Building started on Jaffna’s striking public library in 1933. It started as a modest private collection but by 1959 it already housed seminal texts on Sri Lankan history and culture, including archival material written in palm leaf manuscripts.
In 1981 amid civil conflict, however, the entire library – by that time one of the biggest in Asia – was destroyed in a fire. The libricide was a significant act in the build-up to the war and in 2001 it became one of the first buildings to be rebuilt. Architects mimicked the original neo-Mughal design and the public space is popular again today, although many of the texts that were burnt were irreplaceable.