TTD gets Rs 200 crore by auctioning human hair

Sale of over 550 tonnes of hair brought the temple trust four times the money realised last year

It truly is a hair-raising story! The human hair, offered by devotees at the popular Tirumala temple in Andhra Pradesh, has generated a huge demand in the global market.

Women making wigs from the ‘sacrificed’ hair

The humble offerings of the pilgrims fetched a fortune for the temple authorities when they opted for e-auctioning of human hair.

Hair traders from across the globe participated in the e-auction. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), an autonomous body managing the affairs of the country’s richest temple, earned a whopping Rs 200 crore in the 2011-2012 financial year as against Rs 54 crore earned last year through the e-auction route.

While the first phase of e-auctioning of hair, held in September last year, had fetched Rs 130 crore, the second phase organised recently got Rs 70 crore. The auctions were jointly conducted by the TTD and the Material Scrap Trading Corporation (MSTC) — a public sector unit — by inviting global tenders.

While 466 tonnes of hair was sold during the first phase, over 95 tonnes of hair found takers during the auction on Saturday. The decision to invite global tenders has resulted in increased revenues to the hill shrine. The highest price quoted during the first auction was marked as the upset price during the second phase. This was done not only to safeguard the interests of the institution but also prevent the bidders from forming cartels.

The auction of human hair now accounts for the second biggest source of revenue for temple after the “hundi” collections which stood at Rs 675 crore last year. The proceeds from the sale of “darshan” tickets accounted for Rs 160 crore.

The next round of e-auction is likely to be held after three months. In the past, the temple authorities used to follow offline tenders for disposal of human hair which saw limited participation from traders. The global e-auction has thrown open the doors for foreign bidders, thereby helping the TTD to increase the revenue.

A majority of pilgrims visiting the abode of Lord Venkateswara tonsure their heads and offer the hair to the Lord, a practice that has been in vogue for centuries. On an average, the hill shrine attracts over 50,000 pilgrims every day and the number crosses one lakh mark on weekends and special occasions.

At peak times, 45,000-50,000 people get their heads tonsured daily at the TTD’s 16 tonsuring halls — two of which run round the clock. The daily average of 800 kg of hair harvested could easily cross a thousand kg on weekends and during peak season. There are nearly 650 barbers in the TTD, including 60 women and each of them could shave off an average of 60 heads in a six-hour shift.

The human hair is broadly divided into five categories depending on the length and texture. The hair is used for making of wigs. Remy hair, which is long and uniformly trimmed hair, has a big market in Europe and US, where it is woven into wigs. Most of the non-remy hair, broken and short, has huge demand in China, which in turn makes wigs and sells it to the American or African market, especially Nigeria.

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