Is human hair really so valuable? Apparently, yes.

Thieves are breaking into temples of South India to steal human hair worth several crores Image: Wikimedia Commons/Tamil 1510
news News Saturday, November 19, 2016 - 11:28

For thieves in South India, the tons of gold and silver locked away in temples do not seem to be the only valuables of interest. They are breaking into temples and bypassing tight security to rummage through storerooms to steal what has now apparently becomes black gold – the hair of devotees. 

According to media reports, three men wearing masks walked into the high-security hall at a temple in Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh on Friday and stole seven bags of hair worth Rs 25 lakh. They rummaged through the hall where the hair was kept stuffed in sacks inside containers. The incident was captured on the temple’s CCTV cameras.

It is usual practice for the temple authorities conduct an annual auction and award a contract for the collected hair to the highest bidder. The contractor concerned collects the hair and stores it, before moving it out in bulk for sale. 

But this isn’t an isolated incident, there seems to be a trend to it. This is not the first such incident in which thieves have broken into temples for human hair.

In July 2016, hair worth over Rs 40 lakh, stocked in Mariamman temple in Irukkangudi, Tamil Nadu was stolen. The police had then said that 15 to 18 bags of hair kept in the room attached to the mandapam, adjacent to the main temple were stolen by unidentified persons.

In February this year, 10 bags of "special grade" human hair worth around Rs 10 lakh were stolen from Visakhapatnam's famous Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple.

Is human hair really so valuable? Apparently, yes. Temples in South India rake in several crore rupees every year from the auction of human hair. The hair is known to fetch a handsome price in national and international markets.

The most sought-after human hair for export from India are the 18-26 inch long strands, which could turn in up to Rs 16,000 per kg, compared to a kilo of 6-inch hair, which is sold for not more than Rs 100. 

 It takes around five tons of hair to produce around 10kg of 18-26-inch hair, a report added.

 Stating that South Indian temples were one of the main sources of hair, The Smithsonian reported, "The gathering of human hair is on the whole a backstage business about which little is known to those outside the trade."

The report states that across the world, the trade in human hair runs into several billion dollars. The hair is mainly used in the fashion industry, and as ‘hair extensions’.

Earlier this year, The Mirror reported that the UK alone imports more than £50 million worth of human hair, which is enough hair to go round the Earth nearly 3,200 times. Despite this, the UK is the third largest importer of hair after the US and China, the newspaper said.

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) runs one of the largest operations in the world, as millions of devotees tonsure their head at the Sri Venkateswara temple in Tirumala every year.

There are also around 1,000 barbers working round-the-clock at the 'Kalyanakatta,' where roughly 40,000 pilgrims get their heads tonsured every day.

Most of this hair makes its way to the temple’s annual auction, where the hair is sold to the highest bidder.

According to the 2016-17 budget by the temple board, the sale of human hair is expected to fetch roughly Rs 150 crore this year. This year, the temple earned Rs 17.82 crore in July and August alone.



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