A day trip to the Dhanushkodi from Rameshwaram was the highlight of my South India trip. Dhanushkodi is still an offbeat destination and not too crowded. A half-day road trip from Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi is enough to explore this ghost town of India. In the last few years, Dhanushkodi getting popular among tourists also. It is an important religious destination among Hindu pilgrims and many of them take a dip in sea here after visiting Rameshwaram. The “Ram Setu” mentioned in the epic Ramayana is also situated at the land’s end of Dhanushkodi. This bridge is invisible to the human eyes but can be seen in NASA’s satellite pictures and it is popularly known as “Adam Bridge”.
Here is everything you need to know about things to do in Rameshwaram
My Dhanushkodi travel experience
During our Rameshwaram trip, we kept half a day for Dhanushkodi. I traveled with my parents so we booked a jeep for the entire trip. It was a peaceful drive from Rameshwaram, the road is small but in good driving condition.
It was a fun experience driving on the sand along the sea. As we came closer to the Dhanushkodi village we saw the remains of the railway line. After driving further we arrived at the small settlement of fisherman. This is the place where most of the ruins located.
The most prominent ruins are a railway station and a church. Three tall walls are what now remained of the railway station. These ruins still look grand near the sandy beach of Dhanushkodi.
At some distance are the ruins of the hospital and other government buildings.
There are a few small shacks near the huts. In these shacks, you can buy loose shells, conch, seashells handicrafts, pearl strings, and similar stuff. A couple of shacks sell snacks and fried fish also. If you are hungry and eat fish then it is a good place.
As we were walking on the beach we came across a small hut temple. A man invited us to come inside, I was hesitant but the guy insisted that we should see the miracle in this Dhanushkodi temple. Inside we found a floating stone, which was kept in a small water tank. There were photographs and small idols of Ram, Sita, Laxman, and Hanuman. That man told us that the floating stone is from Ram Setu.
Legend is that when monkeys wrote the name of Lord Ram on rocks and thrown then in the sea, they floated in water as they miraculously turned lightweight. The guy asked us to offer some money to the temple. I don’t like these kinds of demands for money on the name of religion but my father gave him some money. The guy started telling strange stories. There was no logic or concept in those stories and we left that place.
The Dhanushkodi beach was almost empty. The beach is clean and peaceful but the waves are strong. These waves can knock down a person if he or she is careless. There is a signboard warning people that they should not don’t enter the sea.
We walked and explore the ruins near Dhanushkodi beach. The effect of weather is visible on stones of the ruins. For example, it looks as if the church is made of corals. To my amateur eyes, it looks like a coral church but when I did some fact-checking, I came to know that this is due to harsh salty and sandy air coming from the sea.
I was very curious about how the people of Dhanushkodi village procure the drinking water. They are surrounded by sea from all side and the patch of land is very small as well as it is mostly loose sand.
I got the answer to my question when a person stopped us. He told us that he has something interesting to show us. After visiting the floating stone, I was a bit skeptical. Anyways we decided to see what he has in store.
He took us to a small hole in the sand and informed us that the water in this hole is sweet. The hole was hardly 100 meters from the beach and looked barely 1.5 feet deep. He filled a glass of water from it and offered us, it was indeed sweet. He told us that most of the people of the village use water from this and the other two water holes for drinking.
After visiting the ruins, we went to the land’s end named the Arichal Munai. There was no road connectivity to this place and it was difficult to travel here. In 2017 it is connected with a road with Rameshwaram.
There is a viewpoint and a beach at the Arichal Munai. The beach is also popularly known as Dhanushkodi beach. Most of the people on religious trips take a dip in the sea here because it is considered auspicious. The view is spectacular here. Everywhere we saw the blue turquoise hues of the vast expanse of sea and nothing else.
Sea is harsh here and waves are strong. Don’t go into deep water. There are no lifeguards on the beach. Enjoy the surroundings and view as we did. There are not many places where you can experience this type of natural beauty.
Where is Danushkodi?
Dhanushkodi is 19 Km from the Rameshwaram on the southern tip of the Pamban island in Palk strait. Dhanushkodi is the place where the Bay of Bengal and the Indian ocean meet.
The tip of Dhanushkodi named Arichal Munai and it is the closest point of the Indian border with Sri Lanka. The Arichal Munai is only 30 Km from Sri Lanka. With a width of only 45 meters, it is considered to be the smallest land border in the world.
How to reach Dhanushkodi
First, you need to travel to the nearest town of Rameshwaram which is 19 Km away.
The nearest airport in Madurai is 170 Km from Rameshwaram.
There are direct buses for Rameshwaram from Madurai and Chennai.
Rameshwaram has direct trains from Madurai, Kanyakumari, and Chennai.
Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi
From Rameshwaram, you take a 4×4 wheel drive Jeep or State government operated TNSTC buses.
You can also take autorickshaw but they don’t go to the ruins in the village.
A jeep cost around 1500-1600 INR for a round trip. It’s 35-40 minutes journey from Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi village by jeep. It is convenient and comfortable. On the way, you can stop at the Kothandaramar temple.
While hiring a Jeep, negotiate with the driver for the duration you will stay in Dhanushkodi because sometimes they push to return quickly.
The TNSTC bus is very economical and costs only 30 INR. There is a bus every 45 from the bus stop near Shri Rameshwaram Temple. It takes around 45-50 minutes to reach Dhanushkodi. If you take the bus then get down near the ruins which are much before the last stop of the bus. Explore the ruins and then take the next bus for the last point. The first bus is around 8.00 AM from Rameshwaram and the last bus from Dhanushkodi is at 6.00 PM.
Best time to visit Dhanushkodi
It is best to visit between December to March when the weather is mild and you can roam around comfortably.
Don’t visit Dhanushkodi in monsoon from July to September because not only it rains heavily. The weather is unpredictable and there can be stormes without any warning. Fishing is not done in monsoon and fisherman also leaves Dhanushkodi for towns.
It also rains in October and November, when monsoon retreats. So if you visit during these months then be prepared for rains.
Dhanushkodi Tsunami and history
As per Hindu mythology, Dhanushkodi was the place where Lord Rama and his army of monkeys built Ram Setu to connect India with Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from the Ravana. The Ram Setu is otherwise known as Adam’s Bridge, it is connecting Pumban Island to Sri Lanka.
After rescuing his wife Sita, Lord Ram destroyed the bridge with arrows from his bow. Hence the name of the town became Dhanushkodi meaning ‘end of bow’.
The bridge is not visible with naked eyes because it is submerged in water. Thinking for walking on it? You can’t do it. Don’t even think of this because the sea is very volatile and currents are strong.
Due to its association with Lord Ram, Dhanushkodi is a place of religious importance.
Before the tsunami of 1964, Dhanushkodi was a small bustling town. In those days it had a railway station, a post office, a secondary school, few hotels, and the usual settlement. It was the main port of transportation between India and Sri Lanka.
The railway line from Pamban Station in Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi was the most convenient way to travel.
On the fateful day of 22nd December 1964, the 6 couch train with 100 passengers and 5 crew members was on its way to Dhanushkodi around 10.00 PM. When this train was one km from the Dhanushkodi station, the driver noticed the signal was not working. He blew the horn a few times and moved towards the station but unfortunately within a couple of minutes the train submerged in the water and washed away in strong tsunami waves. No one survivors from that train.
High tidal waves moved deep in Dhanushkodi island and ruined the entire town, approximately 1800 people died during the cyclone. All houses, religious places, and other government buildings of Dhanushkodi were marooned in the tsunami.
The railway line also destroyed during the cyclone. Due to this tragedy, the government of Tamil Nadu declared Dhanushkodi unsafe for living and rehabilitated the remaining population to other parts of the state.
After this tragedy, Dhanushkodi is also known as the “city of the dead”.
Later on, after a few years, some fishermen returned to Dhanushkodi because the sea here is rich in fishes. They made small huts and lived here except for the monsoon months when they go back to their permanent homes.
Today there is a small settlement of fishermen. Men folks go for fishing and women take care of the home as well as make handicrafts of seashells. You can buy different seashell products here and support the community.
Ghost stories of Dhanushkodi
There are stories and local people believe that they saw the ghost in Dhanushkodi. It is not wise to say there are ghosts because there is no scientific proof. But certainly, a small town where 1800 people died in tragic circumstances, everything turned into ruins and remained abandoned for years can have some ghost stories.
Even after half a century, only a few people are living in makeshift huts. There is no electricity and when night falls everything goes into the dark. The wind blows so strongly that small objects fly with it and walls of huts shakes. Everything looks mysterious at night.
Tourists are not allowed to stay in Dhanushkodi and it is virtually abandoned at night. Due to these anti-social elements like smugglers get active at night. It is unofficially a breeding ground for anti-social activities. They tend to spread the ghost stories so that most of the people of the island remain inside their huts. This will give them free passage.
Secondly, as I mentioned that local people believe there are ghosts so if something happened due to nature’s fury like the high tide or strong winds they believe it’s an act of Ghost (A Bhoot in local language).
Travel tips for visiting Dhanushkodi
* Travel to Dhanushkodi in the morning or late afternoon because it gets hot during the day.
** There are two areas to see in Dhanushkodi. One is the village where most of the ruins and the other is the land’s end called Arichal Munai.
* First, visit the Dhanushkodi village and explore the ruins then go to the land’s end of Pamban island.
** Carry food, water, and umbrellas. Also, carry a scarf or cap to cover your head because the sun is quite harsh and you can get the sunburn.
* Wear footwear suitable for walking on the beach and sand.
** Avoid walking barefoot in the sand because there are broken bottles that are hidden under sand in some places.
* It is a great place for a picnic. If you plan to do so then carry all essential like food, water, etc with you.
** There are few fisherman huts in Dhanushkodi and no place to stay. Tourists are not allowed to stay after sunset.
* Don’t pitch a tent on the beach to stay in Dhanushkodi overnight. It is not safe because in case of any illegal activities you will be in trouble. Secondly, the weather is harsh and unpredictable here.
** There is no mobile tower and no mobile signal in Dhanushkodi village. So be careful and don’t venture into the unknown.
* There are patches of quicksand near the bushes. Don’t try to be too adventurous if alone.
** Last bus leave from the land’s end of Dhanushkodi before 6.00 PM.
* You can’t watch the sunset in Dhanushkodi because of policemen stationed at the tip of the landmark. They make sure that every vehicle return before it gets dark.
** Be mindful and don’t leave any empty bottle or wrapper or any other waste in Dhanushkodi.
* Don’t enter the sea if there is board stating this.