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Dakhme is a Zoroastrian Tower of Silence located on top of a mountain of the same name in Yazd.
Zoroastrians believe that physical and spiritual corruption go hand in hand and therefore when one draws their last breath, the body falls under the evil influence of decomposition and becomes the center of impurity. The dead body must be destroyed to prevent the spread of impurity. As a Zoroastrian must not contaminate any of the elements, the corpse cannot be burned, or given to water or buried in the ground. Instead corpses were carried to the top of a hill or low mountain away from centers of population and sacred natural elements, and exposed to the sun in structures known as Towers of Silence.
The corpse was usually moved to the tower within one day of death and during the daylight hours. The body was carried by an even number of people, even if the deceased was a child who could easily be carried by one person.
The only people allowed to touch the corpse were those clothing it and the corpse-bearers. If by accident someone touched the corpse they were prohibited from coming into contact with other persons until they underwent a purification ritual that entailed ritualistic washing of the body.
In the exposure procedure called 'Khurshed nigerishn,' which in Pahlavi means 'beholding by the sun,' the dead were placed on top of the tower, which has an almost flat roof divided into three concentric rings with a perimeter slightly higher than the center and is open at the top to give access to the body to birds.
The bodies of men were arranged around the outer ring, women inside the second circle, and children in the innermost ring. When the sun disintegrated the body and birds stripped it of flesh, the remaining bones were placed in the Ossuary Well.
Towers of Silence were built of mud brick, stone and stucco to protect the ground from contamination. Dakhme is located outside the city and built with precise calculations so that the wind would not carry pollutants back to the city.
Ever growing cities and towns that placed Towers of Silence within city limits resulted in the Zoroastrians of Iran to stop using these towers in the 1970s and to begin using new burial methods such a laying the body of the deceased in plastered graves lined with rock to prevent the contamination of the earth.
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