The serene waves of the Bay of Bengal meet the aggressive and wild waves of the Pacific Ocean dramatically in Dhanushkodi. It is the south-eastern tip of Pamban Island in Tamilnadu, India. It was called the ‘Mini Singapore of India’. Separated from the mainland by the Palk Strait, Dhanushkodi is on the far end of the state, in the present day it is reached by a 16km railway line from Rameshwaram, then a road drives to view the tip. Imagine the magical view from the tip where you can feel the endlessness of the ocean, the cool breeze rushing through, and more excitingly, no sound of horns or traffic! Peaceful would be the exact word to describe the ambiance at Dhanushkodi.

Timeline of restoration: Dhanushkodi - Sheet1
Dhanushkodi Ariel View_©saikanth krishna

To be in deep water

Present-day Dhanushkodi may sound like a vacation destination, but the history it holds leaves a mark on its name to date. On 17 December 1964, a tropical depression was formed in the South Andaman Sea. On 19 December, it escalated into a cyclonic tempest. After 21 December, it moved westwards, practically in an orderly fashion, at the pace of 400 to 550 kilometers each day. On 22 December, it crossed Vavunia in Sri Lanka and made landfall at Dhanushkodi on the evening of 22-23 December 1964. The assessed breeze speed was 280 kilometers each hour and tsunamis were 7 meters high. An expected 1,800 individuals died in the cyclonic tempest on 22 December, including 115 travelers on board the Pamban-Dhanushkodi traveler train. The whole town was marooned and the Government of Madras pronounced Dhanushkodi as a ghost town, ill-suited for living. Uninhabited.

Timeline of restoration: Dhanushkodi - Sheet2
After Math Railway Track, December 1964_©IndianExpress
Timeline of restoration: Dhanushkodi - Sheet3
Dhanushkodi Old Railway Station, Present Day_©D Kartikeyan

Winds of change

Today, Dhanushkodi is one of the best tourist destinations with a top-notch beach view. Ever since that architecture, students and architects ponder around the history and past settlement of Dhanushkodi before the storm and have taken initiative towards its revival as projects and thesis papers. Dhanushkodi was a fishermen’s village with its dwelling units, post office, and a railway line. Thus, the architectural proposals were based on Community Housing & Disaster resilience; the approach is an integrated development taking into account the physical, socio-cultural, economic, and ecological factors into consideration. The idea is to rebuild an ‘identity’ for the people of Dhanushkodi & give back ‘livelihoods’. It was a phantom town with old-built ruins and dead trees surrounding the site. 

Timeline of restoration: Dhanushkodi - Sheet4
Dhanushkodi Ruins, Present Day_© Alphonsa Jimmy
Timeline of restoration: Dhanushkodi - Sheet6
Snip from Forgotten Waters, A Thesis_© Aditi Dora

Looking at the ruins, its features such as arches, curves, and vaults are prominent, and reading such details can help plan the livelihood. Taking the social characteristics of working fishermen and local services available, it’s possible to map out the town’s normal day. Since it’s closer to the sea and the rising water level scenario, structures are to be designed on stilts. Placing all the housing structures on stilts will give an ample amount of space for every unit on the plinth level, which when seen as in community can be assessed as a common gathering or market space. The site is already home to Prosopis juliflora, a shrub known for preventing erosion. This can further be populated as vegetation since the vegetation growth on beach sands is limited. More plants can serve as buffer spaces between housing and market spaces. These structures are lightweight and temporary so they can be easily built with local materials like brick, bamboo, mud, and stone.  

The hope of Reliving 

Timeline of restoration: Dhanushkodi - Sheet5
Road to Dhanushkodi_©Balaji Srinivasan

Dhanushkodi was once a significant place on Rameswaram Island before the 1964 storm. With the growing tourism stats, the Center and State governments should acquire more frameworks and restore Dhanushkodi. By publishing tender notices to the public for sources and ideas for the present-day restoration. Danushkodi won’t ever be reconstructed. However, we can restore it. The couple of survivors who figured out how to challenge nature’s wrath live to glance back at a significant past and grieve the obliteration of their old neighborhood. The common structures which once housed straightforward residents and nearby foundations are presently an artifact. Regardless of whether these extras cover in time, recollections of friends and family who lived and worked in this curious city will keep on living in successors. However, this site is a significant one for explorers, many neglect to visit this site because of the absence of simple access. Rail network and ship administration should be re-established to increment the vacationer stream. As it is the torment of transitory birds, this could likewise be utilized to charm the sightseers. Archaeologists ought to go through the capability of Dhanushkodi town and restore it so that individuals could review the memory of the town; the high-speed breeze in the district can be tapped to produce wind energy. On the off chance that every one of these could turn into a reality, they could create Dhanushkodi as a multipurpose center point. Maybe the ghost town will finally come back to life someday!

  • Citation:

Dora, A., 2022. UNI | Project. [online] Uni.xyz. Available at: <https://uni.xyz/projects/forgotten-waters-reviving-the-life-and-l> [Accessed 3 September 2022]

Author

Chelsea is a person who is enthusiastic and eager about new things in life. A part of her is an old soul-like character that drives her to look into the history and stories behind everything and her mind maps out a trail of the deets which comes out as vocabulary.

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