Jaffna Public Library


The Jaffna Public Library, established about 2km from Jaffna town, is one of the city's significant attractions. Built-in 1933.
Throughout the beginning 1980s, it was one of the most extensive libraries in Asia, including over 97,000 books and manuscripts. In 2001, the Library's renovation was completed, with a new building being developed and new books introduced, although its old books and papers were not replaced. It is Sri Lanka's next main public Library.
Throughout the civil battle that was on at the time, the Library was burned down in 1981, and much of the valuable components of the Library were missed by the fire. In 2001, the Library was mainly restored, with a new collection being built and thousands of new books being produced. Sadly, the old books and documents were not converted.
The Jaffna Library rose to influence, as international and domestic academics preferred it, however most importantly, it served as a cultural centre for the Tamil community. In addition, the Library housed papers of priceless value, such as the only extant copy of the Yalpanam Vaipavama, a story of Jaffna written by Tamil writer Mayilvagana Pulavar in 1736.

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Efforts to rebuild the library

Despite the devastating loss, efforts were made to rebuild and restore the Jaffna Library to its former glory. In 2001, a new complex was constructed, reflecting the architectural grandeur of the original structure. While the old books and manuscripts couldn't be replaced, the renewed library aimed to symbolise resilience and a new knowledge repository.

Addition of modern facilities

In recognition of the community's evolving needs, several modern facilities were incorporated into the renovated Jaffna Library. Free Wi-Fi access was introduced, making it a welcoming space for the younger generation to engage with digital resources and connect with the broader world. These modern amenities further enhanced the library's relevance and accessibility in the digital age.

Description of the library's architecture

The Jaffna Public Library boasts an architectural design that captivates visitors. Its grand symmetrical facade, reminiscent of the Moghul era, reflects the library's historical significance. In addition, the beautiful architecture serves as a visual reminder of the rich cultural heritage of Jaffna and its contribution to the intellectual pursuits of Sri Lanka.

Symbolism and cultural importance

Beyond its physical beauty, the library holds deep cultural symbolism. It stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of the people of Jaffna, who seek to preserve their heritage despite the challenges faced over the years. As a result, the library remains a cherished symbol of knowledge, education, and cultural pride for the community.

Removing footwear as a sign of respect

When visiting the Jaffna Public Library, it is customary for all visitors to remove their footwear before entering the building. This practice respects the knowledge and cultural heritage contained within the library's walls. It is a small gesture that demonstrates reverence for the history and significance of the institution.

Operating hours and accessibility

The library is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., allowing visitors ample time to explore its offerings. Whether you are a book lover, a student, or a researcher, the Jaffna Library welcomes you with open arms. The friendly staff is readily available to assist visitors and provide guidance in navigating the library's resources.

Available resources for research and reading

Although the Jaffna Library's collection of irreplaceable texts was lost, it still houses many local books that shed light on Sri Lanka's rich folklore, culture, food, and more. Visitors can indulge in the pleasure of reading and research within the tranquil confines of the library. It serves as a treasure trove of information and a valuable resource for those seeking to deepen their understanding of the region.


  1. What is the history behind the Jaffna Public Library? The Jaffna Public Library was established in 1933 and grew to become one of Asia's largest libraries. However, it suffered destruction during the civil conflict in 1981.
  2. What happened during the destruction of the library in 1981? The library was intentionally burned down, losing many books, manuscripts, and historical documents.
  3. How was the library restored and renovated? In 2001, a new complex was built to restore the Jaffna Library. Although the old books and manuscripts couldn't be replaced, modern facilities, including free Wi-Fi, were introduced.
  4. What are some notable features of the library's architecture? The library's architecture showcases a grand symmetrical facade reminiscent of the Moghul era. Its design reflects the cultural heritage and historical significance of Jaffna.
  5. Can visitors borrow books from the Jaffna Library? Yes, visitors can explore and read books within the library premises but cannot borrow them. The library provides a peaceful environment for research and reading.


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