Malana: The land of myths

Malana: The land of mythsA signboard on the way to Malana village. credit: Ravishankar

I am not a trekking person. Although I love hills and mountains, I prefer to visit villages and talk to people than trek miles to reach some mountain. But when I read about Malana and, later, searched about it on the internet, I was ready to trek, no matter how far and how difficult the way would be.

Many people said many things about Malana but I wanted to visit the place and wanted to know what exactly Malana is.

Malana is a small village in Parvati Valley of Himachal Pradesh. There are many myths associated with the place.

According to one myth, the villagers of this Himalayan village are the descendants of the army of Greek king Alexander the Great while another myth claims that the villagers are the sons of Rishi Jamadagni. I wanted to know the truth.

We reached the nearest place by car, and had to trek the rest of the way to reach Malana village. I started the journey on a rainy day. My driver said we would have to trek one km from where he left us, and that the journey would take 30 minutes. As we started, I soon realized that it's not going to be easy. I fell down after a few steps but was determined to reach the village by any means.

I stopped for two minutes and then started again. We crossed one small stream and then the real journey started. It was not like regular trekking. The narrow path undulated. It was already raining, so the path was slippery. And the whole path was full of stinging nettle - a kind of Himalayan plant which produces stinging sensation on contact.

So, technically, I had to make sure I don't fall off the mountain and break my bones and also save myself from stinging nettle, locally known as bichu ghass. But we continued our journey, enquiring with every single person returning the distance to Malana.

Finally, after one-and-a-half hours, we reached Malana. The journey was not 1 km as told by our driver but 5 km.

As we reached, I saw written warnings everywhere, asking visitors to not touch people and their temple. Those touching people and the temple would be fined Rs1,500 and Rs 3500 respectively. We were accosted by several men, who asked us the purpose of our visit. They asked us to buy Malana cream, said to be one of the world's best marijuana. When I rejected, they were disappointed and left us.

I saw an open area where some people were sitting. One of them, the mukhiya of the village, told me that they have their own law. The village has almost 3000 people, who don't marry outside their village. Outsiders are not allowed to touch them and no outsider can even go nearby their panchayat office. I maintained a distance of 10 ft while conversing with them.

Among the myths surrounding Malana is one about the village being the oldest democracy in India, as villagers originally came from Greece. Another myth says that once Mughal emperor Akbar went there and freed them. Since then, they have been following their own law. Hence, the tag of oldest democracy. One of our driver in Kullu on the same trip told us that the same tradition is followed by some people in Kinnaur district of Himachal.

Whatever the reason, they have their own laws which they strictly follow. But somewhere I feel that isolating themselves from the rest of the world would make them backward. There is no high school in the village; not welcoming the modern world makes a regressive story. The main source of income is the marijuana. They also collect herbs which they sell to the pharmaceutical companies.

My journey was quite adventurous as I never trekked in such tough conditions. I was tired but happy as I saw the place which was on my visit list for a long time. I did not get all the answers but it doesn't matter. Although visitors say they don't cooperate with outsiders, it's not true. They talk, laugh and welcome people to their land. But they are different, and but happy in their own world.

(Quiline Kokaty is freelance journalist and blogger. This article has been reproduced with permission from author's blog: The article has been lightly edited)