Walking with the dead - Dhanushkodi - 2

Dhanushkodi is located at the land's end of the Pamban island snuggled on both sides by sea and served by a train station and port. The Ferry service connected the city with Talaimannar in Srilanka.
The train service from Chennai to Colombo via Dhanushkodi was very famous and is a very important trade route for the businesspeople of the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. It also connected the island of Pamban with mainland India and so was a important source of connectivity for the people of Pamban.

The next stop through the swampy land was the old city of Dhanushkodi. the first building that comes into view is a tall, boulder-built building which is still standing with rusting steel girders. This is the erstwhile Dhanushkodi railway station. The water tower for the trains was missing as it was washed away. The traces of the railway tracks can be seen, though the tracks are missing.

As always, there is a hut here with a Ram idol as Ram was supposed to have marked this place as the starting point for his setu across the Palk strait. The marking was done with His bow and hence the name 'Dhanush-Kodi'. There is also a 'floating stone' available for those who are interested.

"ரயில் அசைந்தது. மெதுவாக ஊர்ந்து சென்றது. இப்போது கடமுடவென சத்தம். ரெயின் தனுஷ்கோடி pier மேல் ஊர்ந்து கொண்டிருந்தது... பாதி ரயில் தனுஷ்கோடி பியரிலும் பாதி ரயில் வெளியே பின்னாலும் இருந்தது..சுயம்பு இருந்த பெட்டி பியரில் கடலின் மேல் நின்றுகொண்டிருந்தது."*

The walk through the ruins in the hot tropical sun that day was not much enjoyable. There were floors and foundations with a heap of bricks over them reminding of the house that would've been there with probably a family of traders or fishermen. Now nothing remains of that.

Today the sands of Dhanushkodi are the most common thing to be seen. Sand is claiming everything that is in the way and has filled the ruins everywhere. It is a fascinating sight to be seen. With the sea breeze, the sand flies over the surface and sticks to the feet, hands, face and everywhere. 

"நின்றுவிட்ட ரயில் முன்னேறுவதற்க்கான அறிகுறியே இல்லை. தூரத்தில் பளீர் பளீர் என்று மின்னல் கடலில் இறங்கியது போல் இருந்தது. இடி முழக்கம். 'சோ'வென பெருமழை வேறு பிடித்து கொண்டது....வானமே இடிந்து பக்கத்தில் விழுந்தது போல் இடிச்சத்தம் கேட்டது. பெட்டிக்குள் அனைவரும் நடுங்கி கொண்டிருந்தார்கள்"*

The only thing that reminds of the past in Danushkodi is the commemoration stone laid in 1933 to celebrate the silver jubilee of the King's coronation. It was laid by the panchayat board president of Dhanushkodi. It stands witness to the good times the city passed through and the ruins that remains of the city today.

While walking among the ruins, it is impossible not to get a eerie feeling of the life that the city had all around. The school wall stands giving a sense of the children who must've been around that fatal night, the fireplace in the traveller's bungalow stands testimony to the prosperity of the city and its place as an important transit point. 

"ஜன்னலை பயந்து பயந்து திறந்து திரும்பவும் எட்டிப் பார்த்தார் சுயம்பு. முன்னால் என்ஜின் இருந்த பகுதியே தெரியவில்லை.முன்னே எங்கும் வெள்ளக்காடாய் நுரைத்து கிடந்தது. ..திடீரென்று மோதிய ஒரு அலையில் ரயில் பெட்டி வேகமாய் முன்னே நகர்ந்து பாய்ந்து படாரென்று கீழே இறங்கியது...பெட்டி பியரில் இருந்து தொங்கி கொண்டிருக்க வேண்டும்.அடுத்து மோதிய அலையில் பியரோடு சேர்ந்து சரிந்தது..தொப்பென்று விழுவது போன்ற உணர்வு"*
 Within 50 meters from the shore, there are small wells dug by the current dwellers of Dhanushkodi for water. And you can see clear water within 10 feet depth. This is the only source of water for all those who stay here. 
The ruins of Dhanushkodi evoke a feeling of sadness without fail. I've visited some of the abandoned mining towns and ruined pueblos in South-west US and they don't evoke that feeling of standing in the midst of a burial ground where so many people died and with the sand flying around, the feeling is of the dead watching over the shoulders. The heart-tugging nature of the ruins makes it difficult to leave from this very sad and desolate place.

When the waters on both sides of the sea met in Dhanushkodi that fateful night, the entire population of the city was drowned in sea. It is estimated that the waves rose upto 10-15 meters that night engulfing the city from both sides without giving the people of the city a place to escape to. The train with six coaches and an engine was washed away by the waves into the sea along with the pier. An estimated 200-250 people died in the train. The death toll that night was never finalized but was estimated to be about 1500-2000. Only 2 persons survived that disaster that night. In the aftermath, the government announced Dhanushkodi to be unfit place for the city and move the rail head to Rameswaram.

While coming back, J was asking about other cities that are in ruins now. I was telling her about Hampi, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Persepolis etc. Vanathy suddenly said "Daddy, I don't want to go to any place like this". When asked why she don't want to go, she replied "Because it makes me sad"

Complete set of pictures here --> https://plus.google.com/photos/104749384557340720796/albums/5882729566856779809

* The Tamil portion is from the novel 'ஆழி சூழ் உலகு' - ஜோ டி குருஸ். You can buy it here.


Prabhu Palanivelu said...

good one Maaps

Prabhu Palanivelu said...

Good One Maaps.

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