Collecting and Selling Human Hair Part 2

October 5, 2015

The practice of Hindu pilgrims shaving their heads has created a £3.7m business
for a southern Indian temple that sells tons of hair to Westerners.

Thousands of devotees travel to Tirumala temple in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, one of Hinduism’s most sacred religious sites and a place all Hindus are expected to visit at least once in their lifetime. Forty thousand pilgrims arrive every day to worship at the feet of Lord Venkateswara, a powerful avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu who, devotees believe, has the ability to grant the wish of any pilgrim who has made the journey to his temple. During major religious festivals the authorities prepare for up to 120,000 pilgrims to make the journey up the forest-clad mountain where the centuries-old Dravidian temple stands. So many people come to Tirumala, in fact, that many Indians claim the temple is the world’s most popular pilgrimage site, even outstripping the Vatican and Mecca in the sheer numbers arriving on a daily basis.Tirumala’s draw is largely down to the awesome power of Lord Venkateswara. But what makes this particular temple stand out is the incredible

number of people who have their heads shaved as part of the worshipping ritual in a tradition known as “tonsuring”. Practised by Hindus for thousands of years, it symbolises the devotee’s desire to overcome their ego, a fundamental teaching of the Hindu faith. But nowhere is tonsuring more enthusiastically practised than at Tirumala.