By Shreyash Dhumal:
If you’ve watched Ramayana, you probably might remember the Vanersena building a bridge made of rocks with Ram written on it.
According to Indian mythology, the bridge was named Ramsetu, and it connected Rameshwaram Island and Mannar Island (Sri Lanka).
It happened at the southern tip of India and the place is now known as Dhanushkodi.
However, it was declared as a ghost town by the Madras Government, following a gruesome tragedy.
Dhanushkodi Before The Night Of 22nd December 1964
Dhanushkodi was like any other normal town before 22nd December 1964. Back then, it wasn’t a town of ruins, as it is today. The town had a railway station, a hospital, a higher secondary school, port offices, a church and a temple.
The town was a busy one, with a ferry station ferrying people to even Talaimannar in Sri Lanka.
The railway station also had decent traffic, with one daily train- The Pamban Dhanushkodi Passenger.
The Night Of 22nd December 1964
It was the night that changed the fate of Dhanushkodi forever.
A super cyclone with a wind speed of 270 km/hr hit the coast of the small, bustling town. The tidal waves were rumoured to be as large as 20 feet in height.
At 23:55 that night, the Pamban Dhanushkodi Passenger was a few kilometres away from the Dhanushkodi railway station when the signal failed. The driver decided to take the risk as it was dark all around and the signal showed no signs of lighting up.
A few moments later, the train was washed over by a tidal wave, killing 115 people on board.
The wave also destroyed the Pamban bridge, the only thing connecting Rameshwaram Island to Mainland India.
However, the incident saw one of the bravest acts in India. Two railway employees, a winchman and a bridge inspector of the Pamban bridge who were on patrol duty on the 22nd, survived by clinging to the remains of the bridge for 12 hours.
They were rescued by a boat on 23rd December and later awarded for their dedication towards their duty.
The tragic incident resulted in the death of over 800 in Dhanushkodi alone, and over 3,000 people were stranded in the town.
Life After The Cyclone
The repairing of the Pamban bridge was made a priority after the disaster. It was completed in just 45 days. Today, the island is connected by both rail and road.
Dhanushkodi is now a popular tourist spot among people who like unusual destinations. The place has the Bay of Bengal on the eastern side, and the Indian Ocean on the western side.
But life could never resume the way it was in Dhanushkodi. A few fishermen still inhabit the town and call it their home. A home with a tragic past and a recovering future.
Originally published at https://edtimes.in on July 13, 2020.