Dhanushkodi was an Indian city placed right in front of Sri Lanka, the last human outpost before the strait between the two nations. The meaning of its name is “End of the Arch” and it symbolises the peculiar geographical position of the city.

The Hindu scripture states that it was Rama the creator of the bridge between India and Sri Lanka called “Ram Setu”, Rama, Bridge. Such a bridge was needed to carry its army between dryland and Sri Lanka, and once Rama won the battle and crowned the new King of Lanka Vibhishana, it was asked him to destroy the connection. According to the Hindu mythology Rama fulfilled the task with the extremity of an arch, from where the name “Dhanushkodi”, end of the arch comes from.

Below: portion of land of Dhanushkodi: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

The series of cliffs and islets between the two countries suggest that once they were connected by a strip of land. The Kodhandarama Temple set the place where it is been said that Rama had started his journey towards Lanka. The Hindu pilgrims are used to bathing in this spot of the ocean before completing their pilgrimage in Rameswaram. The site is considered as the holy confluence between the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. The pilgrimage to the holy city of Varanasi in Northern India is not completed without reaching Rameswaram, and the ritual bath in Dhanushkodi.

The city and the cyclone

Dhanushkodi could be considered as the dry border between India and Sri Lanka, border which is one amongst the smallest ones in the world, with a length of 45 meters of land (150 ft). Before the cyclone in 1964, Dhanushkodi was a touristic city and destination of pilgrimage, highly visited. Between Ceylon, today Sri Lanka, and India, there are just 31 km apart (20 miles), and there were many ferry boats connecting Dhanushkodi to Talaimannar on the island. In Dhanushkodi there were hotels, fabric shops and several businesses which were welcoming the pilgrims. Before the cyclone, the train would get to the station of Dhanushkodi all the way to the dock, where the travellers were boarded and taken to Sri Lanka through the Palk Strait.

Between the 22nd and 23rd of December 1964, winds with the speed of 280 km/h hit the city, generating wave 7 m tall (23 ft), which ended up destroying everything. On the 22nd December, at 11:55 PM, the train number 653 of the Pamban-Dhanushkodi line was loaded with 110 passengers and 5 working staff when it was heavily struck by a killing wave. The transportation was blown away and all the people inside killed. The coaches of the train were not found until 2 days after the catastrophe.

Below: the remains of the destroyed railway. Picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

During the storm around 1,800 people died and the city of Dhanushkodi was basically swept away from the fury of the sea.

After the disaster the government declared Dhanushkodi as a ghost town unsuitable for living in it

Today there are only 2 fishermen living the city. In December 2004, shortly before the arrival of the Tsunami which ran over the Indian Ocean, the sea around Dhanushkodi withdrew approximately 500 m from the coast, revealing the submerged part of the city. The event, extremely rare, was reported by the local fishermen.

The city today

Dhanushkodi can be reached by foot or via transport fitting a sand-like soil, but it is today completely abandoned. The railway crossing the area were left to decay after then natural disaster and the buildings of the village are just abandoned shells, gloomy witnesses of an event which wrecked that important point of the community considered sacred to the Hindu society.

Below:  the remains of the train station. Picture by Nsmohan shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Below:  the remains of a temple. Picture shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The last part of Dhanushkodi where once there was the train station, today a plain beach

Below:  a shipwreck. Picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Below: tourists on the beach. Picture shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-Sa 3.0

Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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