While travelling Sri Lanka we are constantly meeting new people, with different backgrounds, various lifestyles and so many interesting stories to tell. We asked some of them to describe a typical day in their life to us and are happy to introduce our first portrait of a series to come soon.
NAME: Sinnathambi Srikanthan
OCCUPATION: Hindu priest
CITY: Orr’s Hill, Trincomalee
AGE: 51 years
CITY OF BIRTH: Trincomalee
Ravi is a Hindu priest in Orr’s Hill, a suburb of Trincomalee. He is running the Sri Durgai Amman temple (temple of godess Durga, wife of Shiva). We visited him in his house, which is located opposite of the temple and he took his time for an interview with us.
Why did you choose your occupation?
My father was working as a government officer and my uncles were also priests. Since none of my cousins chose to keep up with the family tradition, I decided to become a priest at the age of 16 years to maintain the family tradition. Later my younger brother followed my way and also became a priest. He is living and working in Canada at the moment. About 40 years ago, my uncle built the Sri Durgai Amman temple with the help of the local community here. After some years of practice I took over the temple and am running and maintaning it now.
How did you become a Hindu priest?
The main requirement to become a priest is your family background, minimum one person within the family must be a priest. With 16 years I started my studies and joined the Gurugulam (School for priests). The first three months I studied in Jaffna, in the North of Sri Lanka, followed by 1.5 years of studies in South India, in Tamil Nadu. Then I started my practical work and gained several years of working experience. After ten years conducting my work as a priest I received an additional certificate. I am performing any kind and many varieties of pujas now. I have even been invited to Europe to do pujas for individual ceremonies.
A puja is a ritual performed by the priest to honour and worship the gods or to celebrate an event in a spiritual way. A puja can be created for many occasions in life such as weddings or house and business dedications and for celebrations of religious festivals and many more.
Can you describe a typical work day?
A typical work day means getting up at 5 am. First the preparations for the morning puja need to be done. At 8 am the morning puja starts in the temple and the whole ceremony will last up to one hour. A second daily puja will be held in the afternoon at 5 pm. In the festival season more extensive and special pujas will be performed and many times I am requested to do additional ceremonies for personal events of our community members.
Daily preparation of vegetarian meals will be done by me or by a family member.
Priests are following a strict vegetarian diet and the tradition says that they can only eat meals which are prepared by themselves or their family members.
Besides these responsibilities Ravi is also involved in local social work, supporting people and projects within the community.
And since he is also the owner of some agricultural land near by, checking the workers and maintaining the farm is another part of his daily duties.
What do you like most about your job?
Helping people to achieve a good future by following the spiritual traditions.