Never Again : 31 years ago the ashes of the Jaffna Library were scattered in the wind

31 May 1981


“On this day 31 years ago, the Jaffna Public Library was burnt down by the members of the Sri Lankan security forces. All its collection of more than 90,000 volumes of books turned to ashes within hours. This act of cultural genocide left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of the Tamil speaking people.”


Ashes – to the Jaffna library


by Rasika Jayakody


History’s footprints
are ash.

There are ash people,

ash places,

ash memories,

and ash eyes.

This library,

the one you see,

is ash too.

There were ashen people here,

wearing ash spectacles,

sitting on ash chairs

and reading ash books.

Those ash books

contained ashen lessons;

the lessons of 1981,



and onwards,

ash years;

and the ash walls here

still recall

the ash words

heard on the ash day.

Where would all this ash go,

one day?

maybe there is an ocean,


an ocean of time,

made of ash

and ashes.

The ash ocean,

will kiss

the ashen shore of


the city of ashes,

and caress

the ash heartbeat of my nation,

“Sri Lanka maatha…”

The featured part-image of a burning book was part of the Colombo Art Biennale’s exhibition in 2009.

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