Almost every Indian is aware of the mythological epic Ramayana and has been intrigued by the Rama Setu at some point in their lives. Likewise, even I always had this place named Dhanushkodi in my bucket list and keenly wanted to visit it someday. For the starters, Dhanushkodi is the starting point of the Rama Setu a.k.a. Adam's Bridge (don't know why it got this name though).
So the Rama Setu is a chain of limestone shoals, between Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram Island, off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka. Geological evidence suggests that this bridge is a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. The border between India and Sri Lanka is said to pass across one of the shoals, constituting one of the shortest land borders in the world.
So far, Dhanushkodi is yet to get ticked off my bucket list but when I chose Sri Lanka as my Honeymoon destination (along with Maldives), I thought "why not see the other end of the Rama Setu?". And that's how Talaimannar Pier found place in my Sri Lanka itinerary.
Talaimannar is a settlement in Sri Lanka located on the northwestern coast of Mannar Island. And Talaimannar Pier is a railway station that ends at the sea :) It also has a defunct rusty ferry port and a lighthouse for company.
History of Talaimannar Pier
The proposal to build a rail bridge across the Palk Strait was originally brought forward by the British government in 1894, in order to facilitate the transportation of workers from Tamil Nadu, India for the tea plantations in Sri Lanka. In 1902, the rail line between Colombo and Kankesanturai was opened and a branch of this railway line was built in 1913, linking Madawachchiya and Talimannar Pier.
The Talaimannar station was opened on 24 February 1914. The pier and railway station were functioned in 1914 to ferried passengers between Talaimannar and Dhanuskodi (Rameswaram, India) At the time, it was considered the cheapest mode of transport of passengers and goods between the two neighbors. In 1967, both piers at Talaimannar and Dhanuskodi were damaged by the "Dhanuskodi Cyclone" which caused to suspend the ferry service between the two countries. Three years later, the infrastructure had been repaired and the ferry service was commenced again.
However, the service had to be abandoned again in 1983/84, due to the escalating war situation in Sri Lanka. The war between the government forces and LTTE (a rebel group designated as a terrorist organization) badly affected the ferry transportation between the two countries. During this period, the railway lines were completely destroyed by the LTTE and the steel bars of the track were used by them to build their bunkers.
The Thalaimannar railway station was abandoned in 1990 and reopened on 14 March 2015, after the end of the civil war.
How we reached there
So we left from our hotel in Negombo (Lavinia Hotel) at 11 am on 23.02.2020 and reached The Palmyrah House hotel in Talaimannar at 8 pm. That makes a journey of 9 hours for 230 km distance, with an hour long break for lunch. So plan your journey accordingly. We had no choice but to visit Talaimannar Pier next day which was hardly 7 km away from the hotel.
We had booked this customized trip with Flynote and they had arranged a car for us. But if you are planning a budget trip, you can reach Talaimannar from Colombo by train too. The timetable is easily available online. In fact the train will take you directly to the last railway station - Talaimannar Pier
When we reached the spot, I knew that there won't be anything special we may get to see but the view was indeed amazing. On one side you have the railway station and on the other side you have the lighthouse, the ferry port and the ocean. And just imagine, you would be standing at a spot that is just 36 odd km away from India :)
By the way, few kilometres away from the Talaimannar Pier, there's an actual starting point of Adam's Bridge and a spot called Adam and Eve's cave. But all that territory comes under jurisdiction of Sri Lankan Navy and you need special permission to access that part. They say that the SL Navy does take you to the start of Rama Setu by speedboat too, but permission is a must. And I don't think foreign nationals will get that easily.
Anyways, it was a wonderful experience (after 9 hours of journey) and now I'm definitely looking forward to my visit to the Indian endpoint of the Rama Setu i.e. Dhanushkodi :)