The majority of the city’s population are Sri Lankan Tamils with a significant number of Sri Lankan Moors, Indian Tamils and other ethnic groups present in the city prior to the civil war. Most Sri Lankan Tamils are Hindus followed by Christians, Muslims and a small Buddhist minority. The city is home to number of educational institutions established during the colonial and post-colonial period. It also has number of commercial institutions, minor industrial units, banks, hotels and other government institutions. It is home to many historical sites such as the popular Jaffna library that was burnt down and rebuilt and the Jaffna fort rebuilt during the Dutch colonial period.
Jaffna is known in Tamil as Yalpanam. The origin of the name can be traced to a legend about the town's etymology. A King was visited by the blind Panan musician, who was an expert in vocal music and one skilled in the use of instrument called Yal. The King who was delighted to the music played with the Yal by the Panan, presented him a sandy plain. The Panan returned to India and introduced some members of his tribe as impecunious as himself to accompany to this land of promise, and it is surmised that their place of settlement was that part of the city which is known at present as Passaiyoor and Gurunagar. The Columbuththurai Commercial Harbor situated at Colombuthurai and the Harbour known as ‘Aluppanthy’ situated previously at the Gurunagar area seem as its evidences.
Jaffna is a corrupted version of Yalpanam. The colloquial form of Yalpanam is Yappanam. The Ya and Ja including pp and ff are easily interchangeable. As soon as it went into foreign language, it lost the Tamil ending m and consequently stood as Jaffna.