Jaffna is the capital of Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It is the Jaffna District administrative headquarters situated on a peninsula of the same name. Jaffna is the 12th most populous town in Sri Lanka with a population of 88,138 in 2012. Jaffna is about six miles (9.7 kilometers) from Kandarodai, which was used as an emporium from the classical antiquity in the Jaffna peninsula. Jaffna’s Nallur suburb served as the capital of the medieval Jaffna Kingdom, which lasted four centuries.
It was the second most populous town in Sri Lanka after Colombo before the Sri Lankan Civil War. The insurgent rebellion of the 1980s resulted in comprehensive harm, part of the population being expelled, and military occupation. Refugees and internally displaced people have begun to return to their homes since the end of the civil war in 2009, while reconstruction of the government and the private sector has begun. Jaffna has been a disputed town historically. During the Portuguese occupation of the Jaffna peninsula in 1619, it was transformed into a colonial port town that lost it to the Dutch, only to lose it to the British in 1796. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) occupied Jaffna in 1986 during the civil war. The city was briefly occupied by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in 1987. From 1989 to 1995, when the Sri Lankan Army regained control, the LTTE again occupied the town.
ATTRACTIONS IN JAFFNA
- NALLUR KANDASWAMY KOVIL
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is an important Hindu temple, situated in Nallur, Northern Province, Sri Lanka. The leading deity is Lord Murugan or Katharagama Deviyo in the form of the holy’ Vel’ in the Sanctum, the primary shrine, and in other forms such as Shanmugar, Muthukumaraswami, Valli Kaanthar with Valli and Deivayanai consorts, and Thendayuthapani, without consorts in the temple’s secondary shrines.
The original Kandaswamy Temple was founded in 948 AD. Buwaneka Bahu, a minister to the King of Kotte, developed the temple at the site in the 13th century, according to the Yalpana Vaipava Malai.
The construction of the third Nallur Kandaswamy temple is attributed to Sapumal Kumaraya (also known as Chempaha Perumal in Tamil), who ruled the Jaffna kingdom on behalf of the Kotte kingdom. Nallur was the capital of the kings of Jaffna, with the royal palace very close to the temple. Nallur has been constructed with four gate entrances. There were two main roadways and four temples at the four gateways.
- JAFFNA PUBLIC LIBRARY
The Jaffna Library was first constructed in 1933 and has been a sign of northern culture for a long time. The library, underlined by its now restored classical architecture, also suffered a terrible burning in 1981–a time when it housed nearly 100,000 books and manuscripts, making it one of Asia’s biggest libraries. The Jaffna Library retained ancient literature and records from distinguished academics and other experts and served as a cherished depository for data about the northern peninsula’s history and culture. Today, although filled with a collection nowhere near its original, the Library still commands the timeless dignity it upholds for the people of Jaffna and beyond.
- NAINATIVU NAGAPOOSHANI AMMAN TEMPLE
Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple is an ancient and historic Hindu temple on the island of Nainativu, Sri Lanka, surrounded by the Palk Strait. It is devoted to Parvati, known as Nagapooshani or Bhuvaneswari, and her consort, Shiva, called Nayinaar here. The fame of the temple is accredited to Adi Shankaracharya, a Hindu philosopher of the 9th century, for defining it in Shakti Peetha Stotram as one of the prominent 64 Shakti Peethams and its mention in Brahmanda Purana.
The temple complex houses four gopurams (gateway towers) varying from 20-25 feet in height to the east Raja Raja Gopuram at 108 feet high. The temple is an important symbol for the Tamil people and has been cited in Tamil literature like Manimekalai and Kundalakesi since ancient times. The current structure was constructed between 1720 and 1790 after the Portuguese in 1620 demolished the old structure. The temple draws around 1000 tourists a day during festivals and around 5000 visitors. More than 100,000 pilgrims attract the annual 16-day Mahostavam (Thiruvizha) festival celebrated during Aani Tamil month (June / July). There is an estimated 10,000 sculptures in this newly renovated temple.
- ELEPHANT PASS
Elephant Pass, Northern Province, Sri Lanka is situated in the gateway of Jaffna Peninsula. There are about 340km north from capital of Colombo. It has a significant military base and used to be the island’s largest salt field. It has regularly been the site of battles during the civil war.
- KAYTS CAUSEWAY
A string of tiny islands extends west of Jaffna, pointing towards India, mostly connected to the continent by roads built up from the shallow water.
- NAGADEEPA PURANA VIHARA
Nagadeepa Purana Vihara is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Jaffna. According to the Mahavamsa chronicles and the Tamil Buddhist epic Manimekalai, ancient history mentions a gem-studded throne and a stone with the footprint of the Buddha on Nainativu Island (also known as Nagadeepa) visited by pilgrims from India.
The site is renowned as the location where Lord Buddha arrived to intervene and mediate in settling a conflict between two Naga Kings, Chulodara and Mahodara over the ownership of a gem-studded throne during his second trip to Sri Lanka after five years of achieving Enlightenment.
When Buddha came and saw the Naga Kings ready to fight, Buddha used psychic powers to appear miraculous in the sky. This amazed and pleased the Nagas. After listening to the Dhamma sermons showing Buddha’s masterly understanding of unity and harmony, meththa and empathy, the Naga kings with overwhelming faith paid homage to Budhha. In unison, the throne was given to him and they became devotees of piety.
A deity named Samiddhi Sumana, who had created his residence in the banyan tree, followed him to Thathagatha while in Jetavanarama, holding him as an umbrella (parasol) the uprooted tree (Rajayathana tree). Kelaniya’s ruler, Naga King Maniakkitha, moved by Buddha’s compassion, thanked him overwhelmingly for settling the conflict. He also asked for a souvenir to worship and he was given the Rajayathana tree and the throne by the Buddha.
Reconstructed and evolved in the time of King Devanampiya Tissa and Dutugemunu, the Nagadeepa Vihara has been converted into a sacred place.
- JAFFNA FORT
Jaffna Fort is a fort constructed at Jaffna, Sri Lanka by the Portuguese in 1618 under Phillippe de Oliveira after Jaffna’s Portuguese invasion. The fort is close to Karaiyur. The fort was appointed Fortress of Our Lady of Miracles of Jafanapatao (Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora dos Milagres de Jafanapatao) because of various miracles ascribed to the statue of the Virgin Mary in the neighboring church. It was seized in 1658 by the Dutch who extended it under Rijcklof van Goens. It was taken over by the British in 1795 and stayed under British garrison control until 1948. As the country’s only big military fort, it was garrisoned by a Ceylon Army detachment owing to the existence of only state and military structures within its ramparts.
It came under siege on several occasions with the beginning of the Sri Lankan Civil War and was the scene of pitched fights. From 1986 to 1995, it was under the control of the LTTE during this time, and the LTTE destroyed several key features to stop the army from gaining control because of the site being used for attacks, but it was recovered by the Sri Lankan Army in 1995 after a 50-day siege during Operation Riviresa. Locals have also vandalized the reconstruction of buildings damaged by the conflict. Today, a detachment of the Sri Lankan Army with restricted access to tourists stays in garrison and is being refurbished with financing from the Dutch.
Buildings inside the fort include the residence of the governor (King’s House), Queen’s House, Kruys Church, Garrison Parade Ground, quarters of the police and several others.
- DAMBAKOLA PATUNA SANGAMITTA TEMPLE
Jambukola Port or Dambakola Patuna is an ancient port north of Jaffna.
After Mihindu Maha Thero brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka in 250BC, his sister, Theri Sanghamitta arrived in Sri Lanka with a Sacred Bo Sapling one year later to this port. The temple Samudda-panasala (Jambukola Viharaya) was built commemorating the arrival of the Bo sapling by King Devanampiya Tissa (250-210 BC). The same king later planted one of the Sri Maha Bodhi’s first eight shoots at the same location where he kept the initial tree before taking it to Anuradhapura. This site has been restored by King Vijayabahu I (1070–1110).
There are no more remains of the vihara, such as the Buddha footprint stone and vatadage seen to date. This port gradually faded in significance while the port Mahathiththa / Mahathota / Mantota (now Mantai) at the mouth of Malvatu oya evolved as a main junction of sea routes and the Dambakola Patuna Viharaya was lost in time. Sri Lanka’s Great Chronicle, Mahavamsa and Samanthapaasasdika mention pilgrims coming to Jambukola from the “Yonaka” nation to attend the old Jambukola Viharaya.
- NEDUNTHEEVU (DELFT ISLAND)
Neduntheevu (also known by its Dutch name Delft) is an island in northern Sri Lanka’s Palk Strait. Unlike the other islands whose names are Tamil, this island is named as Delft in the Admiralty Chart. The region of the island is 50 km2 and is approximately oval-shaped. It has a length of 8 km and a maximum width of approximately 6 km.
Neduntivu is a flat island inhabited by shallow waters, coral chunks and sand beaches. It is home to a small Tamil population, mostly living near the northern coast in quiet compounds.
The vegetation is a semi-arid tropical form, with palmyra palms, dry shrubs and grasses growing on the pale, porous coralline soil of Grey. Papayas and bananas are growing near the homes of the local people. There are remains of a 1000-year-old temple on the island’s western coast as well as the ruins of a colonial Dutch fort. The water is mildly brackish, and buckets produced from palmyra palm leaves are taken from shallow wells. During the Sri Lankan Civil War, a naval fight was fought off the island’s coast in 2008. The island has feral ponies, offspring of forebears abandoned in the Dutch period. Rijckloff van Goens named the island after Delft’s Dutch town. After Dutch towns, he named the eight most significant islands.