Tellingly, one of the first major buildings to be rebuilt after the 2002 ceasefire was Jaffna’s Public Library. It had been burnt down by pro-government mobs (some say forces) in July 1981, a destruction that many Tamils deemed a cultural attack – few acts were more significant in the build-up to civil war.
In its reconstruction, architects kept true to the elegant original neo-Mughal design from 1959. Today it’s a bright spacious place that’s very actively used by Jaffna’s citizens.
Jaffna residents have long considered their city to be one of Asia’s finest intellectual capitals, and the library is an important Tamil cultural centre and historic institution (it was inaugurated in 1841). The original world-renowned collection destroyed in the fire included more than 90,000 volumes, including irreplaceable Tamil documents such as the one surviving copy of Yalpanam Vaipavama, a history of Jaffna.