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Phone No:  Address: Jaffna Public Library Jaffna Sri Lanka
Tellipalai Union College
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil
Mavady Pillaiyar Temple
Sankiliyan Manthiri Manai - Nallur

The Jaffna Public Library, which had begun as a private collection in 1934, came of age in 1959. It had been one of the biggest and finest library in Southeast Asia in 1960-70s and until it was burnt on 31 May 1981 by hooligans. The library had around 97,000 volumes of books and rare and important Ola (palm leave) manuscripts, which disseminate the Jaffna Culture and Personal collections of the famous scholars. These included works of Ananda Coomaraswamy, the famous Lanka-born Tamil Indophil and eminent intellectual Professor Issac Thambiah. It was a place of historic and symbolic importance to the Tamil people.

The library was built in many stages starting from 1933, from a modest beginning as a private collection. Soon with the help of primarily local citizens, it became a fully-fledged library. The Library also became a repository of archival material written in Palm leaf manuscripts, original copies of regionally important historic documents in the contested Contest, political history of Sri Lanka and newspapers that were published hundreds of years ago in the Jaffna peninsula. It thus became a place of historic and symbolic importance to the local minority Sri Lankan Tamil people.

Eventually the first major wing of the library was opened in 1959 by the then Jaffna mayor Alfred Duraiappah. The architect of the Indo-Saracenic style building was one Narasimhan from Madras, India. Prominent Indian librarian S.R. Ranganathan served as an advisor to ensure that the library was built to international standards. The library became the pride of the local people as even researchers from India and other countries began to use it for their research purposes.

Braving its first destruction in 1981, the Tamil community pooled thousands of books, to rebuild the library when the civil war caught up in 1983. The semi-built library was destructed again in 1985. However, the library continued its services without any interruption after the destruction through decentralized branch libraries. In 1996, the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga commissioned a project to rebuilt the library. The library was reopened in 2003.

The statue of goddess Saraswati at the entrance of the Jaffna library is an evidence to say how much the people of Jaffna revered the library; it’s a temple for them.

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