Clockwise from top: Jaffna Public Library, the Jaffna-Pannai-Kayts highway, Nallur Kandaswamy temple, Jaffna Fort, Sangiliyan Statue, Jaffna Palace ruins
Jaffna is located in Northern Province
Coordinates: 09°39′53″N 80°01′00″E / 09°39′53″N 80°01′00″E / 9.66472; 80.01667(2012)
 • Total88,138
 • Density4,400/km2 (11,000/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (Jaffna Municipal Council

Jaffna (Tamil: யாழ்ப்பாணம், romanized: Yāḻppāṇam, Sinhala: යාපනය, romanized: Yāpanaya) is the capital city of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It is the administrative headquarters of the Jaffna District located on a peninsula of the same name. With a population of 88,138 in 2012, Jaffna is Sri Lanka's 12th most populous city.[1] Jaffna is approximately six miles (9.7 kilometres) from Kandarodai which served as an emporium in the Jaffna peninsula from classical antiquity. Jaffna's suburb Nallur served as the capital of the four-century-long medieval Jaffna Kingdom.

Prior to the Sri Lankan Civil War, it was Sri Lanka's second most populous city after Colombo. The 1980s insurgent uprising led to extensive damage, expulsion of part of the population, and military occupation. Since the end of civil war in 2009, refugees and internally displaced people began returning to homes, while government and private sector reconstruction started taking place.[2] Historically, Jaffna has been a contested city. It was made into a colonial port town during the Portuguese occupation of the Jaffna peninsula in 1619 who lost it to the Dutch, only to lose it to the British in 1796. During the civil war, the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) occupied Jaffna in 1986. The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) briefly occupied the city in 1987. The LTTE again occupied the city from 1989 until 1995, when the Sri Lankan Army regained control.

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 and earlier known as Yalpanapattinam. A 15th century inscription of the Vijayanagara Empire mentions the place as Yalpaanayanpaddinam.[3] The name also occurs on copper plates issued by Sethupathi kings of the same era.[4] The suffix -pattinam indicates the place to have been a seaport town.[5]

The origin of the name can be traced to a legend about the town's etymology. A king (supposedly Ukkirasinghan) was visited by the blind Panan musician, who was an expert in vocal music and one skilled in the use of instrument called Yal.[6] The king who was delighted to the music played with the Yal by the Panan, presented him a sandy plain.[7] 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.[8] The Columbuthurai Commercial Harbor situated at Colombuthurai and the harbor known as ‘Aluppanthy’ situated previously at the Gurunagar area seem as its evidences.[9]

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.[7]

Other Languages
বাংলা: জাফনা
беларуская: Джафна
brezhoneg: Jaffna
català: Jaffna
čeština: Jápané
dansk: Jaffna
Deutsch: Jaffna
eesti: Jaffna
español: Jaffna
Esperanto: Ĝafna
فارسی: جافنا
français: Jaffna
ગુજરાતી: જાફના
한국어: 자프나
Hausa: Jaffna
हिन्दी: जाफना
Bahasa Indonesia: Jaffna
italiano: Jaffna
ქართული: ჯაფნა
lietuvių: Džafna
magyar: Jaffna
മലയാളം: ജാഫ്ന
मराठी: जाफना
Nederlands: Jaffna (stad)
日本語: ジャフナ
norsk: Jaffna
norsk nynorsk: Jaffna
occitan: Jaffna
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Jafna
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਜਾਫਨਾ
polski: Dżafna
português: Jaffna
සිංහල: යාපනය
Simple English: Jaffna
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Jaffna
suomi: Jaffna
svenska: Jaffna
తెలుగు: జాఫ్నా
Türkçe: Jaffna
українська: Джафна
اردو: جافنا
vepsän kel’: Džafn (lidn)
Tiếng Việt: Jaffna
Winaray: Jaffna
中文: 賈夫納