Peregrination: Palaly to Point Pedro | Sunday Observer

Peregrination: Palaly to Point Pedro

18 December, 2016
Kadurugoda Temple stupas

The Northern Peninsula is a fascinating paradise. A land embellished with tradition, culture, religion and superstition. It has a way of silently captivating your mind. The somewhat long journey by A/C bus at night is mildly boring. Having no other travel entertainment I venture to sleep. The neon lights are switched on as we reach Kilinochchi, as the first rays of sunlight lazily proceed to dazzle the northern skyline. The resilient palmyrah trees stand out, like ancient sentinels. Herds of goats cross the road. I am quite bewildered to notice the shepherd (if we can still use that term, today) texting on a smart phone!! Thankfully, the people of the North have witnessed change, a change for their betterment.

As the bus reaches Jaffna town, the familiar yellow building of the market complex is visible. Tamil songs are played from a nearby eating house (the term restaurant is not used loosely here as in Colombo). The aroma of incense drifts in the town. I am picked up by my kind host. We soon reach the Palaly Road; the Palaly town is about 15 km from Jaffna. I am ushered into my cozy chalet, the “Whitehouse” at the Cantonment. I am surprised to notice some chubby rabbits running about on the dew kissed green grass. By 8am I begin my first journey. The sight of the northern folk on their trusted bicycles is part of the Jaffna fabric. However, I noted a slight increase in motorbikes, especially, women riding to work. These ladies are teachers and clerks attached to government service, which are the most prominent forms of employment and one that enhances their matrimonial prospects.

We pass the magnificent church of St. James built in 1861, as the sun shines in glorious splendour. I stop at the Naga Vihare. Some pious devotees are engaged in cleaning the premises. I am greeted by the amiable Chief Monk who has been there for 35 long years. He tells me that King Devanampiyathissa once venerated this temple. We proceed into the main area of Jaffna town, passing the Library. The ramparts of the Dutch Fort built in 1680 are still being refurbished.


The town is busy, like any other major town in Sri Lanka. Peace reigns supreme. I observe a wine store that has displayed a robust red Santa Claus, with a radiant grin. Afterwards, I thought it was rather strange how traditional Christmas symbols have been taken for granted. Some tourists cycle into town, five of them in single file, their bikes burdened with duffel bags. 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. I ask to speak to one of the monks, and am joined by Fr. Vincent and Fr. George. Fr. Vincent is the custodian of the ancient recipe, which has satisfied generations. He states that at times they cannot cope with the demand for this natural beverage, which has become the drink of the Northern Province. The monks also make grape and pomegranate juice. Fr. George is quick to point out that making Nelli Crush is only a secondary venture for them, as their primary focus is prayer and propagation of faith. The Rosarian Order was founded by the late Fr. Thomas, OMI.

Our next stop is Kandarodai. The dust laden road leads to a parking lot. We are about to enter the Kadurugoda Temple. This is a very unique place of Buddhist worship. There are 56 miniature stupas built here. The black stones have stood the test of time, and are an endorsement to the architectural genius of our forefathers. The mini stupas are composed of dolomite stones, each drilled with three holes to enhance acclimatization. Mr. Godakumbura had done some scanning here from 1917-1919 taking a keen interest to restore these monuments. The same styles of stupas are found in Borobudur, Indonesia.

Some opine that this area of 140 acres of land in Kandarodai was once a cemetery, centuries ago. On our return I pass the rest house at Dambakolapatuna, built and operated by the Navy. My knowledgeable guide Thiru advises me to see an ancient well.

I was assuming the well to be of a circular design, and was wondering what was special about this one, as I noticed an iron railing built around it. The well of Nilawarai is of a square design. On one end it has a few steps leading into the blue depths. Locals look at the well with fear and reverence as the “Bottomless Well”. Legend has it that six couples have jumped into its dark depths. Thankfully, in the recent past the Navy Diving Unit has brilliantly used an underwater robot and measured the depth of this ancient well. It goes down to 52.5 meters, while the locals assume it’s even deeper. The divers discovered that the first 18.3 meters are full of fresh water, while the rest is composed of salt water. This scientific fact adds to the mystery of the Nilawarai well.

The diving team has captured the dim outline of two massive carts that had once sunk to the bottom of this watery domain. On our return via KKS (Kankesanthurai) we stop at Thal Sevana, a splendid little resort operated by the Army. The swimming pool overlooks the vast blue ocean, as the northern winds blow refreshingly. The once active cement factory at KKS stands like a gigantic ghost, a stagnant reminder of a past era. Yet, much positive change is visible at KKS. Adjacent is the Mailady fishing jetty.

After a succulent lunch of rice and fish curry we hit the road again, an ambitious drive to Point Pedro beginning at the Atchuveli Road. We soon reach the stretch of road at Valvettithurai, commonly known as VVT. Here, the coastline stretches for miles, as fishing communities are busy mending their nets and cleaning their fibre glass 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. Alas, we had reached Cape Sakkotai, the northernmost point of Sri Lanka. The flag post indicates this point, with a road map illustrating the distance travelled. Wow! this was an amazing stop, as I never envisaged reaching this part of our motherland.

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. The local folks must be educated on engaging in decent tourism related projects.

We then proceed towards an area called Iakatchi, passing the towns of Mirusuvil, Palai and Pudukaddu. Iakatchi has 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. The drive to Point Pedro is tiring, but certainly worth it.

I sojourn towards Keerimalai, next morning. 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 and bathed in the kerni, when, behold! He was restored with his human face. Soon, the locals began to seek these healing waters. Even today, some believe that barren women who bathe here will conceive and enjoy the bliss of motherhood. The temple has expanded since then and continues to attract many.

The road trip from Palaly to Point Perdo is a must for every Sri Lankan who desires to understand the rich diversity of our nation.