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Mystery of Human Skeletons in Glacial Lake - Roopkund
5/19/2017 11:03:22 PM
Mahadeep Singh Jamwal

Our past has left us with throw back of mysterious places and irretrievable lands. Not all, but some of them have always magnetized our fascination and sensitize us to visit any of them at least once in life. The one of the most flimflam and enrapturing exemplar of perplexing places getting unlaced is the "Roopkund" a small glacial lake. The inquisitive consciousness contemplate to notice some provisioned water, a small Lake, or a water freshet and some fish fossils, when glacial ice melts at 5000 meters above sea level. How about spotting more than 500 human skeletons? Yes, that's the puzzlement of frozen glacial Lake hiding inside skeletal of human remains. The lake is located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state in India that glorifies the beauty of the Himalayas and is one of the most mysterious places in India. Some commemorated esoteric things remain in oblivion blanked out for centuries, entombed by the sands, or snow, that may be because of remoteness of the location or troublesome situation involved in reaching it. For whatever reason, these places have kept their mysteries themselves over the ages, shrouded in dark corners from the outside world. These are the pure accident that saves these historical oddities from eternal obscurity and dredges them into the light for finally to look at and this small glacial Lake is one of them. It lays en-route to Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra of three week long period organized once in twelve years traversing through Pithoragarh, Almora and Chamoli districts of Uttarakhand state. The Yatra starts from near Karnprayag and goes up to uninhibited area of Homekund passing through Roopkund heights, a high altitude glacial lake located in Himalayas at an altitude of approximately 16,5oo feet. On spur of moment it came into prominence in 1942, when a forest ranger H K Madhwal accidentally stumbled upon this lake and disinterred a cumbersome necropolis in it. The shallow lake, having a depth of about two meters has attracted attention because of the human skeletal remains that are visible at its bottom when the snow melts; otherwise it remains covered with ice for most of the year. Previously this lake was known for its mysterious existence but now it is one of the hot topics of discussion amidst the scientific fraternity, explorers, and visitors from worldwide.
There are many theories and opinions, from purely spiritual to purely scientific ones, which explain the existence of these skeletons, which date back to 9th century CE. According to the local belief reflected in traditional folklores, Raja Jasdhaval, the King of Kannauj with his anticipating wife Rani Balampa was going on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi shrine to celebrate the birth of their heir. They were accompanied by dancers, musicians, servants, and soldiers and other honorable people. However, he disregarded the rules of the pilgrimage with boisterous singing and dancing and his entourage earned the wrath of a local deity Latoo (also called Latu) Devta. They faced a perilous hailstorm. The entire caravan was trapped in the middle of the hailstorm in the uninhabited region and was thrown into the Roopkund Lake. Many historians linked the corpses to an unsuccessful attack by Mohammad Tughlak on the Garhwal Himalaya. (Mohammad Tughlak occupied Delhi throne from 1325 until his death in 1351), still others believed that the remains were of those of victims of an unknown epidemic. Some anthropologists also put forward a theory of ritual suicide (Peoples Temple founder, Jim Jones, a charismatic churchman, in Guyana in 1978, commanded his followers to commit, what he termed a "revolutionary act" thereby that day 909 assemblage of people committed mass suicide). Owing to discovery during World War II, the skeletons were linked to be of Japanese soldiers died due to exposure to cold, while passing through India. Some British explorers to Roopkund and many scholars attribute that the skulls were of General Zorawar Singh of Kashmir and his troops who had got lost and died in the middle of Himalayan region after they got caught in bad weather while returning from the battle of Tibet in 1841 (Zorawar Singh is credited with the conquest of Ladakh in 1834,, successful campaign against Gilgit-Baltistan in 1839/40, and daring campaign in Tibet in 1841 when he was killed by a Tibetan warrior on December 12, 1841 in the vicinity of Taklakot). The exact whereabouts of these skeletons is still a mystery. But brushing aside all these concoctions now it stands concluded by the scientists by conduction of radiocarbon dating, a technique used by scientists to determine the ages of objects including human remains from the distant past as old as about 62,000 years ancient, that the skeletons discovered near the frozen lake belonged to the 9th century around 850 AD, approximately 1200 years ancient. As there is no evidence of nearby settlement, hence it is believed to be of travelers who did not die at the scene of Lake, but during travelling but their bodies were deposited in the Lake as a result of glacial movement (this however is somehow near to the local belief regarding Raja Jasdhawal episode of perishing en-route).
A joint exploration by scientists of India and Europe in 2004 and based on DNA test claimed the skeletal remains of two groups, one marked by the shorter stature of the skeletons while the other is significantly taller people. The taller group is linked to Kokanastha Brahmins of Maharashtra. A study undertaken by Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Hyderabad, and latest technology Accelerated Mass Spectrophotometric (AMS) analysis conducted on 31 samples of bone and muscle taken from a relatively well-preserved body and several skeletons found in a frozen state at Roopkund came out that the skeletal remains are about 1,500 years old, while three samples have DNA which are not found anywhere in the world but only in a particular group of people from Maharashtra. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has sanctioned project in 2005 'Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology' (CCMB) to find out the truth behind the hundreds of skeletons spread over the Roopkund Lake.
Roopkund is a picturesque eco-tourism terminal and one of the important places for trekking also. A religious festival is held every autumn with nearby villages participating. This trek can be done in two windows - either in May-June which is just before monsoons or August - September which is after the monsoons. If you chose to do the trek in May/June, the lake stand defrosted facilitating you to catch a glimpse of the skeletons. However, there won't be much snow on the trail. The runnels, spine-tingling rest area, waving pasturages, snow and ice will keep you dreaming of heaven on earth. The gigantic alpine meadows will blow your mind away. Chaukhamba range, Neelkanth peak, Kedarnath, Kedar Dome and several other high risers on the Roopkund trek are adventurous looks.
Concluding, it is only through mystery and madness that most flimflam and enrapturing precedents of mysterious places get unraveled and it also applies to the mystery of human skeletons in glacial lake - Roopkund.
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