Compiled  by London Swaminathan


Date: 8  NOVEMBER 2019

Time  in London – 14-35

Post No. 7193

Pictures are taken from various sources; beware of copyright rules; don’t use them without permission; this is a non- commercial, educational blog; posted in swamiindology.blogspot.com and tamilandvedas.com simultaneously. Average hits per day for both the blogs 12,000

Ancient Hindus used  many apparatuses in their chemical, medical and alchemical experiments and preparations. If anyone looks at the ancient medical books they will come across these yantras or devices.

Somadeva explains the following in his Sanskrit work –

Dola Yantram ,Svedani Yantram ,Patina Yantram ,

Adhaspartana Yantram ,Dheki Yantram ,Valuka Yantram ,Lavana Yantram ,Nalika Yantram ,Bhudhara Yantram ,Tiryakpatana Yantram ,Vidhyadhara Yantram ,Dhupa Yantram .

Please see the attachments for full description of the 12 devices.

source book

ஒலியின் ஆற்றல்! – 1 (Post No.7190)

Science Museum in Bangalore

Written by S Nagarajan


Date: 8  NOVEMBER 2019

Time  in London – 7-28 am

Post No. 7190

Pictures are taken from various sources; beware of copyright rules; don’t use them without permission; this is a non- commercial, educational blog; posted in swamiindology.blogspot.com and tamilandvedas.com simultaneously. Average hits per day for both the blogs 12,000

musical pillars


Big Guns of India- Longest and the Largest! (Post No.7182)

Largest Wheeled Cannon, Jaivana Cannon, Jaigarh Fort, Rajsthan, 20 feet long of Sawai Raja of Jaipur



Date: 5 NOVEMBER 2019

Time  in London – 18-42

Post No. 7182

Pictures are taken from various sources; beware of copyright rules; don’t use them without permission; this is a non- commercial, educational blog; posted in swamiindology.blogspot.com and tamilandvedas.com simultaneously. Average hits per day for both the blogs 12,000.

Kalauragi Cannon in Karnataka 29 feet long. (Longest in the World)

India is famous for its very big guns made up of iron, bronze and brass. India has the longest gun in Karnataka. The largest bronze gun is in Bijapur. Jaipur has the biggest gun with two wheels. We see big guns from 14h century. Who taught them to make such big guns? It is in ancient Sanskrit book called Sukra Niti. White people don’t want to give credit to India. So they said it was written after the guns came. As usual they placed cart before the horse!

Moghul emperor Aurangzeb had seventy guns mostly made up of brass. Some of these are so heavy and large and so they had to be drawn and moved about with the help of 20 yoke of oxen.

Bijapur cannon with dragon head


The story of the great gun of Agra is a sad story. Sitaram’s water colour painting shows that the unmounted huge gun lying in mud on the banks of river Jamuna. British Governor General Lord William Bentinck ordered to destroy it and sold it as scrap metal in 1833. It was a brass gun of 14 feet long and 22 inch in bore. A man could easily enter into it in a crouching position. Its weight was 1469 maunds.

Many of the Moghul brass guns were captured by the British and destroyed. It is written that 76 brass and 86 iron guns were seized at Agra by Lord Lake. 68 guns and mortars of brass, cast in India were also captured by him in Delhi. The British plundered India and used them for themselves or sent them to Britain.


According to Ferguson the largest piece of ordnance was the MALIK – I – MAIDAN GUN made up of bronze. It means Monarch of the Plain.Its composition was

80% copper and 20 % tin. Its length 14 feet 3 inches.

Diameter at mouth – 4 feet 10 inches. The muzzle is in the shape of a dragon. The manipulation and skill, involved in casting such a gigantic piece of bronze armament proves the skill of the workers in Ahmednagar in 1548.

Neogi in his book Copper in Ancient India lists other smaller guns as well.

P k Gode in his article ‘Use of Guns and Gun powder in India  from 1400 onwards gives evidence for use of guns in that period. Mahun, a Chinese traveller , visiting Bengal in 1406 mentions that guns were used in Bengal.

In memoirs of Babar also we find that he used guns and gun powder near Kanauj in 1528


Description of iron guns and cannons are found in the Sanskrit work SUKRA NITI written by  Sukracharya. If guns are foreign inventions, he would not have written it in Sanskrit. Moreover his book was written before Muslim rule. Sukraniti describes two varieties of fire arms -Kshudra nalika , small guns and

Brihad nalikas, large guns. He gives detailed description of these guns.

In Yuktikalpataru , another Sanskrit work of the 11th century, we find a list of places where swords are manufactured. Benares, Magadha, Ceylon, Nepal, Anga, Mysore, Surat and Kalinga are mentioned by the author.

Sarangadhara Paddhati , another Sanskrit work of 14th century, also gives the manufacturing towns-

Khatikattara,Rishi, Banga, Shurporaka,Videha,Anga

Madhyama grama, Bedidesha, Sahagram,Kalinjar.


The longest cannon is in Kalaburagi Fort in Karnataka. It is 29 feet long and was made during the Bahamani rule in the 14th century.(New Indian Express reported it in 2016)


2000 year old Tamil Sangam literature also mentioned shiny swords. Poetess Avvaiyar warned one king in a satirical poem, that your palace armoury has shiny swords and your enemy’s armoury has swords that are second hand, unpolished, used swords. She hinted to the king that you are inexperienced in war with newly manufactured  arms where as the other one has great experience in warfare.

Famous Guns of India

Following are the famous guns of Moghul Emperors scattered all over India:-

Their weights range between 30 and 47 tons;

The maximum length found was 31 feet;

Longest bore reaches about 1 feet 7 inches in diameter;

They are made up of iron;

Dacca , now in Bangladesh, had a gigantic gun weighing 30 tons. The weight of the iron ball used in it was 465 pounds. It has fallen into the river and disappeared. Venetian traveller Manucci mentioned it under the name ‘Kaley khan’.

There is a gun at Murshidabad, named

‘Jahan kosha’, meaning conqueror of the world, it has a length of 17-6 feet. Circumference 5-3 feet.

‘Landa kesab’ gun in Bijapur  was 21 feet 7 inch long; the weight of the gun is estimated to be 47 tons. In the same town another gun called ‘Farflier’ was 30 feet long.

Finally mention made here of the long gun of Gulbarga . It has got a double row of iron rings , ten on each side, by means of which the gun was possibly conveyed from one place to another.

–source book (with my inputs)

History of Chemistry in Ancient and Medieval India

P Ry, 1956

Gun in Bengaluru


My favourite film Guns of Navarone

METALS IN VEDAS (Post No.7060)

WRITTEN by London swaminathan

Date: 5 OCTOBER 2019
British Summer Time uploaded in London – 15-59
Post No. 7060

Pictures are taken from various sources; beware of copyright rules; don’t use them without permission; this is a non- commercial, educational blog; posted in swamiindology.blogspot.com and tamilandvedas.com simultaneously. Average hits per day for both the blogs 12,000.

Vedic Hindus were predominantly agriculturists. The Rig Veda, the oldest religious book in the world, was transmitted unaltered from generation to generation simply through oral traditions. It furnishes us with a picture of the earliest Hindu culture. Vedic people domesticated cows, horses and sheep. They knew the uses of bronze, gold , copper and silver.

The Rig Veda is regarded as a genuine document belonging to 1500 BCE or before that. Scholars like Herman Jacobi and BG Tilak even place it between 4000 and 6000 BCE

In the RV, we find mention of gold, silver, copper and bronze among metals. A hymn (1-162) gives an account of the bronze cauldron slung over the fire by pot-hooks for the cooking of meat.  Gold was used for ornaments like anklets, rings etc. Mention of metal vessels, tools and armour, made mainly of bronze, affords evidence of the knowledge of metal working.

Some writers believe that iron was known during the time of the Rig Veda . For according to them the word ayas in the hymns of the Rig Veda  definitely refers to iron in certain instances. But many other scholars pointed out that AYAS is a generic term for metals in the Vedic age and sometimes for gold.

In Tamil also PON refers to gold, iron and five metals in gods’ (Pancha loka= Aim Pon) idols. Even in Tamil Veda Tirukkural, it is used for both iron and gold.

Then again in the Brahmanas and Upanishads, which were of later date than the Vedas we find that the word ayas has been differentiated into lohita ayas or red metal and Krishna ayas or black metal, representing copper and iron respectively. So Rig Veda ayas is not iron and in the Indus valley civilization we don’t find iron.  It may be early Vedic civilization.

xxxsubham xxx


Written by London Swaminathan


 Date: 3 SEPTEMBER 2019
British Summer Time uploaded in London –

Post No. 6972

Pictures are taken from various sources; this is a non- commercial, educational blog; posted in swamiindology.blogspot.com and tamilandvedas.com simultaneously. Average hits per day for both the blogs 11,000.


Written by London Swaminathan


 Date: 2 SEPTEMBER 2019
British Summer Time uploaded in London –

Post No. 6970

Pictures are taken from various sources; this is a non- commercial, educational blog; posted in swamiindology.blogspot.com and tamilandvedas.com simultaneously. Average hits per day for both the blogs 12,000.

I want to place it on record the amazing statistics about Athi Varadar with the hope of someone reding it after forty years, i.e.2059!

Who is Athi Varadar?

Mahavishnu in Varadaraja Swami Temple in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.

What is the meaning of   Athi Varadar?

Athi is a wood mentioned in Vishnu Sahasranama as Udumbara along with two other trees. All the three trees belong to Ficus genus. Athi is Ficus Udumbra or Ficus racemose. Varadar is one who showers boons on devotees.

Why is God Vishnu known as Athi Varadar?

Because the original statue was made of Athi wood and placed in a water- tight silver casket under the temple tank. Instead of this a granite statue is worshiped on daily basis.

What is the significance of the wooden statue?

It was made by Lord Brahma and so considered very valuable. If it is anointed every day with all the usual Abishek/ bathing materials it will be damaged. So it is immersed in the tank and taken out once in forty years. Last time it was taken out in 1979.

What is the Forty Year wonder?

When it is taken out of the tank a great number of devotees gather to have the darshan (viewing). This time it was taken out in July/August and kept out for darshan for 48 days.

Few people reported that they are seeing it for the third time in their life!

What happened during 48 days?

During the 48 days in July/August 2019, over ten million people had the viewing of Lord in lying position and standing position.

Over ten million people contributed over Rs 9.9 crores during this period. Out of the 18 hundis (money box), 13 were open and 164 grams of gold, 4959 grams of silver, cash of nearly 100 million rupees were found.

Millions of people had free food. Rs.1-5 crore donation was received for Anna danam alone.

From President of India to a poor beggar in the street every one had the blessing of God.

What is the condition of the statue when it is taken out?

It was in good condition and applied with herbal oils.

On the re immersion day (178-2019,) 48 types of Prasadams were made and offered to the Lord.

How big is the statue?

12 feet tall and two and half feet wide.

Any more wonder?

The statue that is placed in the Vasanta Mandapam will be immersed on the 48th day. The tank dried for cleaning and other purposes will be automatically filled in by the rain. This time also the city and its suburbs had heavy rains.

When is the next darshan?

It will be in year 2059.

If we are all lucky we will have the Darshan!

I am attaching some paper cuttings for future generations.

One more wonder!

There re over 350 inscriptions in the temple. They are from

Chozas,Pandyas, Telugu chodas,

Pallava /Kadavarayas,Chera ,Kakatiya,


and devotees. 16 inscriptions are from the great ruler Krishnadevaraya (1510-528). Two of the inscriptions give a complete list of his conquests.

The Kalyana Mandapam alone has 800 bas reliefs depicting  various puranic themes. Wood carvings and paintings are also found in the temple.



இந்து ரிஷிகள் வெளி நாட்டில் கரடி ஆன கதை! (Post No.6968)

Written by London Swaminathan


 Date: 2 SEPTEMBER 2019

British Summer Time uploaded in London –16-29

Post No. 6968

Pictures are taken from various sources; this is a non- commercial, educational blog; posted in swamiindology.blogspot.com and tamilandvedas.com simultaneously. Average hits per day for both the blogs 12,000.

stamp of Japan
Flag of Alaska with Sapta Rishis


Written by London Swaminathan


 Date: 1 SEPTEMBER 2019

British Summer Time uploaded in London – 19-15

Post No. 6965

Pictures are taken from various sources; this is a non- commercial, educational blog; posted in swamiindology.blogspot.com and tamilandvedas.com simultaneously. Average hits per day for both the blogs 12,000.

Hindus are the first race to give divine status to stars. They gave the little boy Dhruva’s name to Pole star. They named the Ursa Major (Great Bear) constellation after Seven Great Hindu seers. And they named the double star system in it after Vaishtha and Arundhati. Every newly married Hindu couple must see the Vaishtha- Arundhati  star system before they enter the First Night room. 27 stars in the zodiac have stories from Hindu mythology.

But the wonder is that they named some stars in the Southern Sky also after some Hindu seers and Kings. The Southern Cross is named after the King Tri Sanku. And the Canopus is named after the great seer Agastya. Agastya will beat 100 Columbuses and 1000 Captain Cooks. He did incredible jobs of laying road route via the mighty Vindhya mountains and crossed the Indian ocean to establish Hindu rule in South East Asia. These incredible feats were made mythological stories ‘Agastya drinking ocean’ and ‘Agastya belittling Vidhya mountains’. tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

But my latest research is about how and why they did name Southern Cross and Canopus after Trisanku and Agastya respectively. Sapta Rishi and Pole star cant be seen by people living in Southern most part of Australia. And in the same way Indians living in Northern most part of India cant see Trisanku and Canopus. Then how come the Bhagavatha Purana and other Puranas talk about Trisanku and the star system. Hindu scriptures praise Viswamitra creating new heaven (star system).This shows the seers can go above the earth and see the star system. Sanskrit and Tamil literature talk about seers using the sky route (Gagana Marga).

Some may say that the people in the south might have added Trisanku and Agastya star stories in Hindu mythology, because the star system cant be seen by the northern most people. Even that shows that India was one country from North to South. This will explode the myth of British uniting India. More over 2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature is also talking about one county – From the Himalayas to Kanyakumari.

So Trisanku- Agastya Stories illustrate two points:

1.Puranic writers know southern hemisphere and the stars visible there. They gave divine status to Southern stars also.

2.Even before British arrived in India, the country was considered one.

Latest Interpretation-

One article in the book ‘Facets of Vedic Culture’ give new interpretation to Tri Sanku and Agastya stories. The interpretation is based on the Big Hindu Numerals Sanku and Jaladhi.

Who was Trisanku?

Tri sanku was a great king of solar dynasty. When he was nagging his teacher/Guru Vasishtha to send him to heaven with his human body he refused. When the king abused the Guru, he was cursed by him. Then the cursed king approached another seer Visvamitra. He sent Tri Sanku to heaven with his power. But the Devas in the heaven rejected him and pushed him down to earth. Visvamitra stopped him half way through the sky. This is called Southern Cross by westerners because it looks like hanging cross. It is found in the flags of Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Brazil and Papua New Guinea. Hindus are using Tri Sanku Swarga as a phrase for any half- finished or unfinished task. tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

Here is the the interpretation:-


திரிசங்கு நட்சத்திரம் பற்றிய புதிய விளக்கம்! (Post No.6962)

Research Article written by London Swaminathan


 Date: 1 SEPTEMBER 2019

British Summer Time uploaded in London – 9-28 am

Post No. 6962

Pictures are taken from various sources; this is a non- commercial, educational blog; posted in swamiindology.blogspot.com and tamilandvedas.com simultaneously. Average hits per day for both the blogs 12,000.


The Mystery of Hindu ‘Skeleton Lake’ Gets Deeper (Post No.6909)

Icy Roopkund Lake
Location of Roopkund Lake



 Date: 21 AUGUST 2019  

British Summer Time uploaded in London – 7-13 am

Post No. 6909

 Pictures are taken from various sources.  ((posted by swamiindology.blogspot.com AND tamilandvedas.com))

Hundreds of skeletons are scattered around a site high in the Himalayas, and a new study overturns a leading theory about how they got there.

Science magazines around the world have published today (21-8-2019) the latest results of their studies about the Hindu Mystery Lake in the Himalayas.

I have collected the details from various reports.

The Roopkund lake at an altitude of 16,500 ft in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand has hundreds of ancient human skeletons around its shores.

Untangling a few knots on the enigmatic skeleton lake mystery, scientists on Tuesday reported that people belonging to three distinct ethnicities — Indians, Greeks and a lone South East Asian individual — travelled to the icy lake in the Himalayas

The Roopkund lake at an altitude of 16,500 ft in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand remains a puzzle to science for more than 60 years, with barely any explanations about hundreds of ancient human skeletons around its shores


skeletons in icy lake

Biomolecular analyses of Roopkund skeletons show Mediterranean migrants in Indian Himalaya

A large-scale study conducted by an international team of scientists has revealed that the mysterious skeletons of Roopkund Lake—once thought to have died during a single catastrophic event—belong to genetically highly distinct groups that died in multiple periods in at least two episodes separated by 1000 years. The study, published this week in Nature Communications, involved an international team of 28 researchers from institutions in India, the United States and Europe.

Situated at over 5000 meters above sea level in the Himalayan Mountains of India, Roopkund Lake has long puzzled researchers due to the presence of skeletal remains from several hundred ancient humans, scattered in and around the lake‘s shores, earning it the nickname Skeleton Lake or Mystery Lake.

“Roopkund Lake has long been subject to speculation about who these individuals were, what brought them to Roopkund Lake, and how they died,” says senior author Niraj Rai, of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow, India, who began working on the Roopkund skeletons when he was a post-doctoral scientist at the CSIR Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, India.

The current publication, the final product of a more than decade-long study that presents the first whole genome ancient DNA data from India, reveals that the site has an even more complex history than imagined.


800 skeletons may be there

First ancient DNA data from India shows diverse groups at Roopkund Lake

Ancient DNA obtained from the skeletons of Roopkund Lake—representing the first ancient DNA ever reported from India—reveals that they derive from at least three distinct genetic groups.

“We first became aware of the presence of multiple distinct groups at Roopkund after sequencing the mitochondrial DNA of 72 skeletons. While many of the individuals possessed mitochondrial haplogroups typical of present-day Indian populations, we also identified a large number of individuals with haplogroups that would be more typical of populations from West Eurasia,” says co-senior author Kumarasamy Thangaraj of CCMB, who started the project more than a decade ago, in an ancient DNA clean lab that he and then-director of CCMB Lalji Singh (deceased) built to study Roopkund.

Whole-genome sequencing of 38 individuals revealed that there were at least three distinct groups among the Roopkund skeletons.

1.The first group is composed of 23 individuals with ancestries that are related to people from present-day India, who do not appear to belong to a single population, but instead derived from many different groups.

2.Surprisingly, the second largest group is made up of 14 individuals with ancestry that is most closely related to people who live in the eastern Mediterranean, especially present-day Crete and Greece.

3. A third individual has ancestry that is more typical of that found in Southeast Asia. “We were extremely surprised by the genetics of the Roopkund skeletons. The presence of individuals with ancestries typically associated with the eastern Mediterranean suggests that Roopkund Lake was not just a site of local interest, but instead drew visitors from across the globe,” says first author Éadaoin Harney of Harvard University.


skeletons of three ethnic groups

In a kinder world, archaeologists would study only formal cemeteries, carefully planned and undisturbed.

But such an ideal burial ground wouldn’t have the eerie appeal of Skeleton Lake in Uttarakhand, India, where researchers suspect the bones of as many as 500 people lie. The lake, which is formally known as Roopkund, is miles above sea level in the Himalayas and sits along the route of the Nanda Devi Raj Jat, a famous festival and pilgrimage. Bones are scattered throughout the site: Not a single skeleton found so far is intact.


Since a forest ranger stumbled across the ghostly scene during World War II, explanations for why hundreds of people died there have abounded. These unfortunates were invading Japanese soldiers; they were an Indian army returning from war; they were a king and his party of dancers, struck down by a righteous deity. A few years ago, a group of archaeologists suggested, after inspecting the bones and dating the carbon within them, that the dead were travelers caught in a lethal hailstorm around the ninth century.

In a new study published today in Nature Communications, an international team of more than two dozen archaeologists, geneticists, and other specialists dated and analyzed the DNA from the bones of 37 individuals found at Roopkund. They were able to suss out new details about these people, but if anything, their findings make the story of this place even more complex. The team determined that the majority of the deceased indeed died 1,000 or so years ago, but not simultaneously. And a few died much more recently, likely in the early 1800s. Stranger still, the skeletons’ genetic makeup is more typical of Mediterranean heritage than South Asian.

“It may be even more of a mystery than before,” says David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard and one of the senior authors of the new paper. “It was unbelievable, because the type of ancestry we find in about a third of the individuals is so unusual for this part of the world.”

Roopkund is the sort of place archaeologists call “problematic” and “extremely disturbed.” Mountaineers have moved and removed the bones and, researchers suspect, most of the valuable artifacts. Landslides probably scattered the skeletons, too. Miriam Stark, an archaeologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who was not involved in the research, pointed out that, unlike most archaeological sites, Roopkund is “not within a cultural context,” like a religious site or even a battlefield. That makes the new study “a really useful case study of how much information you can milk” from an imperfect data set, she says.

From a scientific standpoint, the only convenient thing about Roopkund is its frigid environment, which preserved not only the bones, but the DNA inside them, and even, in some cases, bits of clothing and flesh. That same environment can make the site difficult to study.

Veena Mushrif-Tripathy, an archaeologist at Deccan College in Pune, India, was part of an expedition to Roopkund in 2003. She says that even at base camp, which was about 2,300 feet below the lake, the weather was dangerous and turned quickly. To reach Roopkund, the party had to climb to a ridge above the lake and then slide down to it, because the slopes surrounding the lake are so steep.

Mushrif-Tripathy never actually reached the lake; she was stuck at base camp with altitude sickness. “That was one of my biggest … regrets,” she says. “Still today, I am not over that.”

As Fernando Racimo, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen, points out, ancient-DNA studies commonly focus on the global movements of human populations over thousands of years. The new study, in contrast, is “a nice example of how ancient-DNA studies could not only inform us about major migration events,” Racimo says, “but it can also tell smaller stories that would have not been possible to elucidate otherwise.” Stark says that seeing geneticists and archaeologists collaborating to ask nuanced questions is refreshing. “A lot of the time it seems like the geneticists are just performing a service,” she says, to prove the hunches of anthropologists or historical linguists about where a specimen really came from. “And that’s not what we should be asking.”

To Kathleen Morrison, the chair of the anthropology department at the University of Pennsylvania, the least interesting thing about the specimens at Roopkund is where in the world their DNA says they came from. She points out that a Hellenic kingdom existed in the Indian subcontinent for about 200 years, beginning in 180 b.c. “The fact that there’s some unknown group of Mediterranean European people is not really a big revelation,” she says. She also cautions that radiocarbon dating gets less and less accurate the closer specimens get to the present day, so the early-1800s date assigned to the Roopkund specimens with Mediterranean heritage might not be perfectly accurate.

Besides, knowing that some of the bones at Roopkund came from a slightly unusual population still doesn’t shake the fundamental mystery: how hundreds of people’s remains ended up at one remote mountain lake. Reich and Mushrif-Tripathy are both confident that the skeletons were not moved to the site. Mushrif-Tripathy believes that the people whose bones she helped study simply “lost their way” and “got stuck” near the lake during bad weather. As Reich points out, it’s possible that remains scattered around the area gradually fell into the lake during landslides.

Morrison, though, doesn’t fully buy this explanation. “I suspect that they’re aggregated there, that local people put them in the lake,” she says. “When you see a lot of human skeletons, usually it’s a graveyard.”


Nobody Knows Why Hundreds of People Died at This Creepy Himalayan Lake

Hundreds of people mysteriously died over a millennium at “Skeleton Lake” in the Himalayas according to a new study, making the creepy location even more mysterious.

A small glacial lake nestled in the world’s highest mountain range is the site of hundreds of unexplained deaths spanning more than 1,000 years, according to a new study.

Roopkund Lake, also known as “Skeleton Lake” because it is cluttered with human bones, has perplexed visitors for decades. Located over 16,400 feet above sea level in the Indian Himalayas, it was rediscovered during the 1940s by a forest ranger. But the shallow lake was clearly known to ancient travelers, many of whom never made it out alive.

Nobody knows what killed all these people at such a remote location. Until now, the leading theory was that a brutal hailstorm pummelled all of the travelers to death at the same time around 800 CE in a single catastrophic event, which might explain the unhealed compression fractures found on some of the bones. While deadly hail may account for some of the fatalities, new evidence strongly suggests that these people met their deaths in multiple different events at the lake across the centuries.

In a study published on Tuesday in Nature Communications, a team led by Éadaoin Harney, a PhD student in evolutionary biology at Harvard University, analyzed DNA extracted from 38 skeletons. This analysis revealed that many different populations experienced mortal incidents at the lake, including one that occurred as late as the 19th century.

“We find that the Roopkund skeletons belong to three genetically distinct groups that were deposited during multiple events, separated in time by approximately 1,000 years,” Harney’s team said in the study. “These findings refute previous suggestions that the skeletons of Roopkund Lake were deposited in a single catastrophic event.”

The earliest group of deceased travellers identified by the researchers, called Roopkund_A, contained 23 men and women from a diverse range of South Asian ancestries. This population was already known to have perished some 1,200 years ago, but radiocarbon dating showed that their deaths were likely not caused by a single violent storm as previously proposed.

Some of the Roopkund_A individuals were dated to earlier ranges of about 675-769 CE, while others were dated to between 894-985 CE. The gap in time suggests “that even these individuals may not have died simultaneously,” the team said.

Even more astonishing is the discovery of a second population, called Roopkund_B, which died just centuries ago, around 1800. This group contained 14 men and women of eastern Mediterranean descent, who were most genetically similar to the people of present-day Crete, the largest of the Greek islands. The third population is comprised of a sole individual, called Roopkund_C, who was a man of East Asian descent that died at the same time as the Roopkund_B group.

“Our study deepens the Roopkund mystery in many ways,” said study co-author Niraj Rai, head of the Ancient DNA Lab at Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in India, in an email. At the same time, the team was able to rule out common “speculations about the ancestry of Roopkund individuals,” Rai said.

For instance, since the 1950s, there has been a local theory that the skeletons were left by the fleeing army of general Zorawar Singh Kahluria, who was killed in an attempted invasion of Tibet in 1841. This explanation is challenged by the new discovery of several women at the site, who were unlikely to have been included in a military expedition.

The hailstorm theory is still plausible for some of the victims, and the team plans to examine the fractured skulls in their next study, Rai said.

Still, we don’t know how these groups ended up at such an inaccessible location in the first place. Roopkund Lake lies on the route of the Nanda Devi Raj Jat, a Hindu pilgrimage, which may have been observed as early as 1,200 years ago. For now, that is the most plausible explanation for the presence of at least some of the Roopkund_A individuals, the team said.

The remains of the other populations are much harder to explain. The study concludes that the Mediterranean individuals, who did not seem to have close familial ties to each other, were probably born under Ottoman rule.

“As suggested by their consumption of a predominantly terrestrial, rather than marine-based diet, they may have lived in an inland location, eventually traveling to and dying in the Himalayas,” the team said. “Whether they were participating in a pilgrimage, or were drawn to Roopkund Lake for other reasons, is a mystery.”

“Mystery” seems to be the operative word for anything to do with Roopkund Lake. While the site has become a destination for researchers and tourists—who have lived to tell the tale of their visits—the secrets of those who never left remain largely unknown.


Himalayan Lake Mystery


DNA study deepens mystery of lake full of skeletons

Hundreds of bodies at Roopkund Lake belonged to pilgrims who perished in a Himalayan storm more than a thousand years ago—or so researchers thought.

Roopkund, a remote lake high in the Indian Himalaya, is home to one of archaeology’s spookiest mysteries: the skeletons of as many as 800 people. Now, a study published today in Nature Communications attempts to unravel what happened at “Skeleton Lake”—but the results raise more questions than answers.

In the early 2000s, preliminary DNA studies had suggested that the people who died at Roopkund were of South Asian ancestry, and radiocarbon dates from around the site cluster at 800 A.D., a sign that they all died in a single event.

Now, full genomic analyses from 38 sets of skeletal remains upend that story. The new results show that there were 23 people with south Asian ancestry at Roopkund, but they died during one or several events between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. What’s more, the Roopkund skeletons contain another group of 14 victims who died there a thousand years later—likely in a single event.

And unlike the later South Asian skeletons, the earlier group at Roopkund had a genetic ancestry tied to the Mediterranean—Greece and Crete, to be exact. (An additional individual, who died at the same time as the Mediterranean group, had east Asian ancestry.) None of the tested individuals were related to each other, and additional isotopic studies confirm that the South Asian and Mediterranean groups ate different diets.

Why was a Mediterranean group at Roopkund, and how did they meet their end? Researchers don’t know and aren’t speculating.