Wednesday, February 20, 2008


We went to Tirupati this past weekend and I'm continually amazed at how efficient it is. I've been to Tirupati about 6-7 times so far and every single time it has a huge impact on me. Driving up, you start feeling a sense of excitement. When you get to Tirumala, there is a celebratory air over the entire town. Everyone is on their best behaviour (drinking, smoking and "physical contact" between men and women are frowned upon at Tirumala). There are speakers all over town buzzing with chants from the temple and everyone is in a kind of holy excitement.

The town is very very clean. I now know that Indians can be clean if they tried, they just choose not to bother. There is no litter anywhere, no trash thrown on the roads. There are lovely sidewalks and gardens and museums and shops. Its a lovely town. Set high up in the hills, the weather is cool and the surrounding hills covered in clouds are a sight to behold.

I've walked up Tirumala too. The walk takes about 3.5-4 hours and its completely under the shade, with lots of little shops along the way selling energizer drinks of lime and soda, caps, umbrellas.

There is a tradition of hair tonsuring at Tirumala that is supposedly very auspicious. It signifies a surrendering of your ego to God. It is a well organized system. The barber comes to where you stay, he finishes the shave for the person in exactly 15 minutes - no fuss, no knicks, no cuts and always a new, sterilized blade. He collects the hair and takes it with him. I was curious and found out that all the hair collected in Tirumala is made into wigs and exported. None of the wigs are sold in the Indian market.

There has been a recent controversy in the West over whether wigs made from this ritual should be allowed to be sold because of the religious nature in which it is done. You can read more about that here.

The must-eat place is Bhima's Residency in Tirupati - either after your trip to Tirumala or before. I recommend after - since driving up the hill on a full stomach from Bhima's might not be a pleasant experience with all the hairpin bends!

*By car, Tirupati is a 3 hour drive from Chennai. Alternately you can also fly in from Hyderabad or Bangalore.


PO said...

Thirupathi is pretty cool! I actually drove to Thirupathi from Chennai once on a bike with 2 other friends. It was summer and scorching. I was waiting on a job offer and religiously went to pray!! :-) It's indeed a nice place. As for the "hair business", I was asked by a couple of Americans I work with if it's a business in India. I told them, "No, it's not. Atleast it's not why people give their hair."

$333 million!! Holy Moly!!!

Arundathi said...

I too was taken aback by the extent of the hair business - guess you learn new things everyday!

Anonymous said...

Did you offer you hair?

glisten said...

can anybody give the source of precessed hair for export( not the exporters address ) thanks in advance
mail me at

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