A journey through Palaly to Point Pedro | Daily News

A journey through Palaly to Point Pedro

Keerimalai pond
Keerimalai pond

The Northern Peninsula has many areas to be discovered by the discerning traveller, especially if you appreciate nature. It is a beautiful land embellished with tradition, culture, religion and some amounts of superstition like many other provinces in Sri Lanka. The landscape infused with lush paddy fields, dry dusty roads, colourful kovils, mystic ponds and plenty of birds has a way of silently impressing your mind. Over the past year, many Sri Lankans missed travelling about due to the onset of Covid-19. I invite you to enjoy this travel adventure combined from two past visits in 2016 and 2017. The somewhat long journey from Colombo by A/C bus at night was mildly boring. In comparison to the views from a train window by day there is no view in the bus at night. I decided to sleep. Very early in the morning the lights were switched on as we passed Kilinochchi. The first rays of sunlight beautifully pierced the Northern skyline. The resilient palmyrah trees stood in clusters. I eagerly looked outside and noticed herds of stray cows and goats occasionally crossing the road. Farmers were already at work in some fields.

As the bus reached Jaffna town, the bright yellow building of the market complex was visible. Hindu religious songs were played from a nearby shop. The aroma of incense drifted from many shops in the town, this is a common ritual here. I was shortly picked up by my kind host. We soon reached the Palaly Road; Palaly town is about 14 km from Jaffna. I was surprised to notice a rabbit running about in the garden. After a breakfast including the famous paal appam (hoppers induced with thick sweetened coconut milk) we set out by 8.00 am. The sight of the Northern folk on their bicycles is part of the Jaffna lifestyle, although since then I have observed an increase in motorcycles.

St. Anthony's Church, Pasaiyoor

We passed the magnificent church of St. James built in 1861, as the sun extended her rays across this land. We stopped at the Naga Vihara. Some pious devotees were engaged in prayer. I had a brief chat with the amiable Chief Monk who has been there for 35 long years. He told me that even King Devanampiyatissa had once worshipped at this temple. The presence of this beautiful temple is a symbol of the brotherhood which has existed for decades. We proceed into the main area of Jaffna town, passing the busy market and towards the Jaffna Library. The town is busy, like any other major town in Sri Lanka. I noticed brisk bargaining at the local markets. Some tourists cycled into town, five of them in single file. Perhaps this is one of the best ways to experience any travel destination. I ask a local for directions to the Rosarian Monastery. It is in this sanctum that the humble Catholic monks have made the legendary Nelli Crush since 1970, with fruits obtained from Tholagatty.

We travelled along straight roads, cruising on with hardly any traffic. Our next stop is Kandarodai. The dust laden road leads to a parking lot. We then entered the Kadurugoda Temple. This is a unique place of Buddhist worship. There are 56 miniature stupas built here spread out across a grassland. The black stones have stood the test of time, and are an endorsement to the architectural genius of a bygone era. The mini stupas are composed of dolomite stones, each drilled with three holes to enhance acclimatization. According to old records one Mr. Godakumbura had done some scanning and observations here from 1917–1919 taking a keen interest to restore these monuments. Interestingly the same style of stupas are found in Borobudur, Indonesia. Some opine that this area of 140 acres in Kandarodai was once a cemetery, centuries ago. On our return we passed the rest house at Dambakolapatuna.

Our next stop on this sunny day was an ancient well of mystic depth. As a child someone had told me about the Nilavarai well. According to legend some connect this deep well to the chronicle Ramayana. Apparently Sita had been thirsty travelling across this area and Rama had shot an arrow into the ground creating this well. Others say it was Hanuman who shot the

New Naguleswaram Kovil

arrow. Be that as it may I was assuming this mysterious well to be of a circular design as all Northern wells and was very surprised to witness a square tank like design. In the recent past an iron railing had been put up for safety of visitors. On one end it has a few steps leading into its bluish green depths. Locals look upon at the well with fearful reverence as the “Bottomless Well”. Legend has it that six couples have jumped into its dark depths when their romance had encountered stiff opposition, although their suicides cannot be verified. Some years ago the Navy Diving Unit had used an underwater robot and measured the depth of this ancient well. It goes down to about 52 metres while area residents suggest it is even deeper. Some believe it even connects to the venerated pond of Keerimalai. The divers discovered that the first 18 metres of the Nilavarai well consists of fresh water, while the rest is composed of salty seawater. This scientific fact further enhances the mystery of the Nilavarai well which attracts hundreds of visitors.

The diving team has captured the dim outline of two massive carts that had once sunk to the bottom of this watery domain. Were these ordinary carts or regal chariots? This will remain as another mystery. On our return via KKS (Kankesanthurai) we noticed the once active cement factory of KKS standing like a gigantic industrial ghost. We drove past the Maillidy fishing jetty where a few fishermen were engaged in cleaning their nets.

Jaffna Naga Vihara

After a succulent lunch of rice and fish curry, followed by a one hour rest we hit the road again, undertaking an ambitious drive to Point Pedro beginning at the Atchchuveli Road. We soon reached the stretch of road at Velvettithurai, commonly known as VVT. Here, the coastline stretches for miles, as fishing communities were busy cleaning their fiberglass boats. The smell of dried fish penetrates the air. At a distance along the Point Pedro Road I spot our national flag fluttering in the border of the ocean. We had just reached Cape Sakkotai, the northernmost point of Sri Lanka. The flag post indicates this point, with a road map illustrating the distance travelled. This was a rewarding travel memory.

The map describes the other islands which are less travelled, including, Elluvathivu, Analathivu, Nainathivu, Punkuduthivu and Mandaithivu. These little islands hold much tourism potential, which must be analyzed. Sightseeing trips by boats is one way to lure tourists. The local folk must be gently convinced and educated on engaging in decent small-scale tourism related projects. We then proceed towards an area called Iakatchi, passing the towns of Mirusuvil, Palai and Pudukaddu. The quiet village of Iakatchi has a historical gem, almost a secret. The isolated town holds the remains of a lesser known Dutch Fort. The defiant Dutch built a small fort here (between Fort Pyl and Elephant Pass) and named it Fort Beschuter. Part of its perimeter wall stands with an arched grotto, all covered with overgrown weeds. The drive to Point Pedro was tiring, but rewarding.

The next day we explored the charm of Keerimalai area. The famous kerni (water tank) at this sacred site has its own legend. Almost 200 years ago, a hermit named Nagula Munivar had been cursed in India. His mortal face had been transformed to partly resemble a mongoose (keeri in Tamil). The dejected hermit had wandered here with sadness. At some stage he had bathed in the kerni where his face was restored. Soon, the locals began to seek these healing waters in keeping with their religious beliefs. Even today, some believe that barren women who bathe here will be blessed with a child. The old Naguleswaram Kovil had been here for hundreds of years. Today its ruins remain as a testament to a bygone era. However the faithful devotees have built a majestic new kovil nearby. The new kovil (also known as Keerimalai Sivan Kovil) attracts thousands of devotees, including Sinhalese visitors. On another visit I took time to visit St. Anthony’s Church located in an area known as Pasaiyoor, with my friend Kogulan Arumugam. This massive church has been here for decades. Jaffna is a town where the bells of all religions echo in blissful harmony. The long trip covering Palaly and Point Pedro is a must for every Sri Lankan who desires to fully appreciate the rich diversity and cultural heritage of our beautiful nation.

Nilavarai well
Stupas of Kadurugoda
Old Naguleswaram Kovil
Fish at Maillidy Jetty