In general, many of us want to visit places with lakes, rivers or other natural landscapes to relax, reconnect with nature and have a good time alone, with family or friends, away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. However, there is one lake that nature lovers and fishing enthusiasts do not want to visit: Lake Roopkund.
For those unfamiliar with it, Lake Roopkund is a Himalayan glacial lake in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand Province, India. But if the name of this lake doesn’t evoke something gloomy, you can see several hundred human bones in the water of the lake there from a distance.
The residents of Roopkund Lake did not come there at the same time
According to Livescience, the bones belong to between 300 and 800 people. They were first discovered and reported by a ranger in 1942. However, a genetic analysis of bone DNA, which was carried out in 2019 and described in detail in Nature Communications, showed that at least 14 of those who died in the lake were not native to Southeast Asia, but that their genes were better suited to modern populations in the eastern Mediterranean.
If most of the bones actually date from around 800, scientists estimate that those 14 people died around 1800. The mystery, then, is how all these deaths got to this lake.
Would the goddess Parvati be the origin of these deaths?
The legend of the local villagers gives us a first explanation. According to this legend, Roopkund Lake is on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi, a manifestation of the Hindu goddess Parvati.
Roopkund Lake is on a pilgrimage route to Nanda Devi. Photo credit: Shutterstock / Shubham Magdum
However, a distant king is said to have drawn a bolt of lightning from Nanda Devi, causing drought in his kingdom. To appease the goddess, the king went on a pilgrimage that took him, his entourage and him to the Roopkundsee. However, the stupid king had brought dancers and other luxuries to the lake, which increased the anger of the goddess. She then spoke of a terrible hailstorm that swept away the king and his cohort.
Roopkund Lake is fascinating with the hundreds of human skeletons that are there. Researchers have taken a closer look at this puzzle.
Hail and hypothermia actually killed several people
Aside from this local legend, Princeton University anthropologist Agustin Fuentes hosted a subsequent webinar hosted by the School for Advanced Research in New Mexico.
Apparently the bones belong to both men and women, most of whom are young adults who have died over periods of perhaps tens or hundreds of years. Research also showed that most of the dead were trapped in terrible storms on the ridge over the lake.
Some storms have even contained deadly hail. Most of the victims are said to have died from the effects of this hail and hypothermia and dragged them in and around the lake. Body debris is also dragged along the hill and pulled down the slope by frequent mini-avalanches.
Body debris is also dragged along the hill and pulled down the slope by frequent mini-avalanches. Photo credit: Shutterstock / Chetan Shende
The lake may be the subject of a full investigation
The researchers also said in their study that “by combining different sources of evidence, the data instead suggests that the sample is a group of unrelated men and women born during the period of Ottoman control in the eastern Mediterranean” . This group is believed to have adopted a terrestrial rather than a marine regime, suggesting that they lived in an inland location, traveled to the Himalayas, and died there.
In any case, scientists admit that one of the reasons why the mystery of Lake Roopkund has not yet been solved is that the lake has not yet been explored due to its altitude and stormy weather. However, a bioarchaeologist at Deccan College in India named Veena Mushrif-Tripathy plans to conduct a scientific study of the lake. If scientists succeed in uncovering the lake, the mystery of the human skeletons could be solved in it.