From 1989 onwards, I never got the opportunity to visit the Northern Peninsula even though I am a native Sri Lankan Born in Jaffna. During the war, the place was off limits whereby the area was controlled by the Tamil Tigers until May 2009. However, the A9 road to Jaffna, a city of lush landscapes, beautiful lagoons, and amazing Hindu Temples was opened first time after 30 years giving opportunity for Sri Lankans from the other parts of the island to plan their visit to the city. In fact, this as a result enabled many locals as well as foreigners to travel Jaffna to see what they’ve been missing.
Yet, many of my colleagues advised me not to travel Jaffna repeatedly mentioning that “It’s still not safe”. Where else, some told that “It’s perfectly fine “since many soldiers were been there all around the streets. From what I learnt, I found that both of the comments about Jaffna were totally wrong. In fact, it was a very fascinating town with its own unique charm, and full of people who are just trying to get back to a normal life after 30 years of strife. The marketplaces and restaurants were bustling with people. Based on these magnificent factors by keeping its politics situation aside, I decided to make arrangements to travel to the beautiful city of Jaffna.
The weather was extremely hot by the time we reached the Jaffna Town at 03:30 pm. amazingly, none of us showed any signs of tiredness although we had been travelling continuously for 09 hours from Vavuniya. The first Restaurant we came across was “Malayan Cafe”, where we enjoyed a Sprite served in stainless steel cups with crushed ice. For our stay, we booked three nights at the Green Grass Hotel which is known as one of the famous Jaffna hotel offering authentic Jaffna dishes prepared by the experienced chefs.
Basically, it was like a dream coming true to set foot upon at the Northern peninsula whose roads were closed for a long period for most of my generation. Hence, we made the best out of our vacation on the first evening itself by driving past the Chelvanayagam Memorial Column, the Jaffna library, the Duriappa stadium and the Dutch Fort. Nonetheless, walking around the active town packed with people like Colombo was interesting and entertaining and you will definitely notice that you would able to purchase similar goods and products available in the capital city , Colombo. Hence, it is obvious that Jaffna had nowadays become a common sight for tourists from other parts of the island and Tamil expats from foreign countries.
To celebrate our arrival, I decided to dine with my friends at a popular restaurant called “Rolex”. That night we enjoyed one of the best meals in our lives with traditional Jaffna cuisine consisting of string hoppers, prawn curry and coconut sambol. I recalled that when I inquired from a Jaffna Tamil friend living in Colombo asking him what he would like me to bring back for him from Jaffna, he had stated that anything from Jaffna would never taste the same outside Jaffna. In fact, he recommended me to taste the delicious prawn curry prepared with prawns caught around the Jaffna seas and cooked in Jaffna water and coconut milk. Our short stay in Jaffna hosted us to loads of appetizing sea foods like prawns and crabs done in the typical Jaffna preparation and the Jaffna milk hoppers and thosai along with the mouth watering Jaffna ice cream.
We also visited the Cathedral of St. Mary which is the largest church in the Island. A plaque on the wall stated that construction of the present Cathedral had begun in 1939 and was completed in 1982. Except for the Bishop's throne made of delicate timber work which had been presented in 1921 by the Catholics of Jaffna residing in Colombo and a granite altar, the building was bare of the trappings befitting a cathedral. When we entered its holy precincts, the window panes which had stood shattered due to war were being replaced. However, the un-shattered spirit and faith of its congregation were evident at the Sunday morning mass, when young and old, dressed in their Sunday's best, joined as one voice in fervent prayer and the singing of lively hymns. We also visited the famous Nallur Temple which is said to commemorate the arrival of King Bhuvaneka Bahu VI of Kotte better known as Sapumal Kumaraya and here again we were aware of the same faith and holiness in the people taking part in the poojas.
The following day, armed with maps and camera, we set out in search of the controversial Buddhist ruins at Kantharodai which have been identified as the Kadurugoda vihara mentioned in Sinhala historical literature. According to the said book, 2nd edition Pg. 391, upon excavation by the Archeological Department, the remains of 50 small votive dagobas were exposed. The earliest date that could be assigned to this site is circa 2nd century AD. A little sign board with a picture of a dagoba pointed towards this land mark. There are few humble homes in the vicinity and the nearest town is Chunnakam which is one of the big cities in Jaffna peninsula situated in the famous KKS Road.
To be Continued....