Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Roopkund skeleton Lake - the riddle is solved!!

Roopkund  lake skeletons. www.indiatoday.in

Skeletal lake, Roopkund. traveltriangle.com/
 Mysterious places always grab the attention of courageous and adventurous people who are always on the go to do something that appeals to their heart and mind. The Skeleton Lake at Roopkund is a nice and serene mountainous area in the lower Himalayas and it is altogether a different world, free from urban madness . Here you companions are the tall inspiring glaciated sharp peaks around the lake and hundreds of human and horse skeletons in the frozen lake. Your first reaction will be astonishment mixed with some kind of eerie feeling over the presence of human skeletons in the lake. Mind you they have been there for more than 1200 years within that long span of time we saw the down fall of many Indian dynasties notably the Moguls, the Nizams, the Marathas, besides the English company and later the British Crown and finally India's freedom - part of a continuum of Indian History. In the story of the Roopkund lake skeletons that have been silent spectators of our chequered history, one can find a streak of underlying pathos. For us too, the final resting place is the earth!!

Roopkund locally  called  Mystery Lake or Skeleton Lake  is a popular hiking destination in the state of  Uttarakhand, North India for two good reasons: it is a high altitude glacial lake  at 5,029 meters (16,499 feet above MSL) lying in the lap of Trishul massif. From the motor-able road one has to hike 20 km uphill to reach the lake. And the other reason being there are  hundreds of human skeletons found at the edge of the lake which is snow bound most of the time. This uninhabited Himalayan area, far removed from human habitation, is surrounded by broken debris of rocks as a result of glaciation and glacial erosion. It is simply a rugged terrain. Way back in 1942 this area was visited by a forest ranger. In the fifties, an expedition of the Anthropological Survey of India visited Roopkund  and brought with it some samples. They are on display at the Anthropological Survey of India museum at Dehradun.

Skeletal lake Roppkund, traveltriangle.com/
The amazing feature of Roopkund that draws a large number of tourists to this remote rough terrain - a god-forsaken area is the presence of human skeletal remains  in the shallow lake (the depth may be around seven feet). The skeletons become visible at its bottom when the snow melts in the warm summer  months. Also found are animal skeletal remains.
The lake remains frozen for eight long months in a year.

What is the reason for so many human skeletons in one place at the bottom of the lake that too in an area far  away from human habitation?  Considerable research was done on the skeletal remains and Researchers have  firmly concluded that the skeletons are the remains of people who were suddenly caught and killed in a sudden, violent hailstorm presumably in the 9th century.

The Chamoli district administration and forest authorities have a plan to develop the world-famous Roopkund Lake in the  higher Garhwal Himalayan region  as Eco-Tourism destination and are preparing a report on it. The unfortunate fact is the number of skeletal remains are dwindling as more and more tourists visit this unique glacial lake and take away the skeleton as souvenirs. The threat to these skeletons with great anthropological and historical value is a serious one and the state government is taking serious steps to protect this area from pilferage and trespassing.
As to the origin of human skeletons in Roopkund Lake in Garhwal Himalayas, there are some explanations. It is believed that  Raja Jasdhaval and his wife, Rani Balampa, while on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi  were caught in a dangerous  blizzard near the lake and perished there. The famous 'Nanda Devi Rajjat Yatra' that takes place every 12 years  in Garhwal Himalayas passes through the Roopkund Lake.  Some historians  are of the opinion that the skeletons in the lake  were that of the  soldiers belonging to the great Dogra warrior Zorawar Singh's army who lost its way while returning from the Tibet expedition.

Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) retrieved 30 of the skeletons from Roopkund for DNA testing and made certain conclusions that the  skeletons were  roughly 1,500 years old and and the DNA analysis  concluded that  a particular group of people from Maharasthra, who were either on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas or lived there. Additional tests  showed that the human skeletons strewn at Roop kund had skull injuries  suggesting that they might have been caught in an avalanche or a blizzard.  DNA tests done by Miditech Pvt Ltd of the award-winning brothers Niret and Nikhil Alva concluded some of the skeletons belonged to Brahmins from the Konkan region of Maharashtra.

Scientists in May 2013 finally  concluded that the skeletons of about 200 people discovered near the frozen lake belonged to the people of a 9th century Indian tribe who died due to hail storm. As for death,
it was due to a fatal blow on the back of their heads and not caused  by weapons, avalanche or landslide. The marks on their skulls and shoulders suggested that the heade were  hit by something round, like a cricket ball. In the absence of bodily injuries it was concluded that hard round objects, possibly cricket ball sized hail stones or ice balls might have caused fatal head injuries as the people had no place to hide.
https://www.indiatoday.in/india/north/story/uttarakhand-roopkund-skeleton-lake-mystery-solved-bones-9th-century-tribesmen-died-of-hail-storms-165083-2013-05-31

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090205/dplus1.htm