Take a trip to the Gue Village in Spiti Valley to get a Mummy Experience


Take a trip to the Gue Village in Spiti Valley to get a Mummy Experience

The mummy that is identified as the mummy of the monk Sangha Tenzin had been found inside a tomb at Gue village in the Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is located at around 6000 meters above the sea level. The village people of Gue had always known about the mummy since the year 1975. During that time, an earthquake had struck the whole region and a part of the tomb had been destroyed. However, the existence of the mummy had remained under wraps. This was because the Gue Village is located in a remote mountainous area close to the Indian border with China. The area has been restricted to the public and is currently under the control of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

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It is an interesting fact to know that one of the most fascinating and strange ones out of these techniques is the natural self-mummification. India is a country where you will find a very well-preserved specimen of this ancient tradition found in the Gue mummy of the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh.

It has been said that the mummy is more than 500 years old. The natural mummy is of Sangha Tenzin, who is a Buddhist monk. The monk had started the self-mummification process while he was still alive.

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In the year 1975, an earthquake had occurred in the Spiti Valley that resulted in the opening up of a tomb in Gue. The village is located 30 miles away from the famous Tabo Monastery. Inside the tomb, the mummified body of Sangha Tenzin lays with its skin intact, teeth visible through the open lips and hair on his head. Although, in the year 2004, the exposed tomb had been evacuated and the mummy was removed.

After the resulting public anger was finally calmed, a tiny, box-shaped concrete museum had been built between the mud houses of the  Gue village. Then, the 500-year-old mummy had been placed inside by the villagers that were protected using a thin sheet of glass. As it is clear that the mummy is being offered so much respect. The reason behind this is that according to the Locals, Sangha Tenzin has been said to have sacrificed himself so that the village could survive.

The story is that he had asked his followers to let him mummify himself after a horrifying scorpion infestation. When the spirit of Sangha Tenzin had left the body, it has been said that a rainbow was seen on the horizon after which the scorpions had altogether disappeared and the plague was ended.

For the uninitiated tradition of the natural self-mummification that is practiced by the Nyingma sect of Buddhist monks known as Sokushinbutsu did not involve embalming. It is very difficult to process and the body is forcefully compelled to react in a manner that the fats and the fluids reduce at a constant rate.

How this process begins is by the first quit eating barley, rice, and legumes or other foods that add fat to the body). The reason behind this is that the fat putrefies after the person dies and hence removing the fat from the body will help to preserve it better. It even helps to reduce the organ size to an extent that the desiccated body will resist decomposition completely.

The body is then kept in a seated posture. A restrainer called gomtag is put around the neck and the thighs of the body so the monk can easily continue their meditation. During this slow starvation phase, the monk will run candles along his body to dry it out gradually. 

A special type of diet including herbs, roots and tree-sap that will act as a deterrent to the flesh-eating insects will be given towards the end to not let moisture into the body and to preserve the meat on the bones of the body.

After the death of the monk, the body is placed in an underground room to let it dry out for the next three years before it is treated again using candles. Gradually, the physical body will become a statue in the prayer which means a ‘living Buddha’. 

An interesting fact is that fewer than thirty of the self-mummified monks are found till date all over the world. A majority of these monks have been found in Northern Honshu. It is a Japanese island where the monks follow this practice of natural mummification.

The high levels of residual nitrogen (indicative of prolonged starvation) in Sangha Tenzin’s body shows that he followed this procedure to mummify himself.

As of now, the mummy does not show much deterioration, even though no artificial preservation has been done or the exposure to the elements. The state of the mummy maybe because of the clean air, low humidity and very cold climate of the high-altitude desert of Spiti.

Tourists who visit this unique museum in the  Gue village can easily observe the very well-preserved form of Tenzin. His intact head of hair and the empty eye sockets, its darkened, taut skin on the forehead.

So if you are planning to visit the Spiti Valley, definitely take a tour to Gue and spend some time there exploring!


Also read:- Visit the Ananthagiri Hills near Hyderabad for a peaceful vacation

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image source- Pinterest, Travel Diary Of Vatsal, kaarwan