Zoroastrianism is an ancient monotheistic religion with strong roots in Iran that has some followers even today. The customs and beliefs of this religion are interesting to say the least, especially that of the funeral practice.
In Zoroastrian belief “the earth and all that is beautiful is considered to be the pure work of God.” In order to pollute neither the earth nor the atmosphere the burial and cremation of the human body was forbidden. The Zoroastrian people instead laid out the dead so that their flesh could be devoured by vultures.
This ancient practice is still followed in some parts of India, but of course times have changed and this is no longer a viable option for many Zoroastrians. One reason is the decline in the vulture populations in these areas. Without these flying garbage disposals the rotting corpses in open air becomes impractical.
The funeral commandments were created in hopes of preserving sanitation, as understood thousands of years ago, as well as to honor and respect the dead. The funeral process is very ritualized but ultimately ends with the body being placed completely naked at the Tower of Silence so they scavenger birds can quickly go to work on the corpse.
It has been reported that the skeleton can be completely stripped by vultures within 2 hours after being laid out. Although the introduction of human biomatter into the soil can have potentially positive effects on many life forms, the extremely strong belief that “The Mother Earth shall not be defiled” that Zoroastrians believe in has lead to this bizarre ritual.