Archive for September 22nd, 2010

September 22, 2010

Sky Burial

sky burial

Sky burial or ritual dissection was once a common funerary practice in Tibet wherein a human corpse is cut in specific locations and placed on a mountaintop, exposing it to the elements (or the mahabhuta) and animals – especially to birds of prey. The location of the sky burial preparation and place of execution are called charnel grounds. In Tibet the practice is known as jhator, which literally means, ‘giving alms to the birds.’

The majority of Tibetans adhere to Buddhism, which teaches rebirth. There is no need to preserve the body, as it is now an empty vessel. Birds may eat it, or nature may let it decompose. So the function of the sky burial is simply the disposal of the remains. In much of Tibet the ground is too hard and rocky to dig a grave, and with fuel and timber scarce, a sky burial is often more practical than cremation.