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Religion: Huge money-spinner in India

Religion: Huge money-spinner in India

Author: Neha Dewan, Purva Bhatia & Surbhi Goel
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: April 20, 2008
URL: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2964677.cms

He steps were teeming with hundreds of people. Gangaram stood there, stunned. Then with a sigh of reverence, he approached a barber and sat down, his hands folded. It was a dream come true for this thirty-year-old farmer from Chennai. Not everyday can you shave off your head in the mighty shadow of the Lord Venkateswara Temple at Tirumala.

But as the barber swiftly went about his work, little did Gangaram and the hundreds of devotees around him realise that they were helping the richest temple in the world get richer by a few hundred crore of rupees.

In fact, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams(TTD), the trust that manages the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara temple, is planning to float global tenders for the sale of hair, targeting a revenue of over Rs 230 crore!

Temple trusts

In a practice that sees millions of devotees offering their hair to the Lord every year, the long standing 'tonsure' ritual also brings in the necessary revenue for TTD. As per media reports, TTD has approved a budget of Rs 1,925 crore for the fiscal year 2008-09. The auction of hair, a major revenue generator for the temple trust, finds a good number of takers in India as well as abroad. Last year, auctions of human hair fetched a neat revenue of approximately $25 million.

And that's not all. TTD has also kept itself in tune with the latest technologies like e-seva, e-hundi, online auction of hair, virtual queue system and even procuring machines to automate the manufacture of ladoos! Besides the sale of hair, the hundi service (contributing to the Hundi of Lord Venkateswara), the sale of ladoos, VIP tickets and extravagant donations also rake in a good revenue.

How faith market moves

Hair-raising - Rs 230 cr - is what Lord Venkateswara Temple, the richest in the world, is targeting as revenue for selling devotees' hair

Trustworthy - Rs 1,925 cr - has been approved by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, the trust that manages Lord Venkateswara Temple, as budget for fiscal 2008-09

Monument of money - Rs 200 cr - has been the cost of building Akshardham temple in Delhi. It has even made it to the Guinness Book of world Records for being the world's largest comprehensive Hindu temple and is spread over 100 acres and sees 70,000-80,000 visitors a week

High on devotion - Rs 474 cr - is what Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine generates a year. It offers many services online, including bhaint, prasad, pooja as well as donations. Online donations alone fetched Rs 2 crore last year

Sweet scent - Rs 27 cr - was Siddhivinayak Temple's revenue in 2006-07. Its prasad sales go up to Rs 2 crore a year and sells at least 20,000 laddoos a day

It's music - $800 mn - is the expected size of India's mobile music market by 2009 and 15-20% would be spiritual and religious downloads

New chapter - 30% - is the rise in demand for spiritual as well as mythological books. The prices of these books start from Rs 350 and go up to Rs 5,000. Comic books based on mythology are attracting kids

There are other temple trusts like TTD that have been managing religious institutions all over the world. The Bochasanvasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sansthan (BAPS), known for its traditional hand-carved stone temples across the world, has built over 700 temples and 3,300 centres worldwide.

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