Roopkund Lake is a high altitude glacial lake which lies in the lap of Trishul Massif and is extremely popular for the hundreds of human skeletons which are flowing in this lake. The skeletons include those of children, women, and men of all ages. This high altitude glacial lake sits at 4876 kilometers (16,000 ft.) above the sea level. Observing at the damages to these skeletons, researchers have inferred that the cause of death was extreme hail storm which is not strange to the area.
British forest guard first discovered the skeletons in 1942. The British had feared that the skeletons belonged to Japanese Soldiers who had gone into hiding in this place during World War II. But after research, the scientists came to a conclusion that the skeletons were too old to be that of Japanese soldier’s.
Geneticists conducted DNA tests on a hundred samples which were retrieved from the lake and compared it with the current population. It was found that 70% of them shared similarities with Iran’s population and 30% of them had an affinity with Indian population. Whereas localities are of the belief that the remains belong to King of Kanauj who along with his troupe had gone on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi Shrine and during their pilgrimage, the group faced a hailstorm and breathed their last there. Putting all the rumors aside, finally, researchers have managed to solve the mystery by finding out that the skeletons belonged to pilgrims and locals who died in massive hail storms in 850 A.D.
Scientific tests reveal that the skeleton found in the Roopkund Lake belonged to two main groups – one family group and one relatively shorter group of people. The DNA reports reveal the fact that the skeletons match with those of Konkanastha Brahmins (Chitpavans) from Maharashtra. The studies have found out a common cause of death, that is, blows to back of the head, which was caused due to round objects hitting the head from above. The researchers have clarified that the cause of death was due to a round object like cricket ball sized ice balls hitting the back of the head of the people who faced the hailstorm and not due to any weapons or avalanches as was rumored earlier. The researchers indicate that the cause of death shares similarities as described by the local population and songs.
Snow Lake is situated in the Himalayas, where skeletons are visible for a month every year when the snow melts. During this time, the water is crystal clear, and one can find hundreds of scattered skulls flowing into the lake.
Some people believe that the skulls found in the Roopkund Lake are that of Gen. Zorawar Singh of Kashmir and his men who had got lost due to bad weather and died in the Himalayan region when the troupe was returning from the Battle of Tibet in 1841. There are also others who believe the skulls are of those dead bodies who had committed suicide a ritual performed near the lake or it could be the ones who lost their lives in the epidemic.
When the team from National Geographic magazine visited the lake to solve the mystery, along with skeletons they also found leather slippers, rings, iron spearheads and wooden artifacts. The team was in for a shock when they found that some skeletons still had flesh attached to them.
Roopkund Is a mystery lake which sits in the center of rock-strewn glaciers and snow clad mountains. The lake is about seven ft. deep and attracts thousands of pilgrims and trekkers every year. The pilgrims pass this lake to attend the Nanda Devi Raj Jatha that takes place once in every twelve years, and during this sacred pilgrimage, the pilgrims worship Goddess Nanda Devi.
The historians and environmentalists have raised the concerns over the conservation of skeletons whose numbers are depleting with each passing year. They argue that the trekkers and pilgrims who visit the lake are taking the skeletons along with them while returning from Roopkund. This growing concern of regular loss of skeletons has alarmed the officials who are making all the effort to protect the skeletons. To conserve the skeletons, the district magistrate of Chamoli District has taken steps to develop the area as an eco-friendly tourism destination to protect the further loss of skeletons.
The skeletons overflowing in the Roopkund Lake was featured in a documentary of National Geographic, ‘Riddles of the Dead: Skeleton Lake.’