New from NPR! 禿鷹絕跡，祆教人傷腦筋
New from NPR
For any religion, keeping up old traditions in the modern world can be a challenge. In India, the Parsi community祆教(伊斯蘭人貶稱為拜火教) faces a unique obstacle困難. The Parsis came to India from Iran伊朗 a thousand years ago and brought their Zoroastrian faith祆教信仰 with them. And they brought an unusual funeral ritual喪葬禮俗, which became hard to maintain. Elliot Hannon has that story from Mumbai.
ELLIOT HANNON, BYLINE: This is how a Parsi funeral starts. It seems familiar enough. Prayers are chanted誦經禱告 and mourners pay last respects對死者致敬. But that's where the similarities end, says Khojeste Mistree. He's the head of the Zoroastrian Studies Institute in Mumbai.
KHOJESTE MISTREE: We have an unusual method of disposal of the dead處理屍體. The Parsi corpse is exposed to the rays of the sun天葬(將屍體暴露在陽光下), and the corpse is consumed or devoured吃/吞噬 by birds of prey – vultures禿鷹, kites鳶鳥 and crows烏鴉.
HANNON: For Zoroastrians, burying 埋葬or cremating火化 the dead is seen as polluting nature.(祆教的信徒認為火水與土都是神聖的，不能被死屍污染，因此只能讓禿鷹來吃掉) So for centuries, the Parsis in Mumbai have relied on仰賴 vultures to do the work - that is until the entire population of vultures in the city vanished. Without the vultures, the Parsis had to rely on manmade ingenuity人工創造出來的智慧或是機制 instead.
MISTREE: To try and dehydrate脫水/風乾 the body faster, the trustees introduced solar concentrators太陽能的烘乾機 where the solar concentrators focus heat specifically, though during the monsoon seasons雨季 the solar concentrators don't work because of the clouds.
HANNON: The solution isn't perfect. The solar concentrators can only work on several bodies at a time, but it's helped keep the tradition alive將傳統持續發揚光大. At the top of a wooded hill林木眾多的山丘 here in the Doongerwadi forest, Parsi bodies are laid outside on a platform in what's called the Tower of Silence. Mistree describes the tower as similar to a tiered amphitheater有階梯的露天劇場, which can hold more than 250 bodies at a time.
HANNON: There are still smaller birds, like crows, which also will consume the bodies. But the solar concentrators often keep them away during the day because it's too hot. They're also less efficient than vultures. And that, too, has created problems for the Parsis, says Zoroastrian priest Ramiyar Karanjia.
RAMIYAR KARANJIA: Vultures are very quick in eating away the flesh. Now, it's working a bit slowly, but from an emotional point of view, that is a bit disturbing困擾的/心神不寧 to some people.
HANNON: So a job that would take a flock of 一群vultures hours now can take weeks. And as Mumbai has grown into a megacity超級大城市, slowly decomposing bodies緩慢腐爛的屍體 have made some neighbors squeamish作嘔. One of the towers was closed because it was visible from new high-rise buildings高樓 that now peer into盯著看 the forest. And air purifiers空氣清潔器 had to be installed to minimize減少 the smell. These manmade fixes have helped but haven't solved the problem that started in the 1980s when the vulture population across
began to mysteriously
By 2007, the number of vultures had fallen by 99 percent. The disappearing vultures confounded令…感到困惑 scientists until studies found that a drug administered to cattle牲畜服用的藥物 in India killed the vultures when they fed on the carcasses讓吃了牲畜屍體的禿鷹死亡. The Indian government banned禁止 the drug and set up reserves保育區 for the birds. The success of the program has led to a new proposal to start a vulture sanctuary禿鷹的保育區/避難所 in Doongerwadi. And that could make life easier for the Parsis and their neighbors, says Homi Khusrokhan, president of the Bombay Natural History Society.
HOMI KHUSROKHAN: For years, the Parsis have been trying to manage without vultures. But obviously, if the vultures could be brought back, they would be delighted. And it's always been a sort of impossible task. This is the first time it's really become feasible可行的 to do.
HANNON: Even if the sanctuary is approved, it would take time before the vultures could be released into the wild放生到野外. And when that happens, Parsis are hoping that nature will once again take its course這裡指的是讓復育成功野放的禿鷹，能夠再次進行任務(就是吃死屍). For NPR News, I'm Elliot Hannon.