Jaffna is the capital city of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It is the administrative headquarters of the Jaffna district located on a peninsula of the same name. With a population of 88,138, Jaffna is Sri Lanka's 12th largest city.Jaffna is approximately six miles (9.7 kilometres) from Kandarodai which served as an emporium in the Jaffna peninsula from classical antiquity. Jaffna's suburb Nallur served as the capital of the four-century-long medieval Jaffna kingdom. Prior to the Sri Lankan civil war, it was Sri Lanka's second most populated city after the commercial capital Colombo. The 1980s insurgent uprising led to extensive damage, expulsion of part of the population, and military occupation. Since the end of civil war in 2009, refugees and internally displaced people have started to return to their homes and government and private sector reconstruction has begun.
Historically, Jaffna has been a contested city. It was made into a colonial port town during the Portuguese occupation of the Jaffna peninsula in 1619 who lost it to the Dutch, only to lose it to the British in 1796. And during the post-Independence civil war the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) occupied Jaffna in 1986. The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) briefly occupied the city in 1987. The LTTE again occupied the city from 1989 until 1995, when the Sri Lankan military regained control.
The majority of the city's population are Sri Lankan Tamils with a significant number of Sri Lankan Moors, Indian Tamils and other ethnic groups present in the city prior to the civil war. Most Sri Lankan Tamils are Hindus followed by Christians, Muslims and a small Buddhist minority. The city is home to number of educational institutions established during the colonial and post-colonial period. It also has number of commercial institutions, minor industrial units, banks, hotels and other government institutions. It is home to many historical sites such as the popular Jaffna library that was burnt down and rebuilt and the Jaffna fort rebuilt during the Dutch colonial period.
Jaffna is known in Tamil as Yalpanam. The origin of the name can be traced to a legend about the town's etymology. A King was visited by the blind Panan musician, who was an expert in vocal music and one skilled in the use of instrument called Yal. The King who was delighted to the music played with the Yal by the Panan, presented him a sandy plain. The Panan returned to India and introduced some members of his tribe as impecunious as himself to accompany to this land of promise, and it is surmised that their place of settlement was that part of the city which is known at present as Passaiyoor and Gurunagar. The Columbuththurai Commercial Harbor situated at Colombuthurai and the Harbour known as 'Aluppanthy' situated previously at the Gurunagar area seem as its evidences.
Jaffna is a corrupted version of Yalpanam. The colloquial form of Yalpanam is Yappanam. The Ya and Ja including pp and ff are easily interchangeable. As soon as it went into foreign language, it lost the Tamil ending m and consequently stood as Jaffna.
Excavations that were conducted by Sir Paul E. Pieris during 1918 and 1919 at the ancient Jaffna capital of Kandarodai and Vallipuram, a coastal town six kilometres (3.7 miles) from Point Pedro, revealed coins called "puranas", and "kohl" sticks that dated back to 2000 BCE similar in style to the sticks used to paint pictures in Egypt, suggesting that the Northern part of Sri Lanka was a "flourishing" settlement even before the birth of Prince Vijaya, the legendary founder of the Sinhalese. Early historic period.
In the chronicle Mahavamsa, around sixth century B.C, there are descriptions of exotic tribes such as the Yakkhas strictly inhabiting the centre of the island, and the Nagas who worshiped snakes inhabiting the northern, western and eastern parts of the island, which was historically referred to as "Nagadipa".
The 6th century CE Tamil epic Manimekalai speaks of the prosperous Naga Nadu and Manipallavam. According to Schalk, Naga Nadu was a not an independent kingdom, but a Tamil Buddhist fief in the North of Sri Lanka.
During the medieval times, the Kingdom of Aryacakravarti came into existence in the 13th Century as an ally to the Pandyan Empire in South India. When the Pandyan Empire became weak due to Muslim invasions, successive Aryacakravarti rulers made the Jaffna kingdom independent and a regional power to reckon with in Sri Lanka.Nallur a suburb of Jaffna served as the capital of the kingdom.
Politically, it was an expanding power in the 13th and 14th century with all regional kingdoms paying tribute to it.However, it met with simultaneous confrontations with the Vijayanagar empire that ruled from Vijayanagara, southern India, and a rebounding Kotte Kingdom from the southern Sri Lanka.This led to the kingdom becoming a vassal of the Vijyanagar Empire as well as briefly losing its independence under the Kotte kingdom from 1450 to 1467. The kingdom was re-established with the disintegration of Kotte kingdom and the fragmentation of Viyanagara Empire. It maintained very close commercial and political relationships with the Thanjavur Nayakar kingdom in southern India as well as the Kandyan and segments of the Kotte kingdom. This period saw the building of Hindu temples in the peninsula and a flourishing of literature, both in Tamil and Sanskrit.
Most Tamils are Hindus, professing the Saivite sect but might also propitiate many of the village deities. Most Christians are Roman Catholics with small but influential number of Protestants belonging to the Church of South India, the successor organisation of American Ceylon Mission and other colonial era Protestant churches. The Catholic Church has a diocese headquartered in the city. All Moors were Muslims with the Sunni sect predominating with a small number of Shias prevalent amongst mercantile immigrants from North India or Pakistan. There is a small community of Tamil Buddhists who converted to Theravada Buddhism during the 20th century due to the efforts of Maha Bodhi Society. Most Sinhalese were either Buddhists or Catholics.
There was a small community of nomadic wanderers known as Kuravar who visited Jaffna seasonally and spoke a dialect of Telugu or Tamil. Tamils were also divided along the caste system but as an urban area class was more important than caste which was more pronounced in rural areas of Jaffna district.
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08th December, 2017 | 12:11