Off the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, some 500 km south of Chennai, lies Pamban Island. Seemingly a stone’s throw from neighbouring Sri Lanka, this is an island steeped in historical significance, and with some of the most resilient people alive.
One of the longest sea bridges in the country, the iconic Pamban Bridge connects the mainland with the island, also known as Rameswaram Island. With breathtaking views of the Bay of Bengal, the journey to the island over this bridge rewinds one to colonial times, when it was built by the British to improve trade relations with Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Pamban Bridge is the second-longest sea bridge in India with a total length of about 2.3 km, says a report by Walk Through India.
Here are the 10 things to know about Pamban Bridge:
- Built in 1914 as India’s first-ever sea bridge, the 6,700-foot structure is in itself an engineering and historical marvel that has withstood several of nature’s furies — from storms to cyclones.
- The bridge initially ran up to the southeastern tip of the island, Dhanushkodi, now a ghost town. After a cyclone hit it in 1964, Dhanushkodi was washed away by the sea and is now a mere skeleton of the town it once was. Remnants of its railway lines, church, and the devastated dwellings of people can still be seen, though in very poor shape.
- From the tip of the region, cell phone networks welcome one to Sri Lanka.
- Visible from here is Adam’s Bridge — a former land link between India and Sri Lanka, now undersea — that is also known as Rama Setu, the bridge believed to have been built by Lord Rama’s army to rescue Sita from Lanka.
- With sea levels rising around the world due to global warming, the region is constantly threatened by nature. Surrounded by sea and sand, the town cannot grow any crops and has no provision for electricity due to the wind velocity in the area. It is only the solar panels, an initiative of late President APJ Abdul Kalam who hailed from Rameswaram, that light up the shacks of the few residents.
- With Rameswaram considered one of the holiest places for Hindus, a majority of visitors make temples the focus of their travels. Aiming to showcase the rich cultural and historical heritage of the island, the location has opened up for some incredible architecture and engineering like Pamban Bridge.
- The region also celebrates its much-beloved son Abdul Kalam. His two-storeyed house on Mosque Street is filled with thousands of his books and is always bustling with people.
- A Rs 15-crore memorial to India’s ‘Missile Man’, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 27, has also grown rather quickly as a tourist attraction. The memorial houses a copy of the last speech Kalam delivered at IIM Shillong on July 27, 2015, a number of pictures of his meetings with world leaders, and a host of other objects.
- As an island that is yearning to receive a boost to its tourism, even a bottle of water bought from a shack in Dhanushkodi goes towards supporting a family.
- The best time to visit is between October and March as the temperatures drop and stay between 20 and 30 degrees Celcius, making travel easier.