Delft Island in Jaffna – ඩෙල්ෆ්ට් දූපත

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The ferry service to Delft Island

The ferry service to Delft Island
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

Located approximately 30 kilometres away from the main land is a magnificent island with rich history from the Chola Dynasty, Portuguese, Dutch and the British Colonial Period.

The location is abounding in archeologically important heritage. Neduntheeve, famously known as Delft Island, is accessible by water and air, and for tourists visiting and villagers the easiest is to travel by ferry.

The ruins of Portuguese Fort at Delft island in Jaffna

The ruins of Portuguese Fort at Delft island in Jaffna
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

The exhausting but fascinating journey begins from Kurikadduwan, KKD jetty on the Punkudativu Island, which is bridged to the Jaffna Peninsula. The ferry service used to get to Delft is normally used by pilgrims who travel to the ancient Nagadeepa Temple.

My journey began at 5:00 in the morning from Jaffna town to the Kurikadduwan jetty, where we got in to two boats at around 6:00 a.m. to head to the magnificent island.

Giant footprint near the ruins of horse stables Delft Island in Jaffna

Giant footprint near the ruins of horse stables Delft Island in Jaffna
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

On water, the burning sun is right on top burning the skin, but the breeze flowing through gives some comfort for the journey ahead. On the way to the island travellers can see several islands which are located in close proximity to the Jaffna Peninsula as well as Delft Island. Rich with marine life, the sea is an ideal location to be developed as a diving location.

It took nearly one hour to get to the magnificent island, where we were welcomed by a saintly figure standing tall, none other than Rev. Fr. Xavier Thanninayagam, whose statue stood as symbol of gratitude. As we entered the island we saw many fishing vessels, indicating that it was a fishing village.

It is advised to pack lunch before heading to Delft Island as there are no places to dine and only a handful of retail shops are available to purchase snacks or soft drinks. Many sites are located within walking distance but the best option would be to hire a three-wheeler or a smaller lorry for the journey, as the harsh conditions could exhaust any traveller, before you could enjoy the real beauty of the island.

Similar to the main land, the island too basked in bright sunlight, but the Palmyra growth in the island was a relief, providing shade throughout our journey. Greeted by some natives of the island, our journey began inwards where we witnessed the lifestyle of its citizens.

The whole island was based on coral and limestone. The island was underdeveloped, but due to its population of approximately 4,500 people, who used cycles as the main transport mode, the roads were not crowded and the journey inwards was easy.

Going further it was just bare land which was underutilized by the citizens of the island.

Through the fort

The ruins of Portuguese Fort at Delft island in Jaffna

The ruins of Portuguese Fort at Delft island in Jaffna
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

Our journey inwards first brought us to the Old Dutch Portuguese Fort of Delft, This fort, smaller in size compared to the Galle fort or Jaffna fort, is made with coral and limestone. The fort was probably located here due to the favorable mooring facilities offered by the bay for old vessels and easy landing facilities.

The pillars and walls left preserved highlighted that the fort was a two-storey building. The ground floor has no windows, and it is said to have been used to store gunpowder and hold prisoners, while the second floor was built with windows for light and ventilation with large rooms.

The pigeon house at the Delft Island Fort

The pigeon house at Delft Island
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

The entrance to the fort was through a passage next to the Old Dutch Hospital, which is well-preserved and showed the skills of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British, who used the facility. The hospital, too, is made from coral and limestone and its status questions modern-day construction.

The next eye-catching sight was the Pigeons Nest, which housed around two dozens of pigeons that were used to transport messages across islands, ships and the mainland. It made me think about the facilities we enjoy today, where communication has become so easy with instant call and SMS facilities.

The site as well as many parts of the island was surrounded by a wall that was made out of coral. Placed one on top of another, the wall had been built with no mortar to bind each stone. The walls were strong and had a height of around four metres.

Further in to the island was the Queen’s Tower, which was used as a navigation landmark by the Dutch. The guide pointed out that the tower was believed to be covered with a reflective surface, which could be seen a distance away from sea.

Old stables and wild horses

Remnants of the dutch horse stable — in Delft Centre, Sri Lanka.

Remnants of the dutch horse stable — in Delft Centre, Sri Lanka.
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

Continuing our journey inwards, we stopped at another historic location – the entrance to the horse stables used in the Colonial Period. On the walk to the stables from the main road, the first sight is a giant footstep which is close to one metre in length. The sight of the print surprised me as well and made me think of giants we usually see in movies. The natives believe the footprint engraved into a stone is from a man who was around 40 feet in height. According to the residents, there was a similar footprint on a nearby island, Nainathivu.

Passing the footprint, travelers arrive at the horse stables, used by Portuguese, Dutch and British to breed horses, which were then sold to passing vessels or transported to the mainland for use. Although the building is not standing today, the pillars and walls remain, highlighting its function.

Wild Ponies of Delft Island in Jaffna

Wild Ponies of Delft Island in Jaffna
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

Further into the island, travelers arrive to a ground of wild horses, bigger than a pony but smaller than the average horse. Five-hundred of these wild beasts roam the plains. The sight was breathtaking as the animals in their natural habitat were fascinating. The only ground to hold horses in Sri Lanka, the locals believes that the beasts were descendents of those released by the Dutch.

It was pleasing to know that the government had implemented a law restricting the removal of these magnificent beasts from the island.

The Baobab tree of Delft Island in Jaffna

The Baobab tree of Delft Island in Jaffna
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

Continuing further, we arrived at the largest tree in the Delft Island. Standing gloriously was a 52-foot hollow trunk, which could easily house three people inside; the entrance in to the trunk was the size of two men. Baobab, also known as Adansonia, is a genus of nine species of tree, out of which six are native to Madagascar, two native to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and one native to Australia. One species of African origin was introduced to some

Asian countries during the Colonial Era, and the Delft baobab is believed to be one such introduction.

The growing rock - a place of worship for the Hindus of Delft Island in Jaffna

The growing rock – a place of worship for the Hindus of Delft Island in Jaffna
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

Currently around four feet tall, a coral, which is worshiped by locals, is located in the middle of the island. The rock is in close proximity to a Hindu kovil and many natives believed that the rock grew over time. Some told us that there were people who spoke about the rock when it was just two feet tall.

More surprising was to learn that, even under the rough conditions, the natives have harmonized with the resources of the island to even cultivate paddy. According to some locals, most of their daily needs were produced in the island itself and visits to the mainland were minimum.

With time coming to an end, the crew headed back to the jetty to leave for the mainland. But locals in the island also spoke of various other attractions, such as temples from the Chola Period and some other Dutch heritage sites.

The center cavity of the Baobab tree of Delft Island in Jaffna

The center cavity of the Baobab tree of Delft Island in Jaffna
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

It would be nice if one could lodge in the island for a few days, but as facilities were not available, a night’s stay was impossible for any traveler. However, one hopes the rich history, heritage, archeological values and culture in this magnificent island would not be harmed through the project, as it would be a major loss to the country.

Heading back to mainland, the crew stopped at the ancient Nagadeepa to visit the temple and receive blessings from the Triple Gem just before arriving to Kurikadduwan Jetty on the Punkudativu Island, to head back to Jaffna.

Text By Mario Andree
Ceylon Today Features
The largest of the ancient pagodas found at Delft Island in Jaffna

The largest of the ancient pagodas found at Delft Island in Jaffna
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

Ancient pagoda found at Delft Island in Jaffna

Ancient pagoda found at Delft Island in Jaffna
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

There are ruins of 3 ancient stupas partially restored by the archaeological department close to the the north  western coast of Delft Island. The largest of the three stupas has a diameter of 13.54 meters and circumference of 31.93 meters. 3 inscriptions has been discovered on the stones used to pave this stupa. According to scientific data of the scripts the two Tamil inscriptions belong to the 14 – 15 centuries while the inscription having Brahmi script would date back to the 1st or 2nd century  according to calligraphists.

The coral walls of Dutch Fort at Delft island in Jaffna

The coral walls of Dutch Fort at Delft island in Jaffna
Image courtesy of Dr. Ashan Geeganage

What to see at Delft

  • Ruins of the Portuguese Fort
  • Pigeon Hole
  • Baobab Tree
  • Large Banyan Tree
  • Growing Stone
  • Queen’s Tower
  • Ruins of Dutch Horses Stable
  • Giants Footprint
  • Ruins of Ancient Stupas
  • Roaming wild Horses
  • 12 Branch Palmyra Tree
  • White sandy beaches of Delft

Journey from Kurikadduwan (KKD) to Delft Island

The Road Development Authority operates a boat which can carry 100 passengers between the mainland and the Delft Island. This service is offered free of charge and the daily schedule is as follows;

Delft Island to KurikadduwanKurikadduwan to Delft Island
Trip 16.00 am or 6.30 am9.30 am or 10.00 am
Trip 22.30 pm or 3.00 pm6.00 pm or 6.30 pm

Navy also offer boat services which can be hired separately, the boat is available for Rs. 6,000.00 Up and down from KKD to Delft Island back to KKD.

Boat Travel time is 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Accommodation in Delft Island

Accommodation and food options are almost none and its advisable to take your food from the mainland when visiting the island. A new hotel with 4 rooms have been opened recently with the most basic facilities and food.

Transport

Though most of the site you visit may be within a small radius, with average temperature 0f 30-34 C its advisable to hire a 3 wheeler or a small lorry form the jetty. The prices are more or less fixed with Rs 1500 for a full day tour fir a 3 wheeler and 2000-2500 for a small lorry.

Also See

Map of  Delft Island

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites.

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.


Driving Directions to Jaffna (Delft Island)

Route 01 from Colombo to Jaffna

Route 02 from Colombo to Jaffna

Though : Kurunegala – Dambulla – Anuradhapura – Vavunia
Distance :400 km
Travel time : 7-8 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Puttlam – Anuradhapura – Vavunia
Distance : 400 km
Travel time : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : see on google maps

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