The Sri Lanka Travel Specialists
It was the Dutch who expanded Jaffna Fort in 1680 and, more than three centuries later, they are financially supporting its renovation after the destruction caused during 30 years of Sri Lanka civil war.
Forts are monuments to history but Jaffna Fort has a modern story. For a decade from 1985, it was in the control of the LTTE, the Tamil Tigers separatist movement, but was recaptured by the Sri Lanka army after a 50-day siege. Today it houses a garrison of the Sri Lanka Army with limited access to visitors.
The Portuguese, the first colonial invaders, initially built this Fort in 1618. It was captured by the Dutch 40 years later and they expanded it to its pentagon shape, completing it in 1680. Within the fort were a Dutch Reformed Church, police quarters, prison and hospital. Much of this history was destroyed by civil war.
A visit, nevertheless, is well worthwhile. Although a portion of the ramparts has been destroyed, the outer stone walls, 40 feet thick, remain largely intact. The Dutch insignia is still visible at the entrance to the Fort. The Fort is surrounded on three sides by a moat, which the oldest residents in Jaffna tell once housed crocodiles. A guard turret still exists. On top of the ramparts are the ruins of gallows to hang the condemned.
This is an imposing place to walk around – at 25 hectares, second only to Galle as the biggest Dutch Fort in Sri Lanka. You can manage almost an entire circuit and perhaps time it so you can enjoy a glorious sunset at the end of your stroll. A small museum tells of the history and the work taking place. From one point you can see Jaffna Public Library where there is another sad story to tell.
A walk around the walls of Jaffna Fort is a walk in search of renewed hope.
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