Roopkund’s skeletal tales
SMA Kazmi
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, February 4
The Chamoli district administration and forest authorities have decided to develop the world-famous Roopkund Lake as eco-tourism destination. The forest authorities are preparing a proposal in this regard.
A file picture of human skeletons near Roopkund Lake.
A file picture of human skeletons near Roopkund Lake. A Tribune photograph

Human and animal skeletons lying in and around the lake for the past 100 years has led to many folk tales in the higher Garhwal Himalayan region. But the number of these skeletons has dwindled over the years.

“We have prepared a blueprint for the promotion of eco-tourism in Roopkund area to encash on the unscathed beauty of the lake and its surrounding areas,” said Rahul, district forest officer, Chamoli.

The district administration had written to the state government on the threat to these skeletons with great anthropological and historical value. A large number of these are being taken away by tourists and trekkers as well as researchers visiting the lake situated at a height of 5,029 metres near the Trishul peak in the east of the district.

Since the lake is far off and frozen for eight months in a year, it is difficult to guard the area. Most skeletons and bones have been stolen over the years with only a few skulls and bones remaining around the frozen lake.

There have been innumerable stories related to these human and horse skeletons in a lake at such a height. Some historians say the remains belong to the great Dogra warrior Zorawar Singh's army that lost its way while returning from the Tibet expedition.

However, in Garhwal Himalayas it is popularly believed that Raja Jasdhaval and his wife, Garhwali princess Rani Balampa, while undertaking a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi perished in a blizzard near the lake. The famous 'Nanda Devi Rajjat Yatra' undertaken every 12 years in Garhwal Himalayas passes through the 
Roopkund Lake.

The Chamoli district administration has urged the state government to declare the area as protected and to have a fresh count of the skeletons. "Earlier, there were hundreds of skeletons, but now only a few remain. There could be some system to check those going up to the lake during the summer months," said Shekhar Rawat, a journalist from Gopeshwar.

To unreveal the mystery of these skeletons, the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) retrieved 30 of the skeletons from Roopkund for DNA testing and claimed to have discovered vital clues on the region of their origin.

Officials sources say the tests found that three of the DNA samples matched with those of a particular group of people living in Maharashtra. The skeletons were found to be 1,500 years old and the unique mutations in the 'mitochondrial DNA' found in the three samples was found in a particular group of people from Maharasthra, who were either on a pilgrimage to Himalayas or lived there.

The Hyderabad centre initiated the study of the DNA samples from Roopkund two years ago after the Department of Biotechnology and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) gave it three years to determine the truth behind the hundreds of skeletons spread over the lake in the Himalayas.

The tests showed that the human skeletons strewn at Roop kund had injuries on the skulls, suggesting that they may have been caught in an avalanche or a blizzard.

The mysterious lake attracted interest after some skeletons were found in the region way back in 1942 by a forest ranger. In the fifties, an expedition of the Anthropological Survey of India was sent to Roopkund that brought with it some samples now displayed at the Anthropological Survey of India museum at Dehradun.

Scientists consider the disappearing skeletons alarming since these form part of the archeological heritage of Garhwal Himalayas.

The lake has a depth of only two metres. The area remains snow-bound throughout the year and it is only for a couple of weeks that the snow melts and the skeletons are visible. Government officials maintain that every effort will be made to stop the theft of skeletons.

“We want to publicise this well-known place as eco-tourism destination and have tented accommodation for tourists. We hope to attrace foreign tourists as well,” said Rahul.

The uphill trek from the motorable road up to Roopkund is nearly 20 km. This too would act as a challenge to the tourists. 



Govt blind to braille editor’s plight
Neena Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, February 4
In need of urgent medical attention, all doors seem to have been shut on social worker and scholar Sardar Kunwar Singh Negi as he moves from one government department to another asking for help.

Negi is a braille editor and Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan recepient. Yet all his achievements have come to nought.

Negi requires a pacemaker. “I live with my daughter and my financial condition is such that I cannot afford a pacemaker.

“With great difficulty, I managed to get treatment for my heart ailment at the GB Pant Hospital in New Delhi, where I had to shell out Rs 1.50 lakh on my operation. I could not get complete treatment due to paucity of funds.

“I have approached the government several times for financial assistance but to no avail,” says a very disheartened Negi, who had received help from the previous ND Tiwari government for his prostrate gland operation six years ago.

Born in Pauri, Negi has made several books available for the blind in braille. “I have translated 300 books into braille for the blind.

“After joining the National Institute of Visually Handicapped in 1954, my interest in braille took a different dimension. While working at the braille press, a group of blind persons from Punjab visited me.They asked me to write books for them. At that time there were very few braille editors who were multi- lingual. Encouraged, I began transcribing books in Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu, Gujarati, Oriya, Marathi and even Russian,” says Negi.

His work received recognition from the Government of India and he was awarded the Padma shri in 1981 and Padma Bhushan in 1990. He has transcribed the Gurmukhi in the braille script titled “Bani Nitnem” and also the Sukhmani Sahib. His books are titled “Bhagwan Buddh Ka Updesh” and “Hazrat Mohammed Ki Vani”.

“I distribute books among the blind free of cost through Maharaja Ranjit Singh International Mission for Gurbani Braille Literature for the World’s Blind.

“I participated in World War II and fought in Burma. The British officers instilled in us discipline, but also taught us to be compassionate. But today these things don’t matter,” rues Negi. 



R-Day cadets felicitated
Vishal Thakur

Dehradun, February 4
Cadet Shalini Nautiyal commanded the NCC girls’ contingent at Rajpath on Republic Day. A student of Class XI, she is proud of her achivement and the attention it has brought her.

Hemant Rawat
Hemant Rawat

Shalini Nautiyal
Shalini Nautiyal

On her return from the national Capital, state Governor BL Joshi, Chief Minister BC Khanduri and senior NCC officials have met her and congratulated her. Hailing from Gopeshwar in Chamoli district of Garhwal, she had joined the NCC only a year back.

Shalini Nautiyal said: “We were made to undergo 15 days’ rigorous drill here in Dehradun. In Delhi we woke up at 2.30 in the morning to prepare for the parade. It was a great experience to lead the march on such an important occasion,” said Shalini.

“I was selected from a group of five to lead to the contingent. This came as a surprise to me,” said Shalini. She aspires to be an Army officer.

Among the boy cadets, senior under officer Hemant Rawat was chosen to lead a contingent of 105 cadets at the parade. Hemant is from Pauri Garhwal and is pursing his B.Sc degree. “It was a great experience being there. The atmosphere was inspiring. I aspire to become an Army officer and wish to rise to the post of a General,” said Hemant.

From Uttarakhand 84 cadets, including 52 boys and 32 girls, participated in the Republic Day parade.

Today, Deputy Director-General of the NCC Directorate of Uttarakhand, Brig PPS Pahwa facilitated Shalini and Hemant along with cadets Philomeena Patrick, Himani Dimri and Sergeant Nitin at the 5 Sikh Regiment, Anarwala.

Philomeena Patrick was the Best Cadet from Uttarakhand, Himani Dimri was Master of Ceremony and Sergeant Nitin commentator at the parade.

Addressing the press conference, Brig Pahwa said despite being the smallest directorate, Uttarakhand was doing a great work with five cadets from the state selected for important ranks at the Republic Day parade, a great honour.

He said 34 of the cadets from Uttarakhand were commissioned in the armed forces, a very high number as compared to the NCC Directorate in 
other states.

“The State’s Directorate has further increased its strength by 5,000 cadets and will soon be raising an air squadron at Pantanagar,” he said.



Co2 tower at Haldwani
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, February 4
The country’s first carbon dioxide exchange tower has been set up in the Lamachaur forest area of Haldwani. To measure the carbon dioxide exchange between the vegetation pool and the atmosphere, the Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) installed the country’s first carbon dioxide measurement exchange tower.

Being installed in collaboration with an Italian university, the exchange will provide important data regarding the eco-system exchange needed to draft policies on environment.

"This is the country’s first carbon dioxide measurement tower. Such towers exist in big numbers in western countries,” said VK Dadhwal, dean with the IIRS.

There are around 600 such towers in the world, out of which 400 are showing excellent results.

The Haldwani tower is equipped with four types of sensors which monitor the degree of carbon dioxide, solely responsible for global warming. The IIRS would subsequently study various issues related to global warming and climate change.

“The council wants to install more such towers,” said VK Dadwal. he said another such tower was planned for Barkot in Rishikesh. Outside Uttarakhand, a tower is scheduled to be set up in Madhya Pradesh to study the carbon dioxide exchange in teak forests.

The council has been working for carbon estimation and plans setting up similar towers at a few places in Dehradun.

States with huge forest areas have been demanding compensation for their forest wealth which they say is keeping the environment healthy. ?



This album captures the soul of the dhol
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, February 4
The Uttarakhand Culture and Tourism Minister Prakash Pant released the folk songs album titled Hiya Pirani, here today. The album has eight songs, all sung by Jagar singers, Preetam Bartwan and Meena Rana. Sunjay Kumola has composed the music for the album and it was released all over by Vasu Music Company.

“For the first time, folk music lovers would be able to listen to the original sounds of dhol and damoun. Earlier, we were forced to replace Garhwali dhol with dholak sound, as we were unable to capture its sound during recordings,” said Preetam Bartwan, singer.

But with this album we have managed to capture the sound of traditional Garhwali dhol. It was a difficult exercise but we managed, added Preetam.

An exponent of Jagar (songs dedicated to local deities) singing, Preetam this time around has sung just one song in that style. Preetam said, “The album has everything for everybody. We have used traditional Garhwali instruments like hoodka, and thali for the Jagar song. We have also incorporated Gajender Nautiyal’s (a Garhwali sitarist) composition in the album.”

The music company plans to come out with a music video very soon.

“So far we have spent Rs 2.5 lakh on the audio album and plans to shoot a music video that would be shot exclusively in Garhwal,” said Sunil Vinay, chairman of Vasu Company. 



Mussoorie cinema halls face demise 
Anmol Jain

Mussoorie, February 4
A small town such as Mussoorie, once had as much as six cinema halls, but over the years all of them have been shut down. The advent of video cassettes, during the late 1980s, has led to the decline of the cinema industry in Mussoorie.

Mussoorie, an idyllic hill resort, established by the British since 1823, was a major entertainment hub during the colonial regime. Apart from various hotels, clubs, skating halls and theatres there were six cinema halls, which were functional in the town during British Raj.

According to the historians, after the advent of electricity, Picture Palace and Roxy were the first ‘movie houses’ to open in Mussoorie in the 1920s along with the Olympia, Auroras and Orient in Dehradun.

Jai Prakash Uttarakhandi, a historian, informs that in those days Picture Palace had a bar cum refreshment room and a billiards room within its premises. One could take alcoholic drinks or tea inside the hall and was also allowed to smoke.

According to Uttarakhandi, “In 1925 Picture Palace was a splendid cinema hall, regarded as being at par with the ‘London Theatre’. It was referred as the ‘Electric Picture Palace’.”

Capital, Rialto, Basant and Jubilee were the other cinema halls that opened after 1930. Thus making a tally of 6 cinema halls in the town.

Although, Roxy theatre was closed subsequent to a devastating fire but the other cinema halls continued to entertain people until the mid 1980s.

“The advent of the video cassettes started affecting our business and brought downfall of the cinema halls in Mussoorie,” says Pankaj Jain, owner of Vasu (earlier Basant) cinema hall.

Pankaj, who was the last to close down his cinema hall in 2001, said the increasing losses forced us to take this step. “We never wanted to shut down our cinema halls but the increased losses forced us to take this step.”

The cinema hall owners feel that in spate of the increasing video piracy and the competition posed by the video industry, government has failed to provide sufficient support to the cinema hall owners and that has perhaps caused the downfall of this industry not only in Mussoorie but even elsewhere.

“Government should have given relaxations in taxes and license fee to us in order to help us to remain in competition,” said Pankaj.

Today, all those six cinema halls have been shut down. While some buildings, such as the Picture Palace, had been purchased by big industrial houses others are still retained by their its previous owners.

But, due to the prevalent government norms that prevent the owners from using the cinema halls for any other purpose, all these six cinema halls remain unutilised and remind us of the glorious past of the cinema industry in Mussoorie.



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