Text and Pix by Arthur Wamanan in Jaffna
Three years down the line, Jaffna is on the way to become one of the sought after tourism spots in the country.
Once cut off from the rest of the country, and probably the world, Jaffna has indeed come quite a long way, since the end of the war, attracting tourists from near and far.
The heavy influx of civilians was initially an automatic response to the war concluding. Thousands flocked to the peninsula to have a glimpse of the area that was completely off limits to the public for decades barring a brief four year period from 2002 to 2006 during which it was accessible via A9.
Still, traveling to the North was cumbersome due to strict security measures followed at each and every entry-exit point managed by the LTTE and the military. Transport of several essential items had to be checked thoroughly owing to the mistrust prevalent between the two sides even during the ceasefire agreement.
Today the A9 highway is completely open to the public. In addition, the reopening of the Sangupiddy Bridge which connects Pooneryn and Jaffna, along the Mannar-Jaffna road, has also increased traffic to the peninsula.
Guest houses have become one of the most lucrative businesses following the increase in visitors. It is not difficult to locate a rest house in Jaffna. Almost every nook and corner of the peninsula has a rest house.
“Business is good. We have a lot of people coming in,” said a hotel owner in the heart of Jaffna. Jaffna doesn’t let down anyone who visits the place. It has loads to offer, some heritage sites and some that tell the stories of war.
Kandasamy Temple festival
The Nallur Kandasamy festival draws thousands of devotees from islandwide and from around the world annually.
The history of this temple dates back several centuries. However, the present temple was built in 1749 A.D. during the Dutch period.
The annual Ther (Chariot) festival, which begins with the hoisting of the flag, spreads over a period of 25 days during which various Yāgams Abishekams and special poojas are conducted.
Another spot that attracts a lot of travelers is the Jaffna Fort, built by the Portuguese in 1618. Renovation work at the Fort are underway to preserve this historic site. The Fort was under siege on several occasions during the past several centuries and also during the civil war that ended in 2009. It was under the LTTE control from 1986 to 1995 until it was regained by the military during Operation Riviresa. Accordingly, buildings within the Fort include the Governor’s residence, Queen’s House, the Garrison Parade Ground, and several buildings from the Portuguese era.
The Nagadeepa Purana Rajamaha Viharaya is considered as one of the 16 most sacred places of worship for Buddhists in Sri Lanka. It is situated in Nainathivu (Nagadeepa) an islet off the coast of Jaffna.
The temple, which has immense religious significance, was off limits for pilgrims due to the war. Pilgrims have visited the temple since 1st century AD to worship at the Rajayathana stupa. The Rajayathana stupa was constructed by two warring Naga kings, Chulodara and Mahodara, at the site where Lord Buddha during His second visit to the country on a Bak Maha Amawaka Poya Day.
Today, many of those who travel to Jaffna do not fail to take the boat to Nagadeepa to worship at this sacred temple. courtesy: The Nation