Roopkund Lake, Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand is an extraordinary State in India with numerous sacred places, fascinating nature and outstanding wildlife, which is often known as “Queen of Himalayas”. This place is the Origin land of holy rivers like Ganga/ Ganges and Yamuna. It is in northern India crossed by the Himalayas. The Beauty is so inherent to almost all things Uttarakhand stands for, the Great Himalayas, the holiest of the rivers, the divine mystery, stunning landscapes and enchanting history carved in ancient stones.

Myths, tales and stories are part of every visual that unfolds itself to the eyes of the beholder. But there's a place in Uttarakhand which stands beyond all the myths and tales, which is ‘The Roopkund Lake’. It is locally known as Mystery Lake or Skeletons Lake, which is a high altitude glacial lake. The area around the lake is uninhabited and is roughly at an altitude of 16,470 feet, surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow-clad mountains.

Roopkund is a popular trekking destination.

With a depth of about 3 metres, it is widely known for the hundreds of ancient human skeletons found at the edge of the lake. The human skeletal remains are visible at its bottom when the snow melts. Because of these human remains, the lake has been called Skeleton Lake in recent times.

enter image description here

According to local tales, folk songs and stories, the King of Kanauj, Raja Jasdhaval, with his pregnant wife, Rani Balampa, their servants, a dance troupe and others went on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi shrine, and the group faced a storm with large hailstones, from which the entire party perished near Roopkund Lake.

Some Skeletons were rediscovered in 1942 by Nanda Devi game reserve, ranger Hari Kishan Madhwal, although there are reports about these bones from the late 9th century. At first, British authorities feared that the skeletons represented casualties of a hidden Japanese invasion force, but it was found that the skeletons were far too old to be Japanese soldiers. The skeletons are visible in the clear water of the shallow lake during a one-month period when the ice melts. Along with the skeletons, wooden artefacts, iron spearheads, leather slippers, and rings were also found. When a team from National Geographic magazine retrieved about 30 skeletons, the flesh was still attached to some of them. A wide DNA study of skeletons from Roopkund by Eadaoin Harney, in 2018 revealed that the skeletons belonged to two distinct groups; one group is composed of individuals with broadly South-Asian related ancestry from 9th Century, and the second group is composed of individuals from 200 years ago with genetic affinity with the east Mediterranean, The study of the skeletons revealed a common cause of death: blows to the back of the head, caused by round objects falling from above. The researchers concluded that the victims had been caught in a sudden hailstorm, just as described in the local legends and songs.

enter image description here

All of these studies and explorations are not yet concluded with any solid proofs. Also, there is a rising concern about the regular loss of skeletons and if steps are not taken to conserve them, the skeletons may gradually vanish in the years to come. It is reported that visitors exploring the region are in the habit of taking back the bones in huge numbers and the district administration has indicated the need to protect the territory.

The district magistrate of Chamoli District has reported that visitors, trekkers, and curious researchers are carrying the skeletons on mules and recommended that the area should be protected. Government agencies have made efforts to develop the area as an eco-tourism destination in an effort to protect the skeletons.

This place is not connected to a motorable road all the way. It determines a trek for about 23 km after the last motorable point, Wan village, to reach up to Roopkund Lake. Being in an isolated area, it requires a lot of endeavours to reach there, unless travelling on a hired vehicle or a private car. From Delhi, a combination of train, buses and shared jeeps are required to reach at Wan Village after the journey of at least 24 hours. But there are also several bans and restrictions on treks to Roopkund due to mistreatment of natural elements and difficult paths which is causing shorter visits every year. ‘Times of India’ (TOI) also issued a report stating that, “Reaching the Roopkund lake is no joke. One needs at least 10 days’ time, a lot of acclimatisation and an understanding of the hilly terrain. It is a very treacherous trek and the high court order banning night stays has spelt doom for adventure sports organisers of Uttarakhand." But the most thrilling adventures and expeditions anyone can experience is always a mysterious one, like the Roopkoond lake.

enter image description here