About 620 km from Bangalore, on the southern tip of Pamban Island in Tamil Nadu, is a ghost town known as Dhanushkodi. The place, just 28 kilometres away from Sri Lanka, is famous for its mythological importance. It is said that Lord Rama and his vanara sena together with his brother Lakshmana, Hanuman and Ravana’s brother Vibhishana, built a bridge using floating stones. This bridge helped them to reach Lanka to rescue Sita from Ravana.
After returning victorious from Lanka, Vibhishana, the new king, asked Rama to destroy the bridge. So, Rama broke the bridge using one end of the bow, giving the place its name – Dhanush meaning bow and Kodi meaning end.
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 locals in Dhanushkodi claim that the bridge, which was once visible, was completely destroyed following a cyclone in the 15th century. Another cyclone that hit the region in 1964, ravaged the region to such an extent that it has remained a ghost town since. The railway link that connected mainland India to Dhanushkodi was destroyed completely. According to a local guide, it is also said that on the fateful day, a daily passenger train known as Boat Mail carrying 115 passengers was washed away as it approached the Dhanushkodi station. The news of this devastation reached the mainland three days later because the area was completely cut off.
Currently the rail network connects the mainland till Rameshwaram only. From Rameshwaram town, Dhanushkodi is about 25 kilometres. Almost halfway way to Dhanushkodi is a Koothandaramar temple. Locals believe that at this place Rama crowned Vibhishana, the new king of the asuras. The temple follows a simple architectural style and houses the idols of Koothandaramar (Rama), Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman as well as Vibhishana in the sanctum sanctorum. It is also surrounded by the sea on all sides except the approach road. The walls of the temple have murals depicting how Rama and his vanara sena rescued Sita.
And the only vehicle that will take you to the tip of Dhanushkodi is a specially-modified jeep. The first 12-kilometre drive from Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi is on a normal road with gusts of wind blowing sand on your face. Once you reach the check post, only a modified jeep (4×4) or big vans can go further. The drive from the check post to the devastated region is like a roller coaster ride on the beach. As you go farther you will see the endless deep blue sea on either side of your vehicle. While on one side there is the Indian Ocean, on the other side is the Bay of Bengal. And the difference is completely stark between the two — one side of the sea is calm and blue while the other side sea is green with choppy waters.
You will also see the remains of the Dhanushkodi station and the railway track. After a few minutes you can see the mighty gateway of the old devastated city and a little later you reach the tip, ‘Dhanushkodi’. The tip is just 28 kms from Sri Lanka. Sometimes you might even get a message on your phone welcoming you to the mobile circles of Sri Lanka. Standing on the beach surrounded by the sea, you might wonder if this place contains anything other than sand and blue water. The place is so pristine, isolated and far away from the crowd that one would not want to return to civilization. Even after a good and peaceful 45-minute stroll, most people have to be coerced by the jeep drivers to return.
While returning from Dhanushkodi, other remains of structures such as the buildings, railway water tank and others can be seen, making the whole place look like a shell of its former self.
Currently there are only 300 fishermen families staying in the region who make a living by selling shells and other fancy items. Next to the water tank there is a temple, which has a floating stone kept locked on its premises as a tourist attraction.
The locals will tell you that this is one of the stones used to make the floating bridge which are actually limestone shoals. Near the water tank, you can see the ruins of a church. The locals will also tell you that Dhanushkodi, which was once a city in the Rameshwaram mainland and had all the regular amenities like a post office, school and railway station, is now home to only ruins. Visitors to Dhanushkodi are only allowed to be there till 5.30 p.m. As the night falls, the sea advances into the mainland making it difficult for the drivers to manoeuvre their vehicles on the beach.