Font Size:     Print

Dodoka Skull Wall

In Tibet, sky burials are the most popularly accepted ritual. In this ritual, the dead body is fed to vultures and left until not a single piece remains, so that the person can atone for the sins committed when alive. However, in the Dodoka Burial Ground, which is located in Driru County, Nakchu Prefecture, one comes across something slightly different: two walls formed by hundreds of human skulls orderly displayed in wooden frames.
The Dodoka Burial Ground is situated near the Domo Monastery, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of Driru County. The whole ground covers approximately 4,000 sq meters (4,784 sq yards) and the skulls, roughly about 2,000 of them, are placed in two wooden frames that separately cover the western and southern walls. Two doors lead the way into the ground: the west one is for the living while the south door is for the dead bodies to be carried in. In the center of the ground, there is a small burial pit and a rectangular stone which is placed beside the pit to put the dead bodies on. A house on the northside is used for the monks who recite scriptures during the burial ceremony. In fact there used to be three burying grounds that kept the skulls like this one and all three were located in Driru County. Due to natural and historical reasons, the skulls in the other two grounds were destroyed and only a few are still remained in the Ridan Monastery, opposite to the Dodoka Ground over the Nu River. The skulls in the Dodoka Burial Ground have also decreased in number, compared to a few decades ago. The original three walls collapsed in a flood and the present walls are said to be only half the height of the originals. Exactly why the skulls were kept remains a mystery. One theory has it that a little boy witnessed three people being killed, and when he became the burial master himself he decided to keep the skulls to avoid the murderer receiving a sky burial. Another says that it was a rule set by a living Buddha, in order to remind the living that no matter how great one is when alive, there is only the skull left after death. Whichever theory is more accurate, the skull walls vividly represent the mystical burial custom of Tibet and the philosophy it tells.
Comments and Questions