Friday, 23 August 2019

Roopkund lake and the mysterios tumbling human skeletons, Uttrakhand state, India

Roppkund Skeletal lake, Uttrakhand, India

Roppkund Skeletal lake, Uttrakhand, India,

There are many mysterious places world over and countless people with inquisitive mind go after them either to appreciate or unravel the mystery and in their pursuit, they gain knowledge as well as immense pleasure. The skeletal lake in the higher reaches of the Himalayas above 16000 feet from the mean sea level is a fascinating one because, it has layers of riddle with respect to the presence of human skeletons. Some scientific explanations are available about the mystery

Located at an altitude of
16,470 feet (5,020 m) in the Himalayan region of Uttrakhand state, the Roopkund  glacial lake is a popular hiking destination and attracts lots of tourists. Often called 'Mystery Lake', that contains lots of human skeletons, it lies in the lap of   Trishul massif surrounded by rock fragments, glaciers and snow-clad mountains.

An interesting feature of this lake that has gained the attention of many anthropologists world over is the  presence of  hundreds of ancient human skeletons in the lake which has a depth of two meters. They are visible at its bottom when the snow melts every year. That will be for just one month.  The general consensus has been that the skeletons belong to  a group of people  who were killed in a sudden, violent hailstorm in the 9th century. However, the mystery of  Skeleton Lake remains a riddle as of today though various explanations are given as to their occurrence in this part that is not fit for human habitation. It was in 1942, for the first time,
skeletons were rediscovered by Nanda Devi game reserve ranger Hari Kishan Madhwal. It is said that though their presence had been known since the late 19th century, the British rulers were under the impression that  the skeletons represented casualties of a hidden Japanese invasion force. Later it became known that  the Roopkund skeletons were very much older than expected and Japanese invasion theory was ruled out. 
Roppkund skeletal lake,

Wooden artifacts, iron spearheads, leather slippers, and rings were also found along with the skeletons. The National Geographic magazine team that retrieved about 30 skeletons,  surprisingly found flesh  still attached to some of them.. This light preservation of flesh was due to extreme cold condition prevailing here. DNA analysis  done at the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology,  Hyderabad found out that 70 percent of them had shown close link with  Iran, while the rest belonged to the local population. It means the Iranian group came here for permanent settlement and the local people acted as porters.
Roopkund glacial lake, Uttarkhand state

Close to roopkund area, Uttrakhund, India
The origin of human skeleton in the glacial lake is a contentious issue.  But why the genetically unrelated men and women travelled to this god-forsaken area  and ended up in the skeleton lake? How they died  and what made them come to the upper reaches of the Himalayan mountain, is still a mystery that has no acceptable answer.
Roppkund skeletal lake, Uttrakhand
According  to the local legend, the King of Kanauj, Raja Jasdhaval, with his pregnant wife, Rani Balampa,  and his entourage while  on their pilgrimage  to Nana Devi shrine, were caught in a heavy and in the aftermath they died near the glacial lake - Roopkund Lake.  Radiocarbon dating  done in the past found that the remains are from very different periods. All of the remains with South Asian ancestry were dated to around 800 BCE., while the other skeletal remains analyzed were dated to around 1800 BCE. “These findings refute previous suggestions that the skeletons of Roopkund Lake were deposited in a ''single catastrophic event,” the scientists explain, in Nature Communications.  Harney et al in  2018 took up Genome-wide DNA study and concluded that that there are two different distinct groups - one group has south Asian ancestry of 9th century  and other has link with  enigmatic east Mediterranean people, dating back to 200 years. There is also a third group mainly from India. These people were apparently neither Hindus nor pilgrims. The death occurred in multiple periods; atleast two episodes separated by 1000 years as per the above study.

As for the common cause of death, the studies of  skeletons suggest blows to the back of the head caused by round objects  about the size of a cricket ball falling from above. As mentioned above, the researchers concluded that the victims  were caught unawares in a sudden hailstorm from which there was no escape for them.

01. Roopkund is a tourist and high mountain hiking destination in the district of  Chamoli, Uttakhand state.

02'. Nanda Devi Raj jat takes place here  every year and lots of people come here and worship Nanda Devi.

03. The Skeletal lake is a glacial lake and melts once a year and the duration is short- just one month.

04. In the last one decade or so, this lake has become a popular destination for people seeking outdoor adventure.

05. As lots of people flock here during the glacial melt, many of them, out of curiosity, carry away the skeletons as a  sort of souvenir. 

06. Along with the district administration of Chamoli headed by a Magistrate and collector, the state govt has a plan to develop the area as an Eco-tourism destination in an effort to protect the skeletons.