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Roopkund Lake: Riddle of the Skeletons

Uttarakhand, known as Devbhoomi or the Land of Gods is the home to many destinations which are famous worldwide for their unique characteristics. It has Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Haridwar and Rishikesh where thousands of pilgrims come in search of peace and to worship their deities. It has tourist attractions like Valley of flowers, Nainital, Mussourie and Kausani which attract many tourists every year. Besides all this, it has some strange and mysterious places which are thrilling and spine-chilling. One of these places is Roopkund lake.

View of the Roopkund Lake (Source: Hindustaan Times)

Situated at an altitude of about 16,470 feet near the base of two Himalayan peaks: Trishul (7,120 m) and Nanda Ghunti (6,310 m) in Chamoli district, Roopkund lake is considered to be among the world’s top 10 mysterious places. It is also called ‘skeletons lake’ as hundreds of ancient human skeletons lie scattered here. The bones show up when the snow starts to melt in May. Along with the skeletons, wooden artifacts, iron spearheads, leather slippers, and rings are also found.


It is also a popular trekking destination. Roopkund trek starts in the month of May from Lohajung Pass in Garhwal Himalayas. It is considered as a tough trek. One has to cover an altitude range of almost 4900 meters and a distance of 38 kilometers to reach Roopkund. Between the trek, Bedni Bugyal (Alpine Meadows), Homkund Lake and sacred Bedni Kund holding crystal clear water can also be seen. One can also get a chance to experience the rich Pahari culture of villages.

Text Box: Roopkund Trek (Source: India Today)
Source: India Today

The Story and the Theory

Skeletons in Roopkund lake were first found by Nanda Devi reserve ranger Hari Kishan Madhwal in 1942. There were many assumptions made about what killed these people. Some believed that these skeletons were those of Japanese soldiers who died while crossing that route during World War II while Local folklore describes a pilgrimage to the nearby shrine of the mountain goddess, Nanda Devi, undertaken by a king and queen and their many attendants, who due to their inappropriate, celebratory behaviour were struck down by the wrath of Nanda Devi. Many more theories other than these were put forth including an epidemic, ritual suicide and landslide.

Skeleton near Roopkund Lake (Source: India Today)

For decades, no one was able to solve the mystery of Skeleton lake, but a 2004 expedition to Roopkund proved every theory wrong and gave it a new direction. It was found that all the bodies dated to around 850 AD. DNA evidence indicated that there were two distinct groups of people. A family or tribe of closely related individuals, and a smaller group of locals, likely hired as porters and guides. The researchers concluded that the death was due to a fatal blow on the back of their heads and not due to any wound by weapons, avalanche or landslide.

Text Box: Bones scattered near Roopkund lake (Source: Business Insider)
Bones Scattered near Roopkund Lake (Source: Business Insider)

There may be many researches and mysteries, but one thing remains constant & that is the scenic beauty of Roopkund. If you’re a trekking enthusiast, then you must visit this place once.


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