(Text and Pix by Harsha Udayakantha Peiris)
As the long stood arm struggle and terrorism was successfully eliminated, peace returned not only to the war ridden areas of the North and East of Sri Lanka but equally to each and every citizen and visitor to the country to have peace in mind to roam in every nook and corner at his will and leisure to quench the thirst of exploring beautiful Sri Lanka.
With the dawn of peace, many enthusiastically take to travel specially in the northern and eastern areas of the country where they were longing to visit for a long time to get a first hand experience of the religious, cultural as well as historical diversity and natural beauty of the areas once frightened to be visited as for the conflicts prevailed. The emerging modern developments in these areas at present, are re-awakening the two regions and the suburbs as viable commercial zones with booming regional industries that support the development chain of the country. As the country was released from the clutches of terrorism, currently, it is encouraging to see a number of infrastructure developments that have been set in the fast tract aiming a rapid socio-economic development in the areas.
During a visit to Mannar we were delighted to have a first hand sight on to the infrastructure developments rapidly booming in the area and the way in return they have been useful to carry-out the cores of the residents and public in the region. Mannar could be reached on A-30 highway from Vavunia and A-14 from Medawachchiya, and few kilometers along a causeway and is also one of the most famous and popular revered cities for ethnic diversity and harmony, in the country. The newly re-constructed Medawachchiya – Mannar highway has been demarcated with safety precautions and facilitated with newly built other infrastructure facilities along it. At the ‘Madhu’ church that was revered by Catholic devotees even internationally, a large number of devotees and visitors from the south of the country were seen having visited the shrine that was given ample publicity of the struggle that took place within, during the separatists’ armed conflict that was completely defeated few years back. ‘Madhu Shrine’ is situated along the Mannar – Vauniya Road . The place could also be reached via Medawachchiya. Soon the war is over thousands of catholic pilgrims re-commenced visiting this shrine each year for the Madhu festival held in August.
Over the lagoon, the latest telecommunication improvements connecting Mannar with faster communication facilities with the rest of the country and world could be seen. It was interesting to see a Government sub-post office now in operation at Pallimunai. The famous ‘Biobab Tree’ at Pallimunai in Mannar. That is believed to have been planted by the Arabian sailors in or around 1477, is now, always surrounded by visitors from the south who use to walk around it interestingly. The tree has a circumference of 19.51 metres and has grown to a height of 7.50 metres.
Thalaimannar Pier and Railway Station situated within the naval base in Mannar are another two monuments of a by gone era that the present traveler should never forget to visit. The erection of the rail bridge across the Palk Straits was originally promoted by the British Government in 1894, mainly to facilitate the transportation of workers in Tamilnadu for the tea plantations in Sri Lanka . Subsequently, Thalaimannar Pier and Railway Station were functioned from 1914 to transport passengers between Thalaimannar and Dhanuskodi ( Rameswaram). The pier projects 264 metres North from mainland supports a double railway line. The pier was damaged due to a cyclone in 1967 three years later the infrastructure had been repaired and the ferry service was back in operation till 1983. Since then the long stood arm struggle and the ethnic unrest seized its services. Over the safety walls of the naval base one could also see the fishing boats now in the safer waters of the Indian Ocean reminding us of the fact that Mannar is famous for its fresh catch of fish and also dry fish.
On to the right of the navy camp and beside the small fisher harbour one can see Thalaimannar lighthouse. The light house was built by the British in 1915 to identify the location by vessels sailing outside the coastal waters of the country. It is white, concrete round cylindrical tower with lantern on top which has a diameter of 17 metres. It gives a white flash every five seconds.
As peace has regained all these beauties of the regions in the country that were forbidden for the public for a long period of time due to the ethnic struggle, and gifted them all for the entire nation to be themselves to see them all, again, in their own eyes, the responsibility of each and every citizen of this country could never be thought or considered simple in the process of safeguarding and securing the sustainability of such peace that was achieved through vigor, valor and sacrifice.