In the far north, off the beaten track lies the city of Jaffna, the bastion of the island’s Tamil culture, with its multicoloured towers of Hindu temples, colonial sights and remote tropical islands in shimmering seas.
Originally built by the Portuguese in the 17th century, the Jaffna Fort is one of Sri Lanka’s last well-preserved colonial ramparts. The Dutch captured it from the Portuguese and expanded it into the landmark we see today. Following the departure of the Dutch, the British also used the Jaffna Fort as a stronghold until Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948. Today, the Jaffna Fort is a popular attraction for all visitors to the city, with open grounds and century-old walls that can be scaled upon as you take in the views of Jaffna.
Keerimalai translates to ‘mongoose hill’ in Tamil. Local legend says a sage cursed with a face like a mongoose was cured upon immersing himself in the healing waters of the Keerimalai Sacred Water Spring. Just next door is the Keerimalai Naguleswaram Kovil – one of Sri Lanka’s sacred shrines dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva. It is said that the same cursed sage established this kovil in gratitude of the adjacent pond’s healing powers.
Kadurugoda Temple and ruins
One of the few remaining Buddhist legacies in the northern province. Paul E. Peiris, the Jaffna Magistrate at 1917, documented nearly 60 gray coral-stone stupas when he discovered the ruins at the turn of the 20th century. Today, only about 20 stupas remain sprawled across less than an acre of open land under palmyrah trees.
Built in 1933, Jaffna Library endured a horrific burning in 1981 – a time at which it held nearly 100,000 books, manuscripts and ancient literature, making it one of the largest libraries in Asia and a cherished depository of the history and culture of the northern peninsula. Now restored, albeit with a smaller collection, the Library still exudes timeless dignity.