Santhaiyaar Madam (Ambalama) in Manipay, Jaffna (යාපනය මනිපායි සාන්තයියාර් මඩම – අම්බලම)

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As you travel from Manipay towards Vaddukoddai on the Kokkuvil – Vaddukoddai road, after about 3.3 km you will come across a large paddy field spreading across both sides of the road. Just at the far edge of this field, you will pass an ancient Ambalama built according to the ancient Jaffna tradition.

In ancient times, when there were no proper roadways or transport facilities other than narrow footpaths through dense jungles. Infested with wild animals and for transport only bullock carts were available, the villagers very seldom opted to leave their villages for Pilgrimages or to visit their friends and relatives who stayed in areas other than merchants who made a living carrying goods from village to village.

During these days, kings and nobles built temporary resting places along popular routes for weary travellers to rest or spend the night. This practice continued until the end of the British Colonial era in mid mid-20th century.  Most Ambalama buildings which you see today have been built during or after the Kandyan kingdom and special effort had been put in building these structures to make them artistic and elegant in most cases.

The Ambalama buildings in Jaffna (called Madam) are quite different to the Ambalam in other areas and maintain a unique model to suit life in this arid land.

The Madam in this area is generally a collection of several structures with specific features.

  1. The Ambalama itself – The resting place for the people
  2. Goods store (Sumai Thaangi / Cumaitanki) – a platform of about 3 feet high. This is used to keep the goods carried on the head or shoulders of the traveller and to load them back without the help of another person.
  3. Stone Pillar (Avurancikal) – A stone circular pillar erected close to the Ambalama. This is about 3-4 feet high and used for the cattle to relieve themselves from an itch called Thinavu by rubbing their bodies against the pillar.
  4. Tank (keni)  – Keni is a pond filled with water for the cattle to quench their thirst.
  5. Well (Kinaru) – This is a well for the traveller to bathe. The well was constructed in such a way that people could walk down to reach the water during dry seasons when the water level is low.

The most significant item at this site is the ancient pond which is built with the coral stone. The pond is about 12 meters long and slants towards the bottom of the tank from the side of the road. Steps have been built for easy access to the water when the water levels are low. Behind the tank lies a dilapidated building which would have been the Ambalama (madam).

Unfortunately, these structures have not seen any restoration attempts for a long time.

Also See

Map of Santhaiyaar Madam (Ambalama) in Manipay

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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

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Driving Directions to Santhaiyaar Madam (Ambalama) in Manipay

Jaffna can be reached through 2 directions. The 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)
Through : 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
Route from Jaffna Town to Santhaiyaar Madam (Ambalama) in Manipay
Via : Kokkuvil –  Vaddukoddai  road
Distance : 8 km
Travel time : 20 mins
Driving directions : see on google map