Roopkund Lake: A Bucket List Experience for History and Nature Lovers

Roopkund Lake: A Bucket List Experience for History and Nature Lovers

Roopkund Lake: The Mysterious Skeleton Lake of India

If you are looking for an adventurous and offbeat trekking destination in India, you might want to consider Roopkund Lake, a high altitude glacial lake in the Uttarakhand state of India. It lies in the lap of Trishul massif, one of India’s highest mountains, and is surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow-clad peaks. But what makes this lake so fascinating and eerie is the fact that it is strewn with hundreds of human skeletons that are visible when the snow melts.

The Discovery of the Skeletons

The skeletons were first discovered by a British forest ranger named Hari Kishan Madhwal in 1942, who stumbled upon them while patrolling the area. At first, he thought they were the remains of Japanese soldiers who had invaded India during World War II, but later investigations revealed that they were much older. 

The skeletons are estimated to belong to 600-800 people who died at different times between the 9th and 19th centuries. Along with the skeletons, wooden artefacts, iron spearheads, leather slippers, and rings were also found at the site.

The Mystery of the Skeletons

The origin and identity of the skeletons have puzzled anthropologists and scientists for decades. Who were these people? How did they die? Where did they come from? Several theories have been proposed over the years, ranging from historical events to local legends.

One theory suggests that some of the skeletons belong to a group of pilgrims who were on their way to worship Goddess Nanda Devi, the patron deity of the region, and were caught in a deadly hailstorm that killed them instantly. This is supported by a popular folk song that narrates how the goddess unleashed a hailstorm “as hard as iron” on the intruders who disturbed her peace.

Another theory proposes that some of the skeletons are of Indian soldiers who tried to invade Tibet in 1841 under General Zorawar Singh, and were defeated and forced to retreat over the Himalayas. Many of them died due to exposure, starvation, and avalanches on their way back.

Yet another theory speculates that some of the skeletons are of victims of an epidemic or a famine who were buried or abandoned near the lake.

However, none of these theories can explain all the skeletons, as recent genetic and carbon-dating studies have shown that they belong to diverse groups of people who died at different times. Some of them have South Asian ancestry, some have East Asian ancestry, and some have Mediterranean ancestry. Some of them date back to around 1200 years ago, while some date back to around 200 years ago. The cause of death also varies among them, as some have head injuries consistent with blunt force trauma, while some have no signs of trauma at all.

The Mystery Lake Today

Roopkund Lake is a popular trekking destination today, attracting many adventure seekers and curious visitors who want to witness the skeleton lake for themselves. The trek to the lake takes about four to five days from the nearest road head at Lohajung, passing through dense forests, alpine meadows, and steep slopes. The best time to visit is between May and October, when the weather is clear and the lake is accessible.

However, visitors are advised to respect the sanctity and sensitivity of the site, as it is not only a natural wonder but also a historical and cultural heritage. The skeletons are protected by law and should not be disturbed or removed from the lake. The lake is also considered sacred by the locals, who believe that it is a resting place for their ancestors and a manifestation of Goddess Nanda Devi’s power.


Roopkund Lake is a unique and mysterious place that offers a glimpse into India’s past and present. It is a place where nature and culture collide, where beauty and horror coexist, where mystery and mystery remain unsolved.
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