Such a train, with 110 passengers, was entering Dhanushkodi railway station at 11.55 PM, 22nd December 1964, while a cyclone hit the place. The train along with the town was washed away killing around 1800, including all the passengers and crew of the train. The town was there after declared a Ghost town and Dhanushkodi, today, is just the ruins and remains.
And those of you familiar with the epic Ramayana, may recall the effort, the monkey army of Rama took, to construct a bridge to connect to Srilanka. This would be about the stone link (Adam’s Bridge) between Dhanushkodi and Thalaimannar, in the satellite picture below (Courtesy : Wikimapia).
|Left most is Indian main land, then Rameswaram (Pamban) Island. Red spot is Dhanushkodi dead end, followed by Adam's bridge or Ramasethu and then Srilanka|
|Closer view of Adam's Bridge or Ramasethu|
Another view is that Srilanka was earlier connected to Dhanushkodi, by land, and the eventual rise in sea level, would have resulted in the present scenario. Read some where that it was even possible to cross to Srilanka, by foot, till 1500 AD. Owing to the Ramayana connection, mentioned above, Rameswaram has emerged as a pilgrim’s town and Dhanushkodi is an 18 km drive in a 4WD vehicle from there.
25 – 8 – 2010
Four families, Sunils, Anojs, Dineshs and mine, started off by around 9 in the morning. Dinesh and I led in WagonR and the rest followed us in Alto. Dinesh was actually on a pilgrimage, and on his special request, we had included Tiruchendur also, in the itinerary. Took left at Nagercoil and continued along the Tirunelveli stretch, up to Valliyoor. At Valliyoor left NH, and took the right for Tiruchendur. Rarely found vehicles on this comfortable stretch, apart from ours, and the drive was a pleasure.
Reached Tiruchendur by noon. Paid a quick visit to the temple and left for Thoothukkudi.
Track to Thoothukkudi was also in good shape, with vastness of salt pans on either side.
Drive along ECR was a thrilling experience, which is really worth a mention. The surface was even and polished and traffic was very low.
ECR, at present, is ready between Chennai and Thoothukkudi, and soon it will get extended up to Kanyakumari. Should go along the entire stretch, after completion, just for the pleasure of driving. Once completed, it would be an 800 km stretch from Kanyakumari to Chennai, and that shall be done in around 8 to 10 hours roughly.
Using Sunil’s official links, we could have the privilege of Mr. Nagarattinam, an Asst. Engineer with Tamil Nadu PWD, waiting for us at Ramanathapuram. He straight away took us to the PWD guest house, to have tea and snacks. By around 7 we were back on the road to Rameswaram, piloted by Nagarattinam in his Jeep. Rameswaram is another 40 kms from Ramanathapuram. Nagarattinam parked his vehicle at the middle of Pamban Bridge, and we followed suit. Couldn’t get a clear picture as it was dark, and postponed the camera works for the next day, while we return. Reached Rameswaram by 8.15 and occupied our rooms, booked by Nagarattinam, at Palani Andavar lodge, close to the temple and by the sea shore. Neat and spacious rooms for Rs. 1100 per day. Had dinner from Hotel Arya Nivas, the only hotel worth a visit, according to Nagarattinam. Visit to the famous Ramanathswamy temple was scheduled at 5 AM, and we went to bed early.
26 – 8 – 10
Got ready by 5 in the morning and Mr. Balakrishnan, a Rameswaram dweller, was ready to assist as, on the directions of Nagarattinam. While others were busy with the darsan, I went along exploring the temple art. Nagarattinam returned to Ramanathapuram, after break fast, as he had some official duties to perform. Before leaving, he arranged two 4WD Jeeps, for our Dhanushkodi exploration and ensured that Balakrishnan would assist as through out.
The Ghost town slowly revealed before us. I found it hard to believe that the place was once heavily inhabited, with teaming road and rail services. Our Jeep driver was born and brought up there, and he says more than half of the earlier Dhanushkodi, is under the sea now.
He left the regular track, drove into the bushy growth and stopped the vehicle. And now we were at the old Dhanushkodi railway station.
Nothing remained, apart from the cement benches, where passengers waited for the train, about 50 years back in history. Bushy jungle had grown over these remains too. Proceeding further, we drove past ruins of buildings, from where dwellers were washed away into vast waters, while in deep sleep.
|Track to Kodandaswami temple|
It was a newly erected building in the place of the one swept away by the cyclone. Two broken pillars, in front of the new structure, were what remained.
Still the cyclone spared the main temple at Rameswaram. Left the Jeeps at Rameswaram, vacated our rooms and where back on the road by around 1.30 PM. On our way to Ramanathapuram, spent a while at Pamban Bridge.
Our world has changed a lot since 1964. Technology developed and so did neighborhood relations. Cyclones can now be predicted well in advance. Why not let the ghost town reclaim its life and its lights? Why not let the Chennai ticket counter sell Chennai – Colombo rail tickets?