Jaffna Sri Lanka

Jaffna Sri Lanka

Jaffna the centre of northern Sri Lanka had been a flourishing city in the past. The black period of modern Sri Lanka is being blamed for the destruction of the Jaffna peninsula. Jaffna was not safe for visitors for thirty years from 1983 to 2009, during the civil wars. There had been very few tourists in the Jaffna peninsula during that period.

Today large numbers of national and international tourists flock to the Jaffna peninsula to explore the new territory, which opened its doors after 30 years. Jaffna is included in most Sri Lanka road trips organized for Indian travellers, who book Sri Lanka trip from India because there are many Hindu historical and religious places in the region. Some of those places are mentioned in the Ramayana.

There are large numbers of Buddhist historical places in the Jaffna peninsula since Buddhism had been the main religion in the city. Therefore Jaffna is visited by hundreds of thousands of Buddhist pilgrims. The people of Jaffna celebrated the Vesak festival of 2012 in a grand manner and it was beautified with a large number of lanterns and other decorations.

Black period of Jaffna

Even though the city of Jaffna had been a very populated city before the beginning of the civil war, most of the people of Sinhalese and Muslim origin were chased away from the peninsula by the terrorist and a large number of people of other ethnicity fled the northern peninsula while it had not been safe to live.

Therefore Jaffna peninsula had been one of the least populated areas on the island during the civil war. Jaffna was severely damaged during the war and its prosperity was diminished in the last three decades. Today people who fled the area are coming back to the peninsula and looking for their inheritance. Jaffna city is turning to its normalcy since the end of the war. The infrastructure that was destroyed is reconstructed and people are beginning to enjoy a normal life.

Jaffna is the northernmost city on the island, which shows a completely different weather pattern from the rest of the country. The peninsula experiences dry weather for the most part of the year while the vegetation shows less green due to the lack of water. But most of the people in the area are living in agriculture and they produce products such as rice, tobacco, onions, various varieties of fruits etc.

The main source of water for the agricultural fields is the wells, some of the farmers use water motors to pump the water while several people still have to do the tedious work themselves.

History of Jaffna

Jaffna was under the control of the King of the country in the past. In Sri Lanka, there had been only one king, who was ruling the whole country most of the time such as Vijayabahu, Parakramabahu, Nissankamalla etc.

Shankill, who had massacred the Christians of Mannar, Sri Lanka in 1544, and succeeded in rowing off the Portuguese yoke in 1560, was so cruel a monarch that his own subjects finally revolted against him and set up on the throne his son, Puviraja Pandaram.

The throne was next seized by Kasi Naynar who also was so unacceptable to the people that, with the assistance of the Portuguese of Mannar, they imprisoned the king and raised another to the throne. Kasi Naynar, however, escaped from prison and seized the throne, whereupon e was assassinated at the instigation of the captain of Mannar, who then raised Periya Pulle to the throne under the new name of Chegaraja Sekaran.

He was succeeded by Puviraja Pandaram of Pararasa Sekaran, who desired to rid his kingdom of the Portuguese and laid siege to Mannar, but the auxiliary force from Calicut which he had bespoken did not come in time and being repulsed with great loss, he wreaked his vengeance on the Christian population of Mantota.

The Portuguese, coming to know that a Calicut fleet had set sail to aid the raja of Jaffna, dispatched an expedition under the command of Andre de Furtado de Mendonca. In Portugal Bay Mendonca encountered the Calicut fleet while the men were on land and captured the camp, destroyed the fleet, and arrived at Mannar in triumph with the prize. Then left for Jaffna with a large Portuguese force and country troops to chase the king. The fleet arrived at Kolombuturai and dispersed the King and his army.

Jaffna, the emerging holiday destination in northern Sri Lanka

Jaffna has become an emerging Sri Lanka holiday hot-spot among world travellers after the ending of the devastating war on the island. Therefore, the government intends to convert Jaffna Fort into a location of tourist attraction while preserving its archaeological values. The first phase of the upgrading and renovation project of the Jaffna fort is estimated to cost Rs 104 million and is planned to be completed in 2011.

Places to visit in Jaffna

Jaffna is included in every Sri Lanka tour that takes place on the northern route. Sri Lanka tour itineraries are divided into 2 categories, Sri Lanka Tour itineraries on the northern route and Sri Lanka tour itineraries on the southern route. However, most Sri Lanak trips take the southern route while only a few tour itineraries follow the northern circuit. If have booked a Sri Lanka trip on the northern route you are well on your way to visiting dozens of interesting places in Jaffna.

The Nallur Kandasamy Kovil

If you have taken a trip on the northern route Nallur temple is one of the places you should visit in Sri Lanka. The majority of the people in northern Sri Lanka are Hindus and these people in Jaffna have a cultural connection to south India and their roots going back to Chola, Panday,= rulers of south India. The majority of the population in the region is Hindu and therefore this northernmost city of Sri Lanka is home to countless Hindu Temples. By far Nallur temple is the most popular Hindu temple in Jaffna. The Gopuram of the temple is more than 100 feet in height and decorated with beautiful, intricating designs. Nallur temple is regarded as the most significant Hindu shrine in Jaffna, due to its antiquity. This temple is included in most Sri Lanka tour itineraries that include Jaffna.

The present temple is dating back to the 17th century AD but the original construction of the temple is dating back to the 15th century AD. The present temple was constructed after the old temple was destroyed by the Portuguese army.  

The temple is dedicated to God Murugan and daily ceremonies are performed with the participation of devotees. The annual ceremony at the temple, which takes place in August is the major event of the Nallur temple. It is participated by hundreds of thousands of devotees from all around the world. The event is winding up on the 24th day of the ceremony with a colourful parade.

Jaffna Archeological Museum

Jaffna museum is one of the important places that need your attention. Large numbers of interesting artefacts are being displayed in the museum of Jaffna. Whalebones and centuries-old musical clay pots are worth to be mentioned here.

Royal Palace Ruins

The royal palace ruins of Jaffna are located in the city of Nallur. Yamuna Eri, Canki Thoppu archway and Mantri mania are several remaining parts of the palace that existed in the past.

Dagobas at Kantharodai

This Buddhist temple is dating back to the 3rd century BC. Kantharoda dagobas are one of the significant pieces of evidence to prove the Sinhala Buddhist occupation in Jaffna since the pre-Christian era. The temple is located about 10 km north of Jaffna and it is consisting of twenty small dagobas. The dagobas are made of corals; the heights of the dagobas are ranging from 1 m to 3 m.

Nagadeepa Vihara

Nagadeepa temple is one of the most historic and sacred temples on the island. It is one of the few places, that Buddha visited in the 6th century BC. The temple is located in Nagadeepa and possesses a medium-size dagoba.

Keerimalai hot springs

Keerimalai hot springs are located in Kankasanturai near Naguleswaran Hindu temple. These hot springs are believed to have healing powers due to the large concentration of minerals. Kerimale hot spring is a very unpopular tourist attraction and is visited by very few tourists every year.

The Dutch Fort

the Dutch fort is located near the beach. It is one of the best-preserved Dutch forts on the island similar to the Dutch fort in Galle. The fort was constructed by Dutch in the 1600s and is surrounded by the waters of the Jaffna lagoon. It had been inaccessible in the past due to security reasons but today it is open to visitors as the security in Jaffna improved.

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 the governor-general during the British rule in Sri Lanka.

Groote Kerk

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 to the public for the last thirty years due to security reasons. After winning the war against the terrorists in north Sri Lanka, the government has opened the doors of the old fortification for visitors.

Development of Jaffna fort in the recent time

The government intends to convert Jaffna Fort into a location of tourist attraction while preserving its archaeological values.

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.