The village of Thondaimanaru is situated on the northern coast of the Jaffna Peninsula in Sri Lanka(formerly known as Ceylon) midway between the railway terminal and port of Kankesanthurai and the ancient port of Point Pedro. It lies at the junction of the “river” Thondaimanaru with the sea at the Palk Straits. Although the village was in existence from time immemorial, it gained prominence in the eleventh century when Karunakara Thondaiman, a general of the Indian Emperor Kulathunga I (1070-1118A.D.), stationed his army there. It was Thondaiman who constructed the “canal” which gave an outlet to the Vadamaradchi Lagoon to the sea. The village has ever since been known as Thondaimanaru i.e. “the river of Thondaiman”.
For almost eight centuries after the construction of the canal there was no bridge across it and people who wanted to go across had to use boats or rafts. When the first wooden bridge was built towards the latter part of the nineteenth century(I think) a toll was levied on all vehicles using it. To my knowledge such a toll was in existence even as late as 1910.
The Vadamaradchi Lagoon, adjoining Thondaimanaru, was for centuries past noted for its salt fields extending to Karanavai, and the purpose of Karunakkara Thondaiman constructing the “canal” was to facilitate the transport of salt by his ships to India. He also deepened the Lagoon to provide safe anchorage for his vessels in times of bad weather. The salt produced at Karanavai was transported to and stored at Thondaimanaru. Foreign ships used to call there to load salt. These ships came empty and carried big limestones and granite as ballast which were dumped into the sea before loading up with salt. We can find some of these stones even now in shallow water near the shore. The salt fields at Karanavai were closed by the Goverment in 1949 and that marked the end of the salt stores at Thondaimanaru.
There are a few instances in which Thondaimanaru has featured prominently during the reign of the Arya Kings of Jaffna and the chief among these are:
- The Arya Kings of Jaffna built a special “Pilathuvarum”, an underground building, with halls and apartments at Thondaimanaru for them to take shelter in times of emergency. This underground refuge is still in existence to this day but, alas, the only living creatures making use of it are the bats. Occasionally a cow-herd or some daring school boys go underground to visit the halls etc. out of curiosity. In more developed countries a place with such royal connections would be on the tourist list and many people would visit it annually.
- In 1619 A.D. Sinna Megapulle came back from Tanjore, India, with a thousand warriors and landed at Thondaimanaru in his first attempt to oust the Portugese from Jaffna.
- Sinna Megapulle came back again from Tanjore the following year(1620 A.D.) with a large army, landed at Thondaimanaru and encamped near a tank – most probably the “Konaisar Kulam”. But unfortunately both his atttempts failed. “