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Exposure of a Dying Religion, Mumbai, India

Part 2 Project 2013
Christopher Trunkfield
University of Huddersfield | UK
The Zoroastrian faith is over 3000 years old; it is, however, now dying. Its population is estimated to be at only 100,000, with over 60,000 of those residing in Mumbai, a community known locally as the Parsi.

One of their most sacred sites rests atop Malabar Hill, the highest point in Mumbai. Its importance to the Parsi is due to the Zoroastrian ritual of sky burial; a ritual that takes place upon the ‘Towers of Silence’. When a Parsi dies, their body is placed on these circular stone towers to be exposed to the sky and eaten by scavenger birds. This once private ritual is now in full public view, due to the emerging high rise apartment blocks that surround Malabar Hill, where it is misinterpreted and viewed by the public as barbaric and unclean.

The process of a sky burial previously took mere hours for a body to be stripped of its flesh; since the disappearance of Mumbai’s vulture population, it now takes many days. These difficulties are forcing the Parsi to turn to deconsecrated burials and cremations, risking the government to question the purpose of the only undeveloped land in the heart of Mumbai.

Addressing the demise of the Parsi faith, this thesis aims to create a dialogue between the Parsi community and the residents of Mumbai; educating the public into their practices and misunderstood rituals. The intervention forms a contemporary Fire Temple, Visitors Centre and Scavenger Bird Aviary at the base of Malabar Hill.

The intersecting journeys of the worshipper and the public attempt to transcend symbolic religious archetypes, providing a spiritual journey for occupants as they interact and travel through space. The exterior is a resultant of the interior, driven by the journey and its emotional and sensorial responses.

Sheltered within the sites existing two ruins, the elemental intervention delves beneath the ground, whilst climbing to catch the elements. Its surrounding walls remain unbroken, save for a visual axis toward the sea and vertical connections to the sky, dissipating the noise of Mumbai and provide an internal context; a place for quiet contemplation and peaceful worship.

Christopher Trunkfield

Mr Gerard Bareham
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