Jaffna – A different world

Jaffna in Sri Lanka is situated within ten degrees of latitude to the north of the equator. It is in close proximity to the sub-continent of India and separated from it by the Palk Strait and the Bay of Bengal. The peninsula is actually almost an island; only the narrow causeway known as Elephant Pass – for once elephants did wade across the shallow lagoon here – connects Jaffna with the rest of Sri Lanka.

With towering, rainbow Hindu temples, sari-clad women on bicycles and a spectacular coastline fringed with Palmyra and coconut palms, the North is a different world. Here the climate is arid for most of the year and the fields sun-baked. The light is stronger: surreal and white-hot on salt flats in the Vanni, bright and lucid on coral islands and northern beaches, and soft and speckled in Jaffna’s leafy suburbs and its battle-scarred centre.

And, of course, there are the cultural differences. From the language to the cuisine to religion, Tamil culture has its own rhythms, and people here are proud of their heritage. Inevitably, given that this region was a war zone until very recently, there’s still a noticeable military presence. But the ambience is far more relaxed than you’d expect, as locals focus on healing, rebuilding and reviving the rich traditions of northern life.

Nallur Kandasamy Temple: Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil or Nallur Murugan Kovil is one of the most significant Hindu temples in the Jaffna District of Northern Province, Sri Lanka. The temple is a socially important institution for the Sri Lankan Tamils Hindu identity and many temples have been built in Europe and North America using the same name as a cultural memory.

Nallur Kandasamy Temple Festival: The annual Festival starts with Kodietram (flag-hoisting) on the sixth day following the New Moon in the month of Adi (August) and continues for twenty five days. The deity goes round the inner precincts at noon and the outer precincts in the evening daily in different Vahanams (vehicles) ranging from a Silver Peacock to Silver Swan et al. The Chariot Festival is the most spectacular event of the festival where a huge and heavy chariot is pulled by thousands of devotees. Penitents can be seen piercing their bodies with hooks and spears without seeming to cause any pain or harm, as an act of faith and atonement.

By: Denise Lanz

Denise Lanz who heads Sita Sri Lanka and is our explorer in the region.

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