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Southern States - Tamil Nadu

Shattered in 1964, still remains so

By P. S. Suresh Kumar

Ramanathapuram June 14. Dhanuskodi in this district, known as small Colombo, has lost its pristine glory and poor fishermen living in this village are dreaming about declaring the remains of the 1964 cyclonic storm there monuments. As there was no one to look after dilapidated structures, bushes and shrubs have sprung up everywhere. Even the existing structures may collapse at any moment.

Pilgrims from all parts of India visit Dhanuskodi throughout the year. A bath at Dhanuskodi is considered sacred because of Sagara-Sangamam, ie, where the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean meet. Repeated pleas for provision of infrastructure to pilgrims and tourists have fallen on deaf ears, says Kali alias Neechal Kali, one of the cyclone survivors, who is still living in the village.

On the night of December 22, 1964, a cyclonic storm and tidal waves from the northern shores of the Rameswaram island lashed the tiny village. The fury, lasting for about 25 hours, devastated it. The Rameswaram road and Dhanuskodi, a narrow strip of land for a 15-km stretch, were swept away. A train, going from Rameswaram to Dhanuskodi, along with passengers was washed away.

According to Puranas, the name `Dhanuskodi' is derived from the Sanskrit `dhanus', meaning bow, and Tamil `kodi' meaning tip _ tip of the bow. It is also called Sethu, a bridge or causeway, which Sri Rama constructed to reach Lanka for retrieving His consort, Seetha, from Ravana. He destroyed the bridge with the end of his bow after his return from Lanka.

Dhanuskodi was opened as a port on March 1, 1914 when the Indo-Sri Lankan connection on this route was accomplished with the construction of a bridge between Pamban and Mandapam.

The port was a gateway to Sri Lanka.

Goods from different parts of south India were exported to the island nation via Dhanuskodi.

There was regular steamer service connecting Dhanuskodi with the port of Thalaimannar in Sri Lanka.

There was a railway station, within the precincts of which the customs office was also located. There was also a Post and Telegraphs office with a public call office.

There were two medical institutions, one railway hospital, a panchayat union dispensary, a higher elementary school and port offices.

But Dhanuskodi was not electrified.

The village is sandy throughout and hence could be reached only by train those days.

Now the State Transport Corporation is operating buses up to Mukuntharayar Chathiram and pilgrims and tourists have to depend on private van operators to go to Dhanuskodi.

Govt. version

When the sorry state of affairs at Dhanuskodi was brought to the notice of officials, they said it was a cyclone-prone area and hence the Government was unwilling to develop the village.

It was not even possible to provide drinking water to fishermen living in makeshift huts as well as to pilgrims for lack of water sources in both Dhanuskodi and Mukuntharayar Chathiram.

The district administration has, however, planned to provide financial assistance to women self-help groups for purchase of four-wheel drive jeeps to transport pilgrims and others from Mukuntharayar Chathiram to Dhanuskodi (seven km) at a nominal rate, sources said.

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