GUESS THE COMMERCIAL VALUE OF YOUR HAIR YOU OFFER TO GODS?.........
Posted by Vishva News Reporter on July 30, 2006

 

Indian Temples Sell
US$136 million of Women's Hair Offering


Womens News correspondent  Swapna Majumdar: July 9, 2006

Many Indian women offer their hair to deities in Hindu temples in a show of respect and gratitude. Few realize the offerings can wind up in a lucrative export market serving China and Hollywood.

When Nafisa Ali, a Bollywood actor and Miss India 1976, shaved her hair, she wasn't trying to make a style statement.

Nafisa Ali (rear right), with U.S. First Lady Laura Bush and muppets of India's Galli Galli Sim Sim

Nafisa Ali (rear right), with U.S. First Lady Laura Bush and muppets of India's Galli Galli Sim Sim. Nafisa Ali is a social activist from India. She has accomplishments in several fields. She was the national swimming champion from 1972-1974. She won the Miss India title in 1976 and was runner-up at the Miss International contest in 1977. She was also a jockey at the Calcutta Gymkhana in 1979. She acted in several Bollywood films, the notable ones being Junoon (1979) with Shashi Kapoor and Major Saab with Amitabh Bachchan (1998), and the most recent being Bewafaa (2005). She is associated with Action India, an organisation working in the area of spreading awareness on AIDS. She contested the 2004 Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully from South Kolkata. In September 2005, she was appointed the chairperson of the Children's Film Society of India (CFSI). Her mother was a Roman Catholic, father - a Muslim, husband - a Sikh and she herself believes in Vedanta.

Nasifa Ali offered her waist-length locks at the 1,200-year-old Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, a town in Chittor district of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, to thank its deity for granting her a private wish she had made on behalf of her family that had given her life new meaning. The tradition of offering hair is a symbol of religious devotion and surrender of the ego.

"Twelve years ago, when I was 37 years old, I had taken a vow that if my wish was granted, I would give my hair at Tirupati," Ali told Women's eNews.

Little did she know that this mark of respect to the Hindu gods would be collected in gunny bags by temple workers and stored in special containers for auction to hair exporters.

It's not possible to say exactly where the actor's hair went, but a great deal of women's hair collected at temples winds up as hair extensions for Hollywood film actors who pay as much as $3,000 for the final product.

 

Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, India

Value of hair offerings to God


Although both men and women offer their hair at temples, most of the hair that is exported for the lucrative salon business comes from women. Women's hair is usually long, dark and silky, and is most prized by merchants and wig-makers.

Exporters say hair from men is usually used for coat linings and to extract L-Cystein, a protein used as raw material for a range of products including baby food and doughnuts.
Ever wonder what happens to all the hair that is shaven off devotees' heads at temples in India.......

This news piece gives food for thought about a little-known industry that has blossomed from devotees' shaved heads. According to this article, hair worth about US$136 million collected from temple barbers is shipped from India, one of the largest exporters of human hair, to factories in China while the United States imported hair worth $82 million during the 2004-05 fiscal year from India. J

aswanth Soundarapandian, regional director of the government's council on hair export, said, "There has been a steady rise in demand from China. However, while it remains our biggest buyer, the burgeoning hair fashion trends in countries like the United States of America and European countries have helped to expand trade."

The news item clarified, "Exporters say buyers from countries such as the United States pay $1.50 for a strand of hair that expensive beauty salons may then weave into extensions or wigs that can sell for between $1,500 and $3,000. Exporters say that Hollywood is one of the biggest consumers of human hair."

Apparently the famous temple in Tirupati is the largest hair supplier and in the last year the temple sold over 3 million kilos of hair for about 1 million dollars. The temple now employs over six-hundred barbers. One hundred of these barbers are females that service the 4,500 to 20,000 female devotees who devotedly offer their hair to God on a daily basis.


Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org. or share your thoughts on this knowledge sharing PVAF web site by clicking on POST A COMMENT in the header of this news and write away....

 

Please click on the next line to continue reading the commercial value to Hollywood and China of the 5 categories hair offerings to Gods.....



The Business of Temple Hair Offerings
www.womensenews.org

(continued from brief story....)

Five Categories of Hair

Wholesalers sort hair into five categories. The kind that is black and longer than 6 inches is the most sought after. This "remy" or "black gold" category sells for as much as $160 per kilogram.

The second category of black hair, between 8 and 16 inches long, sells for around $44 a kilogram. The third category of black hair, shorter than 8 inches, sells for under a dollar a kilogram. The fourth and fifth categories are gray hair shorter than 8 inches, which sell for about 10 cents a kilogram.

Once exporters have bought hair they re-sort it into straight, wavy, silky and curly hair. The hair is then shampooed, dried in the sun and combed.

Every year hair worth about $136 million is shipped from India, one of the largest exporters of human hair, to factories in China. There, Chinese hair is mixed with Indian hair to make wigs and hair extensions for Western markets.

While China is the biggest market for Indian hair, Jaswanth Soundarapandian, regional director of the government's council on hair export, says other countries are also important. He told Women's eNews that hair worth $82 million was exported to the United States during the 2004-05 fiscal year, 30 percent more than the previous year. He said that for the three-quarter period between April 2005 and December 2005 exports fetched $54 million.

"There has been a steady rise in demand from China," he says. "However, while it remains our biggest buyer, the burgeoning hair fashion trends in countries like the United States of America and European countries have helped to expand trade."

Hollywood a  Major Consumer

Exporters say buyers from countries such as the United States pay $1.50 for a strand of hair that expensive beauty salons may then weave into extensions or wigs that can sell for between $1,500 and $3,000. Exporters say that Hollywood is one of the biggest consumers of human hair.


"Hair that is thrown away is waste but hair that is collected is money," says Kishore Gupta, one of the largest exporters of human hair. Gupta says his Chennai-based Gupta Enterprises boasts an annual turnover of over $20 million and that he expects this figure to grow in coming years.
 


Hindu temples, where devotees such as Nafisa Ali tonsure their hair, are the largest hair suppliers. The top grosser is the famous temple in Tirupati.

Every year, over 9 million devotees stand in serpentine queues to pay obeisance to its deity and have their heads shorn to fulfill a vow or pledge. After the hair is collected, the temple stores it in 14 steel containers, with male and female hair kept separate. Once the warehouse is stocked, auction notices are advertised in four languages, all south Indian, in three popular newspapers and on the temple's official Web site.

In the most recent financial year the temple sold over 3 million kilos of hair for about $1 million.

Hair Offerings Rising With Population

Temple administrators say that the volume of hair has been increasing every year since the 1980s as the number of devotees has risen in tandem with the overall population of the country.

The temple, which employed only a few barbers in the 1960s and 1970s now employs 600 barbers who work around the clock. Demand for their services is so intense that the temple has begun allowing women into the formerly all-male ranks.

In May 2005, 100 female barbers joined the "kalyanakatta," the temple enclosure where tonsuring is performed. The female barbers cater to female devotees, who number about 4,500 out of the 20,000 who tonsure their hair every day.

While the female barbers earn about $68 a month, their female clients are paid nothing. Male and female devotees offer their hair as part of religious practice.

Exporters also buy hair from salons and rag-pickers. In the village of Bhagyanagar, Karnataka, about 2,000 families depend on the hair they collect from garbage dumps.

Gupta, the hair exporter, said that he distributes plastic bags to women in the local village near his factory in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, to keep outside their huts. Every time they comb their hair, those that fall are collected in the bag. After a week, a broker will collect these bags and pay the women a small sum.

Swapna Majumdar is a journalist based in New Delhi writing on politics, gender and development issues.
 



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