Circling once more

Charles Cowling


India’s Zoroastrian community is breeding vultures so that it can once more dispose of its dead atop Towers of Silence. 

Once vulture rich, with a population of around 400 million, India has seen a steep decline caused by poisoning. The vultures have been consuming painkilling meds administered to cattle. Their decline to a few thousand has compelled Zoroastrians, or Parsis, to opt for cremation instead. 

Zoroastrians believe that corpses are a pollutant which injure the elements, which is why they should not be consumed by the earth or by fire.

Now, vultures supplied by the government are to be bred in aviaries. That they will be able to eat corpses will save large sums of money in food bills. 

Before they are laid out, Parsi corpses must be certified free of diclofenac, the painkiller which also kills vultures. 

The slideshow above shows Parsi priests honouring their dead, each of whom is represented by a vase of flowers. 



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