Stupas of Delft Island in Jaffna

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Delft Island is the largest island in the Jaffna seas. This island is located quite a distance from Jaffna peninsula and need to travel by boat to the island. This boat journey takes about an hour. Boats ply to this island 5 times a day from Kurikadduwan Jetty, the same place where the boats to Nagadeepa start. The boats leave the jetty 8.00 am, 9.30 am, 1.30 pm, 3.00 pm and 4.00 pm. Boats depart from Delft at 6.30 am, 7.30 am, 11.30 am, 2.30 pm and 4.00 pm.

This island, known as Neduntheevu by the people of Jaffna, was used for breeding horses during the Portuguese rule. Therefore they named this island the Island of Horses (Ilha das Cavalkos). The Dutch who came after that also maintained this island and then the whole island was reserved for horses. After the arrival of the British in Jaffna, in the early 1800s, the southern part of the island was reserved for horses, and at the end of that century, the process of horse breeding has grown further. But by 1906, horse breeding in this island has completely ceased.

Buddhist ruins on this island were first reported in 1832 by a person using the pseudonym “Pen” (PENN) to the “Colombo Journal” newspaper.

He mentions that he had 2 forts on this island. One of these is said to be located in the northeast. This is what the islanders call the “Fire King’s Fort“. It is possible that he had translated the name “Vedi Arasan” who is considered by the local people as an ancient local king, to “Fire King“. However, they call these ruins as Vetiyaracanköttai.

According to him, this fort is located in the northeast of the island, about 200 meters into the sea. It is about 60 yards in circumference and about 20 feet high. The outer surface of this was finished with various rough shaped limestone. This building was about 12 feet high from the ground level. There were steps from the east and west direction to climb to this platform. Here the parts of the square wall are barely visible. He also mentions that there were stone blocks with a square hole in the middle used for planting stone pillars around here. In the end he says that a building of this style has not been seen anywhere here and this is typical of Kandy.

Around the main stupa were the remains of 4 other smaller stupas. All of them are bell shaped. According to him, there were originally 6 Parivara Stupas here. There have been two stupas on sides of the steps to the square platform in the east and west direction and one stupa each in the north and south direction.

According to an article published in 1909 by a British man named J. Lewis, it is stated that by that time, the stupa ruins mentioned by Penn had been greatly destroyed.

In the nineteen sixties Charles Godakumbura has carried out limited conservations on the bases of these stupas. Mr. Ponnambalam Ragupathi, in a publication on the archaeological heritage of Jaffna in 1987, says that it can be assumed that this island has been inhabited since the 1st century based on the pieces of pottery found here. As this temple is on the sea trade route between India to Jaffna, it is said that in ancient times this temple may have served as a place of worship for these traders. He determines that this temple may have existed until the local Tamil kingdom that arose here in the latter period.

This area, which had been abandoned for 3 decades during the unrest, has been preserved again after it was freed from the grip of terrorism in 2009. In 2013, archaeologists from the Maritime Archeology Unit of the Central Cultural Fund managed to uncover three inscriptions that had not been revealed for the first time. These inscriptions were carved on the stones laid in the Salapathala Maluwa (courtyard).

Three or two of these letters are written using Tamil script while the other letter is written in Brahmi script. It has been determined that the letters in Tamil script can be dated to the later 14th-15th century and the Brahmi letter to the 1st-2nd century. Thus, it can be assumed that this sacrificial site existed at least from the 1st-2nd centuries AD to the 14th-15th centuries.

Roland Silva, who is an expert in archeology and heritage conservation in Sri Lanka, says that in a study of stupa in Sri Lanka, he found the ruins of Watadage buildings around Kadurgoda, Jaffna and Delft. As this is the only Buddhist site on the island of Delphi, there may have been a Watadage enclosure around this stupa in ancient times.

In the 1980s, with the rise of Tamil terrorism in the Jaffna area, excavations in Kadurgoda and Delf areas were stopped. 30 years of terrorism contributed to the rapid decline of these shrines. By the time terrorism was eradicated in 2009, no remains of the Watadage has survived.


Also See

Map of Stupas of Delft Island in Jaffna

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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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Travel Directions to Stupas of Delft Island in Jaffna

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
From Jaffna to the Buddhist ruins of Delft Island
Via : Kurunegala – Dambulla – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Total Distance : 32 KM
Time : Including Boat Ride (between 2-3 hours)
Driving Directions : View on Google Map  (to Kurikadduan Jetty)


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