Dhanushkodi - Life in The Ghost Town - A Photo Essay

11/24/2012 11:55:00 PM

Update : on Dec 30, 2014 New Photobook "Dhanushkodi : Life in The Ghost Town by Poonam Parihar"  released, details at the bottom of the post.

"Diversity in the world is a basic characteristic of human society, and also the key condition for a lively and dynamic world as we see today. ~ Jinato Hu"


In Dec 2010, I, along with 3 friends, went for a 10 days long coastal road ride to 2 south indian states of Tamilnadu and Kerala. Starting from Bangalore, karnataka, we drove through popular destinations in Tamilnadu, such as Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Trichi and Madurai to the famous hindu pilgrimage located between indian peninsula and Sri Lanka,  known as Rameswaram or Pamban Island, and spent ample amount of time at this holy place, walking, beach trekking, mountain biking.

Life begins where the land ends!

Rameswaram, spread over in a area around 62 sq. kms, extending for around 30 kms in length and 2 to 7 kms in width, is a bustling pilgrim centre, and isconsidered to be one of the holiest places in India to Hindus, and also the part of the Char Dham pilgrimages. Connected to the mainland India by Pamban Bridge, this small island is only 32ft above MSL.


The southern most tip of Rameswaram which is only 29 odd kms from SriLanka is known as Dhanushkodi, Once a flourishing and prominent town, well connected by rail and road with Pamban and the mainland, later destroyed in the cyclones of year 1964, claiming over 2,000 lives and crippling power supply and communications. From temples to churches, houses, dharmashalas,  roads and railway station, all were destroyed leaving no signs of life.


Following the Disaster, Govt of Madras declared the place unfit for the living. Some of the dharmashalas and a prominent mutt based in Dhanushkodi were moved to Rameswaram. The ruins of the station and the railway track were left untouched and Dhanushkodi could never be rebuilt.  however in the ruins of the old island town, that was swept away in the recent history, now is a small fishing hamlet around 10-12KM away from the Adam's Bridge, famously called the Ghost Town.


we took accommodation near the main temple Rameswaram, and instead of driving the four wheeler around town, decided to take an auto-rickshaw to this very point in down south where road ends. on your right greets you the great indian ocean beach and to your left flows the shallow green water of the bay of bengal. from here on only few dedicated minibuses and jeeps are allowed to go further where the land ends also known as Adam's Bridge. hosting a few shops for the tourists coming over and houses the place otherwise remains crowded being one of the favorite beach spot for many National and International tourists.


Since we could'nt find any jeep when we arrived at the beach, which could take us to the land's end. we boarded a mini bus, and it dropped us half way to the ghost town, instead of waiting for another lift, we decided to trek the last stretch of 8-10 KM of Beach Trek to the adam's bridge, Its in that 8Km walk, That I encountered life, so full and alive, that just 50 Yards fat peninsula with nothing to accompany but super hot weather, boats, fishing nets and vast ocean, gave me another reason to question life.


Entire area of Dhanushkodi is covered with white sand and hence is not suitable for cultivation. Coconut and palm trees are found in abundance apart from fig and eucalyptus plants. Scrubsand rushes are found in abundance all along the sea-shore. a population of less than 500, the nearest telephone about 20 km away, no mobile signals  and, adding to that standing at the tip of India, a country so diversified, gives anyone a pretty heady feeling!


Haunting yet appealing, deserted but still full of life, eerie but fascinating — Dhanushkodi is full of contradictions. Bow's End (as translated from Tamil) is a sure delight if you have a penchant for impossibly blue seas, pristine white sands and ruins by the shore. Bordered by the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, breathtaking beauty,  and the feeling of being in a place which was once alive and now a ruin city, reduced to rubble, makes it a place truly less travelled.

How to go there -


By Rail -
Rameswaram (Mandapan station just 2 km away) is well connected by rail with many south Indian cities including Chennai (Chennai Express), Coimbatore (Jan Shatabdi Exp), Thanjavur (Chennai Exp) and Trichy (Bhubaneshwar Exp).

By Air -
Madurai is the nearest airport to Rameswaram, which is located at a distance of 163 km away from Rameswaram. Madurai is connected to many cities by air including Coimbatore, Chennai and Bangalore. 

By Road -
Rameswaram is connected to the mainland India by the Pamban Bridge (Annai Indira Gandhi Bridge). Tamil Nadu State Road Transport Service links Rameshwaram with a number of destinations of Tamil Nadu as well as other cities of neighboring states such as Thiruvallur, Kanyakumari, Trichy, Madurai, Thanajvur, Pondicherry, Tanjore, Bangalore, and Chennai etc. Overnight deluxe super fast luxury buses provide connectivity with Bangalore and Chennai from Rameshwaram.

Reach me  @poonamparihar on Twitter, or Facebook new page / profile , Check out more images from Ladakh on flickr here. Send me any query/comment you have by mailing on mailme@poonamparihar.com or commenting below.

(left - Dhanushkodi , Rameshwaram, Aerial Shot, the long stretch i beach trekked ...)

More Photo Stories and Essays : http://blog.poonamparihar.com/p/photostories.html

Updated Dec 30, 2014 :

5 Years too late? I could work on the book I was so longing to release, and here it is, finally.
The Photobook depicting life and the remnants of it, in this ghost town, If you wish, You can order the print copy of the book on the blurb. the Amazon  print edition and the ebook on itunes to download will be available soon. I'll update the links here.

First 15 pages of the book are available here and my blurb store for preview, Do check it out and post your feedback, like/dislikes etc, and share it with your friends. Enjoy.

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  1. Awesome photos and write up.


  2. That's a great itinerary. I'd like to visit all these places some day.
    Nice pictures, Poonam.

  3. @ D. Nambiar - thank you D, Wish you the best.

  4. I'm just planning a bike trip from Bangalore to Pondi, Nagapattinam, Rameshwaram, Kanyakumari and then Kerala back to Bangalore.

    I want to visit Dhanushkodi - guess it is easier these days what with the hype over the Ram Sethu "bridge" to get a ride till Dhanushkodi. Hopefully will be able to do it.

  5. This is an amazing place-- a hidden ghost town on tip of India.... beautiful pics. loved the Horses..

  6. Well framed and composed photo journal..It gave me a feel as If I was taken by you for a walk. Awesome..!


  7. What an amazing place...... That so much History and Importance stems from what is now little more than ruins and dunes.... It's India in it's most mysterious form. It's on my bucket list now.

    1. It is indeed. Thanks for reading. wish you make it soon.

  8. I am very much shocked to see the condition of fishermen living there without bothering their life which is in danger at any time !Thanks for the best article.

  9. @Sulochanan - Thank you,Indeed Thats right. I was literally in shock when I explored the area, and specially that nothing is been done here. no development.. no future.. nothing..
    In fact rameshwaram itself is pretty much in bad shape specially during monsoon.

  10. Hi Poonam, nice pictures and article.
    Planning to visit this place with my wife and daughters (7 & 5) by car.
    Is there a motor able road till the end ? if not, till where I can drive and how much will have to walk till the end or the Adams Bridge ?

  11. Hi Poonam,

    Your photo essay on Dhanushkodi really gave me feel of the place. I am doing a bit of research for a piece on Abdul Kalam. Wish you many more sublime moments in the great outdoors.


  12. Hi Poonam,

    Awesome narration with great photos. this gave me an overview about Dhanushkodi.. I would love to visit this place once.


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