Dhanushkodi – The Ghost Town of India

I was very young when my parents along with some family friends had planned a visit to South India. Until then I had only seen that part of the country on maps. And of course, I had no idea then that I would eventually move for studies & work (& live – it’s been a decade now) in one of the cities down south.

So anyway, the itinerary the responsible adults had come up with included all kinds of places & activities that suited the different age groups and interests. This included shopping, amusement parks, jungle safari, staying amidst tea estates, visits to temples, etc.

Without getting into the details of other places, and because this post is about Dhanuskodi, I’ll come to it directly. This post and pictures are from my visit to the same place (about approx. 20 years later). When I first visited the place as a young girl, I did not think much of it. But I do remember how the place made me feel back then, so when I was once again traveling to Rameshwaram & Dhanushkodi this time I had a nice feeling and a bit of nostalgia. In this write-up, I’m kind of going to go back and forth between the first and the present journey.

The first time we had traveled to Rameshwaram was on a train. I distinctly remember my uncle took me and my kid brother near the door to look out at the expansive blueness as the train chugged through the Pamban bridge leaving the mainland and crossing over to the island of Rameshwaram. We were thrilled and overwhelmed! I had never seen anything like that before, it was otherworldly. I stood looking out in disbelief for a long time, and later when my uncle asked cheerfully what did I think about it, I just couldn’t form words and may have just mumbled words like “nice”, “beautiful” and likes. But trust me, it was much more than that and I think I would never find the right words to describe the feeling. I do like such indescribable feelings and they always make me smile.

It was only later when this bridge became iconic in the travel world (esp. on social media) I realized I had experienced it without any kind of influence. Yes, as much as I don’t like it, and I’m sorry to say this, in today’s world of social media and instant gratifications, I believe our travel choices are quite influenced by how things are projected versus what they really are or how they make one feel. I’m not escaped from this as well, but I do try my best to live the moment and pay attention to my true feelings.

Dhanushkodi is located further south of the Rameshwaram island. We boarded an autorickshaw to reach there. It is about 20ish km from Rameshwaram, and we decided to check out a few other places en route, which is why we took quite some time to finally reach the beach. Arichal Munai beach is at the tip of Dhanushkodi that is also a closest point to Sri Lanka. Of course, one cannot travel from here (at least not yet).

Dhanushkodi is often referred to as the ghost town of India, as this once-a-normal-town, is now a town of ruins. After the place was hit by cyclone in 1964, leaving it completely destroyed, the town was abandoned. It remains uninhabited with just a few fishermen huts today. Driving past the town with just the remnants of the destructions by cyclone is quite an unpleasant feeling.

A long stretch of road is bordered by blue waters and wavy shores on both sides as you are inching closer, but it is only when you walk at the Arichal Munai beach you truly realize the grandeur. The sight is mighty as you notice the confluence of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean here and gasp. Not just the colors of these two are strikingly different, but also you’d find one side of the water body is noticeably calmer compared to the other one that’s roaring and wild. Arichal Munai beach is open for visit between 6am and 6pm. Also be warned it is super hot and humid almost all the time and even close for visitors if the weather turns bad. I wanted to walk some stretch of the road, watching the many migratory birds that flocked freely, listening to the wind and waves, squinting at the glaring sun rays bouncing off the blue water, feeling the silence and sounds of nature. Maybe one day. Hopefully I can visit this place once again, and preferably stay for a much longer time.

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