The monastery located in Pangboche is considered to be the oldest monastery in the Solu Khumbu district. It is believed that this monastery was built by Lama Sangwa Dorji in the 16th century and it is recorded that it was later refurbished in 1724 B.S. This monastery was famous for the skull and a hand bone of a snow living creature, Yeti, and many people came to visit the place for this reason.
According to the lamas of Pangboche monastery, many years ago, a lama of the monastery was going to the Himalayas for meditation. On his way, he saw a Yeti in a cave. It seemed like the Yeti was ill, but he found the Yeti had died when he visited the same cave while returning back to the Monastery after his retreat. Lama took along Yeti’s skull and hand bone with him and was kept in the monastery with full safety.
A businessman called Tom Stick with his team visited the Everest Base Camp in 1957. During the visit, they also photographed the skull and the hand bone of this abominable snowman. For the first time in history, the world came to know about the existence of a skull and hand bone of such a creature through Tom’s photo. People then thronged the monastery just to get a glimpse of the remains. The number of visitors increased so much that the monastery decided to levy nominal fees for the spectators which generated a good income for them.
A year after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Mt. Everest, in 1954 AD, the British Daily Mail sent a team in search of Yeti. The team members saw Yeti’s skull, but they never showed much interest in this subject matter other than Investigator Dr. Vishwamani Biswas, an Indian member, who studied the skull for a long time.
Peter Byrne, who arrived in the area of Tom Stick’s group, in 1959, helped the then chief Lama of the monastery with 10,000 rupees and broke a finger from the skeleton to take it with him. As per the deal with the Lama, he brought a fake finger resembling the broken one from London as a replacement attachment to the hand bone. Peter as a foreigner faced difficulty to travel on flight with the stolen finger, he then travelled to Kolkata (then Calcutta) by road through the Birgunj checkpoint, the Nepal-India borderland. At that time, Hollywood star Jimmy Stewart and his wife Gloria were in Kolkata too, who Peter requested to smuggle the finger for him. Gloria hid it in the innerwear suitcase and hauled it to London.
After Gloria’s arrival in London, a primatologist friend Osman Hill was hired to find out the truth about Yeti’s existence. Hill made quite a lot of research on the finger and he stated that even if the finger were not of human it could definitely belong to that of human race’s ancestor. Again there was not much interest in this subject whatsoever for a very long time.
But one day out of nowhere, NBC, an American television network aired an episode of “Unsolved Mystery” discussing Yeti’s hand. Yeti’s hand and skull were stolen from the monastery in Nepal shortly after the show was aired.
Journalist Matthew Hill handed the broken finger over to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland after BBC also announced a similar program to be aired later in the year 2011. The DNA tests that were done again attested that the finger was actually human remains and not of any Yeti.
New Zealand’s Veta Workshop made a replication of the hand and gave it to the Pangboche Monastery in the year 2010.
The Hunterian Museum of the United Kingdom retained the fingers to itself saying that the Pangboche Monastery did not show any interest to procure it back.
The Pangboche monastery still displays fake Yeti skulls and hand-bone to this day but people are not interested in it anymore that is why the number of visitors has also decreased substantially over the years.
Source & Photo Collection: Sunil Ullak