Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow swear by it! Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie won’t use anything else! Several Hollywood stars insist on Indian hair extensions, claiming that they are the best. Hair extensions — the practice of bonding fake or human hair to one’s scalp to make tresses instantly look longer and thicker – is quite common among the ‘beautiful people’ of the West. And you will be surprised to know that much of the Indian hair exports come from Indian temples. We mentioned about this in our recent entry about the Tirumala Temple located in Southern India. Read on to know how huge this hair business is.
Every year over 10 lakh Hindus walk the hallowed halls of the devstanam (Temple) seeking that all-potent glimpse of Lord Venkateshwara. Being the richest temple in the world is not the Tirupati Temple’s only claim to fame. What gives the Tirumalay Devasthanam a unique status of reverence among Hindus is the practice of Kalyana Katta or head shaving. Kalyana Katta is a symbolic gesture of surrendering one’s ego to God. 500 barbers cut hair of 10,000 devotees daily for the purpose. Hundreds of barbers work round the clock to meet the high demand of tonsuring, which is carried out at Kalyana Katta, an enclosure inside the temple. These barbers are specially appointed by the Temple and you have to have your head shaven by them since the hair is to be offered to God. Hair that is black and longer than 16 inches is of the highest quality. Second quality is the black hair in length between 8 and 16 inches. Next is black hair shorter than 8 inches. The next two categories are the lowest and consist of grey and other colored hair
People getting their heads shaved in Kalyana Katta
It is not the men alone who partake in this ritual; children and women of all ages shave their head in Tirupati. The tonsured hair from men is used to extract a protein called L-Cystein. This protein is used in a range of products including eatables. Men’s hair is also used in coat linings and Chinese hair industry mixes it with hair from China to make cheap wigs and hair extensions.
The ‘Temple Hair’, as it has been nick named earned the temple an astonishing Rs.450 million ($9.5m) in 2007. Till 2000, the sale of hair annually was between 100 to 150 million rupees ($2-3m). But then there was a global surge in demand for human hair and the temple decided to invite global tender for hair purchasing. Apart from the legal trade in hair, a black market has mushroomed for temple hair. It is believed that up to 80 out of 100 locks of human hair come from the black market.
Isn’t this amazing? Look at the amount of hair
One of the prime reasons of insistence on Indian hair is the quality. Majority of the Indian men and women use natural methods to protect their hair unlike people from other countries who use various chemicals (shampoo) to clean and beautify their hair. So the Indian hair is natural – strong and durable.”Indian hair is really the best quality,” said a spokesman for Tyrone and Company, a top London saloon. “It is strong and durable and can be treated like your own. It can also be heated and curled, colored and blow-dried, and unlike acrylic looks natural.” There are 50 saloons in London alone providing Indian ‘temple hair’ and business is booming. And the quality of hair is not the only reason. The hair is also preferred by stars because of its spiritual connotations. “Spirituality is very in at the moment, so it adds to the whole experience of getting temple hair,” said the spokesman.