A Gateway to the Afterlife — Zoroastrian style
For 2,500 years Zoroastrians left their dead outside to be consumed by carrion birds. The idea was to avoid contaminating the soil and the fire, both of which are considered sacred.
The place they laid out the bodies ceremonially is called a dakhmeh, consisting of a perfectly symmetrical flat-topped stone tower, where the bodies were laid out for days for the birds to feast on. The leftover bones were then burned. This practice was abandoned in the 1960’s. The dead now are buried in a Zoroastrian cemetery nearby.
Saeideh and I were delighted to not find a single soul around. Being able to explore on your own is the best part of travelling in Iran. When we got to the top, it was the mountain scenery and the scale of giant flat and arid valley surrounding us that kept us enthralled.
Okay, yes, lots of human bodies were consumed here. I felt I needed to focus on that. But instead, the mind-boggling scenery around the dakhmeh and howl of the wind kept our attention.
From up there, you see trucks and buses rolling on highways miles away, appearing like tiny insects next to giant rocky mountains hovering over the valley.
The are two dakhmes in Yazd. We went to the lesser-known one near Cham, on the road between Taft to Yazd, because it’s a much shorter climb to the top.
It was the writings of 19th century German researchers about the dakhmeh that fascinated so many Europeans about Zoroastrians.
Here are our pics:
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Originally published at Escape from Tehran.