Sky Burial of AsiaBy RodneyHatfieldJr for Creepy
I knew about above-ground burials for certain native societies from history(especially the Native Americans), but I didn’t know there were places where it was still practiced. I came across a NatGeo video that discussed this kind of practice in the 21 century. I watched it and was fascinated, so I did a little more research. And this is what I found.
Sky burial is an ancient funeral practice in which a human corpse is taken by the family or community and placed on a mountaintop to decompose while exposed to the elements or to be eaten by scavenging animals. The main scavengers are carrion birds. It is one of the many types of excarnation. Excarnation (also known as defleshing) refers to the practice of removing the flesh and organs of the dead before burial.
This funeral process is practiced in the Chinese provinces and autonomous regions of Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Inner Mongolia, as well as in Mongolia, Bhutan, and parts of India such as Sikkim and Zanskar. The locations of preparation and sky burial are understood in the Vajrayana Buddhist traditions as charnel grounds. Comparable practices are part of Zoroastrian burial practices where the deceased are exposed to the elements and birds of prey on stone structures called Dakhma. Unfortunately few of these places remain operational today, due to religious marginalization, urbanization, and the decimation of vulture populations,
A majority of Tibetan and Mongols people adhere to Vajrayana Buddhism, which teaches the transmigration of spirits. There is no need to preserve the body, as it is now an empty vessel. Birds may eat it or nature may cause it to decompose. After being sent on their way with ceremony, the remains of the deceased are toted up to a designated location where rogyapas (body-breakers) perform the ritual dissection of the body.
The true function of the sky burial is simply to dispose of the remains in as generous a way as possible. In much of Tibet and Qinghai, the ground is not suitable to dig in. has permafrost and under that, it is too hard and rocky to dig, Also due to the scarcity of fuel and timber, cremation is rarely performed. Sky burials are more practical than the traditional Buddhist practice of cremation. In the past, cremation was limited to high lamas and some other dignitaries, but modern technology and difficulties with sky burial have led to increased use of cremation by commoners.
There are other nations besides the ones in Asia that perform this. A form of air burial is used in the Caucasus nations of Georgians, Abkhazians, and Adyghe. The only difference is they put the corpse in a hollow tree trunk. Other than mulching the body(recomposition), this is the greenest funeral practice today.
The state of Washington has just passed laws that allow people to mulch bodies, and they are also discussing this form of Sky Burials. I am very pro-individual rights, and respectful of others' beliefs, but I have reservations about this. First, we have a very healthy population of carrion animals. Especially vultures, crows, and opossums. So our area would be a choice place for this. However, it is bad enough when my dog drags in a stinky deer leg. And let's not forget having to call the police when you find a half-chewed femur in the driveway. We also have very large crows, and I have seen them carrying rather large things. Matter of fact, When I was 17, I watched a crow drop a squirrel carcass on my windshield as it was flying over. I can see someone walking along and a crow drops a hand or other maggot-filled piece of meat on your head. I have to vote no on this. Not of the practice, but on the principle of surprise body parts.Share this article on: