The hundi collections of one of the richest temple of Lord Venkateswara have become one of the gross revenue makers at the premier south Indian religious shrine of Tirumala. The human hair reserves of late have proved a rich source of income for the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) — the sole custodian of Lord Venkateswara Temple.
On January 29, the TTD received a record income of Rs77.72 crore by selling over 106 tonnes of human hair out of the 146 tonnes put up for e-auctioning. Since 2011, when the TTD began e-auctioning of the human hair, it has sold 1,578 tonnes and grossed a whopping Rs618 crore. The e-auctions were jointly conducted by the TTD and the Material Scrap Trading Corporation, Mumbai.
In 2013, e-auctioning of the human hair has crossed the Rs200-crore mark with the current earning.
According to TTD executive officer MG Gopalan, an estimated 10 million devotees get their heads tonsured in fulfilment of their prayers at the hill temple on an average, every year. The hair, so accumulated is preserved in godowns, cleaned and segregated by size and density and sold online periodically. “The residual stock is likely to be put up for auctioning in the second quarter of the year,” he said.
The human locks are gathered from its massive kalyanakatta (place of tonsuring) at Tirumala shrine where over 600 hairdressers including women work round-the-clock all through the year. The TTD has also hired nearly 50 women barbers to provide a trouble free tonsuring for women. “The long and shining black locks of women earns a better price in international market,” said T Ravi, PRO of TTD.
The procured hair is segregated into nine different categories depending upon their length and are thoroughly sanitised, graded and sized before they are put up for e-sale in which prominent European and Asian fashion designers and wig makers participated. “Around 25,000 heads are shaved every day procuring almost 500-kg of hair,” said, another TTD official. Each of the barbers is trained to shave about 60-70 heads during a six-hour shift.
The hair collected in Tirumala is cleaned and dried at a controlled temperature and is stored in categorised bins at a TTD warehouse in Tirupati. It is broadly divided into six grades depending on the length and texture. Remy hair — which is long and uniformly trimmed — has a big market in Europe and the US, where it is woven into wigs. There is huge demand for non-remy hair too — broken and short — in China, where wigs are made and sold to the American and African markets.