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Hair today, gone tomorrow

From a Hindu temple in southern India to the smartest salons in the West, the lucrative trade in human hair traverses the globe. It is traditional for Hindus to have their heads shaved at a temple at least once in a lifetime. At Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam temple, the hair offered by pilgrims to Lord Venkateswara has been turned into a source of income. A team of 650 barbers work flat out to shave the heads of up to 25,000 people per day, producing a ton of hair each day. Last year, the temple earned US $5.6m by selling the hair, making it one of the richest religious institutions in the country.

From India the hair is exported, partly to China for the production of wigs, and partly to Europe to be sold as hair extensions. At the Great Lengths factory near Rome, the hair is bleached and dyed in sixty different colours, ready to be sold as a luxury product in the most exclusive salons in Europe and America.
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