Sunday, 24 July 2016

Mummy in meditative posture? Giu mummy, Spiti Valley, India

The Himalayan mummy chasing the colonial corrupt officer?
550 year old natural Mummy,Giu village,HP,

Finding a mummy or mummies in the Indian sub continent,  a cradle of oldest ancient cultures in the world is not an odd thing, however, never in my life have I heard about Indian mummies. The very mention of mummies brings to our mind  those  of ancient Egypt, in particular, child king Tut.  Obviously, as expected,  our curiosity will reach its dizzy height if  we run into reports on the presence of mummies in India. Recently, when I  saw some articles on Giu mummy in the state of Himachal Pradesh,  my inquisitive mind forced me to browse through articles related to it.  


Giu village,Himachal Pradesh.

Above image: Giu village is approximately 10 km from Giu nallah and village is connected with link road. 

According to Wikipedia: "A mummy is a deceased human or an animal whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air, so that the recovered body does not decay further if kept in cool and dry conditions. Some authorities restrict the use of the term to bodies deliberately embalmed with chemicals, but the use of the word to cover accidentally desiccated bodies goes back to at least 1615 AD"

 Giu village, H.P, above 10000 feet.
New Giu Monastery under construction, 2013
Deliberate mummification  of humans and and animals is part of many cultures across the globe. The oldest mummies being the ones from Spirit Caves of Falcon, Nevada, USA which is 9400 years old. This is based on accurate scientific dating. Certain sects of Buddhism practice self mummification, a complex process of yogic postures, controlled breathing that ultimately may lead to less intake of oxygen, removal of body fluid, etc. This is coupled with voluntary fasting. A technique called 'Zogchen', a superior order of meditation with which the Buddhist monk will starve himself and do some yogic postures to eliminate body fluid and bacteria from the body. As Tibetan monks had followed certain yogic rituals to turn themselves into natural mummy, there is a possibility, Giu monk might have turned himself into a mummy this way a few centuries ago . By the same token some old Hindu monks of yore attained Jeeva Samadhi (letting themselves die) by way of doing certain meditation and breathing exercises in an enclosed  space that would  be fully  covered simultaneously In an ait-tight chamber, the Hindu monk would  let himself  die  slowly. Later that place will become a tomb (Samadhi), a place of veneration.

Giu Village Spiti Valley, Giu mummy room.

Turing my attention to the Giu mummy in the village of Giu situated at an altitude of 10,000 feet, near Sumdoh, 32 kms before the Tabo monastrey in the Spiti region of HP (almost near the Indo -Tibetian border), an exciting fact has attracted my attention. The dead body did not undergo any wanton mummification process. There was neither artificial preservation nor  application of special chemicals or embalming of the dead body. It was purely a natural environmental process with eyes, hair and teeth fully intact !! Is it not amazing? 

This Giu mummy is kept in a small room  with a door  closed most of the time which one may call it a temple or monastery because the mummy was once a Buddhist monk, wandering this part of the Himalayan range. The mummy was under the thick cover  of ice and snow for a pretty long time. According to radio carbon dating done by some experts from Vienna, the age of the mummy is about  550 years. Giu mummy is small in size, sitting with hunched back. The shrinkage of the body and skin color change is due to dehydration and draining out of body fluid. The Giu mummy was   in his early 40s at the time of death  and his death is a mysterious one.  From the posture, it is quite apparent, that he was on meditation, when he breathed his last. it is likely that the death could have been caused by the avalanche which is common here. 

It was the  ITBP personnel  who, a few years ago,  accidentally discovered the Mummy while engaged in road repair work near Giu. Apparently the mummy was shifted to the present location where the people had built the temple.  It is said that the name of monk was Sangha Tenzin and he followed the Gelugapa order of Buddhism prevalent in the Giu Village, Spiti Valley.  Considering the height of the mountainous terrain - 3050 meter above MSL, the main causes of natural preservation of Giu mummy  are ice and snow and extreme cold temperature at higher  elevation. The presence of  mummy - a meditating Lama in this region that is home to 1000 year old Tabo monastery in Spiti is shrouded in mystery with respect to its nature of death. Since its discovery, lots of people visit this place that has other attractions too, besides spell-binding scenery.

According one folklore a monk told the villagers they would see a rainbow after his death through meditation and attack by other tribe called scorpion on them would cease soon. They did see a rainbow and the raids by other tribe ceased for ever.


North India Kaleidoscope, Chandigarh, vol 01, issue 04. June 19 to June 25, 2014.

1 comments so far

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.