Roopkund Skeleton Lake: A Himalayan Mystery
Roopkund (sometimes called Skeleton Lake) is a glacial lake in Uttarakhand state of India famous due to more than five hundred human skeletons found at the edge of the lake. The location is uninhabited and is located in Himalaya at an altitude of about 5,029 metres (16,499 feet).
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 the late 19th century. Earlier it was believed by specialists that the people died from an epidemic, landslide or blizzard. The carbon dating from samples collected in the 1960s vaguely indicated that the people were from the 12th century to the 15th century.
The Nanda Devi Jat Yatra is held once in every 12 years in the District of Chamoli, Uttaranchal. During this two week long Yatra, thousands of devout pilgrims throng the region of Kumaon to pay respect to goddess Nanda Devi. The royal family of Garhwal conducts the Nanda Raj Jaat to please the Isht-Devi, in order to seek blessings for a prosperous kingdom and the defeat of their enemies. In Chamoli Nanda Devi Rajjaat is organized once in 12 years.
The jaat starts from Nauti village near Karnprayag and goes upto the heights of Roopkund and Haemkund with a four horned sheep. After the havan-yagna is over, the sheep is freed with decorated ornaments, food and clothings and the other offerings are dischared. Special prayers and rituals are performed and the offerings are loaded on the four- horned Ram just like the things given to a daughter in her marriage are sent. The sheep is decorated like a bride, ready to leave for her husband's home. The scene becomes pathetic when the devotees, in tears, bid farewell to the Devi, as if they are bidding farewell to their own daughter.
Legends has it that Nanda Devi, consort of Lord Shiva left her village and went to the nanda devi parbat. Therefore when the yatra starts, heavy rain occurs as if the devi is crying. This yatra covers many villages and in between the Devi meets her sister in the Bhagwati village. The Raj Jat Yatra is held annually, in Garhwal.