In response to a request for information on the Zoroastrian mode of disposal of the dead, here is a brief description of this ancient process, called DAHKMA-NASHINI - ie. utter destruction of the dead body which is considered most unhygienic and polluting, both physically and spiritually, in this ancient religion of the Aryans - Mazda-Yasna, the worship of Ahura Mazda as revealed to the ancient Aryan prophet Zarathushtra about 8000 years BC., in Iran - the ancient abode of the Aryans.
After a human being dies, according to the Vendidad (ancient scripture of the Zoroastrians) - the evil spirit of putrefaction rushes on the dead body within about three hours after death, ie. in the next Geh (division of time) immediately after the one he dies in. After this time, the dead body cannot be touched by anybody except special corpse bearers (Nassesalars) who live apart from the rest of society. Spiritually and physically, the dead body is most unclean at this time. The body is now bathed in the urine (Taro) of a special white bull - again an ancient Indo-European or Aryan method of purification. The clothes are destroyed. A new Sudreh-Kusti are tied on the body - the Sudreh being a religious garment, the Kusti an ancient mark of the Aryan people, a religious woollen cord tied around the waist (a close parallel being the Janoi of the Indian Brahmins, who too have derived from the Aryan people.)
The body is now tied up in old Sudrehs, only the face is kept uncovered. Any person who touches the body at this time has to purify himself by taking the Nahan (religious bath) with Taro, which he has to pour on his body as well as sip of. The abhorrence the ancient Aryans had for the dead body and its polluting influence is stressed at every step of this ancient ritual. The special corpse bearers now put the corpse on a marble stone. Fire is kept alongside burning with sandalwood, and a Diva (lamp) is also lighted. The Dastur (Zoroastrian fire-priest) now comes and intones special prayers in the ancient Aryan language of Avestan (a sister language of Vedic Sanskrit).
By the evening or the morning of the next day, the Dasturs (priests) pray the GEH-SARNA ceremony. As per the Vendidad, the soul wanders near the body for the first three days and is as a new-born child, very susceptible to the attack of evil spirits. The Geh-Sarna ceremony strengthens the soul and helps it to proceed on its way - it is a well known fact that there have never been any ghosts of Zoroastrians because of the powerful effects of the ancient Avestan Mathras (verses of prayer). In fact no pregnant woman is allowed to be present near the Geh- Sarna ceremony because of the fear that the powerful incantations may have an adverse effect on the unborn child ie. the soul that has recently attached to the child in the womb and is waiting to be born. Such is the power of the Aryan Avestan prayers.
The members of the household then say goodbye to the departed for the last time (without touching the body). The corpse bearers then carry away the body on a special iron bier (iron and stone cannot be polluted, wood can) from the prayer rooms and prepare for its final destruction. In the open, the body is placed on a stone slab and a Dog is brought near to gaze on the face of the dead person. The Dog posseses divine sight, and as per Aryan tradition has the power to see and chase away any evil spirits. The body is then placed by the bearers in a circular well shaped stone structure, called the Dakhma or more recently the "Tower of Silence". Stone like iron is not polluted and so shields the good earth from the evil of putrefaction.
As per the Aryan scriptures, the Sun and the Vulture then work systematically and hand-in-hand to destroy the dead body. The rain then falls and washes away the dried bones into the sea. As much as 1 year is allowed in the Aryan scriptures for this process, and this is contrasted to the burial process where the earth is polluted for at least 50 years, and lies shallow and unused for cultivation - the greatest worship of God being cultivation, as per the Aryans. Burial/burning of corpses are both considered wrong actions in the Vendidad. In an earlier Fargad (chapter), Mazda says that they were actions dreamed up by the evil one and taught to humanity to mislead them to pollute the earth and the Fire. In my Saga of the Aryans Vol IV, I have explained this in some more detail in dramatic prose, when Zarathushtra receives his relevation from Ahura Mazda.
Sacred ceremonies then go on for 4 days. On the morning of the 4th day, by the rays of the rising sun, the soul of the departed person ascends and passes to the "Chinvato-Peretu", the Bridge that separates the spiritual (Minoi) world from the physical (Geti) world. There he meets his own conscience, in the form of a Kainini-Keherpa ie, in the astral form of a maiden. The maiden is as beautiful; or as hideous as his own works in the world. The soul is then judged by the divinity Mithra (Meher) and either passes on to Garodman, the abode of songs where Ahura Mazda (God) awaits him or to drujo-deman, the abode of the evil one. There the soul waits until it is time for the Resurrection of all the dead and the final defeat and expulsion of evil from THIS world, when death and disease and hunger and thirst will be a thing of the past and God Himself will come down to the earth, assisted by the final Saviour (Saoshyant.)
More on the Dakhma-nashini method:
The Vendidad (Vi-daevo-dat, the law against evil) is quite clear on this, that Dakhma-nashini is the BEST way, and all other methods eg. burning, burial etc were dreamed up by the evil one to mislead humanity. This part of the "Saga of the Aryan Race", is based on the Vendidad and was published in the Jame:
Ahura Mazda spoke in a thunderous voice.
"O Zarathushtra! I now give you the VI-DAEVO-DAT, the Law to turn away from Evil."
Zarathushtra bowed his head. He spoke inquiringly:
"O Righteous Creator of the corporeal world, how much is this law to turn away from evil, greater, better, more higher than other sacred texts in greatness and fairness?"
Then replied the Master:
"Certainly O Spitama Zarathushtra, this law to turn away from evil compares higher to other sacred texts, just as the ocean ZRAYA VOURU KASHEM that surrounds the earth is higher than all other waters, just as a large tree overshadows small plants."
Zraya Vouru Kashem was the mystical ocean of energy that surrounded the earth, placed by Ahura Mazda so that the evil one could not destroy the earth - Zarathushtra realised this now. By comparing the Vendidad to the Zraya Vouru Kashem, Ahura Mazda was pointing out the great importance of physical and spiritual cleaniness to the entire world's existance, the cleaniness so methodically explained in the Vi-daevo-dat.
The Almighty God now explained to Zarathushtra's inquiring soul, as to how the Aryans should dispose of a dead body. This was VERY important, since in those days eight thousand years ago the Aryans had begun to stray from their ancient customs of fast disposal of a corpse, and had instead begun to bury or burn their dead. Indeed, the earth mother itself had lamented to Ahura of the many dead bodies that lay in it, thus destroying the full capacity of the earth to produce crops and care for it's children. And thus Ahura Mazda revealed to Zarathushtra the ancient Aryan customs and their meaning, explained in the holy Vi-daevo-dat.
THUS spoke Ahura Mazda:
"O Spitama Zarathushtra! If a Mazdayasni Aryan among you dies, place the dead body of that Aryan on the highest place, where most assuredly either the flesh eating dogs or the flesh eating birds can perceive this body. Then the living Aryan should tie down the feet of the dead one, and his hair to structures either made of iron or stone or lead - if this be not done, the flesh eating dog or flesh eating bird may carry these bones near water or plants and pollute them.
"When the bones are left, make an ossuary (circular tower) in that place which is higher than a dog, higher than a wolf or fox, so that none of these animals can get in. It may be made of stone or iron. Then the bones are exposed to the sun.
"THE SUN IS THE MOST POWERFUL PURIFIER, holy Zarathushtra! Indeed, when an Aryan dies, his lifeless body may be put down in a place large enough. It may be placed there either two nights or three nights or a month long, uptil the time of spring when the snow melts and the plants grow. Then the Mazdayasni Aryan MUST EXPOSE THAT BODY TO THE SUN. If the body is not exposed to the sun in a period of one year, then the Mazdayasni is guilty of an action similar to tormenting a righteous person.
"I then make THE SUN SHINE TO PURIFY THE DEAD, I make the water fall from the clouds to wash away the bones to the sea which purifies. Heated by the action of the sun, the water then rises from the sea; rising in the sky till it forms these thunderous clouds! They rain down on My command to give rise to crops and food for mankind, to nourish the thirsty earth. Thus is the cycle complete. "
Zarathushtra understood. He now asked Ahura Mazda, "O Ahura, the righteous Creator, tell me this: when a man dies when does decomposition (nasu) rush on him, which does harm to one?"
Then spoke Ahura Mazda, "O Spitama Zaratushtra! This happens immediately after death, after the coming out of the Urvan (soul). Then the decomposition (nasu) rushes in, which does one harm, from the northern dirction. Stinking insects (maggots) appear and attack from the front part of the knee to posterior parts. This state of the body is boundless filthiness and impurity.
"BRING the dog towards this body, or bring the vulture. When a dog looks towards this OR EATS, or when the vulture flies towards it and EATS; then this decomposition which does harm, FLIES away again to the northern direction - this is the only way to remove the evil of Nasu (not by burial or burning)."
Thus was the great ancient Aryan practice of Dakhma-Nashini (a place of destruction of dead bodies) explained to Zarathushtra, as being the most hygienic and sacred way of disposal of a dead body. Not for the Aryans were the tombs, not for him were the structures and pyramids and methods of other cultures to come later on, that preserved the dead body unnaturally. Rather, in the Aryan faith the dead body had to be disposed of in the ancient way of the Dakhma and no other, by flesh eating vulture or dog OR SUN or all combined, as explained to Zarathushtra by Ahura Mazda Himself. And the time to do this could be as much as a year.
The Sun, the Dog, the flesh-eating bird
these are the ways ancient
to dispose of the dead Aryan -
most holy and commanded by Ahura Mazda.
O Man! away with your pride and arrogance
that refuse to follow the way
of your Aryan ancestors -
it is your science modern that strives
to pollute and destroy,
despite the earth's cries.
Come, all Aryan fellow-men, let us vow
The ancient way of Dakhma-Nashini
pure and most effective, we shall adhere to
As our Aryan forfathers did in Iran.
- from the "Saga of the Aryan Race" by Porus Homi Havewala.
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