Cow dung may be an essential part of daily village life where it is used as fuel, flooring and also wall insulation against the heat. Now, however, these dung cakes are becoming hot selling products in the digital space as well.
Popular e-market spaces like Amazon, eBay and ShopClues have seen an increase in the sale of packaged sun-dried cow dung cakes, which are made with the addition of hay. "Cow dung cakes have been listed by multiple sellers on our platform since October and we have received several customer orders," said Madhavi Kochar, an Amazon India spokeswoman.
Maybe not for home cooling or basic stove use, but many urban folk are picking up packets of this cowplop for use in Hindu rituals.
Radhika Agarwal of ShopClues said demand for cow dung cakes peaked during the Diwali festival season, a time when Hindus conduct prayer ceremonies at their homes, factories and offices. "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 festival.
"Increasingly, in the cold weather, people are keeping themselves warm by lighting fires at outdoor events," she said, adding that people who grew up in rural areas find the peaty smell of dung fires pleasant. "It reminds them of the old days," she added.
In some cases buyers have also asked for the cakes to be gift-wrapped — making for unique presents.
The cow dung cakes are sold in packs of two to eight pieces weighing 200 grams (7 ounces) each. Prices range from Rs 100 to 400 ($1.50, £1.01 to $6, £4.06) per package. A number of online sellers explain the traditional use of the product alongside a basic description of colour, weight and quantity. "Cow dung cakes have been used in traditional Indian households for ceremonies, rituals, etc. It is used to purify air as it is said to release oxygen when burnt with ghee," says one product description.
Some dung sellers are promoting the cakes as organic manure and marketing them for use in kitchen gardens.
Aside from dung cakes, sellers also offer a variety of products made from distilled cow urine which is known for its health properties. One can purchase a bottle of cow urine syrup and powder capsules along with a range of beauty products like soaps and shampoos.