Dhanushkodi: An abandoned town and the last road of India

Dhanushkodi is unique due to its geographical significance, historical events, and the eerie beauty of its ruins. Declared a ‘ghost town’ by the government, Dhanushkodi and narrow land strip Arichal Munai are a major draw for tourists in Tamil Nadu

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Aerial View of Arichal Munai, Dhanushkodi. Pic: Tamil Nadu Tourism

Aerial View of Arichal Munai, Dhanushkodi. Pic: Tamil Nadu Tourism

With the Gulf of Mannar on one side and the Bay of Bengal on the other, Dhanushkodi on the southern tip of Tamil Nadu is an abandoned town surrounded by vast azure blue waters and beautiful coral reefs along pristine sandy beaches.

Dhanushkodi (also Dhanushkoti) holds a unique place in Indian history and culture, characterized by its geographical significance, historical events, and the eerie beauty of its ruins. 

The town is accessible by road, and a narrow strip of land known as ‘Arichal Munai’ offers breathtaking views of the ocean on both sides. Dhanushkodi is at the southern end of Rameswaram Island, which is connected to the mainland by the Pamban Bridge. Beyond it, are the waters of the Bay of Bengal and further ahead (about 29 km away) lies Sri Lanka. That’s why it is called the ‘last road of India.'

The town's location has made it a strategic point historically, and it is believed to be the starting point of the ‘Ram Setu’ built by Lord Rama's army to reach Lanka.

According to the Ramayana, Lord Rama marked the spot with his bow (Dhanush) to destroy the bridge to Lanka after rescuing Sita, hence the name "Dhanushkodi" (end of the bow). The town continues to be a site of pilgrimage, with devotees visiting to pay homage.

Dhanushkodi is turning into a popular tourism destination. Pic: Tamil Nadu Tourism

Port town and the 1964 cyclone

In the 1900s, the British tried to connect India and Sri Lanka via Dhanushkodi. The Pamban sea bridge, about 40 minutes from coastal Dhanushkodi, was part of this plan. 

Dhanushkodi thrived as a busy port until the mid-20th century. It was a key transit point for travellers between India and Sri Lanka, with a railway line running up to Dhanushkodi, where passengers would then ferry across the Palk Strait.

Also Read: The abandoned mansions of Sidhpur

Dhanushkodi's bustling life came to a tragic halt due to a catastrophic cyclone on the night of December 22, 1964. The storm, with wind speeds reaching up to 280 km per hour caused massive tidal waves that swept across the town, leading to immense devastation. The cyclonic surge destroyed the railway track, capsized the passenger train, and led to the death of over 1,800 people. 

The aftermath of the 1964 cyclone left Dhanushkodi in ruins, and the government declared it a ghost town, unsuitable for habitation.

Earlier, Dhanushkodi was reachable only by foot along the seashore or in jeeps. In 2016, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways built the five-km-long stretch from Muhuntharayar Chathiram to Dhanushkodi. It opened up the place to tourists.

The ruins at the abandoned town of Dhanushkodi. Pic:  D Kartikeyan/Wikipedia

Tourism and conservation

Today, Dhanushkodi is a desolate yet hauntingly beautiful place, attracting tourists, photographers, and history enthusiasts. Visitors can explore the remnants of the town, including the ruined church, railway station, post office, and temple. It is especially famous for its church ruins covered in coral. 

Stretching up to 15 km in length, Dhanushkodi Beach often experiences high tides. Despite this, it is an ideal vacation spot for families, friends, and solo travellers alike. The area also attracts various migratory birds, such as gulls and flamingos, enhancing the natural beauty of the locale.

In recent years, efforts have been made to develop Dhanushkodi as a tourist destination. The serene beaches, clear waters, and the haunting beauty of the ruins draw many visitors, offering a glimpse into its storied past. The government has also taken steps to preserve the area and improve accessibility. 

Its tragic past, marked by the devastating cyclone, contrasts with the serene and spiritual atmosphere that pervades the town today. As a symbol of resilience and mystery, Dhanushkodi remains a poignant reminder of nature's power and the passage of time.

Also Read: Rani ki Vav: A queen’s tribute to her husband through a water temple

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