Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Parsi Tower of Silence in Mumbai, Malabar Hills ..

The evening of 30 March 2012, got me, Anila and Chinnu with my sister Alice going downhill from Malabar Hill. We passed the hanging gardens which has a huge water tank underneath it and then on the left hand side of the road there was sort of a forest. On enquiry I was told that it was the Parsis' burial place, the twoer of silence. Malabar Hills is already one of the most expensive real estate in the world and at that place to have a 55 acre plot of land to take care of the dead among the Parsis was a very humbling experience.
We could see vultures and eagles hovering around in the air and when I enquired I was told that they were feeding on corpses kept inside the tower of silence.  That is how the Parsis bury their dead, feed them to the vultures - whatever has come from the earth, should go back to the earth. To realise that our greatest business barons of the country Tatas, Wadias, Godrejs etc.. will all have such an experience was in itself so humbling ..
Quote : Mumbai has the distinction of having the greatest number of the followers of the Prophet Zarathushtra of Iran.  Parsees in Mumbai descend from a group of Persian Zoroastrians who immigrated to South Asia during 8th century AD to escape persecution in Iran. Over the centuries, the Parsees have integrated themselves into Indian society while simultaneously maintaining their own ethnic identity.
Parsees don't burn or bury their dead; they want humans to be of use even after death. So they feed their dead to the eagles and vultures and not defile air, water or soil by cremation or burial. You can see the Zoroastrian funerary towers called the Parsee Bawdi or the 'Tower of Silence' on an expansive 55 acres of land on top of Malabar hills. This has a well-like, big circular structure called Dakhma / Dokhma where corpses are placed to be eaten by vultures.
The grounds contain five towers, three of which are reserved for public use, one is kept exclusively for suicides and criminals, and one for the descendants of Modi Hizi Wachha, one of the earliest Parsi settlers who built the towers in 1672. Only the white clad Nasaslars who perform the last rites are allowed inside the tower. All around the parapets and on the trees the vultures wait and watch.
No aeroplanes are allowed to fly over towers of silence, perhaps to avoid hitting the vultures. Once the bones have been bleached by the sun and wind, they are thrown into the ossuary pit at the center of the tower. : unquote
(Excuse me,  respecting the sentiments of people who have left us, I am taking out the snap of the inside view of the tower of silence, Mumbai)
1880 photo of Malabar Hill Tower of Silence .. courtesy Columbia Uty archives.

Malabar Hills is the most expensive real estate in the world ..  The worth of 55 acre of prime property in Mumbai Malabar Hills area is unimaginable. Malabar Hills is also the country's most guarded area too ..  It is the residence of the Governor and Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Governor of the Reserve Bank, Chairman of State Bank of India, UBI etc..

It is said that the entire Malabar Hills was owned by a Keralite Malabari muslim family, Keyi, Chovvakkaaran Moosa who finally gave it to the British at the beginning of the 19th century to protect his trading rights in Malabar, Kerala.

Could be worth thousands of thousands of crores .. It is the history and culture that is priceless ..


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