What is a Sky Burial?

Burial is one of the most sacred and ritualized activities in most communities around the world. It is often considered an act of respect for the dead. The burial is also intended to close the grieving family and prevent them from seeing their loved one disappear. In some communities, the burial introduces the deceased to the afterlife. During the burial, the deceased is placed in a dug well or in a pit, then covered. However, in some Chinese provinces and autonomous regions and in parts of India, a singular burial mode known as the burial of the skies is practiced.

Sky Burial

The burial of the sky is a type of burial in which the deceased is placed on the top of a mountain to decompose or be dug by animals such as vultures. It is a type of scepter practiced in some of the provinces and regions of China including Tibet, Mongolia, Sichuan and Qinghai, and also parts of India such as Sikkim. The burial of the sky is mainly common among Vajrayana Buddhists. According to them, it makes no sense to preserve a corpse since life completely abandoned it. The burial of the sky is thought for decently and at best it was possible to dispose of the dead.

The burial of the sky is performed in specific places in Tibet. One of the famous jhator sites is the Drigung Monestry. The procedure takes place on a flat rock and relatives of the deceased can remain nearby until the process is completed.

The origin of the burial of the sky

According to archaeological discoveries in the region of Tibet, the burial of the sky may have originated from the ancient defleion of the dead in the region. The practice may have been the result of some practical reasons. The soil in much of Tibet is hard and rocky to dig graves, while the timber is also scarce for cremation. It is thought that the ancient deflezione in Tibet is linked to an alleged ceremonial burial in the sky at Gobekli Tepe, about 11,500 years BP.

The funerary costume of the sky was recorded for the first time in the 12th century in the Buddhist “Book of the Dead”. The procedure appears to have been influenced by Tibetan tantrism. Initially, the burial of the sky was considered primitive by the governments of both China and Mongolia which prohibit the practice. However, it is still commonly practiced in rural areas.

Why Sky Burial?

The burial of heaven is part of the didactic teachings on the temporary nature of life among Tibetan Buddhists. It is considered a means by which the dead provide food to sustain life like vultures. Tibetan Buddhists believe that it is not necessary to preserve the dead because life has completely abandoned the body and that the body has nothing but flesh.


Before the sky burial procedure, the monks recite the mantra around the body and burn incense. Monks may also be involved in concealing the body. However, dismemberment is mainly done by “body-breakers”. Once the monks have finished singing, the body is given to vultures to devour the flesh and internal organs. The bones are then crushed, ground and mixed with tsampa, a type of barley flour, then distributed to the birds waiting for the vulture to move away. In some cases, the entire body can be cut into pieces, crushed and mixed with tsampa before giving to the vultures.

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