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The Indian government has decided to permit pilgrims from the northern parts of Sri Lanka to take a ferry to Chennai and from there travel to Chidambaram and visit the Nataraja temple.

The services will be operated between Kankesanthurai (near Jaffna) and Chennai, according to a release issued by the Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday.

Sri Lankan pilgrims have expressed a desire to come to Chidambaram, about 235 km from Chennai, in connection with the “Aarudhraa Darshana” festival, which will begin on December 24 and go up to January 2. The release stated that “a large number of Sri Lankan Tamil pilgrims” were expected to come to Chidambaram.

Welcoming the government’s move, S.C. Chandrahasan, founder, OfFER (Organisation for Eelam Refugees’ Rehabilitation), reiterated his long standing demand for the resumption of Rameswaram-Talaimannar ferry services on a regular basis so that “poorer and more deserving pilgrims and people” could come to India. He sees the start of these services as a pre-requisite for voluntary repatriation of refugees living in Tamil Nadu. V. Niranjan, coordinator of the Jaffna Managers’ Forum, a civil society organisation based in Jaffna, said the decision would go a long way in strengthening traditional ties between the people of Tamil Nadu and the Northern Province. He hoped that the step would strengthen the relationship in the fields of education, health, trade and commerce.

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