On the night of 22nd December 1964, the Dhanushkodi cyclone claimed the life of 1800 people. The town, that once use to flourish in the past with its trade between Sri Lanka and India, had hotels and shops and even the railway station is now almost abandoned.
Dhanushkodi is located in Pamban Island in Rameshwaram district of Tamil Nadu state. According to Hindu mythology ‘Ramayana’, it was Dhanushkodi from where Ram ordered Hanuman to build Ram-Setu Bridge so as to let his army cross over to Sri Lanka where Ravana had kept his wife Sita in his captivity.
Dhanushkodi which once use to flourish is now fighting for its survival. Before 1964, Dhanushkodi use to serve as an important port for traders and pilgrims. Numerous ferry services use to ply between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar, a town in Sri Lanka. Dhanushkodi ports use to serve the purpose of facilitating all the imports and exports of goods and to and fro travel of Pilgrims between Sri Lanka and India. Being an important town for imports and exports and the fact that it is located near Rameshwaram temple, one of the ‘char dhams’ of Hindu religion, it attracted lot of tourist and because of that Dhanushkodi flourished as fully equipped town with lot of hotels and dharmshalas, even a train station, post office, churches and schools. It used to have an amazing textile market and people of this town were doing fairly well. But who would have imagined that all of this will change completely in just 1 night when 8 yards high tidal waves would wash away not only the materialistic structures and artifacts but also the soul of town as well, leaving behind various haunting tales to tell.
The cyclone that hit the southern part of India at Tamil Nadu claimed many lives, the Passenger train, train No. 653 plying between Pamban-Dhanushkodi got washed away along with its 115 passengers. The church, school, houses, markets everything got washed away and since then this town has seen nearly no development. After the cyclone of 1964, the government declared the town as ‘unfit for living’ hence no developments were carried out. Only the ruins are left, the damaged church, the broken schools and washed away railway line that tells the story of its plight and few huts of fishermen who are still living here.
In my small talk with one of the fisherman, he revealed how much tough their survival has become. During day time, they sell coconut water to whatsoever few numbers of tourists that visit here and nights are spent fishing in the sea. People live in shacks and only the church gets the electricity that too for few hours in a day. Out of 7 or 8 wells only 2 to 3 wells have sweet water that is fit for consumption. It was really shocking to see that even in 21st century, camera was an alien invention for the children of this town. Moreover, the town does not even have a phone connectivity and the nearest telephone booth is few kilometers away. Surrounded by Bay of Bengal on one side and Indian Ocean at the other, the town is forever fighting for its survival, whispering the tales of its devastation and still clinging to the hope of better future.