In 1658 Mannar was captured by the Dutch. From there, they marched through the jungle lands of the Vanni and crossed over to the Peninsula at Poonakari. The Portuguese were trapped in the Jaffna fort and surrendered on 24 June.
The new rulers took interest in developing the resources of the land. Self-sufficiency in food was their prime aim. They got down thousands of slaves to work in the fields. While repairing the Kaddukkarai tank, renamed Giant’s tank because of its size, in the Mantote area outside the Peninsula, they encouraged the people of Jaffna to settle in poonakari as cultivators.
Numerous wells were repaired in the Peninsula and the dwindling number of cattle was replaced by importing some from India.
Many industries such as weaving and rope-making were greatly encouraged.
A colony of Andhra weavers was brought from India and settled a Jaffna.
A land register called tombo was started. The system of land tenure was fixed.
The customary laws of Jaffna called Tesavalami was codified and promulgated. Tamil Mudaliyars were appointed over the four divisions of the Peninsula. The famous Dutch Fort in Jaffna, which has become newsworthy in the last few years, was built.
They were very harsh towards Roman Catholics and used all means at their disposal to suppress the Catholic Church.
An interesting memorial of their rule is the Dutch names for the islands lying off the Peninsula. Karaitivu became Amnsterdam; Anailaitivu, Rotterdam; Nainativu, Harlem; Pungudutivu, Middleburgh; Neduntivu, Delft: and Velanai, Leyden. Another souvenir of their occupation of Jaffna may lie in the name of a cemetery “studded with the most expensive and extravagant old monuments” called Jaffna in Delft, Holland. The “best of Aristocrats” are buried in that cemetery.
It is important to note that, following the practice of the Portuguese; the Dutch too administered Jaffna as a separate entity without amalgamating it with their two Sinhalese possessions.