In an unusual case of theft, a gang of robbers broke its way into the Mariamman temple complex in Virudhunagar district, 420 km south of Chennai, and looted a most unusual object — human hair.
Turning a blind eye to the ancient temple’s gold, silver or cash, they stole 800 kg hair that was being processed for auction.
Devotees shave their heads and give their hair as offerings. Such hair from temples, especially Tirupati, is sought after in Europe and Asia for wigs. While hair from Tirupati is also auctioned online, other temples in Tamil Nadu still prefer traditional auction systems.
The hair stolen by the burglars was valued at Rs 45 lakh. A formal police complaint was lodged by N Ramaswamy, a fifth-generation priest at the 400-year-old temple, which is located at Irukkankudi village near Satur.
The priest discovered the theft on Friday morning when he opened the temple for rituals.
“The human hair, that is offered by devotees in return of wish fulfilment and blessings, was being stored for the past three years,” the priest told HT over the telephone, adding that right now the hair was being “processed” — being separated according to length and texture — for auction.
Hair was last auctioned here three years ago and it earned the temple Rs 3.33 crore, Ramamurthy said.
Fortunately, only a portion of the hair stored in three rooms was stolen. Sixteen gunny bags of hair were carted away, police said. Police suspect it to be the handiwork of locals who are well-versed with the ways of the temple.
In all, there were some 80 gunny sacks full of hair stored in three rooms at the temple.