India is a land of color, a place where differing cultures and people co-exist peacefully, a vast and mystic land many call the land of prayers.

India has provided much to the West: Algebra, trigonometry and calculus. Chess. Ayurveda. And now, to a lesser extent, human hair – a sought-after commodity worldwide – used for wigs or extensions. Lustrous and thick, Indian virgin hair is one of the most flexible and durable in the world. Its beautiful texture and naturally dark color works well in hair weaving applications.

Most human hair comes from China, but Indian hair is considered more valuable as, in most cases, the hair has not been subjected to anything more abrasive than coconut oil and herbal soap.

So what does India have to do with hair extensions? India is the second largest human hair market in the world. However, Indian hair has differing levels of quality. The most superior quality is termed “Black Gold,” or Temple Donor Hair.

What is Black Gold?

Temple hair is known as ‘black gold’ because of its purity and strand quality, making India a dominating force in the human hair industry, a true commodity arising from a practical need.

Urban Indians tend to get chemical treatments for their hair at beauty salons, so rural temples and villages have become a resource for raw, natural, high-quality hair. Many pilgrims – many of whom have never used shampoos, or styled and treated their hair – journey to India’s holy temples. In an act of devotion and sacrifice, these pilgrims pledge their hair to temple deities. Each year, tens of millions make the pilgrimage to any one of India’s holy temples. Approximately 10-25% of the faithful make such sacrifice.

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This hair is deemed Virgin Temple Hair. The term “virgin” signifies the hair is pure, and unprocessed. Virgin hair must meet rigorous standards ensuring the hair has never undergone any thermal or chemical processing. Not permed, dyed, hennaed, colored, bleached, or any other chemical process. Interestingly, it also implies that donor is young, healthy, and drug-free. This hair is also REMY (or REMI) hair, referring to a specific collection process used to preserve the hair’s cuticles.

Donor hair is pulled away from the head and shaved close to the scalp using what is called root-to-tip to ensure that strands face the same direction. This process is called tonsuring. Hair is then cleansed to remove lice, sweat, blood and/or dirt, and packaged. Beyond that, there is no further processing.

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In Defense Of Temple Hair

Though many question the practice of converting religious sacrifice into profit, temple officials argue that funds earned from hair sales are used to fund orphanages, and hospitals. If not sold, the hair would otherwise be discarded as refuse. A director at Tirumala Temple assures that the temple distributes approximately 30,000 free meals daily to the poor and needy.

Tirumala Venkateswara, for example, attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims each day, accumulating the most hair donations in the country. This temple features 18 shaving halls, some 650 barbers and up to a five hour wait.

Each year, India exports an estimated 2,000 tons of temple hair, sold in yearly auctions that take place in March and April. One ton of hair is equal to donations from about 3,000 women. As the supply of temple hair continues to grow –from multiple holy sites and the Hindu population estimated to be 85% of the Indian population – hair exporters don’t foresee a shortage of temple hair anytime soon.

Temples

Virgin temple hair is known as ‘black gold’ because of its purity and strand quality. This mark of reverence makes India a dominating force in the human hair industry, a true commodity arising from a practical need.

There are approximately ten holy temples in India that accept such pilgrim offerings, but the most significant is the world-famous Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Andhra Pradesh. Tirumala Venkateswara attracts thirty to forty million pilgrims each year, also making it the top grosser of temple hair suppliers. Tirumala Venkateswara has been collecting hair from donors since the 1960s. Back then, the temples would burn giant vats filled with thousands of pounds of hair. The burn produced toxic gases. As a result, the Indian government banned this practice in the 1990s. Various means of divesting donor hair were considered, but with the number of devotees more than doubling in tandem with the overall India population, the government permitted temples to sell their hair via e-auctions.

Since 2011, Tirumala Venkateswara has collected over Rs618 crore ($97 million) through the sale of hair via e-auctions. Today, over 20,000 pilgrims tonsure their hair each day.

Why Virgin REMY Indian Hair?

Virgin Indian REMY hair is hair in its most natural form. As it is totally unprocessed, virgin REMY hair comes in natural black. However, this hair performs well with either bleach or dyed.

This hair is expensive; there’s no getting around it. However, with proper care and maintenance, this hair maintains its superior quality up to a year or more. The return on the investment is immeasurable.

True, beauty supply store packaged hair is significantly cheaper, but you’ll end up paying more in maintenance, upkeep, and re-purchase of new hair for every install as this hair begins tangling and matting after a few washes.

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TEXTURE:

The natural texture of virgin Indian REMY hair varies from slightly wavy to deep curly. Deep curly Indian hair is always in short supply, so expect to pay more.

Typically, virgin Indian hair comes in three textures (a) Natural Straight (which is actually lightly wavy) (b) Natural Wavy, and (c) Curly (with curl tightness varying slightly). However, this hair is versatile; you can blow-dry, flat-iron, or roller set.

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HAIR COLOR: Virgin Indian REMY hair comes in natural shades that can vary between ink, natural black and dark chocolate. There may be a slight variation in color between bundles. When blended properly by your stylist, it gives a more natural look and better depth of color, as hair naturally has multiple shades of color and is never of one flat color.