Sangiliyan Thoppu and statue
The Sangiliyan Thoppu is an ancient arch which was once part of the outer facade of the Jaffna Kingdom, at the palace gate. What was once part of the king’s palace, the arch, with what closely resembles a Dutch colonial era aesthetic, is now a protected archaeological monument (as of 2007). Located barely a few metres away from the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil in the Nallur suburbs, the arch isn’t the sole reminder of the ancient kingdom that fell hard and fast under Sri Lanka’s Portuguese occupation.
Close to the Sangiliyan Thoppu stands a monument commemorating Jaffna’s last king, King Cankili II. Back while the Civil War was taking place, the original Sangiliyan Thoppu, which was made out of plaster, was destroyed beyond repair. What stands in its place now is a gold-plated statue, installed in 2009 after the war came to an end. The monument serves as a reminder of a particularly gory part of Sri Lanka’s history.
Upon the death of Ethirimanna Cinkam in 1617, multiple people laid claim to the throne, of which Cankili II—the dead king’s nephew—was one, along with the former king’s brother and an influential chieftain.
But eventually, the king’s son was named regent instead. Cankili II then had all claimants as well as all the princes killed, and took the throne for himself, proclaiming himself as king of the Jaffna kingdom.
But the Portuguese colonists who had settled in Colombo didn’t recognise his reign, and barely two years later, he was executed by the Portuguese. And so came the abrupt end to a long line of Aryacakravarti kings who had ruled over Jaffna for over three centuries.
Following his execution, the palace was destroyed, leaving nothing but the tell-tale foundations. The Sangiliyan Thoppu, being all that remains, is a silent monument to the once-great kingdom of Jaffna.
For those who are intrigued by its fascinating history, a tour of the palace ruins the Sangiliyan Thoppu is sure to be a thriller!