In Hinduism, shaving off the hair after a demise or as a part of a ritual is very common. Some are more than happy to give their hair as offering to God at temples, while some are forced because it is tradition!
After you get your hair shaved off and bid it adieu, your hair does not just lie around on the holy floor of the temple. And no, it is not even thrown in the dustbin. It is sold. Often to the highest bidder. So no, God does not have it.
“The temple cannot have [the hair] lying around and we can’t just throw it out in the dustbin,” explained Anjan Lokamitra, the managing trustee of Sri Bhavani Amman Temple in Chennai to CNN. Further, she said, “Companies come from different places and they bid for it, and those funds are used [for the] temple in terms of various buildings that we are planning in the next two years.”
According to World Today, “At the Venkateshwara Temple in South India more than 75 tonnes of hair are sold annually, raising nearly £4 million for the temple’s charities.”
The hair which is then used to make wigs and hair extensions is bought by people in various countries abroad like Italy, United States, Africa etc. Indian hair is in high-demand across the globe.
So they get your hair for free, process it through their workers who wash, trim and segregate it by length and texture and then whoosh – it is exported.
Your eyes will pop out when you read the next line. The human hair industry in India is valued at ₹2,000 crores, as per The Dollar Today in 2015! Imagine its value now – it is ever-growing. According to an article o homegrown.co.in, the high-quality human hair is sold anywhere between ₹4,000 to ₹25,000 per kg.
And as you can imagine, since it is such a lucrative business, hair smuggling happens as well! The President of the All India Human Hair Exporters Association once told Business Standard, “The livelihood of millions of Indians depends on the collection, processing and sale of the human hair. Besides, it also brings foreign exchange earnings. Smuggling is a threat to both.”
There might be a good side to this as well. The income generated from hair export by temples could be used for charity and educational purposes. Also, the processing units for the hair creates jobs, especially for women.
But nevertheless, the next time you decide to shave off your head at the temple, know the full story.
Watch this documentary by Al Jazeera to know more:
The next time you praise a celebrity’s lustrous locks remember that they might actually be a pilgrim’s!
Watch this video as well: