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Silent Tower; What did the Zoroastrians do with their dead !?


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  • guest author: Somayeh Dodangeh

    Full video of Tower of Silence

    About half a century ago, the ritual of the dead was banned from being held in Iranian tombs

    Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the world, dating back to pre-Christianity, Islam and even Judaism. The religion of Zoroaster was started about 3500 years ago by the Prophet Zoroaster in modern Iran.

    According to the latest estimates, the number of Zoroastrians is about 200,000, most of whom live in Iran and India. Zoroastrians believe in one God, who calls him Ahura Mazda or the great wise creator,

    They believe that he created the universe and gave it existence, in a way that is perfect and right. Zoroastrians believe in free will, they believe that good behavior, good speech and good deeds repel evil forces and therefore it Brings them closer to a perfect and divine life.

    According to the ancestors of nature, fire, air and soil are composed of 4 elements and man returns to one of these four sources after death; The Iranians worshiped the fire and sought purity themselves, and the dead were thrown to the silent tower of the dead, to be eaten by birds, so that their impurity would not return to water and soil.

    The farther we went from the city of Taft, the closer we got to the peak of our journey. It was as if in the depths of history we accompanied the dead on their journey to the Silent Tower in the Hereafter.

    Dilbar Jan, a Zoroastrian woman who told stories from the Tower of Silence

    At the foot of the mountain, there are brick, mud or stone mansions known as "Khileh". Dilber Jan remembers the days when they wore white clothes and accompanied their dead to mourning without any wailing. They did not consider death as the end of life and believed that at the time of death the body and soul will be destroyed, but the soul and spirit will remain forever.

    Birth and death chambers

    The family of the deceased handed over the body to the crypt or ruler and left there reciting a lament entitled "Peace be upon all the dead." The "Khilas" each belonged to a village. There were no more ruins left than any of them. Among these mansions, there are two separate mansions, one of which belonged to a crypt that did not have the right to leave the village, and the question remained for us, the man who led the dead to their eternal place. What was his character or position? Was he excluded from the society of those days or did he choose this company?

    And another mansion, like a lighthouse, belonged to the firefighters. After the body was moved to the top of the crypt, the firefighters lit a fire in a room with a window facing the crypt as it got dark, and kept it lit until morning, on the wall of the window crypt. The small one was located along the window of the fire room, which caused the light of the flames to shine into the crypt from night to morning.

    View of Taft city fire chamber and fire room

      The fire was lit so that the soul of the deceased would not feel dark and scared during these three nights. Because the Zoroastrians believed that the souls of the dead wander around the body for three days and nights and then go to heaven.

    The window that ran along the window of the fire room

    With great fear in our hearts, we set foot on the road to the crypt. If death had come to us less than 50 years ago, instead of walking, we would have taken this uphill route on the crypt, because in those days no one but him had the right to enter this route.

    With great fear in our hearts, we set foot on the road to the crypt. If death had come to us less than 50 years ago, instead of walking, we would have taken this uphill route on the crypt, because in those days no one but him had the right to enter this route.

    Every step I took reminded me of a quote from "Christian Bobben" that "death has such a narrow road that you have to cross it alone."

    The inner surface of the Silent Tower, which is covered with large boulders

    The crypt carrier takes the body into the crypt and lays it on the ground. In a circular space centered on a pit to collect the bones and hair of the dead, the corpses were surrounded by children, women, and men, respectively. The crypt would open the shroud of the dead, and when it came out, the corpse would be eaten by carnivores. The transfer of the dead to heights and the feeding of carnivores was due to the non-spread of contamination to the surrounding areas and cities because these birds were feeding at the same point of the corpse and their strange digestive system was not able to repel the contamination. There were still birds flying overhead, which made the scene of the corpses tangible to us. The bones of the corpse were transferred to a pit in the middle of the crypt called "Ostadan" and lime and sulfur were poured into it every few months to burn the bones and turn them to ashes. The remaining ash was washed away by rainwater and fed into four wells on the lower four sides of the crypt. The bottom of the wells was covered with sand and charcoal, which acted as a filter and purifier for water. And so what was left of the dead bodies went to the depths of the earth with the purified rain water.

    According to documents, with the expansion of cities since the fifties to prevent the spread of pollution, the transfer of the dead to the crypt was banned and Zoroastrians also bury their dead.

    Death looks at us sitting in the shadows

    Facing death on this strange journey taught me that looking at death not only eliminates the fear of death, but also makes it easier to endure many of life's hardships by understanding the reality of our lives and the limited time we have.

    One of the most important documents available since the activity of the Zoroastrian crypt in Yazd is a part of a documentary called "Documentary of Bad Saba" which was made by the order of the government of the time by Albert Lamorisse in 1969.

    There are also photographs of the Silent Tower of Yazd taken by Bahman Jalali, an Iranian photographer in the 1969. Due to the fact that it is forbidden to enter the crypt, he prepares a rope at midnight and secretly reaches the top of the crypt with difficulty. There, he waits in a corner until morning, and after the weather clears, he takes a photo and leaves at night.

    Zoroastrian crypt in Yazd | Photographer: Bahman Jalali


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