Sightseeing places in the ancient city of Jaffna in Northern Sri Lanka

Jaffna had always been imprinted on my mind as a war-torn area of ​​Sri Lanka. Growing up in the 1980s, we had heard about Jaffna in Sri Lanka more than any other place there. At that time I neither knew about Colombo, nor about Anuradhapura, whose name matches my name. I knew only about Jaffna. For us it seemed as if Sri Lanka was only Jaffna. At that time all the newspapers were full of news about Jaffna city and the civil war going on there.

I first visited Sri Lanka in 2005. At that time I could go only till Kandy . Being a sensitive area, Northern Sri Lanka was still inaccessible. During my trip to Sri Lanka in 2017, I was able to visit Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa . Jaffna is a more northern region of Sri Lanka. During my visit to Sri Lanka in 2019, I was able to reach its entire northern regions. I traveled through the northern region of Sri Lanka from east to west, i.e. starting from Mannar to Trincomalee.

The city of Jaffna, located on the northern tip of the Jaffna Peninsula, was a pleasant surprise for me. I had information about some ancient temples here. In this area, the dominance of Shaiva Tamil speaking people has been more. However, the vast number of temples, the picturesque lakes, its islands scattered across the blue waters of the Indian Ocean, everything was truly a pleasant surprise for me. Besides this, it is also a big and crowded city.

So come with me, discover this ancient city of Sri Lanka.

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Temples of Jaffna

The city’s skyline is adorned with the tall and grand gopuras of its temples. Even on the islands spread far away in the sea, tall temples successfully show their existence. It is impossible to visit all these temples in three days. So I decided on a mixed list of some ancient and some new temples and visited them. Let me introduce you to all those temples.

Naguleshwaram Temple of Keerimalai

This temple is the latter among the 5 Pancheeswara temples of Sri Lanka. Like the Koneswara Temple of Trincomalee and the Thiruketeswara Temple of Mannar, this temple is also an ancient temple. This temple is named after Nagula Muni who used to perform penance here. We can easily guess that this temple was built around 600 BC. Is of.

You enter this temple from beneath an ancient gopuram. The beautiful scene of Shiva Parvati’s marriage is depicted by colorful statues on the Gopuram. After this, a tall Gopuram will appear before you. This gopuram, painted in a light beige color, has many golden statues. As you move forward from its center, you will find yourself surrounded by colorful small temples. There are legends engraved on the cliffs whose blue arches add to its beauty. There is a huge Shivalinga installed outside the temple on which Abhishekam is performed. The Shivalinga located inside the sanctum sanctorum is kept behind many doors.

There are 108 postures of Shiva Tandava dance engraved on the walls.

Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi also visited this temple during his visit to Sri Lanka. As soon as I informed Pujariji that I was an Indian, he immediately showed me the photographs of Modiji.

Keerimalai Hot Springs

There are natural springs of water on the beach just behind Naguleshwaram Temple. They are called hot water springs but their temperature is normal. Their temperature may have been hot at some point in time. There is an open pool for men to bathe and an enclosed area has been reserved for women to bathe.

The water of these springs is considered to have medicinal properties. The beach here is beautiful. A part of the coast appears to enter the sea in the form of a narrow strip.

Nallur Kandaswamy Temple

Nallur is now a suburb of Jaffna but was once the capital of Jaffna. The Nallur Kandaswamy Temple is the most picturesque, most luxurious, and grandest temple in this region. Its golden gopuram can be seen even from a distance. According to information received from historical articles, this temple was built in the 10th century AD. The temple we see now was constructed in the 18th century AD.

The golden arches standing on pillars inside the temple are very grand. Each arch stands on 6 small pillars. When you go below them, the mirrors fixed on these pillars scatter your reflection in such a way that anyone’s eyes will be dazzled. A huge temple stands above them. When I was passing under those arches, I felt as if I had gone back in time and was entering a grand palace. There is also a pond within the four walls of the temple.

This temple is dedicated to Murugan i.e. Karthikeyan.

If you have so little time that you can see only one place in Jaffna, then visit Nallur Kandaswamy Temple.

Nagpooshani Amma Temple

This temple is one of the two Shakti Peethas located in Sri Lanka. I have already written about Shankari Shakti Peetha in my travelogue on Trincomalee. This is the second Shakti Peetha. To reach here one needs to travel 45 minutes by road from Jaffna city and take a 20 minutes boat ride. There are ferries running every half hour each way from the mainland to Nainativu Island.

The 108-foot-high Gopuram of Nagapushani Amma Temple is visible from a long distance. This gopuram becomes bigger as you get closer to it during the boat ride. After descending from the other side, a direct road leads towards the Gopuram itself.

You can see the shape of a snake everywhere in this temple. A huge Nandi is seated in front of the temple. As soon as you enter the temple, your first encounter is with Nandi. It is a huge temple which is visited by a large number of devotees. The main sanctum sanctorum houses the idol of Nagapushani Amma. On one side of this statue is his Utsav idol made in brass and on the other side there is a huge structure like Sri Chakra in front of which people offer flowers. I came here on Friday. Therefore, I had the unique privilege of seeing the grand procession of the Goddess.

Like the Koneshwar Temple in Trincomalee, here too small swings were tied on the trees around the temple.

Navdeep Puran Vihar

It is a beautiful Buddhist vihara situated on one side of Nagapushani Amma temple. Here too, figures related to snakes predominate. Even the statue of Buddha has the hood of a snake. The temple has an attractive arch facing the sea which can also be seen from a distance.

Like Polonnaruwa and other Buddhist places in Sri Lanka, there is a white-colored stupa here too. There is also a small temple with a Chandrashila on its steps.

I only got to spend a few moments in this monastery as I had to catch a ferry to reach the mainland. However, the memory of this charming place as a peaceful and serene place will always remain alive in my mind.

Palace of Thiruvasagam

Even before entering Jaffna city, you can visit this latest attraction of the city. This is the palace of Thiruvasagam. Located in Nevatkuli, this palace is a tribute to the Tamil poems dedicated to Lord Shiva written by the 9th century AD poet Manikkavasagar. His poems are regularly sung in Shiva temples in the Tamil-speaking areas of India and Sri Lanka.

All his 615 compositions are inscribed on the walls of this palace. His most popular composition is Shiv Purana which is sung first in temples. This Shiva Purana has been translated into many languages ​​of the world and all those translations are also inscribed on the walls of the Thiruvasagam Palace.

In the courtyard of the palace, there is a temple dedicated to Shiva called Dakshinamurthy Temple. Between this temple and the wall of the palace on which poems are inscribed, there are 108 Shivalingas of the same size and shape. Even on the top of the temple, instead of the usually carved idols of Gods and Goddesses, there are many Shivlingas. In the middle of the pond in front of the temple, there is a statue of Manikkavasagar inside a small temple shaped like a chariot. A statue of Agastya Muni is waiting for its installation. This entire structure and installation has been completed in less than 18 months. This huge task has been accomplished by a person whose name is Dr. Aru Thirumurugan.

This place is rapidly turning into the most popular place in the city. On a normal day, I saw many devotees coming here to visit the temple before leaving for their work. The belief has started developing among the people that if they consecrate 108 Shivlingas then all their wishes will be fulfilled.

Be sure to visit this unique temple that celebrates the ancient poetry of the Tamil land.

hanuman statue

There is a huge statue of Hanuman in front of a temple in the city. It seems as if they are protecting the city and keeping an eye on it.

Jaffna landscape

‘Lagoon’ i.e. Anup, is a shallow water area formed on the banks of wide water bodies like the sea. All the islands are connected by causeways. When you drive on those causeways, you will see only water all around you. If you do not pay attention to the road in front of you for a moment, you will feel as if you are driving on the surface of water. The memories of Jaffna Lagoon will remain in my mind for a long time.

I had come to Nainathivu Island to visit Nagapushani Amma Temple. I was surrounded by water from all sides. There were only a few people or vehicles all around. The entire scene was very peaceful and beautiful. Every fiber of my being was thrilled. This is the best place to spend a quiet day.

Long narrow fishing nets were spread in the seawater. In some places, this net was laid in the shape of a funnel. I started imagining that by evening this net would be filled with fish. Here and there small boats were anchored and stopped. Some fishermen were preparing to lay nets in boats.

An island was visible in the distance. The tall gopurams of the temples showed the presence of these islands. Seeing the grand Gopurams of these temples, you too will be in awe.

Visiting Cultural Places in Jaffna

Jaffna Fort

It is a medium sized fort spread over 62 acres. The location of this fort is best to keep an eye on the activities happening in the sea. There is a wide moat filled with water around it. When you stand on one of its towers, you will feel as if you are standing on a structure built in the middle of water.

This fort was originally constructed by the Portuguese in 1619 AD. Thereafter, in 1658 AD, the Dutch took over it and made Jaffna a major trading port. Although this fort is in a dilapidated condition, yet it is being maintained properly. Information boards giving detailed information about different parts of the fort are installed at different places.

Entry here is free. There is a small souvenir shop near the entrance where you can buy posters and books on Sri Lanka.

Minister Manai

There are not many heritage buildings left in Jaffna city. I could only find one heritage structure. This heritage site, Mantri Manai is a heritage residence that was once the residence of a minister. The condition of this building is not very good, yet it stands proudly telling the story of its history.

Despite being a colonial structure, local elements have been blended into it. Kitchen and well are examples of this.

Archaeological Museum

This is a small but interesting museum situated on Navalar Road. It houses a collection of artifacts excavated in northern Sri Lanka. A large stone pitcher brought from the Thirukateswara Temple in Mannar welcomes you at the entrance. The peak of the Buddhist stupa seems to support him in this.

Some of the interesting objects displayed here are:

  • An earthen pot with 7 mouths. It is a musical instrument.
  • Coins with the image of Goddess Lakshmi
  • Pearl sieves
  • Fish-shaped chessboards
  • Manuscript of the Tamil Ramayana on palm leaves

Kadurugoda Viharaya of Kandarodai

It is an interesting archaeological site where the remains of 40-50 ancient stupas are located simultaneously. Some of these stupas are intact but some stupas do not have Harmika and only the bases of some remain. Despite being in a fragmented state, they appear very attractive and interesting. Their antiquity is clearly visible in them. Perhaps these stupas are proudly displaying their antiquity.

It is a protected site. Also, it is located near the army installation. Therefore, before visiting it you will have to obtain prior permission. You can also get this permission by coming here.

Jaffna Public Library

The city’s public library is a pleasing building painted in pure white. From a distance, it reminds us of the Taj Mahal. When you come here, the first thing that will attract your attention is the statue of Goddess Saraswati.

At one time it was one of the largest libraries in Asia. It was destroyed in a fire during the Civil War. A large number of books were destroyed. Local residents told me that the library’s collection was being rebuilt. For this, residents are also being appealed to donate books or provide financial assistance for purchasing them.

Clock tower of Jaffna

The clock tower located near the library is also painted in pure white color. It commemorates the British colonial period in Jaffna. The clock tower was built to commemorate Prince Albert’s visit to the area in 1875. Its maintenance seems excessive for an ancient structure. I was informed that it has been renovated recently. It was also damaged during the Civil War.

All around it, there are statues of the kings of the region riding horses. Both the king and his horse are painted golden.

Must try these delicious foods in Jaffna

In Jaffna, you will get to taste typical Tamil foods. It is a great pleasure for vegetarians like me. Be sure to try these foods available here:

Kund Dosai – Dosa similar to small idli

Rio Ice Cream

To understand the true essence of the city and its life, visit the market here.

How to reach Jaffna?

The nearest airport to reach Jaffna is Colombo International Airport.
Jaffna is also connected to Colombo and other major cities of Sri Lanka by rail and road.
Two days is enough time to see all the tourist places in Jaffna that I have discussed here. If you don’t want to travel to the island, you can easily see the rest of the site in a day.
There are many guest houses in Jaffna. My guess is that a large number of business travelers come here.