Roopkund | Skeleton Lake

Roopkund, Uttarakhand

#Adventure/Trekking #Forest #Lake/Backwater/Waterfall #Nature and Scenic


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Roopkund, perhaps the most popular trek in India, is almost picture perfect. The Roopkund trail climbs out of splendid dark forests suddenly bursting into Ali and Bedni Bugyal, arguably India’s most beautiful high altitude meadows. Out of the meadows the trail quickly gets into terrific alpine stretches. Climbing on snow to the Roopkund lake is a heart pounding thrill. The beautiful Mt Trishul looms over the setting getting closer as you climb higher, when at a ridge above Roopkund, only air separates the trekker from them and Trishul.

Roopkund, in the state of Uttarakhand in India, is a famous glacial lake. This lake is famous due to more than five hundred skeletons of humans that are found at the edge of the lake. It is located in the Himalayas and rests at an altitude of nearly 4,800 meters. Roopkund is located in the Chamoli district of Garhwal. It is one of the best sites for trekking in Garhwal. It is closer to hill stations like Nainital and Kathgodam. At a distance of 217 km from Nainital and 235 km from Kathgodam, Roopkund is one of the major adventure attractions for people in the country and also for people who are travelling from abroad. Roopkund, which is located in the lap of Trishul massif is also known as the ‘mystery lake’. You can find human skeletons at the bank of the lake and it is believed that they belong to the Palaeolithic age.

These are believed to be the skeletons of the heroes who had fought here in the earlier times. Along with the skeletons of humans, you can also find skeletal structure of horses and other animals. There are reports that these skeletons belong to the 12th century to the 15th century. It is believed by specialists that the death of many people in this region was a result of landslides, blizzard or an epidemic. The human skeletons were re-discovered in 1942 by H K Madhwal, who was a Nanda Devi Game reserve ranger.

Later in 2004, a team of Indian scientists along with some Europeans visited the area to gain more information about the nature of the skeletons. On extensive research and findings, they found human skulls, bones and other jewellery. The DNA of the skeletons was taken, and it appeared that the people belonged to many classes and showed different features and morphological structure. There was a group of short people and tall people who were believed to be closely related to each other. Though the exact number of the skeletons cannot be ascertained, but a total number of around 500 hundred skeletons were found. It is also believed that an equal number of skeletons perished due to the natural environment.

The Radiocarbon dating of the skeletons at the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit determines the age of the skeletons to be somewhere around 850 AD. Later extensive research has been carried out in various parts of the country and the world. Many scientists are of the idea that the people did not die of an epidemic but due to sudden hailstorms. The hailstorms are supposed to be as big as the size of a cricket ball, and as there was no shelter in the open areas of the Himalayas, people might have come under its disastrous and direct effect. It is considered as one of the strongest reasons for the extinction of the natives of this area.

The cold and icy weather condition can be said to be the reason for the preservation of the skeletons for such a long time. The favourable weather conditions prevented the skeletons to decay off and decompose into soil. With landslides that were rampant in the area, many bodies slipped into the lakes and stayed there for a long time. The bodies that fell into the lake had a greater shelf-life as compared to the ones which remained in the open. However it is still not determined if this group of people lived here, or if they were heading towards a destination. Historical evidence of any trade route towards Tibet has not been established. Therefore it is hard to decipher the real purpose of the group of people that were victims to this natural calamity. There are possibilities that the group may be heading towards the Nanda Devi pilgrimage where Nanda Devi Raj Jat festivities take place once every 12 years.

Trek Information: http://roopkund.com/

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