National Geographic : 1905 Dec
THE PARSEES OF INDIA When the ceremony has been con cluded the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, retires to his own house, where they all sit down to a banquet. The bride's party are entertained by her father. The ladies are first served, and when they have left the table it is pre pared for the gentlemen. The Parsees, from their earliest so journ in India, have refrained from eat ing meat on the day of marriage, to avoid giving offense to the feelings of the Hindoos. The viands, therefore, con sist of fish, vegetables, sweetmeats, fruits, preserves, and similar articles. Wines are drunk freely, and several toasts are proposed by the company, in cluding the health of the wedded pair, their parents, and the chief men of the assembly. After dinner the ladies retire to their own houses, but the gentlemen sit till a late hour enjoying the pleasures of a " natch," or of a band that follows. A repetition of the nuptial benediction is also performed by the priests after midnight before a few select friends and relatives. As the couple are invariably young, separate accommodation is seldom al lotted them after their marriage, nor even when they have attained adult age do they leave the parental roof. They live in the same house with the other members of the family. Though a father has six or seven sons they all reside, with their wives and children, in the house of their sire, and the gray-headed old man is often able to look with pride and pleasure upon the group of children and grandchildren around him. THE TOWERS OF SILENCE Mr John Fryer, who arrived in Bom bay in the year 1671, says in his book of travels: " On the other side of the great inlet to the sea is a great point abutting Old Women's Island, and is called Malabar Hill; a rocky, woody mountain, yet sends forth long grass. At the top of all is a Parsy tomb, lately reared. On its declivity, towards the sea, the remains of a stupendous pagod, near a tank of fresh water, which the Malabars visit it mainly for." This " Parsy tomb," or "dokma," as it is called in the vernacular, still exists on Malabar Hill. In accordance with religious injunc tions, the Parsees build their Towers of Silence on the tops of hills, if available. No expense is spared in constructing them of the hardest and best materials, with a view that they may last for cen turies, without the possibility of pol luting the earth or contaminating any living beings dwelling thereon. On Malabar Hill, a long, prominent, rocky ridge, paralleling and overlook ing the Arabian Sea, are built the " Towers of Silence." They are five in number, the one mentioned by Dr Fryer now more than 230 years old; another for the use of suicides only, and three others. They are surrounded by about six teen acres of ground, artistically laid out and planted with beautiful flowers and tropical plants. Just inside the entrance gate is a peculiarly constructed building, set apart for a fire temple and a house of prayer. These " Dokmas," or " Towers of Silence," are built upon one plan, but their size may and does vary. The largest of them measures 276 feet in circumference, or about 90 feet in diameter, surrounded by a cir cular wall, 20 to 30 feet in height, built of the hardest stone, and faced with chunam or white plaster. There is an opening or door just above the ground level, through which the dead bodies are carried by professional corpse-bearers, who have gone through certain religious ceremonies and who are alone privileged to carry the corpses into the tower. No one else can enter or touch them. That an intelligent idea may be given I have annexed hereto a ground plan of a tower of silence. Inside the tower 55'