Published: April 30th 2005April 20th 2005
Hi again to all of you friends and readers,
The story today is about the most intense experience I had in this trip, and I find it hard to believe that anything will conquer that title from it. It's very hard to digest and comprehend, and even after a few days I find it hard to believe that I have actually witnessed such a thing. I will tell the whole story, but I won't show all the pictures, because they are very hard to watch. The story itself might be hard to read, and even though these are the easiest photos, they might be hard for some of you.
While we were walking around the streets of Litang we were approached by a local guy who speaks English. This is not too rare, because if they do know English they really want to practice it. He was a nice Tibetan who went to study in India for a while, and he showed us around and walked with us. He was practicing his English pointing at things and saying them in English - "this is a shoe store, this is a bag shop, this is a horse..."
We weren't interested
in the town itself, since we saw it the previous day, and we asked him about other things to do in the area. We specifically asked him if he knows anything about the sky burial that we heard still takes place in Litang.
Sky burial, for those of you who don't know, is a Tibetan tradition in which you leave the dead people for the vultures to be eaten.
He said he doesn't know about it, but we went together to the monastery to ask the monks. They told him where it takes place (about 10 minutes walking out side of the town, on a hill), and they also said that somebody died and is being buried that same day!!!
We actually just thought that we will see the place, see some vultures there, and that it, and all of a sudden we discover that we might be witnessing a real burial.
In all the books it says that if there is a real burial you shouldn't come near, and you shouldn't take pictures. We were standing on the opposite hill looking from a distance and taking pictures of the vultures, when our local friend told us to come with
He approached the burial itself, and the family members there invited us to sit next to them, and even told us we could take pictures! I really couldn't believe it.
When we arrived the dead body was tied to a pole that was stuck in the ground. The vultures were half way through the body, and it looked already like a human skeleton with some flesh on it. More and more vultures were arriving from all around, and when they flew over me it sounded like a loud and scary "whooooooooooosh". It was hard watching all these big birds fighting over every piece of flesh, with the loud whistling and squeaking voices they made.
I can't imagine the beginning of it - a whole body being served to the vultures, and the big birds tearing it apart, eating it's face and all. It's a good thing we missed it, because I think it might have been too hard to watch.
The family members were watching the whole thing, looking at their loved one disappearing. You could see on their faces that they were sad.
When it was over and there was only a skeleton left, we thought it was
all over. But then we saw that there is a second part to the burial.
A monk arrived, looking more like a butcher, and in his hand there was a big and heavy axe. He sat next to the skeleton and started to crush the bones one after the other. He was working there in the sun for almost an hour, crushing the skeleton to pieces. He even crushed the skull, took out the brain, and added it to the big pile. The sound of the axe hitting the bones and the rock will never leave me till my last day.
When he finished - he added flour, sugar, and butter, and mixed the whole thing together. After that he swept the whole area to make sure that no pieces were lost...
During that entire time the vultures were just sitting there watching him and waiting for him to finish. Just a hand reach away from us.
When his work was done - he stepped back, and the vultures bashed in. Once again they were fighting over every available piece, and in a few minutes it was all over.
We went away from there, only to the next hill, where
we sat down and tried to relax from what we have just seen.
It looked so brutal and barbaric, and yet this is their tradition, their religion... They haven't killed this poor dead body, they just buried it in a way that is very hard to comprehend.
Our local friend was as shocked as we were. It was the first time he saw it, and he became physically sick. He didn't show up for dinner later that day...
Well, I don't want to add anything more this time,
There are more photos below