Wednesday 13 March 2013

A hair raising story of Tirupathi

This is literally hair raising. There is only one institution in the world  where hair fetches revenue in crores and this seems to be increasing year by year.
This is the temple of Venkateshwara, Balaji or Srinivasa in Tirupathi in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The richest temple in India in terms of revenue, this is the only temple which earns a minimum of one tenth of  crores it earns annually by way of hair offered by devotees.
The revenue that the TTD, the controlling body of the temple,  gets by way of hair donation was a whopping Rs. 200 crores during 2011-12. This was one tenth of the total revenue of Rs. 1949 crores that the temple earned during the period.   
Well, this hair raising revenue seems to be on the rise year by year. The TTD itself had projected a modest Rs. 150 crores from tonsuring heads for 2012-13 but the earlier year’s figures itself have crossed last year’s figures.
Every year, thousands of people, including women, visit the temple to get their heads tonsured to Lord Venkateshwara, in keeping with a centuries-old tradition.
This age-old tradition has spawned a multi-crore business in the TTD itself. The TTD auctions and exports human hair export and much of it is used world wide for making wigs and artificial hair.
In keeping with the latest developments in technology, the TTD from last year has taken up e-auctioning of hair. Last year, as many as 49 traders participated in the hair auction and bid huge amounts for various categories of hair.
Don’t lose hair over the auction. It was held in two phases - first in September 2011 and then again in March 2012. While 466 tonnes of hair was auctioned in the first phase, 95 tonnes of hair was sold in the second phase.
The hairy business is not so easy as tonsuring. The hair offered is broadly divided into five categories depending on the length and texture - hair longer than 31 inches; 16- 30 inches; 10-15 inches; five-nine inches; and the last category is of less than five inches. There is also a sixth variety, grey hair, donated by senior citizens. This has almost zero demand.
The hair varying between 16 to 30 inches put up for e-auction fetched the TTD an amount of Rs 53.54 cr at a bidding price of Rs 18,700 per kilo, while the hair varying between 10 to 15 inches earned a remarkable profit of Rs 6.18 cr.
The variety of hair ranging from 5 to 9 inches in size fetched Rs 93.57 lakh.
By the way, each category of hair has its own name and unique characteristic. The long and uniformly trimmed hair is called Remy  and this has huge demand in Europe and the US, where it is woven into wigs.
The non-Remy hair, broken and short, has huge demand in China, which in turn makes wigs and sells it in the American and African market, especially Nigeria.
In the domestic market, Tirumala hair is popular in Mumbai for making wigs for filmstars.
The hairy tale has a tradition that goes back to centuries. Devotees believe that while offering hair, they casts off all the vices, vanities and sins. Srinivasa pardons them and showers them with love and affection.
There is an interesting story about how head tonsuring originated here. Thousands of years ago, Srinivasa or Balaji was hit on his head by a shepherd, when he was a cow giving milk to him. A small portion of Srinivasa’s scalp became bald.
A Gandharva princess, Neela Devi,  noticed the bald patch and she immediately cut off a portion of her hair and with magical power  implanted it on Srinivasa’s scalp.
Srinivasa is pleased by the devotion of Neela Devi.  As hair is a beautiful aspect of the female, he promises her that all his devotees who come to his abode should render their hair to him, and she would be the recipient of all the hair received. Hence it is believed that hair offered by the devotees is accepted by Neela Devi herself. The hill, Neeladri, is one among seven hills of Tirupathi and it is  named after her.
By the way, the West has fallen in a big way for Indian hair. Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paris Hilton,  Nicole Richie and many more won’t use any other hair except Indian.
Hollywood and European cine stars insist on Indian hair extensions and nothing less, claiming that they are the best. Indian hair was used for Samantha Morton's hairdo in the film “Enduring Love”.
Hair extensions are now common in the West. It is the name for bonding fake or human hair to one's scalp to make tresses look longer, lush and thick.
Indian hair outbeats all other hair. They are strong, durable and can be fashioned in any manner-curly, coloured and blow-dried
Did you know that exclusive saloons in London and other cities in UK charge a minimum of £500 for hair extensions which need replacement every six weeks.
Much of this hair comes from Tirupati. Such hair has been nicknamed as Temple hair. There are more than 50 saloons in London alone providing Indian temple hair and this hairy business is booming.
Some of the hair, many tonnes in fact, find their way to the hair factories of Eluru, a town in Andhra Pradesh. Eluru has some of the biggest hair processing factories in India. Commission agents from Eluru, Bangalore and Chennai make a visit after every two and half months to make bids for the hair that the temple authorities auction.
The hair is packed and transported to the factories where they are given a good wash. They are then treated after separation and smoked and packed in locks. Two hundred strands of a 16 inch hair would make one pack and would fetch 30 cents if it is sold to buyers in Italy and $1.5 in the US.
Several decades earlier, people tonsured hair in their own houses and then came to Tirupathi. Subsequently, they could summon a barber to the cottage in Tirupathi and get a tonsure.  But now, people make it a point to visit Tirupathi and offer hair and this is known as Kalyan Katta.
On their part, devotees say Kalyana Katta is a symbolic gesture of surrendering ego to God. In all, 600 barbers cut hair of 10,000 devotees daily for the purpose.
There are 60 women barbers too. Each barber is trained to tonsure 60 heads during a six-hour shift. There is a separate enclosure in the temple town for the Kalyana Katta ceremony. The daily amount of hair collected is over a ton.
Every six hours, the cut hair is collected, put in sealed containers and stored till the day of the annual auction. The auction attracts the highest bidders from across the Globe. Some reports claim that the hair goes to German and Italian pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies for Rs 7,000 per kilo.
Once the devotees donate hair, they take a dip in the holy Pushkarini and then visit the shrine of Balaji.


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  2. Hi thanks for the information.please can u also provide some of the names of the hair factories which weave the hair and sell