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How Indians shave their head and hope for luck - BBC News

How Indians shave their head and hope for luck

Every year millions of people travel to two temples in southern India, hoping for an answer to their prayers. But every miracle requires a sacrifice - and many pilgrims sacrifice their hair.

Gopala Amma is desperate to reverse her family's bad fortune. They are in danger of losing the one room they share off a small alley in the Chennai suburb of Perambur.

Amma works hard as a cleaner but is struggling to make ends meet. Her husband has lost his job and has begun to drink heavily, while her eldest son is failing in his studies. All this has prompted Amma to think of asking the Hindu gods for help.

"I have decided to go to the temple at Tirutanni and shave my hair. That way, the gods will bless me and my family," she says.

This will not be just a snip but a full head shave - all 81cm (32in) of her long wavy locks will go. By sacrificing something so beautiful to the gods, by shedding her ego, she hopes they will bless her with good luck in return.

Human hair is valuable in India. Many of Amma's female neighbours collect hair from their combs to sell or barter to the hair collectors who come once a month on scooters calling for "comb waste".

They either trade the hair for pots or are given a few rupees, depending on the weight. The collectors then sell it to the factories.

But comb-waste hair tangles. Shaved hair is more highly valued because continues to fall naturally, as it did on the original owner's head, and can be used to make a lifelike wig.

From Hollywood to the UK to South Africa, the most widely used human hair is Indian, as its texture resembles Caucasian hair, which the hairdressing industry deems desirable.

To India, the market is worth more than $250m (£175m) annually. A kilo of shaved hair fetches up to $130 (£91), so a long head of hair such as Amma's - which comes to about 160g (6oz) - will be worth about $20 (£14).

But for Amma this is not important.

The practice of hair-shaving - or "tonsuring" as it is termed when done for religious reasons - is associated with an ancient Hindu myth.

There are several versions of the myth but they centre on the god Vishnu, who was hit on the head with an axe, causing him to lose a section of his hair. The angel Neela Devi then offered a lock of her hair as a replacement, and Vishnu was so grateful that he thereafter granted wishes to anyone who offered their hair as a sacrifice.

The southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are where most hair tonsuring in India takes place. Two of the main Hindu temples, in the towns of Tirutanni and Tirupati, collect tonnes of human hair every month.

As the barber was shaving I felt my problems lifting away Amma

Around the temple compounds, in long halls known as Kalyankattan or "places of happiness", hundreds of barbers dressed in white sit in rows, with pilgrims at their feet.

"I feel quite shy having no hair but I am happy," explains one pilgrim who has just had her head shaved at Tirutanni.

Auspicious days may be chosen for the ritual. One family is celebrating the parents' 29 years of happy marriage. For another, it could be a sickness in the family or a pattern of bad luck that brings them here.

For Amma, who is 36, it is her last resort. Her husband's drinking has become incessant. She is determined not to lose her home and believes this is the only way to reverse her fortune.

"The gods will bless me if I do this," she says as she climbs the temple's steps.

Sitting down cross-legged in front of the barber with her head bent forward, Amma smiles. The barber wets the crown of her head and takes his razor blade, slowly scraping at her skull. Her hair barely reaches the ground before it is gathered up and placed into a lockable blue barrel.

Hair traders collect the barrels every week. Many temples form contracts with traders, while others hold auctions, selling it to the highest bidder.

Tirupati temple, the largest collector of human hair in the world - and also the most visited holy place in the world, with an average of 100,000 pilgrims per day - nets an average $3m (£2.1m) a year from this trade.

The money is used for charitable work, schools and maintaining the temple grounds.

The barbers themselves are paid for their trouble - 15 rupees (20c or 16p) per shave.

The shaving process is very quick, and those presenting their hair to the gods just sit down, put their heads in the hands of the barbers and then go.

Afterwards, however, they visit the temple to show their freshly-shaved scalps to the gods, so they can be blessed for their sacrifice.

Amma looks at herself in the mirror and laughs at her changed appearance. She touches her head and says she likes the feel.

"As the barber was shaving I felt my problems lifting away. Now things are going to get better."

She says she does not know where her hair will go. Told that traders sell it to make wigs and extensions all over the world, she laughs again.

"If it makes someone else look beautiful then I am happy," Amma says, before heading out of the temple and beginning her journey home, to see if her life will change.

More from the Magazine

As people become increasingly connected and more mobile, the BBC is exploring how identities are changing.

Learn more about the BBC's Identity season or join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #BBCIdentity .

Trading hair is broadcast on the BBC World Service from 03:00 GMT on Wednesday 13 April - catch up on BBC iPlayer Radio

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

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Thin value on river, Heads Up Poker Videos and Instruction at

Thin value on river?

This was the 2nd hand of the match, and just prior to the one in question in order to give my view on the villian (no prior matches with him).

No Limit Holdem Tournament • 2 Players$6 + $0.25 Heads Up Sit & Go Hand converted by the official HUSNG.com hand converter SBThe Scondo1515 BBHero1485 Effective Stacks: 50bb Blinds 15/30

I'm not asking about the above hand, I called that turn bet for information to see what he was doing that with because it was so cheap/early and I felt it would benefit me later.

No Limit Holdem Tournament • 2 Players$6 + $0.25 Heads Up Sit & Go Hand converted by the official HUSNG.com hand converter BBThe Scondo1575 SBHero1425 Effective Stacks: 48bb Blinds 15/30

The Scondo checks, Hero bets 90, The Scondo calls 90

The Scondo checks, Hero bets 90, The Scondo calls 90

Given the previous hand, I figured him to be passive and probably tight because he did bet but shut down when called on the turn and another over came on the river. I expected him to have a decent hand when he called preflop OOP, but on the flop I hit middle pair and fired a cbet because he could call with flush draws, straight draws, or maybe a 7 because him being tight was likely but not established this early. On the turn my bet was very weak looking back and would not have been likely to scare away any draw, I am thinking it would have been better to fire something in the range of 175-200 to charge draws if he was on one. Given the turn sizing, I had no new information on what he was holding. On the river a pretty bad card came out because 98 got there, as well as flush draws, and he still could have me beat with a better T or any Q so I just figured I had better check it back and see what he had rather than get into a situation where I either valuetown myself or get checkraised by a monster. I didn't see him calling with much worse when there is so many straight draws, a flush draw, and overcards to 2nd pair.

Should I have bet at this river for value or was checking back a better idea? When I saw his hand I immediately thought I'd lost value but reviewing this hand I think it was better that I not bet at it.

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With middle pair (good kicker) against a tight player I'm usually looking for 2 streets/bets for value. In this situations are a lot of draws on the board so i would go for my two streets on the flop and turn.

I would cbet bigger in this spot 120-150, and something like 230-260 on turn/ or checking behind on turn and calling/betting river when no obvious draws complete

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Definitely bet larger on the turn, you want to charge the passive draws here and weaker pairs. He can certainly have a stronger hand here (evidenced by the way he played QQ previously) but you should be ahead of his range enough to place a solid value bet, and he should be calling with enough pairs/draws to make that a good bet.

Back to hand 1, I like a stab at those type of flops often, by default, against an unknown player. If you do check, betting the turn isn't a bad idea either, it gives you fold equity as opposed to check/calling with 5 hi, hoping to hit 8 outs (16% liklihood) and losing almost every other time you miss those outs. Basically you're winning the pot with the possibility of more value 16% of the time, 12% of the time you hit a pair and may win at showdown but may also get value bet and lose more chips, and the other 72% of the time you have 5 hi and lose. Information or not, that's probably not a good bet to call!

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Women to shave heads for breast cancer

taranaki daily news

Last updated 11:55, October 21 2017

Katherine Pollard, Heather Fendall and Sallie Barr (pictured) will shave their heads alongside Natalie Douglas in an effort to raise money for breast cancer.

When Heather Fendall discovered she had breast cancer in August she decided she had to shave her head.

"I don't want to lose my hair, I don't want it falling out - I decided I wanted to get it shaved off," Fendall said.

She wanted make the most of the shave and try to raise money for the Breast Cancer Foundation. Little did she know she would have company.

On Saturday Fendall and three of her friends will be shaving their head in Hāwera to fundraise and raise awareness around breast cancer.

Katherine Pollard, Sallie Barr and Natalie Douglas will join their friend for the shave.

"We wouldn't let her do it on her own," Pollard said.

"As soon as Heather said she was going to get her hair shaved, I was like 'I'll do it with ya', it was like you didn't even think twice."

Barr set up the Take Action fundraising page for her friend.

She encouraged people to "give up buying a coffee or beer" for the day and donate to the cause instead.

Fendall said they had a goal of $500.

"I just thought if I can do my bit to raise money for some research or to help someone else who doesn't have money."

She has always been proactive with regular checks, and wants to encourage others to do the same.

"I just want people to be aware, check yourself, get mammograms."

The women will be doing the shave at 9am on Saturday October 28 at Mane Street Hair at 209 High Street, Hāwera.

The encourage people to come along, donate some money, watch and even join the shave if they please.

If you wish to donate online the link is Heather Fendall's Page.

Before and After: Celebrities with shaved heads

Before and After: Celebrities with shaved heads From Vivienne Westwood to Cate Blanchett

As Vivienne Westwood unveils her newly shorn locks, we look back at the celebrities who have undergone this dramatic transformation.

We first saw Vivienne Westwood's new look when she stepped out to take a bow after her autumn/winter 14 catwalk show. Whilst her reasons for shaving her famous orange locks are unknown, she and her feather headdress pull it off with aplomb.

Back in 2002, before she was a double-Oscar winning actress and was best known for her role in a small film series known as The Lord of the Rings, Cate Blanchett appeared in Tom Tykwer's film Heaven and consequently shaved off all her hair. It is reported she loved the look and the 'feel of the wind on [her] bald head'.

Another star to shave her head for the cameras, Demi Moore went for the chop as part of her role as a Navy Seal recruit in Ridley Scott's 1997 picture G.I. Jane.

To the despair of many, Karen Gillan, best known for her role in Doctor Who, shaved off her enviable auburn locks to play villianess Nebula in upcoming superhero film Guardians of the Galaxy.

In one of 2012's most talked about film moments, Anne Hathaway had her shaved on screen during a harrowing scene for Les Miserables. A few months later she won an Oscar for the role proving that every cloud truly does have a silver lining.

Never one to shy away from a new style challenge, Jessie J had her shaved live on television for Comic Relief - a venture that raised more the £500,000 for the charity.

Probably the least dramatic change in our list, Cynthia Nixon has sported very short locks for as long as anyone can remember. However, she still managed to shock when she became completely bald for her role as cancer sufferer Vivian Bearing in Margaret Edson's play Wit.

Natalie Portman was lauded for her performance in 2005's V for Vendetta, which saw her have her head shaved live on camera. "Some people will think I'm a neo-Nazi or that I have cancer or I'm a lesbian," the actress mused afterwards.

Charlize Theron originally lost her locks for the 2013 film Mad Max 4: Fury Road. Despite going along with the look initially, Theron was said to be (understandably) annoyed when she was asked to shave it again a year after production ended to reshoot a handful of scenes.

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