Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Parsis to import, breed vultures

The Parsi tradition of cremation by keeping the bodies in the Tower of Silence to be devoured by vultures was under threat as birds of prey had gone almost extinct in Mumbai.

The Bombay Parsi Punchayet has now decided to import and begin breeding vultures.

Sixty five-year-old Dhan Baria claims that dead bodies lay rotting slowly for months on end inside the Parsi Towers of Silence.

“Would you be able to bear it if people lay in that horrible state?” asked Baria.

Baria’s claim had created ripples in the small community last year.

Now, six months after the controversy, the Bombay Parsi Panchayet has decided to import and begin breeding vultures, on which Parsis rely dispose off their dead.

“This issue has fractured our community like nothing else. It is a very sensitive issue. We hope by increasing the number of vultures, the community can be united again,” said Bombay Parsi Punchayet Trustee Dinshaw Mehta.

The project is being led by scientists at the Bombay Natural History Society, who have seen recent success in breeding the endangered birds in conservation centres in Haryana.

Once governmental permissions have been obtained, about a 100 of the almost extinct scavengers will be brought into Mumbai at first and will be housed in three aviaries, two of which will be at the Towers of Silence.

Leaders in the community and 98 per cent of all Parsis still opt for the traditional method of disposal – that is, consigning bodies to the Towers.

So breeding vultures, they say, will not only ensure they are fulfilling their religious duty, but also helping ecological conservation.

“It’s a win-win situation for the community, maybe now, instead of 98 percent, 99 percent of Parsis will come back to this method of disposal,” said Khojesti Mistry of World Alliance of Parsi and Irani Zarthoshtis (WAPIZ).

The project is expected to cost about Rs 1 crore, and will take about a year.

Original article here