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
Tamil Nadu is a traveler’s treasure trove. Take a quick glance at the Top Tourist Places of Tamil Nadu.
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.
- Search Flights on ClearTrip and Momondo
- Check accommodations on Booking.com and Agoda
- Buy Travel insurance from Columbus Direct
- Get easy Visa assistance on iVisa
- Book a self-drive in India through ZoomCar
- Book guided tours through GetYourGuide or Viator
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.
Subscribe to the blog to get weekly update of posts from this series, besides other awesome things. All photos (unless otherwise specified) are copyrighted by Backpack & Explore. The post may contain affiliate links.
Dhanushkodi is my favourite spot, it has something magical or mystic to it that I would love to go there again, the path that takes us there, the name when we say its the last land of India the curiosity creeps in automatically. The church certainly is a place to watch for. Lovely post and great clicks. thanks for sharing and helping me go back in my Dhanush Kodi memories.
Thanks Pragun. Glad you liked it.
I loved reading about a place so unfamiliar to me and yet I feel through your writing that I understand so much more about it now. Thanks for sharing.
What a great post! I loved how you wrote it from the town’s perspective. I love the story, especially when you pointed out that the lack of human activity made the beaches cleaner; and I’m glad visits are restricted now – make sit special. Maybe we can all learn from this story – I feel it relates to the situation we are in. I hope when we can travel again, we’ll see restrictions, to keep the most beautiful places clean and unpolluted. Thanks for a great read 🙂
Thank you so much Emese. Yes, it’s a story of a long struggle. If they could, we can too.
This looks like a place I will want to visit!!
You must 🙂
You’ve made the place enticing.
I have never been to Dhanushkodi but my granny used to tell me tales of how it got destroyed in 1964. I have been to Rameshwaram quite often though. It is indeed news to me that efforts are on to revive the township again and make it a tourist destination. That is indeed good news.
Yes , it’s a breathtaking beauty and not at all a ghost town any more. Please visit with your family.
Beautiful place and such lovely pictures. Definitely a must-visit place.
Thanks Jyoti. I will head here again the day we are allowed to travel for leisure.
We had planned to visit Dhanushkodi a couple of times but the local rumors of it being a haunted place made most of us chicken out. Glad you visited and gave us a vivid description of this beautiful place.
It’s not haunted, and quite crowded during the day. But it’s a must-visit. My favorite place in India so far.
Such an interesting post. I loved it !
I visited this place about 2 years ago and it was so beautiful. There was something really magical about it .
Thanks a lot. Yes, the place is something different.
Wow, how interesting place! The title was so intriguing that made me dragged towards it. Loved the read and really I appreciate the representation style of it. Lovely.
Thank you so much. I’m glad that you liked it. The place inspires the creative spirit in you.
Amazing bit of history, you have so well narrated.
By the way, the first-person style of narration makes it all the more engaging.
Thanks a lot! Glad that this experimental style worked.
Lovely post Sinjana. I didn’t know about Dhanushkodi’s tragic history but I’m glad one can access it now easily.
Thanks Noor! Yes now it is a breeze to access.
Added to my list But what if I cannot bring a car? Is public transport available? Also how about stays nearby? Is it okay to go on a solo trip? Can I have more information for a budget trip?
Hi Ranjini. It is in Rameshwaram and there are a lot of hotels in the town. You can get auto-richaws and buses to the Dhanushkodi checkpoint. From there, you can get shared autos and tt once again to take you to the tip. You can find all the details on our Rameshwaram post- https://www.backpacknxplore.com/rameshwaram-itinerary-travel-guide
நமது தமிழ் நாட்டில் கோவில்களுக்கும் பஞ்சமில்லை அன்பு நிறைந்த நெஞ்சங்களுக்கும் குறைவில்லை. எழுதி சிறந்து விளங்கிட வாழ்த்துக்கள்.
Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is wonderful, as well as the content!
This was super fascinating and unique!