Nothing Could Prepare Me For What's Revealed When This Glacier Lake Melts. OMG.
By Emma Reyes
JANUARY 22, 2014
In 1942, a glacier lake in Uttarakhand, a state in India, was discovered. It's at an altitude of 5,029 meters, which explains why what happened there over 1,200 years ago was only recently discovered.
The name of this lake is Roopkund, and nothing could prepare me for the events that took place there around 850AD.
Located in the mountains, it wasn't discovered until a game reserve ranger stumbled upon it in 1942.
Being a glacier lake, it's almost always frozen over.
Normally, you would have no idea what lies beneath...
But when it melts, it reveals the horrors of what happened here around 1200 years ago.
Skeletons. Lots and lots of skeletons.
There were many thoughts about where they came from. Some suggested that the bones belonged to General Zorawar Singh of Kashmir, and his men, who are said to have lost their way and perished in the high Himalayas, on their return journey after the Battle of Tibet in 1841
After proven to be older than that, others thought the corpses were the result of an unsuccessful attack by Mohammad Tughlak on the Garhwal Himalaya.
And many anthropologists felt it was an unknown epidemic or even a mass ritualistic suicide.
But it wasn't until 2004 that a team finally unveiled what really happened in Roopkund around 850AD.
Researchers discovered cracks on the back of their skulls, indicating they died of fatal blows. But the wounds were consistent with that of a round ball, such as a baseball - not an avalanche. Furthermore, their bodies indicated no other injuries resulting in one shocking conclusion: they were killed by something only the sky could reign down on them... a hailstorm.
Every 12 years, 500 members of the Nanda Devi cult would follow a trek consistent with where Roopkund is located. Researchers concluded that the pilgrims most likely came across the lake and climbed down the slopes to get fresh water. That's when the clouds moved in and reigned large hail down on them. With nowhere to hide in the open mountain area, most - if not all - died from head wounds resulting from hail strikes. The icy waters preserved their bodies for hundreds of years, some of them still with hair and clothing intact.
There's a traditional song among Himalayan women that describes a goddess so enraged at outsiders who defiled her mountain sanctuary that she rained death upon them by flinging hailstones "hard as iron." This suggests that some pilgrims survived that horrific event and told the tale, which lives on today.