Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Sky Burial and Yarlung Tsang Po

Sadly, this is our last day in Tibet as we will fly from Lhasa to Shanghai the next day. The coach was taking us back from Shigatse to Lhasa and we came by the great Yarlung TsangPo River once again. The water was still as a clear reflection of the mountains and the sky was cast on it.

In the coach, I was asking the guide many questions relating to the history and culture of Tibet, in particular about King Songtsen Gampo and the Lotus Monk, who was born from a lotus flower, in direct Mandarin-English translation. It had became so enjoyable to listen to the stories of Tibet as her beautiful terrains unfolded before us. There was also the culture of a woman who can be married to three men.

"Polyandry is a practice where a woman is married to more than one man at the same time. Fraternal polyandry was traditionally practiced among nomadic Tibetans in Nepal parts of China and part of northern India, in which two or more brothers share the same wife, with her having equal sexual access to them. Polyandry is believed to be more likely in societies with scarce environmental resources, as it is believed to limit human population growth and enhance child survival. A woman can only have so many children in her lifetime, no matter how many husbands she has. On the other hand, a child with many "fathers", all of whom provide resources, is more likely to survive." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygamy

As we made a stop at a public restroom hut, the guide pointed out at the birds flying at the top of the hill. According to him, a sky burial has taken place. We were puzzled by what a sky burial is because it sounded impossible. How can you bury someone in the sky?! As he tried to tell us the name of the bird in English, we thought he was saying it in Tibetan! He meant to say "vultures" but he said something completely different and we all burst out in laughter.

When a person dies and can qualify for a sky burial, a monk will be invited to announce the date of the burial based on the deceased's birth date and death date. On the day of the burial, the body is carried up to the top of the hill where blessings were made by the monk before the body is cut up and smashed into bits so that the vultures will feed on it. This burial is practised only in Tibet by the Buddhists. Not everyone can undergo sky burial but only those who died of natural death. People who died from car accidents, diseases and weapons will undergo the other forms of burial; either river, fire or earth. The guide loudly announced that he would go for sky burial because he thinks it is the best and purest form of burial.

Mirror image of the mountains on Yarlung TsangPo River

A vulture flying around on top of the mountain. There were a few earlier but they either landed or flew away.

A herder with his flock by the mountain slope

Goodbye Yarlung TsangPo

Field of young trees

Sandy Mountains and green fields

Another mirror image picture

Man fishing in the river

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