Madhu Church, Mannar Island & Much More…
is a beautiful peninsula with lots of palm trees, fishing boats, wild donkeys, migrant birds and famous baobab tree. As you can see it is jutting out into the Palk Straight just under 30 kms from our neighbor India. The island was hit hard by the civil war but now it has rebounded as a tourist hot spot along with the visitation of the Madhu Church for Catholic Community in Sri Lanka and overseas.
The church of Our Lady of Madhu is a Roman Catholic shrine in the Mannar district of Sri Lanka. This shrine acts as a hub for pilgrimage and worship for Sri Lanka Catholics. The holy church stands inside the jungles of mannar and has been historically famous for its miracles and healing power. In the old days, when travel was pain staking, there were stories by our fore fathers travelling to Madhu by fishing boats and bullock carts. They had to encounter wild animals during this journey. This unbroken journey of devotion to Our Lady was continued for more than a century by our devotees until the outbreak of the civil war in 1983 but today with peace in our Island close to a million visitors gather at this holy shrine. This shrine has papal recognition. In 1920 Bishop Brault, who was very devoted to Our Lady of Madhu, obtained the pope’s sanction for the historic solemn coronation of the Statue of Our Lady of Madhu.
Talaimannar and Adam’s Bridge It was a major gateway to and from India and 38 kms from the town of Mannar on the westward end of the island is Talaimannar. We all recall, that not so long ago, ferries to Rameswaram departed from the nearby pier. Adam’s Bridge a chain of reefs and sand banks connect Sri Lanka to Rameswaram. In the epic Ramayana we are told these were the stepping stones that the Monkey King Hanuman used in his rescue plan of Rama’s wife Sita from Rawana. Along the coast, marks the start of the Adam’s Bridge. After the end of the civil war, the Navy is in control of the area and runs boat excursions for visitors to the first and second of the Bridge’s Sandbars which are a must visit for all Sri Lankans. The much talked about and admired sandbanks and tiny islands can be crossed on foot when there is low tide has been used as a bridge for 175,000 years. However old or what the legend holds about it, the bridge is a spectacular sight when viewed by air, to the writer probably one of the most breath-taking aerials in the island.
The Baobab Tree
Any guide or bystander in the Mannar town will direct you to the baobab tree which is 19m in circumference. The presence of Baobab trees in Sri Lanka is somewhat of a mystery – its origins and import are to this day the subject of speculation. One school of thought is that the tree was introduced to Sri Lanka by the Kaffir community. The other, has it that Arab traders brought it to our shores. Both theories probably hold currency.
The Baobab (also referred to as Baob or upside-down tree) is native to Africa. It is also reported that there are a few species of Baobab in Madagascar and Australia. The existence of Baobab trees in Sri Lanka is little known, both locally and internationally. The Baobab also has the capacity to store life giving water during periods of drought – with quantifiable estimates confirming many hundreds of litres. The African Baobab tree is deciduous and some trees are believed to be over a thousand years old. It also produces large aromatic flowers up to seven inches wide and some trees also produce fruit. It is said that the African Baobab tree has fruits appealing to baboons and is thus nicknamed monkey-bread.
The Portuguese Fort
We cannot ignore the fact that the town has a Portuguese fortress, northeast of the town and this can be seen towards the end of the 3km long causeway.
The causeway is now becoming a famous stretch for bird photography and a hot spot for sighting the flamingoes. A new sanctuary for birds in Sri Lanka has been declared in the zone of Mannar, known as the Vankalai Triangle. The Vankalai Triangle comprises the Vankalai, Puliyanthivu Island and Tiruketiswaram, located in Mannar.
It is now a protected sanctuary by the Department of Wildlife Conservation and has achieved the status of a wetland of International importance qualifying to be a Ramsar Site. Nearly 200 migrant birds have been observed in the Vankalai Sanctuary.
One of the richest sanctuaries in Sri Lanka for water birds. Vankalai Sanctuary is of great importance to these shore birds and many other migrant birds too. It is essential that this bird rich area within the Mannar mainland be protected and kept as a safe sanctuary.