The Jaffna has seen the number of visitors soar since the end of the Civil War, and some residents who had moved away on account of the violence have started to return. The area’s main town, Jaffna is very different from the rest of the Sri Lanka, primarily because of the scars it bears from the long conflict. Although there are very few tourist sites, it is still a fascinating place to visit. Built by the Dutch between 1680 and 1792 on the side of an earlier, Portuguese construction, the enormous Jaffna Fort suffered during the fighting; renovation efforts are ongoing. It is possible to walk around the ramparts and some of the original coralline bricks used in the construction of the edifice. Other important lights in town include the Jaffna Public Library, which was torched by Sinhalese mobs in 1875 to a design by British architect JG Smither.
All the main religions have their representative houses of worship in Jaffna, but the large Christian churches are hardest to miss. The Main Street in lined with atmospheric church buildings, including St James Church and the enormous St Mary’s Cathedral, built by the Dutch. The latter has a pleasing interior and shady grounds where visitors can rest awhile and take in the place and quiet.
Jaffna’s modest Archaeological Museum is situated west of the town centre. It contains 15th century artifacts excavated from Kantharodai along with Hindu and Buddhists antiquities. Jaffna also boasts a vibrant market towards the west of the bus station. Although it is stocked with many day-to-day items, palmyra bags and mats are among the most popular products for sale. There is also a covered produce market where vendors sell a wealth of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Jaffna Public Library
The Public Library at Jaffna was set on fire by an anti-Tamil mob for over two days in 1981. Thousands of books and artifacts were destroyed, including priceless ola-leaf manuscripts. After having weathered further assaults over the coming years, it was finally restored in 2001 and opened to the public in 2003; books were donated from all over the world to help re-stock the shelves. Today, the imposing, Mughal-style building boasts an extensive collection of Tamil and English works. The statue in its grounds is that of goddess Saraswati, the Hindu deity of knowledge. more