JAFFNA, a town of Ceylon, at the northern extremity of the island. The fort was described by Sir J. Emerson Tennent as "the most perfect little military work in Ceylon - a pentagon built of blocks of white coral." The European part of the town bears the Dutch stamp more distinctly than any other town in the island; and there still exists a Dutch Presbyterian church. Several of the church buildings date from the time of the Portuguese. In 1901 Jaffna had a population of 33,879, while in the district or peninsula of the same name there were 300,851 persons, nearly all Tamils, the only Europeans being the civil servants and a few planters. Coco-nut planting has not been successful of recent years. The natives grow palmyras freely, and have a trade in the fibre of this palm. They also grow and export tobacco, but not enough rice for their own requirements. A steamer calls weekly, and there is considerable trade. The railway extension from Kurunegala due north to Jaffna and the coast was commenced in 1900. Jaffna is the seat of a government agent and district judge, and criminal sessions of the supreme court are regularly held. Jaffna, or, as the natives call it, Yalpannan, was occupied by the Tamils about 204 B.C., and there continued to be Tamil rajahs of Jaffna till 1617, when the Portuguese took possession of the place. As early as 1544 the missionaries under Francis Xavier had made converts in this part of Ceylon, and after the conquest the Portuguese maintained their proselytizing zeal. They had a Jesuit college, a Franciscan and a Dominican monastery. The Dutch drove out the Portuguese in 1658. The Church of England Missionary Society began its work in Jaffna in 1818, and the American Missionary Society in 1822.
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