Manthuvil Ancient Kalvalai Fort Ruins in Jaffna

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Manthuvil Ancient Kalvalai Fort Ruins in Jaffna in Jaffna and archaeologically important places from 'Early settlements in Jaffna : An Archaeological Survey'
Manthuvil Ancient Kalvalai Fort Ruins in Jaffna in Jaffna and archaeologically important places from ‘Early settlements in Jaffna : An Archaeological Survey’

This site at Manthuvil lies in between Jaffna and Point Padro, 10 km way from Jaffna and 12km from Point Padro. The ruins at this site is first documented by Rev. S. Gnana Prakasar, a missionary in 1922. In 1982/84 what remained at this site was further explored by P. Ragupathy for his masters thesis.

Rev Prakasar calls this area Talvalai and believes that this is a sinhalese name perhaps meaning ‘Palmyra Forest’. He also notes some other possible sinhalese names in this neighbourhood. Maiyilankai. Kumbaveli and Kumukkalai to south-west, Talvalai Yatalai to the east, and Varany Yatalai and Siddiveram (at present corrupted into Suddipuram) to the north-east. The site is called Koddaittidal meaning the ‘Fort Mound‘.

After traveling 2½ miles from Manthuvil Junction to the site on bullock cart he reports that this area was completely overgrown with brushwood except for few patches where tobacco etc were cultivated. The most noteworthy object here was a large rectangle(?) surrounded by a thick wall made of brick and rubble. The western wall has been over 200 yards (182 meters) long. The wall had risen about a meter over the rubble at some places. The southern wall has been hidden in the jungle. On the partially cleared northern portion, heaps of bricks have marked number of ancient buildings. The bricks have been very large, 12 inches long and 8 inches wide. Rev. Prakasar reports seeing cartloads of these bricks being taken away to the neighbouring villages.

According to folklore, this has been the adobe of seven queens. Their names are handed down as Angai-Nachy, Ko-Nachy, Manni-Nachy, Kunkuni-Nachy and the rest unnamed. There has been an internal quarrel between the queens and they have left leaving the personal attendants and maids at the site. They have started to make divine offerings to these queens within their adobe calling them ‘Nachimar‘ meaning ‘Our Mistresses‘. The poojari who was serving at the time of the kovil had announced that he is a direct descendant of one the attendants. A shady grove has served as a temple. Five rough stones, ranged in a semicircle at a distance of about ten feet from one another, do duty for the shrines of lyanar, Nagatambiran, the Seven Nachimar, Vairavar and Annamar respectively from left to right. The Nachimar holds the central place of the five deities. The ones beside Nachimar is their attendants. lyanar from the Koviar Caste and Annamar represent Nalavar (and Pallar?) caste. Who others were not clear. Interestingly all are honoured by lighting incense sticks except Annamar who is satisfied by a offering of a Tadduvamadai, a plate made of palm leaf filled with eatables, called a Thatuwa in sinhalese. Outside the fort structure, a cluster of temples made of ola leaves for lyanar, Nagatambiran, Nachimar, Vairavar and Annamar.

P. Ragupathy who had explored the site in 1982 and 1984, records the ruins spread in a area of 15-20 acres. Large polished limestone slabs and heaps of bricks (15″ x 10″ x 3″) were found to the surface. Half of the site has been under vegetable cultivation. lt had been reported by farmers, that a broad brick wall encircles the mound. This has been confirmed in the subsequent survey in 1984 where the team had observed that the walls roughly make a rectangular enclosure. On the western side, the wall ran along the Upparu lagoon, almost undisturbed and covered by scrub.

Between the wall and the Lagoon, there were scrub and mangroves. The northern wall is comparatively short in length. In the east, the wall was not traceable because of the disturbances caused by the cultivators and by the brick-robbers. There was a small elongated pond on the eastern side which was probably a part of the moat or was a source of fresh-water for the residents of the fort. The wall was mostly disturbed on the southern side also. The limestone foundation and a portion of brick lining was noticed in an uncemented section of a large well on this side.

lt seems that the main entrance was on the eastern side, in accordance with the tradition of considering east as auspicious for an entrance. This is confirmed by the location of the Kottai Vasal Pillayar Kovil at the eastern periphery of the site, facing east. Besides, the other sides of the fort face the lagoon and marsh lands.

During the 1984 visit, they obtained a hoard of Roman coins from this site belonging to 4th century A.D. They were the coins of Constantine, Valentine and Arcadius. A farmer had discovered the coins while burrowing his plot inside the fort.

The site is known for folk worship. The Kottai Vasal Pillayar Kovil attracts devotees from far away villages. Besides, inside the fort scrub-forest, there are a number of folk deities. There are folk shrines for Aiyanar, Annamar, Nachimar, Muni Virabhadran, Uttaikutiyan Kali (who consumes blood and wine), Kalakantan or Kalamamuni etc. The deities have no images but represented either by stones or by Trishulas.

Mr Ragupathy also states;

The site was not perceived as ruins of a fort earlier. The present survey confirms it as a fort site. Regarding chronology, by the presence of datable Roman coins, the lower date of occupation of the site can be placed to c.4th century A.D., though it might not have been a fort then. Jaffna enjoyed rich trade contacts in Roman times. Because of the communicational potentialities, trade routes might have passed through the site in that time. The historiographical literature of Jaffna (Yalpana Vaipava Malai) mentions of a Cola general Karunäkara Tontaimän (Karunakara Tondaiman) (identified as a general of Kulotunka Cola I :1070-1122), who came to Jaffna and deepened the Upparu lagoon for navigation to export salt. This was how the Lagoon adjoining the site gained the name Uppäru and its mouth at Palk Strait became Tontaimänäru. Interestingly, we heard a legend at Kalvalai, mentioning the construction of the fort by Karunäkara Tontaimän (Karunakara Tondaiman) . lt is a reasonable speculation to attribute the origins of the fort to the times of Cola occupation in Jaffna.

12th century Cola inscriptions of the times of Rajadhiraja II (1163-1179 A.D.) list the forts and naval centres of northern Sri Lanka, where battles were fought with the Sri Lankan king Parakramabahu I. The inscriptions mention Mattival (Mattuvil) as a strategic place along with Urätturai (Kayts), Pulaiceri (?) and Mätöttam (Mantai). Mattuvil is now the name of the neighbouring village of Kalvalai fort.

According to Portuguese records, in 16th century, after losing the capital Nallür, Cankili, the king of Jaffna fled to Köpäi, north of Nallür. When Köpäi also was sacked, he further fled to a safe place amidst lagoon and mangrove, and proceeded to Vanni. Both Nallür and Köpäi are along the Uppäru lagoon. If Cankili fled further of Köpäi, most probably the place was Kalvalai fort. The description of the place also tallies. However, by this time the fort might have lost its importance as the Portuguese records did not mention it by name.

The ‘Kalvalai Antäti’ composed by Nallur Cinnattampi Pulavar of the Dutch times is said to be attributed to the Kalvalai fort pillaiyar temple, though many attribute the literature to another Kalvalai pillaiyar in Cantilipai.

The place name Kalvalai has a significant meaning in the context of this site as it means a stone fortress. (Kal -stone; valai – an encompassed area). The Tamil word valäkam (campus) derived from valai (valaiyakam valakam). In another current usage valai denotes a burrow or hiding place as in the cases of elivalai, muyal valai etc. (rat hole, rabbit hole). In Jaffna a few more place names are found with this suffix valai. Probably, in old Jaffna Tamil usage they denoted encompassed settlements or fenced lands. The site is in imminent danger of being totally disturbed by the farmers. Preservation should be initiated immediately. We are sure that further studies and excavations will certainly establish the place as an important archaeological site of the Peninsula.

This report is now over 40 years old and during the the Tamil Terrorist war which lasted for over 30 years, whether any remains can be found is doubtful. However the respective authorities should research on such places and preserve any ancient heritage for the future generations.


  • Rev. Fr. Gnana Prakasar, S., 1922. Some Ruins in Jaffna. Ceylon Antiquary and Literary Register, VII.
  • Ragupathy, P., 1987. Early settlements in Jaffna : An Archaeological Survey. 1st ed. Madras: Sudarsan Graphics.

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Driving Directions to Manthuvil Ancient Kalvalai Fort Ruins

Jaffna can be reached through 2 directions. First one is over the Elephant Pass which is the normal route to Jaffna. The other entrance is from Pooneryn over the newly built Sangupiddi Bridge. This road connects to Mannar.

Route 01 from Colombo to Jaffna (Through Kurunegala)Route 02 from Colombo to Jaffna (Through Puttalam)
Though : Kurunegala – Dambulla – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance :400 km
Travel time : 7-8 hours
Driving directions : see on google map
Through : Puttalam – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Travel time : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : see on google maps
Jaffna town to Manthuvil Ancient Kalvalai Fort Ruins
Through : Chavakachcheri
Distance : 29 km
Time to travel  : 45 mins
Driving Directions : click here for Google Map