Dhanushkodi, the ghost town to Sri Lanka

The road to Dhanushkodi is smooth and straight, flanked by gabion boxes that protect it from gales with velocity of 70-80 kilometers per hour. The panorama fills with salty water, an endless silver and blue, merging with the mercilessly heated up skies. The waters of Bay of Bengal roar on our left while the cerulean depths of the Indian Ocean glimmer on our right.

We are on the 19 kilometre national highway that links Rameshwaram, a popular pilgrimage town on Pamban island in Tamil Nadu to Dhanushkodi, the abandoned ghost town on its south-eastern tip.

Just 18 miles from there, as the crow flies, lies another country, Sri Lanka.

An ancient Hindu legend claims this as the place where Rama built the Rama Setu, a bridge of floating rocks that could connect the islands of Pamban and Sri Lanka and enable his legendary monkey army to reach King Ravana’s abode, the modern day Sri Lanka. When Rama won the war against the King of Lanka, he was asked to destroy the bridge, which he did using the end of his bow, hence the name ‘Dhanushkodi’ which literally translates into ‘end of the bow’.

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Gond Ramayani: Ramayan in tribal comic format


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I found my first Gond story in a Gond painting exhibition by Indra Gandhi National Centre of the Arts in Bangalore. The series of paintings, in ten by ten feet frames, was a graphic narrative like I’d never seen before. And I was wowed.

It’s Ramayana, I exclaimed, a story I knew, peering to understand the visuals and corroborate it with the story my grandmother had told me ages ago. The story I’d seen again in Ramananda Sagar’s Ramayana TV series which was inspired by the Awadhi text Ramacharitra Manas written by Goswami Tulsidas. However, I couldn’t decipher the visual story. It didn’t collaborate with the Ramayana tale I knew. The one I considered the right one. Curious and fascinated, I contacted IGNCA, started to research on this unusual Gond version, emailed people, called scholars, read books and piece by piece constructed the story that is sung by the bards of Gond, where Ram isn’t the main hero. And so I build up the whole story. Or atleast a version of it. For I’m a storyteller too.

Have you heard the story where Lakshmana is the real hero in Ramayana? And Ram, that ideal husband and king is but a side character who orders his younger brother to fetch his dice for a game and then blames him for trying to sleep with his wife. I hadn’t.

So I’m going to retell one of the Gond Ramayani tales to you.

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