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Friday, October 25, 2013

Roopkund Lake, Uttaranchal

When you look at Roopkund Lake from a distance, it lulls you into believing that it’s just another picturesque glacial lake in the Himalayas. However, at the bottom of this clear water lake lays a mystery that dates back hundreds of years and has been the subject of speculation among scientists, historians and mountaineers from all over the world.

It is located at an altitude of about 5,000 meters above the sea level in Chamoli district, Uttaranchal. When this glacial lagoon begins to melt, hundreds of corpses can be seen floating around. This revelation shook people worldwide and different theories were formed as to how such a terrible incident could’ve occurred. Were these people on a pilgrimage tour? Did they die in an epidemic? What were these people doing in one of the most inhabited regions of the Himalayas? It is also for this very reason that the lake is also referred to as the “Skeleton Lake”.




The matter was investigated and it was found that the people were from the 12th century to the 15th century. Remnants of 500 people were found and it is believed that more than 600 people lost their lives.

According to local legends, King Jasdhawal of Kanauj wanted to celebrate the birth of an heir by going on a pilgrimage to the Nanda-Devi Mountains in the Garhwal Himalaya. However, he ignored the rules of pilgrimage by indulging in unruly singing and dancing. The entourage thus had to face the wrath of the local deity, Latu. It said believed that they were caught in a dreadful hailstorm and were thrown into the Roopkund Lake.

As it turns out, it was not all folklore. National Geographic television channel commissioned a team of European and Indian scientists to examine the skeletons. They found jewelry, bones and even flesh and clothes of a few bodies that had been preserved in the icy ground. However, what really caught their attention were the skulls which showed short, deep cracks. No other part of their body had been harmed. The only plausible explanation that scientists in Hyderabad, Pune and London could come up with is hailstorms. With hailstones as large as cricket balls and nowhere to seek protection from them, it is quite possible that many, if not all of them, perished.

The world breathed a collective sigh of relief when this age-old mystery was finally uncovered. However, a number of questions still remain unanswered. Where were all those people originally from? Where were all they headed to? Science still has quite a way to go before all answers can be found.
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