The first time I saw Elephant Pass

It was in 2010 on a hot July blustery day that I first set foot in this little strip of land that connects the Jaffna Peninsula to the rest of Sri Lanka. It is a place of haunting beauty and the memory still lingers on in my mind. The salt lakes were nearly dried up, the wind howled a thousand stories I didn't want to hear, not only of elephants of yonder but of battles fought, lives lost.

Both the Sinhala name "Alimankade" and Elephant Pass remains in my mind tied up with lumbering victimized elephants. Earlier there had been a narrow ford and the elephants were driven into the Jaffna peninsula through this shallow waterway that separated Jaffna from the mainland. This was bridged and given the name Elephant Pass.


Elephant Pass has been a strategic military base since 1760, when the Portuguese built a fort, which was later rebuilt and garrisoned by the Dutch in 1776 and later by the British. For the Portuguese the conquest of Jaffna meant they strengthened their control over the pearl fishery and had greater control over the supply of elephants from Vanni, increasing their domination over the island’s elephant trade. 


The Dutch too when they came into power continued the sales of elephants that were inhumanly caught in Kraals. The Dutch held annual sales in Jaffna and buyers from Coramandel and the Bengal coasts came for these sales.


A military base was built there in 1952 by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) and many fierce battles were fought here. Monument on the side of the road pays tribute to the Sri Lankan soldier Corporal Gamini Kularathne who sacrificed his life to save his comrades.



The Sri Lanka Army finally captured the pass on January 9, 2009 as part of the campaign that led to the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.