Locally known as MYSTERY LAKE, it is a high altitude “glacial lake” in Uttarakhand State of India, and lies in the lap of TRISHUL massif and is famous due to hundreds of “human skeletons” found at the edge of the lake. The place, located at an altitude of 16,499ft, is uninhabited. The lake is surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow-clad mountains, making it a good trekking destination.
A shallow lake, having a depth of about 2metres, ROOPKUND LAKE has attracted attention by having human skeletal remains easily visible at its bottom when snow melts. There are many theories and opinions, from purely spiritual to purely scientific ones, which explain the existence of the skeletal remains that date back to the 9th century CE. Because of these skeletons, the lake is also sometimes called SKELETON LAKE.
The human skeletons were rediscovered in 1942 by a Nanda Devi game reserve ranger —— H. K. Madhwal, although there are reports about these bones from late 19th century. The remains are visible in the clear water during a one-month period when the ice melts. Along with the skeletons, objects like wooden artefacts, iron spearheads, leather slippers, rings were also found. Later studies found the time of mass death around the9th century.
The local legend says that the King of Kanauj, Raja Jasdhaval, with his pregnant wife —– Rani Balampa, servants, dance troupe an others went on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi’s shrine and the group faced a hailstorm and the entire party perished near ROOPKUND LAKE. Though the numbers were not ascertained what was not determined was where the group was headed. There is no historical evidence of any trade routes to Tibet in the area, but ROOPKUND is located on an important pilgrimage route of the Nanda Devi cult, with Nanda Devi Raj Jat festivities taking place approximately once every 12 years.
ROOPKUND is a picturesque and beautiful tourist destination, and one of the important places for trekking in GARHWAL District, located near the base of two Himalayan peaks : TRISHUL (7,120m) and NANDA GHUNTI (6,310m). A religious festival is held at the alpine meadow of BEDNI UGYAL every autumn, with nearby villages participating. A larger celebration, the Nanda Devi Raj Jat, takes place once every 12 years at ROOPKUND, during which Goddess Nanda is worshipped. Roopkund Lake is covered with ice for most of the time during the yea. However, the journey to Roopkund is an enjoyable experience. All along the way, one is surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides.
There are different routes for a trek to Roopkund. Generally, trekkers and adventurers travel to LOHAJUNG or WAN by road. From there, they climb a hillock at WAN and reach RAN KI DHAR. There is some flat area where trekkers can camp for the night. If the sky is clear, one can see TRISHUL PARBAT from Bedni Bugyal. The next camping spot is at Bedni Bugyal, which s 12-13km from Wan. There is a huge grazing ground for mules, horses and sheep. There are two Temples and a small lake that add to the beauty of this place. One can see many Himalayan peaks from Bedin Bugyal bridge. Trekkers then go up to BHAGWABHASA, which is 10-11km from Bedni Bugyal. The climate here is hostile for most of the year. One gets a closer view of Trishul and other peaks higher than 5,000mts. Many waterfalls are visible on the extreme slopes of the surrounding mountains.
From Bhagwabhasa, trekkers either go to Roopknd and come back, or they go SHILA SAMUNDAR (Sea of Stones) via JUNARGALLI Col Pass, which is just above the lake, and then proceed with the trek up to HOMKUND.
ROOPKUND’S skeletons were featured in a National Geographic documentary “RIDDLES OF THE DEAD : SKELETON LAKE”.