Defunct Tower of Silence lives on in Andheri residential colony
Defunct Tower of Silence lives on in the heart of an Andheri residential colony
In Andheri’s Salsette Parsis Association Colony, six-storey residential structures form a tight arc around a defunct dokhma. Children swing and slide just a few feet away and plans are underway to create a grassy patch alongside the tower’s wall where the colony’s youngsters can play football or an impromptu game of cricket. Residents explain that their nonchalance about living alongside this structure — which is meticulously cleaned by a band of young Parsi men every few years – stems from the fact that the 83-year-old dokhma has remained unused for well over half a century. Exactly when it fell into disuse, however, remains a matter of conjecture. “It was open for only a few years because it was hard to get pall bearers to come all the way from Bombay to perform the last rites,” says 79-year-old Ardesher Patel, whose paternal grandfather was instrumental in setting up the dokhma. He estimates that only 10 bodies were laid to rest within the stone wall of the Andheri tower.
Though the Tower of Silence was completed in 1931, its foundation stone was laid on April 24, 1927. About 10,000 Parsis — that is a fourth of Mumbai’s current Parsi population — attended the three-hour-long ceremony, which had not been performed since the last Tower of Silence was erected in Bombay more than 80 years ago. A Parsi battalion worked alongside troops of Parsi Boy Scouts and Girl Guides to control the crowd, and the Bombay, Baroda, and Central India Railway (BB&CI) arranged to run “six special trains” to ferry the visitors to Salsette.