First thing first, this blog post is not meant for the faint-heart-ed. Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas, a place with rich cultures and traditions influenced by Buddhism. With Tibet, first thing came in mind is Buddhist monks, Lamas, Great Wall of China, Sky burials. Okay, not very smooth transition about what we’re going to discuss here.
Lets cut to the chase.
Tibet follows almost every type of burials to dispose the dead bodies. Different types of people, different ranks of people are cremated differently, are disposed differently. Based on the ranks, or deceased wish, or whatever suits the circumstances, Tibetans bury the dead bodies by following these 6 burial rituals.
Also Read: Top 6 Deadliest Snakes In The World.
Still with me, brave-heart. Read Top 6 Tibetans Funeral Forms To Bury The Dead.
Top 6 Tibetans Funeral Forms To Bury The Dead
Sky Burials – Jhator
You know why I warned you right at the start of this blog post. Sky Burials is the reason.
It’s one way to bury the dead. I know it sounds ironic. But dead corpses are cut into pieces, placed on the mountaintops, which are then offered to the scavengers, vultures and other predatory birds.
Sky burials is quite gory to witness, not any common person is allowed to witness the rituals of sky burials. But Buddhist believes that this is one of the most generous way to bury the dead. By act of generosity, I mean, that the human flesh is serving as a food to the birds.
Tibet being a plateau, the ground is too hard to dig a grave and the lack of enough fuel and timber, Sky Burials seems quite economical and traditional way to bury the dead. But if you’d go with the full traditional Sky burial ritual, it’s one of the most expensive and time-consuming way to decompose the dead. If it’s completely eaten by the birds, it indicates that the dead person has no sin, and the soul has peacefully ascended to Heaven. If some parts of the dead bodies are left, they’re burned afterwards.
Strangers are not allowed to witness the Sky Burials. No photography is allowed on the scene. The ritual usually takes place at the dawn.
Stupa Burial – Pagoda Burial
Not every dead is treated or meant for Stupa Burials. It’s one of the most noble and highest form to deal with the dead. Stupa burials is the honour reserved for great lamas and Panchen Lama.
The body is preserved, but all the internal organs from mouth to anus are extracted from the body. After that, the body is smeared with salt water, dried and wrapped with medicinal herbs and spices and ornaments. Gold flakes are also scattered all over the body in some cases.
After the cremation, the body is preserved in the Stupa for worshipping, or it’s treated as a place for the meditation. Stupas could be created using Gold, Silver, Bronze or Wood. The type of stupa selected to preserve and honour the dead is based on the rankings of Lamas.
Stupa burial originated from India, but now is considered as one of the highest form of burial in Tibetan tradition.
Fire burial is considered as a way to bury the high monks and aristocrats of Tibetans.
Fire burial is same as cremation, the dead body is decomposed into the environment via the use of high temperature burning, reducing the dead bodies to ashes and bones.
The ashes are then collected into wood box or an earthen jar. Some people believe in burying the ashes separately into the earth, some preserve it at the top of the hill, or a piece of pure land. Some scatter the ashes at the top of the mountain thus dissolving them into the wind or into the river.
But the ashes of the monks or honorary people are placed and preserved with other miscellaneous things which includes small gold of silver, classical books, joss musical instruments and treasures.
Fire burial is considered as less superior form to bury the dead than Stupa burial.
While the three Tibetans burial forms discussed above are superior in one way or the other. Water burials is considered to dispose the dead bodies of beggars and people with low social status and people without relatives.
The body is wrapped in white cloth and is simply disposed off in any water body, river, likely. Whereas, some people also believe in cutting each body parts before the water burial, which are then, released into fast water currents.
Where Sky Burial is not possible, or where such predatory birds are not found, water burial is carried out to decompose the dead body. In deep valleys of Southern Tibbets where there are no vultures, this method is commonly used. But with all the tradition and rituals and methods, Sky burial is still superior form of funeral in Tibet.
While in other parts of the world, Earth burial has its own tradition sagas and rituals to follow, Tibetans believes Earth burial is an inferior funeral custom to decompose the dead.
Earth burial is for the dead people, which were suffering from any kind of infectious disease or those who lost their lives in a murder, or killed by robbers.
If the deceased was suffering from any kind of infectious disease, it’s not considered for the Sky burial, irrespective of his/her rank or society status. Earth burial is the way to eradicate the spread of the dead. Earth burial is also considered as one way to punish the dead for his/her sin.
Tree Burial – Green Burial
Not only in Tibet, but it’s quite a common practice to bury the dead among the Balinese, the Naga people, and in certain Australian parts and North American Indian groups.
This burial is considered appropriate for children. Where the dead body is placed in the coffin or in a wooden cases. Which are then hung on a tree in a remote forest. All this is done so that they can avoid it from being seen by other children.
Wrapping Up – Different Tibetans Funeral Forms Or Customs
Tibetans do not believe in death, or you’d say, death is not the end of life in Tibetan concept. They believe that it’s another way to continue life journey without physical carrier(the body). As depicted from these different Tibetan funeral forms, Tibetans are not afraid to witness death or disposal of bodies. What are your views about it?