Malana: An Isolated Abode in the Himalayas
I watched a documentary on Malana, which showed how a village, cut off from the outside world to a large extent, is trying to preserve its ancient traditions and practices, but how these customs were inherited still remains a mystery to many.
Some believe that the locals, Malanis, are the descendants of Greek soldiers from Alexander’s army, who took refuge in Malana after Alexander left the country in 326 BC. But Malanis believe that they are descendants from central Asia.
Lets find out more about the scenic land of Malana, that is one of the oldest democracy in the world.
Malanis have very distinct physical features and dialect, different from the rest of the region. Even the houses, temples and general architecture, of the village is distinct as compared to other villages in Himachal Pradesh.
Malanis are very protective of their cultural heritage and have strong religious beliefs, they don’t even interact freely with non-Malanis. To such an extent that every tourist or visitor is considered an untouchable.
So if you visit Malana, you are forbidden from touching any of their property, structure and people, and if you do touch, pay a fine of Rs 1000.
Whereas if Malanis touch any visitor, they have to go through a purification ritual, before they eat or enter their house. This is contradictory to an Indian custom of considering guests to be god. Malana is popular among tourists for its hashish, Malana Cream, so many foreign tourists visit only for that, they don’t mind the staunch behavior of the locals.
Oldest Democracy of the World
Malana is part of India but doesn’t follow the Indian constitution. The village is self-sufficient in its own way. They have their own set of laws and social structure, seems more effective than Indian laws.
All disputes are solved by the village council, which has a upper and lower court. The village is governed in the name of the local deity Jamlu Devta, and people who are part of the upper court are like messengers of Jamlu.
In fact the Jamlu Devta temple is very popular here, it was destroyed in a terrible fire incident in January, and the villagers rebuilt it in eight months.
All issues first go to the lower court, then it is sent to higher court for the final verdict, without any help from an outsider.
The village stays in an extremely closed environment, which is free and at the same time repressive.
For instance – the person who challenges the council’s verdict is thrown out of the valley, or education for kids is restricted only within the village.
In such a set up, village freedom is more important than individuals’ right to opinion. Even marriages have to be arranged, and if any boy or girl gets married outside the village, then they are treated as outcast since they broke the law.
How to Reach Malana?
Malana is connected to Kulu by three mountain passes – it can be reached from Parbati valley crossing over the 3180 metres high Rashol Pass and via Nagar over the 3600 metres beautiful Chanderkhani pass.
The easiest way to reach Malana is from Jari, which is a two-hour drive from Kulu. From there 23 km picturesque and arduous trek takes you to Malana.
You can watch the above documentary on Malana – that will walk you through the customs of Malana village.