Malana, Himachal Pradesh

Malana, Himachal Pradesh

Malana is an ancient village to the north-east of Kullu Valley. This solitary village in the Malana Nala a side valley of the Parvati Valley is isolated from the rest of the world. The majestic peaks of Chandrakhani and Deotibba shadow the village. It is situated on a remote plateau by the side of torrential Malana river at a height of 3029 m above the sea level. Unaffected by the modern civilisation, Malana has its own lifestyle and social structure. People are strict in following their customs. For an outsider, these customs are mysterious and amazing at the same time.

Geography

Malana is located at . It has an average elevation of 3029 metres (9940 feet).

History

Malana has a distinct and glorious history and it goes back to Jamlu rishi (sage) who inhabitated this place and made rules and regulations.It is one of the oldest democracy of the world with a well organized parilamentary system. All this is guided by the their devta (deity) jamblo rishi.

The residents of Malana speak Kanashi/Raksh (supposedly the dialect of evils residing there long ago), which is understood only by the villagers. The residents of Malana consider themselves the descendant of Rajputs (The caste which used to fight and protect people). Malana is considered to be one of the first democracies in the world. They acquired their independence during the Mughal reign when the Emperor Akbar walked to the village in order to cure an ailment that he was afflicted with. After having been successfully cured he put out an edict stating that all the inhabitants of the valley would never be required to pay tax.

A dam project, the Malana Hydro Power Station, has brought Malana much closer to the rest of the world and provides revenue for the region. A new road has shortened the walking time from several days to just 4 hours.

Culture and lifestyle

The village administration is democratic and is believed to be the oldest republic of the world. The peculiar social structure of Malana in fact rests on villagers' unshaked faith in their powerful deity, Jamblu Devta. The entire administration of the village is controlled by him through a village council. This council has eleven members and they are believed as delegates of Jamblu who govern the village in his name. His decision is ultimate in any dispute and any outsider authority is never required

Malanis (the inhabitants of Malana) admire their culture, customs and religious beliefs. They generally do not like to change though some traces of modernization are visible.

People in Malana consider all non-Malani to be inferior and consequently untouchable. Visitors to Malana town must pay particular attention to stick to the prescribed paths and not to touch any of the walls, houses or people there. If this does occur, visitors are expected to pay a forfeit sum, that will cover the sacrificial slaughter of a lamb in order purify the object that has been made impure. Malani people may touch impure people or houses as long as they follow the prescribed purification ritual before they enter their house or before they eat. Malanis may never accept food cooked by a non-Malani person, unless they are out of the valley (in which case their Devt can't see them). Malanis may offer visitors food but all utensils will have to undergo a strict purification ritual before they can be used again.

Despite of being a part of the Kullu valley, the Malanis have very distinct physical features, and a dialect which is different from the rest of the valley. There are various legends about their origin. According to one of them, it is believed that they are the descendants of Greek soldiers of Alexander's army. As the legend goes, some soldiers took refuge in this remote land after Alexander left the country and later settled there permanently. This myth is however disputed because there are those who claim that it is the valley of Kailash, in Pakistan that is actually the area in which Alexander the Great's soldiers took refuge. This second thesis tends to be more convincing if we look at the distinct features of the Kalashi who are often blond and blue eyed in a region which does not usually count many blond and blue eyed inhabitants.

Malana was also once famous for producing some of the best quality hashish (cannabis resin) in the world, known as "Malana Cream", which sells for 1,200-1,800 rupees per tola (= 10 grams). Today however this reputation has led to an influx of Nepali cannabis traders who sell Nepali charas under the Malana name. Due to heightened police attention which is directed to the area, and a general increase in hostility from the locals towards disresepctful Ganja tourists, Malana is no longer the idyllic place it once was to visit.

Useful Links

Best articles on Malana, by Mr Virendra Bangroo from Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts (New Delhi).

http://www.ignca.gov.in/nl002401.htm

http://www.ignca.gov.in/ex_0055.htm

http://www.ignca.gov.in/bangru04.htm

Pictures

http://www.ignca.gov.in/asp/all.asp?projectid=mln1

http://www.ignca.gov.in/asp/all_des1.asp?projectid=mln1

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