Remnants of the Dhanushkodi Railway Station
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Dhanushkodi is situated to the South-East of Pamban. Danushkodi is about 18 miles (29 km) West of Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. The Dhanushkodi railway line running from Pamban Station was destroyed in the 1964 cyclone and a passenger train with over 100 passengers drowned in the sea.
Significance in Hinduism
The Hindu scripture Ramayana says that Lord Rama built a bridge or causeway, called Ram Setu or 'Rama's bridge', between the mainland and Sri Lanka, in order to bring his army across. After Rama won the war and crowned a new king of Lanka, Vibhishana, requested Rama to destroy the bridge. Rama broke the bridge with one end of his bow. Hence, the name Dhanushkodi or 'end of the bow' (dhanush meaning 'bow' and kodi meaning 'end'). It is also said that Rama originally marked the spot for the bridge with one end of his famous bow that he strung to marry Princess Sita. The series of rocks and islets currently found in a line between India and Sri Lanka suggests there was indeed a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. The Kodhanda Ram Kovil temple marks the place where Rama is said to have begun his journey to Lanka.
Hindu pilgrims usually bathe in the ocean here before completing the pilgrimage to Rameswaram. The spot is considered a sacred confluence of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. In addition, it is said that pilgrimage to the holy city of Kashi in North India is not complete without also worshipping at Rameswaram, including the ritual bath at Dhanushkodi.
The incident of Sita swayamwara wherein Rama strung the bow of Shiva (obtained by Raja Janak) and annoyed Parashuram is an interesting one to note. The incident begins with Prince Rama of Ayodhya being brought to the city of Mithila (Present day Janakpur, Nepal) by Maharishi Guru Vishwamitra, for participating in Sita Janaki's swayamvara. The test of swayamvara to win princess Sita, was to sting the bow of Shiva. After many kings failed to even lift the bow (due to the shakti possessed by it), Rama accompanied with the Mahabala accorded to him by Maharishi Vishwamitra, strung the bow of Shiva. Ravana's who was also part of the failed kings rose up to question Rama's valour. To prove his strength and avert a war in the Swayamvara Mandapa, Rama pulled the string and broke the bow into three pieces. This not only proved Rama's superiority among the audience, but also deterred all kings from using any force against this unconquerable warrior (read Rama) who broke the bow which none of them could even lift. The bow of Shiva (which is considered to be a living object due to the Brahmic energy possessed in it) flew in three different directions. The one that fell on Bhuloka is presently housed in a small temple at Dhanushadham in Nepal. It continues to grow till this very day. The one that entered Pathala, is submerged in Dhanushsagar, Janakpur Nepal. Eyewitnesses at Janakpur aged above 35 years testify having seen part of the bow in Dhanush Sagar before 1990. It presently lies submerged in Dhanushsagar due to water pollution. The one that flew to Akasha, fell in Dhanushkodi. The Swayamvara ended with the wedding of Princess Sita Janaki to Prince Rama and the epic Ramayana took a new turn, which can be read elsewhere. It is said that the wrath of the broken bow pulled Rama to its farthest location (Dhanushkodi), to the save the very princess whom he had won by breaking the divine object.
Dhanushkodi has the only land border between India and Sri Lanka which is one of the smallest in the world-just 45 meters in length on a shoal in Palk Strait. Before the 1964 cyclone, Dhanushkodi was a flourishing tourist and pilgrimage town. Since Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) is just 19 miles (31 km) away, there were many ferry services between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar of Ceylon, transporting travellers and goods across the sea. There were hotels, textile shops and dharmashalas catering to these pilgrims and travellers. The railway line to Dhanushkodi—which did not touch Rameswaram then and was destroyed in the 1964 cyclone—went directly from Mandapam to Dhanushkodi. Dhanushkodi in those days had a railway station, a small railway hospital, primary schools, a post office, customs and port offices, and other buildings. It was here in this island in January 1897 that Swami Vivekananda again set foot on Indian soil, after his visit to the west to attend the World's Parliament of Religions held in the United States.
The area around Rameswaram has been frequently ravaged by several high-intensity cyclones and storms in the past. A scientific study conducted by the Geological Survey of India indicated that the southern part of Dhanushkodi Township, facing the Gulf of Mannar, sank by almost 5 metres (16 ft) in 1948 and 1949, due to vertical tectonic movement of land parallel to the coastline. As a result of this, a patch of land of about 0.5 kilometres (0.31 mi) in width, stretching 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) from north to south, submerged in the sea along with many places of worship, residential areas, roads and other structures. Incidentally, Tanjavur (Tanjore) Raja’s choultry, a known dharmashala for pilgrims in those days, located in this area, also submerged.
Before the 1964 cyclone, there was a train service up to Dhanushkodi called the Boat Mail from Madras Egmore (Now Chennai Egmore). The train would halt at a pier on the southeastern side of Dhanushkodi township, where a waiting steamer transported passengers to Sri Lanka across the Palk Strait.
The 1964 cyclone was unique in many ways. It started with a formation of a depression with its centre at 5°N 93°E in the South Andaman Sea on 17 December 1964. On 19 December it intensified into a cyclonic storm. The formation of depressions at such low latitudes as 5°N is rare in Indian seas though such cases of typhoon development within 5 degrees of the Equator have been reported in the North Western Pacific. That the Rameswaram cyclone not only formed at such a low latitude but also intensified into a severe cyclonic storm at about the same latitude is indeed a rare occurrence. After 21 December 1964, its movement was westwards, almost in a straight line, at the rate of 400 to 550 kilometres (250 to 340 mi) per day. On 22 December it crossed Vavunia, Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) with a wind velocity of 280 kilometres per hour (170 mph), moved into the Palk Strait in the night and made landfall at Dhanushkodi on the night of 22–23 December 1964. It was estimated that tidal waves were 7 metres (23 ft) high when it crossed Rameswaram.
On the night of 22 December at 23:55 hours, train no.653, Pamban-Dhanushkodi Passenger, a daily regular service which left Pamban with 110 passengers and 5 railway staff, was only few hundred yards from entering the Dhanushkodi Railway Station when it was hit by a massive tidal wave. A few metres ahead of Dhanushkodi, the signal failed. With pitch darkness around and no indication of the signal being restored, the driver blew a long whistle and decided to take the risk. Minutes later, a huge tidal wave submerged all the six coaches in deep water. The whole train was washed away, killing all 115 on board. The tragedy came to light only after 48 hours, when the railway headquarters issued a bulletin based on the information given by the marine superintendent, Mandapam.
The then chief minister of Madras State (now Tamil Nadu) M. Bhaktavatchalam, who flew over the place, later reported that the tip of the engine was barely visible in the water. Incidentally, the disaster did not take place on Pamban Bridge as is popularly believed now, but at the Dhanushkodi end of Pamban Island, which is 28 kilometres (17 mi) away from the bridge. The bridge, connecting mainland India with Rameswaram Island, was also destroyed in the cyclone.
Altogether, over 1,800 people died in the cyclonic storm. All dwellings and other structures in Dhanushkodi town were marooned in the storm. The high tidal waves moved deep onto the island and ruined the entire town. Naval vessels sent to the relief and rescue of marooned people reported to have spotted several bloated bodies around the eastern end of Dhanushkodi. Eyewitness accounts recollected of how the surging waters stopped short of the main temple at Rameshwaram where many people had taken refuge from the fury of the storm. Following this disaster, the Government of Madras declared Dhanushkodi as Ghost town and unfit for living. Only a few fisherfolk now live there.
Though the fatalities from the Rameswaram cyclone were fewer compared to the 1977 Andhra Pradesh cyclone and the 1999 Orissa cyclone, in terms of wind velocity, which touched 280 kilometres per hour (170 mph) at Vavunia in northern Sri Lanka on the evening of 22 December, the Rameshwaram cyclone is regarded as one of the Bay of Bengal's fiercest cyclones in the 20th century.
In Dec 2004 just before the arrival of 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that struck South India, the sea around Dhanushkodi receded about 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the coastline, exposing the submerged part of the town for a while. This rare event was witnessed by the local fishermen.
A memorial erected near the Dhanushkodi bus stand reads as follows:
A cyclonic storm with high velocity winds and high tidal waves hit Dhanushkodi town from 22 December 1964 midnight to 25 December 1964 evening causing heavy damages and destroying the entire town of Dhanushkodi
||This article on a place of local interest appears to contain only a small amount of verifiable information. (December 2013)|
Even though there was a railway line between Pamban and Dhanushkodi and a passenger train used to ply regularly, after the storm the tracks were damaged and in course of time, were covered by sand dunes and hence had to be abandoned. One has to reach Dhanushkodi either on foot along sea shore on the sand dunes or in jeeps and in tempos of fishermen.
There are several temples associated with Lord Rama around Rameswaram. It is advisable to visit Dhanushkodi in groups during the day and return to Rameswaram before sunset as the entire 15-kilometre (9.3 mi) stretch is regarded[by whom?] as very lonely and scary but mystical. Since there is no electricity and means of communication between Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi, and taxis do not work on the stretch after sundown, it is not recommended to stay there after dark. Tourism is budding in this area and there is a significant police presence to protect the visitors. The Indian Navy has also set up a forward observation post to guard the sea. At Dhanushkodi one can see the deep and rough waters of Indian Ocean meeting the shallow and calm waters of Bay of Bengal. Since the sea is shallow there, one can walk into Bay of Bengal and witness the colourful corals, fishes, seaweeds, star fishes and sea cucumber etc. However one is forewarned from venturing into Indian Ocean as it is extremely violent.
At present, an average of about 500 pilgrims visit Dhanushkodi daily and the number goes up by thousands during festival days, such as new and full moon days. Regular bus service is available only up to a certain distance from Rameswaram via the Kodhanda Ram Kovil temple, and many pilgrims who wish to perform religious rites at Dhanushkodi have to depend on private vans who charge anything between ₹80 and ₹100 per passenger depending upon the number of passengers and type of vehicle. There are passenger jeeps and buses which tourists can hire from Dhanushkodi or from the city of Rameshwaram, and are capable of traversing the sandy stretch to the beach.
The local people of Dhanushkodi village have set up small shops at the beach and in the village where tourists can get snacks and water.
Following the public demand of pilgrims who visit Rameswaram from all over the country, in 2003, Southern Railway sent a project report to Ministry of Railways for re-laying a 16 km new railway line to Dhanushkodi from Rameswaram. The planning commission was asked to look into the possibility of a new railway line between Dhanushkodi and Rameswaram instead of the earlier alignment from Pamban once again in 2010. A new survey is likely during the 12th plan.
At the "land's end" terminus of the peninsula to the southeast of Dhanushkodi, known as Arichumunai or erosion point, begins the chain of rocks and islets known as Rama's Bridge. These lead approximately 19 miles (31 km) across the Palk Strait to Mannar Island on the northwestern tip of Sri Lanka. It is believed that this was an intact land bridge passable on foot until a cyclone in 1480 CE swept through the region and deepened the channel 
The annular solar eclipse of 15 January 2010 was observed by many scientists and enthusiasts from Dhanushkodi.
- "Adam's bridge". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
- Pandit at Dhanushdham temple is a living testimony
- Maj G Kalicharan visited Janakpur, Dhanushadham, Dhanushsagar and Dhanushkodi in Dec 2014 to collaborate all the parts of the incident from venered Pandits at these places
- G. G. Vaz, M. Hariprasad, B. R. Rao and V. Subba Rao. Subsidence of southern part of erstwhile Dhanushkodi township, Tamil Nadu. CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 92, NO. 5, 10 MARCH 2007.Pg 671-672
- Syed Muthahar Saqaf (11 June 2010). "'Boat Mail' to run on main line from August 1". The Hindu.
- Shashi M Kulshreshta; Madan G Gupta (June 1966). "Satellite Study of the Rameswaram Cyclonic Storm of 20–23 December 1964". Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 5 (3): 373–376. doi:10.1175/1520-0450(1966)005<0373:ssotrc>2.0.co;2. ISSN 0021-8952.
- "India Train, 150 Aboard, Swept Away By Big Wave". St. Petersburg Times. UPI. 26 December 1964. p. 3A.
- "1,800 Asians Feared Dead After Cyclone and Tidal Wave". Reading Eagle. UPI. 28 December 1964. p. 4.
- "Ships, Planes Search for Survivors". The Age. A.A.P.-Reuters. 28 December 1964. p. 4.
- G. G. Vaz, M. Hariprasad, B. R. Rao and V. Subba Rao (March 2007). "Subsidence of southern part of erstwhile Dhanushkodi township, Tamil Nadu – evidences from bathymetry, side scan and underwater videography" (PDF). Current Science (PDF) 92 (5): 671–675.
- C. Jaishankar (26 February 2010). "Railway budget may put Dhanushkodi back on track". The Hindu.
- "Poll-bound TN, Kerala will get more trains". The Asian Age. 26 February 2011.
- Garg, Ganga Ram (1992). "Eve's Bridge". Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World. A-Aj. New Delhi: South Asia Books. p. 142. ISBN 81-7022-374-1.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dhanushkodi.|
- Dhanuskodi- Life in a Ghost Town A Photo Essay
- The Hindu travel article on Dhanushkodi
- Advani visits Dhanushkodi
- Eye-witness account of the cyclone
- Four-lane road planned for Dhanushkodi
- Submerged temple tower visible in Dhanushkodi
- Dhanushkodi still attracts tourists
- Hindu groups decry neglect of Dhanushkodi