A Tibetan ritual where deadbody is left for vultures to eat

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The world is such a different place, where every community, country or race shares distinct methods of handling bodies after a person dies. One such surprising tradition is the weird custom of Sky burial, where the dead body of a human is given to vultures to eat in the People of Vajrayana Buddhist (bya gtor) in Tibet.

The people of this Vajrayana Buddhist ethnic group believe that the body is just a shell for spirit; it will be reincarnated anyway, and if the spirit has left it, it could nourish another creature.

Notably, Bya gtor literally translates to ‘Alms for the birds’ in Tibetan. It is considered not to waste the opportunity to help or feed another living thing.

Tibetan Ritual of Sky Burial

In Vajrayana, firstly the body is kept in a sitting position for two days and a llama recites the prayers. Later the spine of the corpse is broken into pieces so it can be easily folded and carried to the sky burial place.

Sky Burial is not a burial at all of anything, but it is an act of leaving a dead body exposed to the elements, usually in an elevated location.

Family members accompany the deceased on this journey while beating double-sided drums and chanting. Notably, when they reach the site, they first burn the juniper to attract vultures.

Sky Burial Site. (Credits: John Hill)
Sky Burial Site. (Credits: John Hill)

The dead body is then placed face-down on the stones, its hair removed, and the Ropyagas start to chop up the limbs with axes or sledgehammers, sometimes flaying meat from bones and throwing it to the waiting vultures.

It is to be noted that they pounded the bones into a pulp, mixed it with barley flour, tea, and yak butter and gave it to the crows and hawks after the vultures had had their fill of meat.

Sky Burial Custom. (Credits: Chensiyuan, Wikimedia)
Sky Burial Custom. (Credits: Chensiyuan, Wikimedia)

They are practising this culture as they believe in reincarnation, as death is seen as more of a transition as opposed to an ending. The soul moves on from the body at the very instant of death, leaving very little room for attachment to the physical body after death.

Therefore, sky burial allows the physical bodies of Tibetans to be returned to the earth in a way that generously provides a meal for the vultures and very minimally disturbs the earth.

The Tibetans believe there should be no trace left to the physical body after death, which provides another advantage of this ritual. They have seen dead bodies as empty vessels and consider these sky burials an act of charity and compassion.

Ana Allen
Ana Allenhttp://writeups24.com
Anna Allen, news writer at Writeups24, is a Harvard graduate with a passion for journalism. With her keen eye for detail and insatiable curiosity, she captures the essence of global stories. Anna's writing informs and delves into cultural nuances. To reach Anna, you can email contact@writeups24.com


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