Where do celebrities get their pricey hair extensions? Some of the best are “temple hair” from India—long, luxurious tresses never subjected to harsh chemical processes or modern shampoos, sacrificed by humble devotees as a divine offering and then sold, surreptitiously, by the temple caretakers for money to maintain the shrines. The chasm between rich and poor is wide, never more so than when we see that the frivolous socialites who pay top dollar for a slum dweller’s beautiful hair lack the faith, love, and social connectedness that her impoverished family shares. If the poor woman knew the price put upon her hair, she could lift her family permanently out of poverty. But, this option is neither presented nor dreamed of, as devotion is valued more deeply than rupees.
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
How does a deeply spiritual offering from Indias poor become a must-have accessory in the salons of Europe? As fashion and faith collide, religious sacrifice is fuelling a multi-billion dollar industry.
Every year millions of Hindus shave their heads in offering to the gods. Its called tonsuring, and its big business. On average we are getting in excess of five tonnes, says hair dealer Mayoor Balsara as he finalises his latest purchase from the temples. Its a classic globalisation story: the sacrificial hair is cheaply sourced in the developing world, and is lining the pockets of those in the west. David Gold is one of them. Each year his company turns over $150 million selling hair extensions sourced from Indias temples. He deflects questions of ethics, arguing that the temples pour profits back into local welfare projects. Its a dubious claim, and yet many Hindus seem happy for their hair to be spun into gold: We gave it to God, and its come back like this. Its beautiful.