Monday, 27 February 2012

Towers of Silence.

Mumbai has a strong (albeit declining) Parsee community, Zoroastrians that moved to India centuries back fleeing persecution in Persia. They have integrated extensively to the Indian society but have maintained their religious and some cultural distinctions.
One of them is the traditional way of treating the deceased. On Malabar Hill, Mumbai lie the Towers of Silence. Since in Zoroastrianism the sacred elements (fire, water and earth) cannot be defiled by the dead,burial or cremation are out of the question. The dead are brought to the Towers where they are lined in a cyclical fashion on top of the tower to be eaten by vultures. Soon after the bones would be collected and stored in an ossuary.
The fast declining population of vultures in the city during the last decades, mostly due to poisoning by the use of anti-infammatories drugs by humans and cattle, has left the Towers congested and unable to deal with non consumed bodies. And the community facing calls to allow burial for the first time in centuries.
* Disclaimer: Understandably, entry to the Towers of Silence is restricted for non-Parsees. For further info on the community and the Towers, try here and here.