The 500-year old Indian Mummy

Mummification is a process in which the skin and flesh of a corpse can be preserved. The process can either occur naturally or it can intentional using chemicals, and one such naturally mummified corpse is found in the icy cold region of the Himalaya. The mummified remains of a Buddhist monk called Sangha Tenzin.

When one talks about mummified bodies the first image that comes to our mind is that of a body wrapped in bandage, lying in box made of glass at a museum or well, a horror movie. But this mummy is different, not wrapped in a bandage, the mummified corpse of Sangha Tenzin in a foetal position, sitting with his fist around one leg, chin resting on his knee, intact head of hair.

Sangha Tenzin was a 15th century Buddhist monk. He was discovered in 1975 when a stupa collapsed during an earthquake. Through Carbon dating it was found that the monk has been dead for about 500 years, yet his body was naturally well preserved. Natural mummification is a rare occurrence, it requires extreme temperature and dry air for preservation.

The Buddhist monks of Japan and Tibet have a unique method of mummification. These monks start to starve themselves and eat only barley, rice and beans which adds fat to their body, they also run candles along their skin to drying it out. Doing so they eventually die is a seated position due to starvation. After his death he is placed in an underground room for three years to continue the drying out process. Less than thirty of these monks have been found around the world, mostly in parts of Japan and Honshu.

In 2004 the mummy was excavated from the stupa and is now on display in a temple in Gue, in Himachal Pradesh, bordering Tibet and is called ‘Mummy Lama’ by some villagers.