While wandering along the beach in Odisha, I came across a makeshift head shaving operation. In preparation for the pilgrims pending visit to the local temple, they had opted to have their heads tonsured. This is a common practice, though I had never seen it done so publicly before. The photograph is testimony to the assembly line aspect of this business and that it is very much a for profit undertaking.
As penance for their sins, the faithful stand clean-shaven before god, without pride and seek absolution. Apparently 85% of all Hindus have their heads shaved at least once in their lifetime.
Once I visited a friend from this region. I noticed that she had a muffler tied around her head; a fashion that I always found amusing. She explained that she had just returned from such a pilgrimage and had sacrificed her waist length hair in exchange for the blessings that she sought. When I saw her again about a year later, her hair was past her shoulders. I was taken aback at how quickly it had grown back. She insisted that the daily application of coconut oil was the reason.
Ever since, I have been using coconut oil in my own hair. I don’t use it the way the locals do but apply it the night before I shampoo and rinse it out the next day. After, my hair is silky, lustrous and soft. Though I honor the Hindu traditions, my ego is very much in the way of complete surrender. It could easily take me a few lifetimes before I willingly and happily shave my head. Oh, the price of pride; more births to suffer or so I’m told!