Jaffna fort, one of the most important tourist attractions in the peninsula has been able to get the attention of visitors, who come to explore the area over the many centuries. The fort was located in a areas that was impenetrable for the general public over 3 decades and it was opened to the general public in 2009 with the ending of civil war.
The government intends to convert Jaffna Fort into a location of tourist attraction while preserving its archeological values. Under the development program of Wasantha Udanaya. The Phase one of the ongoing renovation project costing Rs.104 million is expected to be completed shortly.
Jaffna Fort was built as a small garrison by the Portuguese in 1618 when the Portuguese invaded Jaffna. Later, in 1658 the Dutch captured it from the Portuguese and expanded its location further. It was taken over by the British in 1795. This Dutch Fort was completely destroyed during the North-East war.
Jaffna, the Capital city of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province has been a tourist destination with the visit of a large number of local as well as foreign tourists daily, since the end of the war. The government will make the Jaffna Fort a tourist Centre with enhanced facilities for tourists.
History of Jaffna Fort
The Portuguese were anxious to punish Sankili a ruthless king who massacred Christian in Mannar. They planned several expeditions but had to abandon them, though the king of Portugal kept urging his viceroy to undertake the task. At last Don Constantine de Braganza took in hand the long-deferred chastisement. His object was to reduce the king to submission, erect a fort, and settle the Portuguese colonies of San Thome in Jaffna. With this object, he set out in 1560 with a large fleet and reached Kayts in October. There Sankili was awaiting him with all his forces.
Braganza landed his security force and marched to Nallur. This capital city of Sankili was situated on an open plain and was walled in a provided with bastions and entrenchments. Capturing the latter, the Portuguese penetrated into the city. The men of Jaffna resisted bravely but were defeated, and the city was taken and sacked. The Raja retreated to kopay and fled during the night after setting fire to the palace. Among the treasures found in the city were those which had fallen into the hands of Sankili on the death of Vidiya.
The Jaffna fort is dating back to the Portuguese rule in Sri Lanka. Later it was attacked by the Kandyan King of Senarath. In 1628 Senarath sent an expedition to Jaffna to seize that kingdom and the fortification for his sons who claimed it by right of marriage with the two daughters of the legitimate king of Jaffna. This expedition was led by the atapattu mudaliyar of Kandy, supported by a Vadagar force sent by the raja of Tanjora. They entered the Jaffna peninsula, destroyed the churches, killed two Jesuit priests and marched upon the town of Jaffna. But atapattu mudaliyar could not hold Jaffna against the reinforcement of the Portuguese and was put to death at last by the Portuguese army. Jaffna fort was occupied by Dutch East Indian company once the Portuguese were dislodged by Dutch. Control of the fort was handed over to the British by Dutch in 1795.
Attraction in the fort
The king’s house is one of the important historical buildings in the fort, dating back to 1680. It was used as the official residence of the Dutch governor and the building was used as the residence of governor-general during the British rule in Sri Lanka.
A Dutch style building with a dome-shaped roof. The church was built in the early part of the 17th century by Dutch. The church can be visited daily till 16.00, it houses a large number of gravestones of important personalities of Dutch origin.
Jaffna Fort was closed for public for the last thirty years due to the security reasons. After winning the war against the terrorists in north Sri Lanka, the government has open the doors of the old fortification for the visitors.