Rohtang: the Pile of Dead Bodies…

The sad news about some 300 tourists having been stranded at the Rohtang Pass made me recapitulate my own experience at Rohtang not a week before this sad incident. At the time of my visit, I had found it hard to believe that such a sunny and pleasant looking place could be home to any catastrophe. I had rather some discussion on the same very point with many people. I was a novice and ill-informed traveller similar to all these tourists were who so unfortunately caught in a rough weather. It seems like the wrath of the gods of the mountains for curious people poking their nose and thereby destroying the silence and serenity of the Himalayas.

15 October, 2010

Rohtang Pass

The weather was excellent. The sky was clean with not even a speck of cloud. The snow covered peaks of the mountains were shining in a glorious way with the clear bright blue of the sky in the background. It was cold but cold in a pleasant manner not the biting cold that I had heard so much of and was mentally prepared for. The wind blew harsh against our faces which were the only part of our body, along with our hands of course, exposed to wind. On the whole it was pleasant. I was amazed why so many stories about the blizzards at Rohtang pass circulate when the clear sky belied all those stories. “Don’t take this clear weather for granted” said KS “as it changes without any prior warning.” But I could not believe what he was saying. “Some year back, one IAS officer from Keylong collapsed here at the pass before he could get any help” butted in our accomplice. I still found it difficult to believe as the weather was so magnificently fine. “At this altitude of more than 13,000 ft. the oxygen in the air is less and it results in breathing trouble for the less acclimatized persons” joined someone else in our conversation. I looked around and found the BSF men in blue tracksuits having trekked all the way to Rohtang Pass. I had seen this group trekking up when we were at Marhi. I saluted their courage.

Revellers at Rohtang Pass

Most of the tourists, fully covered in the colourful cover-ons were busy getting their pictures taken and readying themselves for a pony ride to the highest point where they could touch snow with their bare hands. Their exultation was beyond description. The were in cheerful spirits. Each one of them dressed in colourful attire complete with gumboots and a cap, were waiting for a pony ride to the top of Rohtang Pass. They were happy, really happy and felt like being on the top of the world which they really were at though they had not laboured hard for this position. They were clicking pictures and were getting clicked by friends for a life-time memory picture. I enjoyed watching their happiness. They must have planned for this trip which was considered to be a difficult trip and by grace of God the weather has been extra merciful to them. I looked up. The sky was still clear without any speck of a cloud. I was planning for my trip back home and praying to God for keeping the weather clear for a few more days.

The Silky Smooth Road along the Silk Route

I clicked a few pictures and viewed the wonderful scene from the Rohtang pass and got in our vehicle for our journey ahead. The road was exquisite. I remembered Lalu Prasad’s, though ludicrous, comment referring to roads as smooth as Hema Malini’s cheeks but the road from Rohtang brought similar kind of feeling in my heart. The road was black tarred and smoothest ever that I had seen ever. Kudos to Border Road Organization for keeping the roads this way! But the question as to why Rohtang turns so formidable kept on buzzing at the back of my mind. I decided to put this question to our host who knows more about these mountains than any of us as he is a part and a parcel of these very mountains. So, when we got to chat at his home I put this question to him. He looked sad and contemplative and his answer was simple and plain, “people are interfering with the ways of the Nature and all these mishaps are Nature’s way to show its wrath.” I was not, however, convinced. “Didn’t you people travel across the Rohtang Pass?” and continued my argument, “didn’t such mishaps occur at that time as well?” “Yes” he answer plaintively. It was Yes to both my questions. People did travel during earlier times as well and there used to be some mishaps during those days as well. “But, we travelled because of necessity not for pleasure making the way people travel these days.” I found some good argument in his logic. For that matter my visit, too, was a mix of pleasure and work. “We respect Nature and its various shades,” and Nature takes care of all our needs” he said. How true it was. I thought of a large number of tourists who had travelled to the Rohtang Pass and the number of vehicles that passed the road everyday! The rubbish and filth scattered on the mountain passes by these vacation makers is a testimony to the sacrilegious affront to the sacred mountains.

Gods of the high mountains

And treading the sacred mountainous passes merely to have a gala time enrages the spirits that lie peacefully among the tops and valleys of the mountains. It is not for nothing that Rohtang means in Tibetan language “the “Pile of dead bodies”! It means in Tibetan language as “The Heap of Skeletons” or the ground of dead bodies. No wonder that the “dead bodies” or the spirits that want to rest in peace are aroused by the unwanted and unwarranted traffic on their resting place and want to scare away the pleasure makers. The least that the pleasure seekers can do is to take permission of the sprits of the pass the way the early travellers used to do. I would write more about it in my next post.

3 thoughts on “Rohtang: the Pile of Dead Bodies…

  1. Ashutosh

    Ya, people in India don’t care about keeping such natural pristine beauty clean.

    These tourists come from different parts of the country and are in holidaying mood but the govt. of Himachal should frame some rules to save nature from being disrespected.

  2. aarkay

    All said and done, thankfully, there was no such calamity as would have cause d loss of life. Such instances of tourists and others being stranded are nothing new to these areas . Almost every year at the onset of winters many truck drivers carrying esssential supplies are taken unawares due to such vagaries of weather and nature . The hap-less creatures have not only to look after themselves but also the supplies they are carrying , apart from the fact that a truck these days costs Rs.. 10-12 lakh or even more . How they keep themselves going with limited amount of money and sans other necessary paraphernalia is also a saga of courage and fortitude. The BRO people are no doubt doing a commendable job as far as maintenance and restoration of roads is concerned.

    Again, nice photographs especially of the the silky smooth silk route like the one promised once by Laoo Prasad Yadav for people of Bihar but the dream actually fufilled by the GREF under the BRO. for us in Himachal..

  3. Saurabh Bhakri

    Hello Saroj Ma’am,
    That was what I was wondering when I thought of your picture dated 15/10/10 at facebook and the news of the inclement conditions and the tragedy that struck the female tourist from Bengal in a week’s time.

    Going by your description of your experience, etc and finally in the end you have summarised with the meaning of ‘Rohtang Pass’ in its literal sense in English.
    That is what we have had heard of.
    But one must agree in toto with you when you refer to seeking permission of the spirits of the departed souls that lay dead beneath the surface there.
    May be it is the disturbance to the spirits that exist there or the disrespect they are faced with by the tourists.

    The tourists in general, must realise the sensitivity of the place and respect all the feelings attached to the place, keeping in view the sentiments of the local populace inhabiting the area. This must be a guiding principle as a traveller. And one should be mindful of the aftermaths of any disrespect shown towards the place visited,
    and keeping in line with your concluding lines, tragic incidents like the one that happened at Rohtang few days after you had visited the place … gives all the more reason to be thankful to Mother Nature whenver we have taken it to be for granted and done our insensitive acts towards it.
    In deep respect to the departed soul of the female Bengali tourist who lost her life at Rohtang … May her soul rest in peace.
    Long Live Mother Nature and may we remain blessed by it !

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