When bodies go through mummification they are expected not to show signs of decay. However, there are a few unsettling cases of dead people being exhumed only to find out their bodies looked as ‘fresh’ as the day they were interred.
Such is the case of Russian Buddhist monk Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov. He was a spiritual leader of Russian Buddhists from 1911 until his death in 1927. Shortly before he died, he told his fellow monks he was preparing to leave this world and began meditating, not before asking that he be buried in a cedar box, in the lotus position.
He was exhumed in 1955 and again in 1973 and on both occasions the monks noticed his body had not decayed at all. However, they decided to keep it a secret since most religious manifestations were repressed in the Soviet Union at the time.
Seventy-five years after his death, the body of Dashi-Dorzo Itigilov was once again exhumed, this time in the presence of multiple witnesses, including two forensic experts and a photographer. The official statement regarding his body was that it was “in the condition of someone who died 36 hours ago”. It does not show signs of muscle or inner tissue decay and the joints and skin are still flexible. Another mystery is how the body maintained its upright posture.
Analysis confirmed the body had not been embalmed or mummified and its amazing state of preservation is a source of bafflement. Although certain Buddhist monks undergo Sokushinbutsu, the practice of self-mummification that takes place while still being alive, this was not the case of this particular monk.
In the words of Yanzhima Vasilyeva, the director of the Itigilov Institute: “he was 75 years old when he died and he promised to return to his followers after another 75 years.”