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Towers of Silence
Transcript of Towers of Silence
Dead bodies are unclean and will contaminate anything they touch
The soul departs the body after four days. Zoroastrians believe that after death, the demon Druj Nasu flies into the body, making it unclean (nasu). This is believed to occur within three hours of death, so funeral preparations are made well in advance of passing. The Vendidad offers strict rules concerning the disposal of human remains.
There are harsh punishments for letting even the smallest piece of human flesh touch the ground or water.
Vendidad: "given against demons"
Zoroastrian homes traditionally had a special room reserved for funeral rites for family members. In poorer communities, a central building would serve this purpose.
The Tower of Silence in Mumbai has a number of buildings called bungli on the outskirts of the facility that are used for this purpose. The funeral rites for a deceased Zoroastrian begin right away. The body is first washed with the urine of a bull, known as Taro or Gomez, and clothed in a clean Sudreh (white robe) and Kusti (cord tied around the waist).
The body is wrapped in old Sudrehs until only the face is showing. After this point anyone who touches the body is made unclean and must take a ritual bath. Nasseselar: a corpse-bearer. The only people who may handle a dead body; they are kept isolated from the rest of society to prevent contamination. The rooms in which corpses are kept must be purified by burning sandalwood incense and a lamp known as a diva. Dastur: a Zoroastrian fire-priest. On the first day of the funeral ceremony, they will recite prayers near the ear of the deceased in order to keep the druj nasu away from the body and put the soul at ease. The Vendidad contains specific instructions for every forseeable obstacle or contingency that may arise during the disposal of human remains, from what to do if it starts raining on the way to the Dakhma to how far around the body the soil the contamination extends. On the second day, the Dasturs conduct a ceremony known as Geh Sarna.
During this ceremony, priests recite a prayer called the Ahunavaithi Gatha, which gives strength to the soul and severs the connection between the body and the soul. The Nasseselars pick up the body on an iron bier, at which point the connection between the body and soul is broken, and the druj nasu sweeps in to attack the body. While waiting with the body in the bungli, those in attendance are bound to silence (except priests). Paiwand: lit, Connection. When leaving the bungli, attendees are ceremonially bound together in pairs with a cloth. On the way to the Tower of Silence, the nasselars will stop at an appointed spot for the sagdid ceremony. A dog is brought out to see the corpse, and chase away evil spirits. The best dogs for performing the sagdid ritual (lit. "the seeing of the dog") are strays or wild dogs that have spots above their eyes. Once the body has arrived at the dakhma, there is another, final sagdid. Before leaving the bungli, the funeral attendees pray (silently); May the Ruvan of Behdin _______ close its connection with this physical body which is now going to the Dokhma, and may it attain the protection and custody of Sarosh Yazad and again the attendees pray for the departed, before leaving the Dakhma.
Prayer ceremonies will continue for four days following the death, but no-one but the Nassasalars are permitted to enter the tower or see the body. From the Vendidad, chapter 6 part 5.44. O Maker of the material world, thou holy One Whither shall we bring, where shall we lay the bodies of the dead, O Ahura Mazda?45. Ahura Mazda answered: 'On the highest summits, where they know there are always corpse-eating dogs and corpse-eating birds, O holy Zarathushtra49. O Maker of the material world, thou Holy One Whither shall we bring, where shall we lay the bones of the dead, O Ahura Mazda?.50. Ahura Mazda answered: 'The worshippers of Mazda shall make a receptacle out of the reach of the dog, of the fox, and of the wolf, and wherein rain-water cannot stay.51. 'They shall make it, if they can afford it, with stones, plaster, or earth; if they cannot afford it, they shall lay down the dead man on the ground, on his carpet and his pillow, clothed with the light of heaven, and beholding the sun. Today, only Zoroastrians on the Indian subcontinent continue this practice. The two groups of Zoroastrians, the Parsis and the Iranis, arrived in India from Iran in the 10th and 18th centuries CE respectively.
The Parsis are the larger of the two groups, and have significant populations (and dakhmas) in Gujarat and Mumbai. Iran outlawed the practice of disposing of bodies in Dakhmas in 1970. The towers are still visible parts of a Zoroastrian sacred landscape in many towns and cities. Tibetans have traditionally conducted “sky burials,” where the earthly remains of the dead are left on a hilltop for vultures and other scavengers. This practice likely arose in part from a lack of suitable land for burial.The Chinese government has tried to restrict the practice.
Some native American tribes also allowed vultures to consume the remains of their dead. Similar Practices: The majority of Zoroastrians today do not practice sky burial.Many also reject the Vendidad as a truly holy work Electric cremation is seen as a suitable alternative.Does not expose the body to flame.The tower of silence in Mumbai is still in use, and receives 3-4 corpses a day.The Ethician Family Cemetery near Lake Livingston is planning to build a tower of silence in conjunction with the Zoroastrian community in Texas. map Contemporary Practices: Daniel Jircik During the first few days, the soul (ruvan) stays near the body.
Family and friends continue praying for the departed soul until the fourth day. (weather permitting). bodies are not allowed to be taken to the dakhma if it is raining or snowing outside, Key Beliefs: Any Questions? Sarosh Yazad: one of the guardians f the Chinvat bridge, which dead souls must cross in order to enter the "House of Song" and be reunited with Ahura Mazda.