Sometimes spelled Parsee, they are members of a Zoroastrian community based primarily in the west of India. All Parsis outside of India identify either India or Pakistan as their home country or country of ancestral origin. They descend from the Persians that emigrated to India in 8th Century to escape to the religious persecution. There are around 100,000 Parsis all over the world. More recent Zoroastrian immigrants are known as Iranis.
It has been traditional, in Mumbai at least, for dead Parsis to be taken to the Towers of Silence where the bodies would quickly be eaten by the vultures. The reason given for this practice is that earth, fire and water are all considered as sacred elements, which should not be defiled by the dead. Once the bones had turned to white by the sun and the wind, the bodies will be dropped to the ossuary that it’s in the middle of the building.
Burial and cremation have always been prohibited in Parsi culture, even though since 20th Century, people started burying their beloved ones in cemeteries. The problem today is that in Mumbai the population of vultures has been drastically reduced, due to extensive urbanization, as well as due to poisoning by the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac which is often given to humans and cattle. As a result without vultures the bodies of the deceased are taking too long to decompose and this has upset certain sectors of the community. Solar panels have been installed in the Towers of Silence to speed up the decomposition process but this has only been partially successful.