At the Arasady Pillayar Temple in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Hindus worship by carrying “kavadi,” a type of physical burden that is often a decorated wood item. Starting at the temple, the procession danced through the village of Kondavil. The kavadi may also be a body piercing.
Panchatcharam Kanagasabapathy, 70, throws fertilizer on his rice paddy in Alaveddy, a village in the Jaffna district of Sri Lanka. Kanagasabapathy has planted paddy seedlings on his field for the past 25 years.
Kandaiah Sivajanam, 68, repairs bicycles at his workshop in Koddady, a village in Sri Lanka’s Jaffna district. Sivajanam has been a self-employed bike repairman for 35 years. The job helps him support his family of eight children.
Across the street from the Maha Kali Amman Kovil, a Hindu temple in Modara, a municipal ward in Colombo 15, Sri Lanka, Saraswathi, 65, reads the palm of Mindi Weerasinghe. Weerasinghe says she was amazed at how accurate Saraswathi was in telling her about her past and her struggles.
Vallikkodi Paramananthar gathers palmyra sprouts while harvesting her field in Karambakurichchi, a village on the Jaffna peninsula in Sri Lanka. This work is an ancestral tradition for Paramananthar, and it helps to provide for her family.
Paramsothy Kaliyugavarathan sells traditional oil lamps on the roadside in Jaffna, the capital of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. Each lamp sells for about 50 Sri Lankan rupees (29 cents), earning Kaliyugavarathan 600 to 800 rupees ($3.48 to $4.64) per day. These traditional lamps are popular during Hindu religious holidays.
Farmers Kirusnapillai Nahulenthiran (left) and M.I. Alavudheen harvest their “short season” paddy in Mannar, a city in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. Once a year, during what is known as the “short season,” the government gives its agricultural land to farmers, so they can harvest and earn wages.
In Vavuniya, a district in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, students from the Empowerment Campus of Social, Economical and Environmental Developers, or SEED, perform a street drama advocating against child abuse. The drama’s theme was, “We, today’s elders, were yesterday’s children; protecting children and [encouraging] them to move forward is our responsibility.” SEED was organized in 1996 to aid those affected by Sri Lanka’s lengthy civil war.
Visakan Perinpanathan, 26, and his father sculpt statues of Hindu gods at their workshop in Jaffna, a city in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. Perinpanathan has pursued his family’s craft for eight years.
Cobbler Iyanaar Uthayakumar, 42, repairs a shoe while sitting next to a bus terminal in Jaffna, a city in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. Uthayakumar, who has worked as a cobbler for 10 years, earns about 1,200 Sri Lankan rupees ($7) per day to support himself, his wife and three children.
Young people train in Silambattam, a traditional Tamil martial art, at the Sri Muthumariamman Temple in Madukkulam, a village in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka. The training was arranged by Pasumaikkana Puratchi Iyakkam, a local organization that aims to restore this traditional martial art.
Muniyasamy Rasenthiram works at his family’s shop in Nallur, a suburb of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Rasenthiram, who has been making clay pottery for 30 years, is paid about 3 to 5 Sri Lankan rupees (2 or 3 cents) per item.
Velan Rajenthiran repairs slippers on the roadside in Mannar, a town in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. Rajenthiran, who started this business two years ago, fixes torn footwear, leather bags and umbrellas.
John Anthonipillai sells fresh fish on the side of Mannar Bridge, which connects Mannar Island to the main island of Sri Lanka. Every evening for the last three years, Anthonipillai has sold fish to travelers on the bridge to Mannar Island, which has a thriving marine industry.
Every day for the past 35 years, Thangarasa Lingarasa (right), Thampu Thevarasa (center) and Rasaiah Pathmanathan (left) have gotten together to roll tobacco in Thirunelvely, a village in Sri Lanka’s Jaffna district. They make about 2,200 cigars per week, earning 1.80 Sri Lankan rupees (a little more than 1 U.S. cent) per cigar, so each man earns about 4,000 rupees (about $25) per week.
Tamil Hindus gather at Vavvala Lake in the Sri Lankan village of Cheddikulam for the annual Aadi Amavasai, or the new moon for the Tamil month Aadi, which occurs in July and August. To pray for the souls of their departed fathers, the group observes several rituals on the occasion.
Sivakumar Sarusan, 18, carries heated tar to repair Sornapury-Adampan road, in Sri Lanka’s Mannar district. At 6 a.m., Sarusan and the road repair team begin by heating the barrels of tar. They then fill in damaged parts of the road with crushed limestone, over which they pour the tar and sand.
R. Raja, known as Nai Maama, or Uncle Cobra, charms a snake alongside his monkey, named Punchi Mahattaya, or Little Gentleman. Raja, a member of the Ahikuntika community, an ancient Sri Lankan nomadic group, lives in Ape Gama, a replica of an old Sri Lankan cultural village, in Battaramulla, a suburb of the capital, Colombo. In Ape Gama, people go about their daily routines, explaining village life to visitors to this historical theme park.
Thuan Farzan receives a treatment at a fish massage center at the Floating Market in Pettah, a neighborhood in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The center says that unexpected benefits of the massage include improved circulation, reduce depression and anxiety and helps to prevent headaches.
Sanjeewa Pubudu Nanayakkara measures the dimensions of a handmade nativity scene for a customer at his roadside stall outside St. Mary’s Church in Dehiwala, Sri Lanka. Nanayakkara, who has sold these Christmas decorations for more than 15 years, makes the nativity scenes out of wood and straw. His cousin makes the clay figures.
S.M. Kanthi, 40, lays fish out to dry in the sun at the Main Fish Market in Negombo, Sri Lanka. Kanthi, who has done this job for five years, is paid 400 Sri Lankan rupees ($2.60) per barrel of fish. The job requires turning the fish over after several hours, protecting the fish from rain with a plastic sheet and loading them into baskets when they are fully dried.
Along Robert Road in Dehiwala, a suburb of Colombo, Sri Lanka, boys with decorated bicycles lead a procession of devotees, known as a “perahera.” Participants of this Buddhist ritual walk through their community to the local temple carrying baskets of flowers, cloth wicks and coconut oil to light lamps as offerings to Buddha and offerings of robes for the temple priests. This traditional ritual takes place throughout October and November, and the processions are usually arranged by a few families who live on the same street.