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Towers of Silence (Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun)

Whilst travelling through Iran I spent a short time in Yazd and I took a shared taxi out to the outskirts of the city with a few friends to see the Towers of Silence. The towers (or dakhmeh) at Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun are towers build on the top of two hills and were places where Zoroastrian’s left their dead.

Zoroastrianism is an ancient religion based on the teachings of a prophet called ‘Zoroaster’. It was a popular religion in Persia a couple of thousand years ago. Water and fire represented purity and were very important and Zoroastrian ‘fire temples’ are dotted all over Iran – I saw one in Isfahan and also in the ancient village of Abyenah.

The hills at Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun are each crowned with round towers where the dead were left out for the vultures to pick clean the bones, then what was left was dissolved in acid in accordance with Zoroastrian belief that the dead should not contaminate the earth.

I’ve been told that the dead were disposed of in this way right up until the 20th century in this part of Iran, but now the dead are buried in the ground in concrete coffins.

Zoroastrian tradition says that a corpse is a host for decay and evil spirits, so the dead must be disposed of “safely” and in a way that does not pollute the earth – their solution was the practice of “ritual exposure”.

The Towers of Silence are perhaps an unusual place to visit, but Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun is well worth a visit if you ever go to Iran, and it is also an awesome place to watch the sun go down over the mountains…

Here are some more photographs of the Towers of Silence near Yazd, Iran:

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Comments

Aigul

Hello, my name is Aigul, I’m a photo editor in a newspaper called Nezavisimaya gazeta (http://www.ng.ru/). It is a Russian newspaper, and I want to use your photo from that series: towers of silens.
I would like to ask for your permission to use this photo in our paper, please.

Best regards,
Yusupova Aigul
photo editor of Nezavisimaya gazeta

Sonya

Thanks, I’m captivated by these images of Iran!

retrotraveller

Hi Nadia – the towers are not used anymore, instead there is now a modern Zoroastrian cemetary nearby. There were a lot of other ruins as you may have noticed in the pictures and these were also Zoroastrian… but no longer in use.

nadia

It is an unusual place to visit, but very interesting nevertheless. So is this place completely deserted now, considering that they do not practice the ritual exposure anymore? I don’t think I’ll visit Iran anytime soon, so thank you so much for sharing the Towers of Silence with us 🙂

retrotraveller

Thanks for the extra information Pryank… I confess I don’t know an aweful lot about Zoroastrianism. I’d read about the towers in India – one day I’ll go to India!!

Sarah Wu

The last shot is breath-taking. I would never thought of visiting Iran but your photos just show me the beauty of it.

Priyank

Hi Jonathan,
Hey, I should add that Zoroastrianism was not a ‘popular’ religion of Persia, but THE religion of Persia. After the Islamic invasion, large number of people moved east, towards India. There are numerous towers of silence’s in different cities in India as well. The Zoroastrian beliefs around death are quite different and I find them lying somewhere between the western (one lifetime, body is important) and eastern (multiple lives, body is not important) schools.

retrotraveller

Thanks Ayngelina… I like that shot too. The original is actually shot in portrait, but I cropped it for the blog post…

Ayngelina

I love the framing in the top photo.

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