A Stroll in Time Through Jaffna City Main Street

Text and Pix by-Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Jaffna’s Main Street begins at a curvy corner at the entry point to the peninsula. and gets connected to the Jaffna town through the long and winding A9 Highway.

Here is a street that had faced enormous challenges and witnessed causalities. Lives have been lost on this road and its properties damaged. The signs of devastation are still visible on this street unlike any other main street in Sri Lanka.


At the corner of the Main Street

The street skirts the Dutch Fort, a tabled historical monument that was ravaged by the war, and at one time occupied by the Sri Lankan Security Forces, Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF), and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

This adds a new flavor to conservative Jaffna. Many buildings in and around Main Street have been completely destroyed due to aerial bombings, shellings and heavy fighting that prevailed in the area for nearly three decades.


Destroyed studio

Very often the Jaffna Main Street has a lonely, deserted look on it. It is so for a reason. Many of the Jaffna inhabitants have fled the island or relocated elsewhere making it what it is today – a long street with little activity. On the hand, it also reflects what Jaffna has eventually become.

Residents have been displaced many times. My own childhood memories of the Main Street in Jaffna are of a bustling place that throbbed with life, before full- scale war hit Jaffna, leaving in its wake, a trail of destruction and displacement . It was then a place packed with studios, funeral parlours, tutories, art centres, a functioning nursing home, a beautiful Church, eateries and many monuments symbolizing Tamil Nationalism, and their early leaders.


View of Thanthai Chelva Memorial


Monument to pay tribute to people who were killed during the 4th Tamil Research Conference held in Jaffna


View of Clinton Funeral Parlour


Making peninsula’s popular paper wreathe

Subsequent to the end of the war in 2009, the street is showing slow signs of recovery, but many of the earlier monuments have been either deliberately removed, damaged or destroyed except for the Thanthai Chelva Memorial, and a monument that pays tribute to the people who were killed in Jaffna during the 4th Tamil Research Conference. New residents in the area say they hardly know the owners of the studios, and are unable to trace the original owners and the area’s history. Much has changed the face of Jaffna, and Main Street is no different.


Busy in news gathering

There are monuments that are getting a facelift, and some already have been spruced up. The rebuilt Jaffna Public Library, Subramaniam Park, Dutch Fort, Veerasingam Hall, Alfred Durayappah Stadium, Thanthai Chelva Memorial, the memorial for people who were killed during the 4th Tamil Research Conference, Jaffna Central College, Muniyappar temple, and Pannai Causeway, together gives this city its identity and beauty. Year of war somehow, has not dulled the spark that is evident in Jaffna.


View of Alfred Durayappah Stadium


Centre preserves arts and culture


View of Jaffna Prison


Notice to the prison visitors


Reverend Father. Thaninaayagam Adikalaar’s Centenary celebration banner


View of St. James Church


Bicycle a common mode of transport in the peninsula


For the latest fashion for men in town


Chat and cycle


Time for Tuition


For auspicious orders


Time for Cricket


View of Pannai Causeway


Flocks of crows neatly sit on power cables in Jaffna at dusk

~ Courtesy: PassionParade

Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai can be reached at ~ dushi.pillai@gmail.com