly beautiful place with my post. If you liked it, please pin this post to save for later. Share it with your family, friends and young children. Plan a trip when it’s safe to travel again.
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