Tuesday, 1 February 2011
12:13:21 AM (GMT)
Sky burial or ritual dissection was once a common practice in Tibet. A human corpse
is cut into small pieces and placed on a mountaintop, exposing it to the elements and
animals – especially to birds of prey. In one account, the leading mok cut off the
limbs and hacked the body to pieces, handing each part to his assistants, who used
rocks to pound the flesh and bones together to a pulp, which they mixed with tsampa
(barley flour with tea and yak butter or milk) before the vultures were summoned to
In several accounts, the flesh was stripped from the bones and given to vultures
without further preparation; the bones then were broken up with sledgehammers, and
usually mixed with tsampa before being given to the vultures. In another account,
vultures were given the whole body. When only the bones remained, they were broken up
with mallets, ground with tsampa, and given to crows and hawks that had waited until
the vultures had departed.
The Communist government of China outlawed it in the 1960s so it was nearly a lost
tradition, but they legalised it again in the 1980s.