The Village of the Lama Mummy: Gue, Himachal Pradesh
Nestled deep within the Trans-Himalayan cold desert of the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh is the tiny village of Gue which is relatively unknown and unheard of in the traveller circuit. The village of Gue is situated at an altitude or around 10,499 feet above sea-level and is only a few kilometres away from the Indo-China border. Gue also houses India’s only known naturally preserved mummy.
The village of Gue is located deep in the valley and the best way to get to it is, by a hired taxi or private vehicle, since there is there is no surety of a bus plying to the village on a daily basis. There is a higher probability of getting a bus to the village of Gue from the town of Sumdoh in Kinnuar valley than from Kaza.
While approaching Spiti Valley from the Kinnaur route, about three kimoletres ahead of Sumdoh towards the town of Tabo is a diversion with a road sign directing travellers towards the village of Gue. The village is another 15-20 km drive via a unpaved muddy road.
The diversion is also known locally as Gue-nala and the government buses which ply from Kaza to toward Phoo and Shimla halt here. The walk to the village from the Nala is another 11 to 13 km along a very narrow trail.
The village of Gue is located at a distance of 80 km from the town of Kaza which is the sub-district head quarters of Spiti Valley and 430 km from the state capital of Shimla. Gue is only 250 km from the town of Manali via the famous Kunzum pass.
While in the village of Gue, all sign board direct travellers towards the mummy’s resting place. The mummy was found during an army excavation and was placed in a tomb in the year 1975. According to carbon dating, the mummy is believed to be around 500 to 600 years old.
According to local beliefs, the mummy is believed to be that of a holy man or lama named Sangha Tenzin who decided to sacrifice his life for the well-being of his village. It is believed that the lama took upon himself to save his village from a plague of scorpions. Villagers believe when the lama’s soul left his body there was a rainbow in the sky after which the village was free from scorpions. The villagers still believe in the mummy as their living god and worship the mummy for guidance.
The mummy is in a squatting position dressed in silk robes. The teeth and hair are still well preserved and the mummy is kept in a glass chamber in a small enclosure close to the Gompa or monastery in Gue. Due to fear of robbery the mummy is now shut from public viewing although tourists can glance at it through a window in the chamber where the mummy is preserved. The chamber is opened only during important events and festivals in the village.
The Gue Gompa is built at the end of the village on a hilltop overlooking the village. The locals in Gue are very reserved and shy but happily guide travellers to the Mummy Gompa. Accommodation in the village is limited to a couple of home stays which provide nothing more than a very basic room to stay. The home stays have common washrooms and provide travellers with all three meals at an additional cost. There are no restaurants in the village so the home stay food is your only option while in Gue.
The best time to visit is during the summer months from June to September when the road conditions are good and the nights are not too cold.
Gue is a quiet, peaceful and beautiful hamlet with a few houses and a few hundred people living in small huts in the midst of the mighty Himalayas. Gue is still untouched by modernization and the villagers travel on foot to far off places each day to meet their daily needs.
A day trip to the village of Gue is good enough because there is nothing much to do in the village other than looking at the mummified lama.
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