When we planned this trip, the idea of Rameswaram did come up but we dismissed it as stretching ourselves too far, yet, on the morning of Day 3 of our trip, we found ourselves exactly at Rameswaram, looking wide-eyed at how much the place had changed since our visits in 2000 and 2006. Our plan was to visit Dhanushkodi, then a quick visit to the temple and head back to Madurai. The first task was to find a jeep to drive us to Dhanushkodi.
Helping hand from Rameswaram police
We wandered into the Rameswaram Temple parking lot hoping to find some information at the Tamil Nadu Tourism Hotel when we were stopped by a policeman telling us that we would be allowed near the hotel only if we had made reservations. When we told him we were actually looking for information on how to go to Dhanushkodi, he immediately called up a jeep owner and arranged a jeep for us within 10 minutes ! We could not thank him enough.
Drive to Dhanushkodi, then…
To reach Dhanushkodi, you need to take a ride on jeeps that can ply on anything that doesn’t look like a road ! A quick note on Dhanushkodi – it is the tip of India on the South East, believed to be the place from where the Ram Sethu begins, the meeting point of the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, is just 20 kms from Sri Lanka by sea and a victim of one of the worst natural calamities India has ever witnessed.
Way back in 2000, this writer and family had boarded a bus from Rameswaram to Dhanushkodi with no idea of how difficult it was to reach the place. The bus stopped at a checkpost and we were told we had to take a jeep beyond that point and since it was already getting dark, there was no way we could find any transport to bring us back to Rameswaram. The driver advised us to not even think about getting down because the bus would become full in minutes and we wouldn’t be able to board it. True to what he said, the bus was filled to brim with fishermen and their day’s catch and we were cramped in our seats unable to move even a inch !
Enroute, we even spotted a couple of foreigners hoping to find a transport back to Rameswaram but the bus was too full to let anybody else in. To this day, 15 years since, we still wonder if the foreigners made it back safe !
…and now !
Cut to the present, the ride to Dhanushkodi is a lot more easy now. The jeep that was to take us to Dhanushkodi arrived soon and we met up with our driver who had a very peculiar name – Virodhikirudhu ! He turned out to be a very enterprising person but before that we had to argue and plead with him to drive us all the way to the tip of Dhanushkodi or Sangamam where the oceans meet ! He and his owner refused to go near the tip of the land, they said it was monsoon season and the sea water had come several meters forward and it was not advisable to drive through the slush formed because of that. We told him there was no point in going to Dhanushkodi if he wouldn’t take us there, the argument continued as we began our drive.
The 18 kms drive from Rameswaram to Dhanushkodi is very pictureseque, the road is good and you will enjoy the coastal scenes.
However, the good road ends at the checkpost at the entrance of Dhanushkodi village. Beyond the checkpost, only jeeps, vans or SUVs equipped with 4 wheel drive can go further because this is the route you will have to take !
After you cross the checkpost, there is nothing but sand and sea ! As you drive on the sandy path, you will even forget how normal land on Earth looks !
Our driver Virodhikirudh resumed his argument against going to till the Sangam point and began telling us the significance of Dhanushkodi, which we all know is where Lord Rama began his battle campaign against Sri Lanka. Virodhikirudh, very wisely told us that if we had read Ramayana in any language other than Sanskrit, we had not read the real Ramayana and took it upon himself to retell the story to us ! We were amazed at his Hindi speaking skills as he narrated the story to our friend from the “North” as he called him.
Soon, we reached the spot where the ruins of the destroyed village of Dhanushkodi lie, here Virodhikirudh suddenly came up with a proposal that he would take us to the Sangam point if we were willing to pay him a little extra money and not tell his boss ! He said he wouldn’t quote any price, we were free to give him whatever we wanted as long as it was more than Rs.100/- ! Well, this is the normal practice at Dhanushkodi. Technically, owners of jeeps/vans do not ply their vehicles to the Sangam point especially during monsoon season, however, their drivers initially refuse and then strike a deal with you independent of their owners. We had already read about it before our trip and were prepared for it. Yet, we thanked him profusely while he proudly told us he was taking us there because we had come all the way from Hyderabad and our friend from the “North” and he didn’t want to disappoint us !
No limit for beauty here !
From the point of the village ruins, the path gave way to slush and sea water, we were actually driving right next to the sea water that had advanced by severals meters.
Then, the jeep ploughed on sand, marsh lands and slush. Not many people venture beyond the ruins to the Sangam point, because the drive is difficult and there is a risk of your vehicle getting stuck in loose soil. Our driver told us if the vehicle got stuck, you had to bring a truck to pull it out !
But, take the risk, you will realise it is an experience of a lifetime !
It was a bumpy ride as the jeep swayed, here and there, the jeep threatened to get stuck and we realised the owners of the jeeps were right about not allowing their vehicles to ply till the Sangam, especially during the monsoon. The scenes around, however, make you forget everything else.
A few minutes later, we spotted a horse that stood so still in the sea water that we thought it was a statue !
We have no idea how the horse managed to come there, in a deserted place like that, it did look a little spooky !
Apart from us, there was one other jeep following us, they too were heading to the Sangam.
A few meters ahead, our driver showed us a rusted railway track lying half buried under the sand, part of the railway line that was destroyed in the cyclone of 1964.
He also pointed out to a long line of sand out in the sea that ran parallel to our sandy path and told us that was where the railway track once stood. We are not sure if he was right but we will go by what he told us. Here is a picture of the other jeep finding its way through the water with the railway line in the background.
As we drove further, the sea water and marshy path soon gave way to a pristine beach. The soft, white sand contrasted with the bluish green of the Bay of Bengal, it looked like a canvas painting !
Our driver told us we were near the meeting point of both the oceans and suddenly stopped the jeep. The sand was very soft beyond the point and he showed us how the wheels had almost sunk into the sand ! He didn’t want to drive any further and asked us to walk till the tip of the land. Check out the tyre marks of the jeep but before that check out one of the most untouched, beautiful landscapes of the country !
We were joined by the other jeep which had two people who had come to immerse ashes in the Dhanushkodi sea, considered very sacred. Getting off the jeep and stepping on the sand felt like being transported onto some other planet ! It felt like we had taken a ride on a rover and got down to explore the planet !
Google Maps came up with this as our location !
We were supposed to be out somewhere in the middle of the sea ! The other bit of land that you see in the right corner of the picture is Talaimannar of Sri Lanka ! Our driver gave us an interesting trivia that Talaimannar was named after Ravana, “Talai” in Tamil means head and “Mannar” means King, so the place refers to the 10 headed King, Ravana !
From where the jeeps stopped, the three of us walked towards the tip of the land.
Divided by politics, united by Nature !
Away from the jeeps, the only sound we could hear was that of the waves gently touching the shore. The sand was soft and here and there it would even sink a little, our driver had asked us to be careful while stepping on the sand. The landscape looked new to us though we had been to beaches all our lives, for example, we had not seen sea water forming a pool in the middle of the sand or was it water oozing from below the sand?
We were cautious at every step as if finding our feet on the new planet we landed on ! It was mid-afternoon and the sun shone brightly, lighting up the white sand, there was nobody around except the three of us. As we walked further, we could see the land narrowing down and the Indian Ocean became visible in the distance, we could see the seas on both sides now !
On one side was the Bay of Bengal, calmly touching the shore in small waves.
On the other side, the Indian Ocean seemed a little rough as the waves roared towards the shore.
We regretted not carrying our bigger lens, in the rush at Rameswaram and a little wary of going to a deserted place like Dhanushkodi, we decided it was not wise to carry too many valuable things with us ! Such paranoids, we are !
The excitement began to build as we inched towards the spot where the sand/land ended and both the oceans became one and took over the landscape.
The sea birds had kept us company throughout our ride to Dhanushkodi and our walk to the tip, they too seemed to be excited that they had reached the tip of the land and gave us a visual delight by taking off all at once as waves from either side joined together to form one long, continuous wave !
The political map of the world geographically separates the seas/oceans and calls them by different names but in the eyes of nature, they are all one, there are no divisions. A lot to learn for the “intelligent” creatures that dominate this planet !
Where the waves from the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean met, spray of water rose, it looked like they were giving each other a high five after the long journey to their meeting point.
While all that was happening out in the sea, we had reached the last point of India, the South Eastern limit of our beloved country. The moment we reached the last visible part of the land, it was an overwhelming feeling of “this is it !”
We cannot think of anything else to describe what went through our minds. Out there, standing at the edge, thinking about this beautiful land, abundant nature, Lord Rama’s story, the silence and bright colours of the sea, the sky and the sand, you can feel the waves of the sea in your brain waves, the breeze in your breath, the land in your body and your consciousness one with the universe – science calls you a species, you are but a part of the spectacle called Nature !
Hello Sri Lanka !
Kanya Kumari may be the southern most tip of the Indian Subcontinent where all 3 oceans meet, it is one of the most sought after tourist places in the country, breathtakingly beautiful though the place is, commercialism has robbed it off its serenity. Here at Dhanushkodi, atleast for now, nature is blissfully untouched !
If you visit Dhanushkodi at different times of the year, the landscape may change depending on the season, when the monsoon is over, the sea could retreat a little back and expose more land and the tip of India could move a little further away !
Ram Sethu or Adam’s Bridge is believed to start somewhere from where we walked/stood. Mythical belief, historical fact or geographical phenomena, imagine a land connection between India and Sri Lanka ! Talaimannar in Sri Lanka is only around 20 kms from here by sea.
While geography has lost the connection between the two countries, technology seems to have built a bridge. The highlight of the whole trip and perhaps, one of the most unbelievable moments of our lives was when we saw a message from Sri Airtel welcoming us to Sri Lanka !
The picture is a screen shot of our mobile phone. With Sri Lanka just 20 kms away, our phone was receiving signals from Sri Lanka Airtel ! It was amazing, yet hilarious. If we made a phone call at that moment, even while standing in India we could have been charged international roaming charges ! We just could not believe what we saw and hastily took a screen shot of the moment and saved it for posterity !
We had promised our driver that we would be back in 10 – 15 minutes because he was worried his owner would keep track of timings and find out that he had actually taken us to the Sangam point. We realised had already taken up more than half an hour and pulled ourselves back to reality and walked back to our jeep. None of us wanted to leave the place but all we could do was turn back and click pictures.
We looked back one more time, that was Incredible India’s geographical limit but her stories continue beyond borders, beyond limits, beyond time !
We reached the place where our jeep had been parked and found the driver simply digging up the sand for water and using it for cooling the radiator ! After the Sri Lanka signals, this is the next ridiculously funny anecdote we will remember all our lives.
Thanking Virodhikirudh for bring us to the spot and giving us an experience for a lifetime, we set off towards the Dhanushkodi village. The drive didn’t seem risky this time, it felt like familiar ground.
A note on the horse that we clicked earlier, well, it was still standing at exactly the same place, in the same position, we have no comments on this phenomena, that is left to your imagination !
– A trip to Dhanushkodi Sangam point will take about 3-4 hours, plan your schedule accordingly.
– You will have to hire a jeep or van that can ply on off roads, do not venture on your own unless you are sure your vehicle is on par with an ATV and you have enough strength to pull it out if it gets stuck in the sand. Also, it is difficult to find the way to the tip unless you have a guide.
– Try to wind up your trip before sunset or if you wish to view the sunset, get back before it is too dark, not only for safety reasons, if something goes wrong or you lose your way, it is difficult to find help. It is also advisable to avoid the place during heavy rains or cyclones.
– A jeep ride costs about Rs.1200/-. The rest depends on your negotiating skills, which includes negotiations to the tip of Dhanushkodi. During Summer, we were told people would be willing to take to the Sangam but during monsoon season or when there is a high tide going, people may be reluctant but they seem to eventually come around if you are willing to pay some more to the driver. We told our driver we would walk all the way if he wasn’t willing to take us (a tip we picked up from another blog) ! He teased us throughout the bumpy ride to the Sangam asking us if we still thought we could walk all that distance !
– Just in case you are thinking about walking, the tip is atleast 4 kms from Dhanushkodi village.
– While sunrise and sunset views are great, going there around mid-morning/afternoon is also a good idea, the landscape seems to acquire a particular beauty under the bright sunlight.
– Be a little watchful while stepping on the soft sand, our driver told us there could be sinking sand especially where the sand seems wet.
– It is safe to go here with kids but make sure you carry all the necessary kid friendly stuff and that your kids are used to some bumpy rides. Be alert when they are near the sea.
– If you are not keen on visiting the Sangam point, you can visit the ruins of the Dhanushkodi village, all jeeps/vans pass through the spot before taking the route to Sangam.
– Carry some water with you. There are few shops near the ruins and you can buy soft drinks/water there.
– The Dhanushkodi beach is, thankfully, still pristine though people have not spared it from litter. One can see flowers, bottles and other leftovers at a few places. Leave only your foot prints on the sand, not your trash.
- Update on 21st April 2017 – As per latest news, now the government has built a road till the land’s end, one can take their own vehicles till the Sangam.
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