Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions that survive in modern times. Like many other religions, Zoroastrianism guides the followers to do more good to life and believe in their High One. The Zoroastrian Funeral Practice not only presents an air of mystery about this religion but also reflects their care towards the environment.
So how did the fellows of Zoroastrianism treat the corpses? According to the surviving sources, they would expose the dead bodies to the scavenging animals. Many scholars believe that this practice dated back to the 5th century.
Zoroastrian Funeral Practice and the Environment
In the belief of the Zoroastrian followers, four elements – fire, water, earth, and air – are the most sacred in the cosmos. No one and nothing in the cosmos would pollute these elements. And they would do anything in order to prevent the pollution. For example, the cremation would cause pollution to the fire, air, and river water. Burial would cause pollution to land and groundwater.
So the solution to this was to dispose of the corpse. There are some other ways to dispose the corpse but leaving them to the scavenging animals was the reason why the Zoroastrians built their Towers of Silence.
The Towers of Silence
So the towers of silence that the archaeologists find these days might resemble the ancient ones. They were constructed with three circles within. The bodies of the men would lie on the outer circle, the women in the middle and the children in the inner circle.
When a person was gone, the Zoroastrians would bring the corpse to the tower. There, the vultures would eat the flesh. Some sources said that the vultures could finish all of the corpses within less than an hour as long as they were present in adequate numbers.
The remaining bones on the tower would just be left there to dry. The sun would bleach them as well. The Zoroastrians believed that the process of flesh stripped and bones dry was a purification process. The bones then might be located in an ossuary somewhere near the tower. Alternatively, the bones would be put in the central well on the tower.
This Zoroastrian funeral practice, of course, meets with many disapproval in modern times. During the 1970s, the government in Iran banned this funerary practice.
Meanwhile, some other regions face a challenge of the depopulation of vultures. The decline of the vulture population is because people feed the vultures in many parts with Diclofenac which is a type of painkiller. This made the vultures suffer irreversible kidney failure causing their death.