Wealth and religiosity disagree while some Hindus look the other way

My extended family’s annual trip to Tirupati is coming up. Because a more indecisive bunch doth not exist, my relatives have been planning the trip for the last week. One creepy fact their discussions threw up is that, in 2013, the temple earned Rs. 220 crore from its sale of human hair. Pilgrims shave their heads at Tirupati as a token offering, and about 40 million people visit it annually. Although not all of them offer their hair, Rs. 220-crore’s worth must be a lot.

According to this PDF detailing the temple’s finances, the biggest chunk of its income comes from cash offerings from devotees, listed as ‘Kanuka’.


(All figures in Rs. crore)

Its other revenue receipts, including hair, are listed as such:


(All figures in Rs. crore)

Many of the world’s richest temples are in India. Some of the richest include the shrine at Shirdi, Maharashtra, for Sai Baba; the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala; the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, Bihar; and the Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu and Kashmir. Besides boasting overwhelming attendances, they’re also proof that Hinduism is a very materialistic religion when it comes to offerings despite its abstemious philosophies.

No matter this hypocrisy – the world at large rejects it anyway because religion and wealth share a negative relationship. Specifically, countries with higher GDP have lower religiosity. This document, wherefrom the religiosity numbers were pulled, defines religiosity as simply the fraction of people who identified themselves as religious in a survey.