A trek is many things. It is beautiful, it is an escape in nature, it is a time to let yourself get lost in the wilderness and an opportunity to push yourself beyond your limits. But every now and then, there is a place the experience of which gets further magnified thanks to the stories surrounding it. Such is the case of the famous Roopkund Lake. Rumour has it that skeletons of over 200 people were found near the glacial lake?! Who were these people and how did such a tragedy take place? Well, before the theme song from Aahat starts playing in your imaginative mind, let’s start with the basics.
The lake itself is believed to have been created by Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were returning after having killed demons. The goddess wanted to cleanse herself after the conflict. And while many partners make poetic promises to their loved ones, this is a god we are talking about! So, God Shiva simply created a lake in the middle of the mountains. Talk about “anything for you”, am I right? Goddess Parvati could see her beautiful reflection absolutely clearly in the lake’s crystal-clear waters, thus, coining the lake for the name, “Roop” which means beautiful and “Kund” which means lake.
Further ahead from Roopkund is the Hem Kund Lake. Pilgrims from across Uttarakhand and other parts of India take the pilgrimage of over 22 days to pay respects to Goddess Nanda Devi at this lake. Every 12 years a four horned ram is believed to make an appearance at the lake and sighting it is deemed to be highly auspicious. The pilgrimage is called the Nanda Raj Jat Yatra.
Now, my dear ones, is time for the eery music to cue in. Raja Jasdhaval and Rani Balampa were expecting a child when their local priest told them that paying respects to Goddess Nanda Devi would help in getting the divine’s blessings for the unborn child. As they made their way, their procession has said to have even included the king’s dance troupe. The king was mesmerized by the dancers which infuriated the goddess who then cursed them turning them into stones. This is a point in the trek labelled Pathar Nachauni where large rocks are visible till date whom the locals believe to be the former dancers.
As for the skeletons, the scientists studied the skulls and the injuries on the head seemed to be from a circular cricket ball sized object. Thus, it is stated that the 200 odd people died here as a result of a hailstorm. But it was no ordinary hailstorm but rather one caused out of wrath. There are multiple theories of this. One theory states that the goddess turned the dancers into stone but also caused a hailstorm which then saw the end of the king and his entire entourage. Another theory states that the queen gave birth to the child in the middle of the journey which dirtied the area and the contamination angered the goddess into causing the hailstorm. While yet another theory has it that it was in fact the king who brought about the hailstorm when his people did not celebrate the birth of his child.
The causal factor is yet to be solidly determined and still remains dipped in mystery. Just as the skeletons that are immersed in the lake and survive due to the altitude and its cold temperatures. When the ice over the lake starts to thaw, the skeletons can be seen slightly floating above. However, now there are scarcely any skeletons to be actually spotted here. To add one last theory to hah the lake of theories itself, is that the skeletons may belong to Tibetan traders or Japanese soldiers who lost their way and met their unfortunate end in the face of a natural calamity.
At an altitude of 15,750 ft this trek has a lot more than its tales inviting you in. The path takes you through forests and meadows. If you’re lucky you can spot rainbows. The campsites literally make for what Instagrammers call “room with a view” as you pull the zipper of your tent down to see the mighty mountains in front of you. And of course, the lake with so much stories sits amongst the mountains prettily waiting for visitors such as you and me to come and be left amazed by its picturesque views.
Click here to read about Kuari Pass, another beautiful trek in Uttarakhand!