Malana —— A Lost Utopia in the Himalayas —– is an ancient village in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
This “solitary” village, in the Malana Nala, 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 the torrential Malana River, at a height of 9,938 feet above sea level. Unaffected by modern civilization, Malana has been the subject of various documentaries, including “Malana : Globalization of a Himalayan Village” and “Malana : A Lost Identity. The existing speakers of the ‘autochthonous’ language “KANASHI”, the traditional language of Malana, number approximately 1700. According to the 1961 census, the language speakers were, then, 563, but, today, the population of Malana is at three times as large as 40 years ago.
According to local legend, Jamlu Rishi (sage) inhabited this place and made rules and regulations. The locals claim it to be one of the “Oldest Democracies of the World”, with a well-organized
Parliamentary System, guided by their devta (deity) Jamlu Rishi. According to tradition, the residents of Malana are the descendants of Aryans, and they acquired their independence during the Mughal reign, when Emperor Akbar walked to the village in order to curs an ailment that he was afflicted with. After he was successfully cured, he put out an edict, stating that all the inhabitants of the Valley would never be required to pay tax.
The residents of Malana speak KANASHI, which is understood only by the villagers. The language does not resemble any of the dialects spoken in the neighbourhood, but seems to be a mixture of Sanskrit and several Tibetan Dialects. The entire administration of the Village is controlled by Jamlu Rishi through a Village Council, which has 11 members, who are believed to be delegates of Jamlu Rishi and who govern the village in his name. Any ‘outside authority’ is never required. Thus, Malana has been named as the “Athens of the Himalayas”.
The Malanis consider all non-Malanis to be inferior and, consequently, ‘untouchables’. Visitors, to Malani, must pay particular attention to stick to the prescribed paths and not to touch any of the houses or people there. If this occurs, the visitors are expected to pay a forfeit sum, that will cover the sacrificial slaughter of a lamb, in order to purify the object that has made ‘impure’. The visitors are also made to sign a “letter of consent” stating that anything that happens in the village of Malana shall be sorted out by the Village Administration and no other Jurisdiction can intervene in the process. Malanis may offer food to visitors, but all the utensils will have to undergo a strict purification ritual before they can be used again. This is also seen as a technique, used by Malanis, to protect their vested interest in the hashish manufacture/ marijuana fields in the mountains above their village, since MALANA CREAM and other popular, yet costly varieties of the drug, come from this part of India alone. Photography is allowed, but not Videography.
Houses in Malana are 2 or 3-storeyed and each storey has a specific name and purpose. The ground floor is called KHUDANG, which acts as a cattle-shed and where the firewood and fodder for the sheep and goats are stored. The first floor, called GAYING, is used to store eatables, wool and woven woollen fabric. The top floor, with an overhanging balcony, is called PATI. It is the actual living quarter. The houses are built of alternate bands of stone and limber, and the interior is plastered with mud.
An “exotic atmosphere” catches hold of the visitor, once he enters the village ——— houses with their antique look and the people in their traditional attire ——– it seems to be a different world altogether.