ROHTANG PASS – THE HEAP OF SKELETONS

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Rohtang Pass (or Rohtam Pass) is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3,979 m (13,054 ft) above the sea level, located on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas. Known for its scenic beauty, Rohtang Pass holds strategic importance for India. The Pass offers beautiful sights of glaciers, peaks, Lahaul Valley and the Chandra River. The twin peaks of Geypan are also visible from Rohtang. The pass is on the watershed between the water basins of the Chenab River and the Beas River.

Situated about 53 km from Manali, it connects Kullu valley with Lahaul and Spiti which in turn provide access to Leh. It’s only open from May to November and is so dangerous the Government of India is building an 8.8km tunnel as an alternative. Known for its scenic beauty, Rohtang Pass holds strategic importance for India. It’s the gateway to Keylong in the landlocked Lahaul Valley from Manali in the state’s Kullu district.

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Rohtang 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.Specially hazardous is Rani Nallah, that  has remained a major bottleneck when traveling to Rohtang Pass in Manali. It’s situated 6 km before the Rohtang Pass and has become a major irritant for tourists and travelers while reaching the Rohtang Pass due to bad road condition. The area has become a constant sliding zone for the past few years.

The ordeal at the Rani Nallah starts once the snow starts melting during summer season. The melting snow turns this 2 km stretch into nightmare for the motorists. Entire stretch is full of slush and mud. There is no respite later with the advent of monsoon season. With rains and the constant sliding of the hill side, the road gets fully covered with the slush.

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One story, “The Rohtang Pass”, is named after the high-mountain pass that links Lahaul with Kullu valley. The only passable point between the two valleys, Rohtang has a lot of significance in the lives of the people of Lahaul. No wonder, the legend is about how the pass was made by the gods. While in the Kullu valley it is believed that Lord Shiva created the pass, Lahaulis ascribe the act to a king of Western Tibet Gyapo Gyasar (Gyapo means the king in the region).

A major character in many legends is the Buddhist monk and many stories obliquely point towards the change the region went through after Buddhism became the major religion of the valleys here. The author, too, mentions this transition, one that is so visible in stories like “Gods & Men” where the ritual of human sacrifice once an integral part of life in high hills loses its popularity because of monks.

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These are stories that can be heard in the district even today. While some have been embellished with further details, some have new stories added to their existing plots. For example, the fairy of Chandratal, a high altitude lake that is located on a ridge dividing Lahaul and Spiti sub-divisions, in some versions becomes a seductress witch who looks for prey on full moon nights.

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