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#APooIdea: Why are cow dung patties selling like hotcakes online in India?

Cowdungpatties

Like consumers around the globe, Indians are flocking to the online marketplace in droves these days.

But there’s one unusual item flying off the virtual shelves:  Online retailers say cow dung patties are selling like hot cakes.

The patties — cow poop mixed with hay and dried in the sun, made mainly by women in rural areas and used to fuel fires — have long been available in India’s villages.

But online retailers including Amazon and eBay are now reaching out to the country’s ever-increasing urban population, feeding into the desire of older city folks to harken back to their childhood in the village.

Some retailers say they’re offering discounts for large orders.  Some customers are asking for gift wrapping.

“Cow dung cakes have been listed by multiple sellers on our platform since October and we have received several customer orders” since then, said Madhavi Kochar, an Amazon India spokeswoman.

The orders come mostly from cities where it would be difficult to buy dung cakes, she said.

In India, where Hindus have long worshipped cows as sacred, cow dung cakes have been used for centuries for fires, whether for heating, cooking or Hindu rituals. Across rural India, piles of drying cow dung are ubiquitous.

Radhika Agarwal of ShopClues, a major online retailer in India, said demand for the cow dung cakes spiked during the recent Diwali festival season, a time when Hindus conduct prayer ceremonies at their homes, factories and offices.  On a recent day, ShopClues’ website showed that the patties had sold out.

“Around Diwali, when people do a lot of pujas in their homes and workplaces, there is a lot of demand for cow dung cakes,” said Agarwal, referring to rituals performed during the popular festival.

The patties have myriad uses.

They are traditionally used as fuel for cooking – providing dishes with a unique smoky flavour.  Cow dung is also widely used as fertilizer, a purifier, as an effective and highly insulating coating for walls and floors and even in some cosmetics.

Many of the orders placed by city-dwellers however, are believed to be as fuel for religious ceremonies.

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