Friday, September 08, 2006

Parsi funeral rites controversy

Zoroastrians in the news again!

For four years we lived on Malabar Hill, adjacent to the Towers of Silence. I've walked and driven past a gazillion times, heading down from Hanging Gardens to Kemps Corner ... as a teenager, it just seemed way too cool in an icky, morbid, Tales of the Crypt kinda way ... the thick trees seemed dark and menacing as they hid what lay within. There were always anecdotal tales a a human limb or two dropping into someone's balcony from the claws of a carless carrion bird. Never happened to us.

Now, a Parsi woman has created a stir by photographing the rotting corpses and distributing them. (The photos, i.e!)
Pictures of rotting corpses piled at the funeral grounds, secretly snapped by a mourning woman, have sparked a furor over the ancient rituals.

When Dhun Baria learned her mother's corpse would take at least a year to decompose, she slipped into the grounds -- a place few Zoroastrians are allowed to enter -- and took photographs and video footage that have shocked her community.

Orthodox elders of the religion, whose followers are also known as Parsis, say the funeral system is working fine.

But Baria challenges that with her stack of pictures, a 15-minute video clip and thousands of handbills she has been distributing in the community showing rotting corpses and body parts.

[This was taken in 2003, looking north on Malabar Hill. The rise to the right, covered by the red Gulmohur flowers, is part of the Towers of Silence]


assiniboine said...

Eeyuck. One can see why when the younger scion of a Parsi family of our mutual acquaintance died a couple of years back they resorted to cremation, mortal sin or no....

assiniboine said...

So you lived on Malabar Hill! And what is the current disposition of Mohammed Ali Jinnah's house there? At one time there was some inclination of the government of India to resume it for public use; the government of Pakistan thought it really should belong to it and be used as its consulate. Mr Jinnah's family in Bombay -- Parsi and Christian, as you would realise (such an irony) -- rather took the view that it was their private property and just who did these governments think they were. One rather suspects that in the meantime its value must by now be entirely in the ground the house is built on.

Gashwin said...

When we lived there it was in excellent repair, though closed to the public. Not sure who was financing the upkeep but there it was, behind high walls as one walked downhill on Mount Pleasant Road. I've always wanted to go and explore and this last visit I thought about it, but my time in Bombay was really short. Did happen to drive by and what I could make out through the gates seemed to be doing ok. On the next trip, I'm not even sure I'll make it to Bombay, since the folks will likely be in Delhi and I'll have barely ten days ... :-(