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Mannar is located in the district of Mannar in the arid North-West of Sri Lanka. If you've seen the Sri Lankan map, you would have noticed a small piece of land jutting out into the Palk Strait, with only about 30 kilometers away from India. This little island known as Mannar, is a beautifully secluded peninsula that spans across an area of about 50 square kilometers. Linked to the main island of Sri Lanka by a causeway with scenic beauty on either sides, the city holds stories that take you to a rich and an ancient history.

Mannar had been an integral part of Sri Lanka’s colonial history, where the city was ruled by all three colonizers of Ceylon - the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. The city was hardly hit by the three-decade civil war in Sri Lanka, and was a major entry and exit point to and from India.

Get in[edit]

Routes that can be taken from Colombo to Mannar, as shown in Google Map

Mannar is situated about 254km away from Colombo, and is easily accessible by bus, train, or a private hire. If you are coming by a private vehicle, you can go via Colombo-Kurunagala-Anuradhapura-Mannar or Colombo-Puttlam-turn to Oyamaduwa Road from Nochchiyagama-Thanthirimale-Medawachchiya-Mannar. If you are planning on taking the bus, you can get into a bus to Mannar from the Colombo Central Bus Stand in Pettah. Trains are also available to Mannar as well. There are two trains departing to Mannar daily - one in the morning at 8.50am and the other, in the evening at 7.15pm. [1]

Get around[edit]

Getting around Mannar can sometimes be a bit difficult. However, in Sri Lanka, tuk tuks or three wheelers are a common mode of transportation for many people to get around the island. So you can either hop onto a tuk or take the bus - which is much cheaper. You can always seek help from the locals if needed.

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Adam's Bridge[edit]

Adam's Bridge as shown in Google Maps, 17th March 2017
Adam's Bridge is an iconic feature with strong international and domestic appeal. This was globally known as a significant geographical as well as cultural feature of the Ramayana. Adam’s Bridge, Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu (Sand Dunes) is a chain of limestone shoals that stretch between Rameswaram off the Southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu in India and Mannar Island, off the Northwestern coast of Sri Lanka, and is evidence to suggest that there was once a connection to India by land. In the early 1800s, the British have named the sandbanks Adam’s Bridge after the Islamic legend, which asserts that Adam, the first man on earth, used this as a bridge to reach Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka. The name Rama‘s Bridge had been given to it in Rameswaram.

Thiruketheswaram Temple[edit]

Thiruketheswaram Temple is one of the 'Pancha Ishwarams' or the 'five abodes of Shiva', dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Shiva, with a rich history of more than 2500 years. According to legendary beliefs, the Thiruketheeswaram is the temple where Ketu Bhagavan worshiped Lord Shiva/ Eeswaran, hence the shrine acquired the name 'Thiruketheeswaram'. It is also believed that the holy waters of the Palavi Tank - located close by, are venerated in the sacred hymns of two great Saivite saints, Thirugnana Sambandhar and Sundarar, who lived in the 7th and 8th Centuries respectively. The temple is also closely associated with the ancient port of ‘Manthotai’ (Mathoddam), which was a gateway used by traders to enter the mainland Mannar, centuries ago. Thus, it is believed that the temple was subsequently built and maintained by merchants from South India. However, later with the Portuguese invasions in the 16th century, the temple was detroyed along with a countless other Buddhist and Hindu temples all over the country. The history has it that the Portuguese Governor at the time had ordered to transport the temple stones to build the Mannar Fort.

Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu[edit]

With a history spanning for over 400 years, the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu is considered as one of the holiest Catholic shrines in Sri Lanka. The shrine is revered not only by the Tamil and Sinhalese Catholics in the country, but is also famous among the other religious communities as well. In July 1924, the Madhu Shrine was granted the papal recognition when Pius XI gave permission for a solemn canonical coronation. The shrine which was once situated in the heart of the conflict zone during Sri Lanka's three decades civil unrest, was dramatically affected by the war - where it was shelled a number of times and also housed refugees during the conflict.

It is believed that the statue of Mary holds miraculous healing powers, especially in related to snake bites. Initially, the Madhu festival was held on 2nd July, however, in recent years, the festival was shift to 15th August, and draws large crowds from across the country.

Mannar Fort[edit]

Mannar Fort (Sinhala: මන්නාරම් බලකොටුව; Tamil: மன்னார்க் கோட்டை) is one of the best examples of the city’s colonial history. Built by the Portuguese in 1560, the fort fell to the Dutch in February 1658. It was rebuilt by the Dutch in 1696, however, with the British invasion, the fort was occupied by Ceylon’s last colonial rulers – the British, in 1795.

Giant's Tank[edit]

Doric Bungalow

The Giant's Tank or Yodha Wewa is one of the largest tanks in [Sri Lanka]. Built by King Dhatusena in the fifth century, and later restored by King Parakramabahu I in the twelfth century, the tank carries water from Malwatu Oya. This was also known as Manawatu Wewa in the ancient times.

Doric Bungalow[edit]

The Doric Bungalow which is located at Arippu East - almost 20kms away from the city of Mannar, was once the residence of the first British Governor of Ceylon, Frederick North. Built in 1802, the two story structure was constructed using bricks and mortar, and is said that the exterior walls were built in a way that it appears to look as if it was done using marble. The bungalow which was designed by the Governor himself was known as 'The Doric' based on the architectural designs that were similar to that of the Ancient Greek Doric style. History has it that the bungalow was mainly constructed to inspect the pearl fisheries industry, which was thriving at that time. However, having been built on a low cliff near the beach, exposed to numerous weather conditions and with no maintenance, the bungalow is now mostly in ruins.


Vidathaltheevu - a nature lover's paradise

Vidathaltheevu (In Tamil:விடத்தல்தீவு) is a small fishing village, which has rich and diverse mangrove forests with interconnected waterways which is ideal for observing birds. There is also a coral island situated in the shallow sea with diverse fish and coral species, and a great spot for snorkeling. The area is also famous for using traditional methods for fishing and for sea grass beds. Vidathaltheevu is a nature lover or a photographer's paradise of the beautiful natural sceneries the place has to offer, and is only 25kms away from Mannar.

The village has a old dutch church called St. James church which was constructed about 400 years ago. St.James was believed to be watching over the village and guarding local risk taking fishermen families. The church had been renovated time to time but still you can find the old compound wall construction which the coral rocks and lime were used. There are three religious people living together enjoying their festivals. There is a special May day tradition followed for the past decades. All the fishermen workers and some family members take their own decorated boats to the St.Antony's pillar statue situated inside the sea 2km away from the coast. They pay their respect and worship him on the May day after the holy mars. Then the whole village celebrates their May day with traditional events and competitions. Tourists can join their church festivals and events every year.

There are few unique delicious sea food dishes prepared by the locals carried out for centuries by their ancestors. Anyone could find a local village tour guide speaking English, Sinhala or Tamil to enjoy all these fun activities.

Baobab Trees[edit]

The baobab trees are believed to have been brought down by by the Arab traders. It has a circumference of 19.5m and is 7.5 meters tall. The tree which is believed to be over 700 years old is also called the upside-down tree because its branches look like roots. The tree is referred by the locals in Mannar as the 'ali gaha' (elephant tree) as the tough bark of the tree resembles the skin of an elephant.

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