Malana, Himachal Pradesh
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Malana is an ancient Indian village in the state of Himachal Pradesh. This solitary village in the Malana Nala, a side valley of the Parvati Valley to the north-east of Kullu 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 the torrential Malana river, at a height of 3,029 metres (9,938 ft) above sea level. Unaffected by modern civilisation, Malana has its own lifestyle and social structure. People are strict in following their customs. 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 the inhabitants of Malana, number approximately 1700. According to the 1961 census, the language speakers were then 563, but today the population of Malana is at least three times as large as 40 years ago.
According to the local legends, 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 the their devta (deity) Jamlu rishi. Although Jamlu is currently identified with a sage from the Puranas, this is a relatively recent development. Jamlu is believed to have been worshipped in pre-Aryan times. Penelope Chetwood recounts a tale about an orthodox Brahmin priest, who visited Malana, and tried to educate the locals about the pedigree of their god, and what subsequently befell the hapless priest.
Malana is considered to be one of the first democracies in the world. According to tradition, the residents of Malana are the descendant of Aryans, and 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. An alternative tradition suggests that Malana was founded by remnants of Alexander the Great's Army.
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. The Hydro Malana Project has also ruined the beauty of the valley.In 2004, Malana was adopted by Aryan Sharma, a businessman based in Delhi.He has apparently spent 40 crores for development of the place till now.
The residents of Malana speak Kanashi/Raksh (supposedly the dialect of devils residing there long ago), which is understood only by the villagers. "Kanashi, the language of Malana, does not resemble any of the dialects spoken in its neighbourhood but seems to be a mixture of Sanskrit and several Tibetan dialects." Ethnologue, citing a reference from 2002, classifies Malana as a Tibetan-Burmese language, rather than as a member of the Indo-European languages, and notes that Kanashi has "no intelligibility with any Tibeto-Burman languages of Lahul-Spiti and Kinnaur" and that Malana is surrounded by Indo-Aryan language speaking populations.
Culture and lifestyle
The village administration is democratic and is believed, by locals, to be the oldest republic of the world.
The social structure of Malana in fact rests on villagers' unshaken 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. Thus Malana has been named the Athens of Himalayas
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. The visitors are also made to sign a letter of consent stating that anything that happens in the village of Malana shall be sorted by the village administration and no other jurisdiction can intervene in the process. 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 Devta 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. This is also seen as a technique used by the people of Malana 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.
Despite being a part of the Kullu valley, there is a myth that the Malanis have very distinct physical features, and a dialect which is different from the rest of the valley. However, in the valleys of Himachal, there are a significant number of distinct Pahadi dialects, some of them totally different from each other. Hence the physical/lingual uniqueness cannot be proven, given the inaccessibility of the Malana people, except for the trade of Marijuana / Hashish in the Parvati 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 Kalash, in Pakistan that is actually the area in which Alexander the Great's soldiers took refuge. This legend is also inconsistent with the legendary descent of the local people from Indo-Aryans who would pre-date Alexander the Great's soldiers by approximately a thousand years. Recent genetic typing of the Malani population is more consistent with an Indo-Aryan origin with a large proportion of Y-DNA haplotypes J2 and R1a associated with Indo-Aryan influences in South Asia than with a Greek origin which would have a different characteristic mix of Y-DNA haplotypes.
According to authentic sources, the legend of the greek origin cames from the Malanese people having a lower-house and upper-house system. This system was observed by someone who co-related this system with the system of governance followed in Greece, and hence formed the legend. Their language is called Hamskad and is the native language of Kinnore.
- MALANA A Lost Utopia In The Himalayas
- Malana : Shangrila in the Himalayas
- Himalayan Culture and Mountaineering Museum
- Malana: Globalization of a Himalayan Village, 2010
- Malana, A Lost Identity
- Malana : Shangrila in the Himalayas
- Kulu The End of the Habitable World By Penelope Chetwode page 89 ISBN 81-85113-20-3
- Kulu The End of the Habitable World By Penelope Chetwode page 90 ISBN 81-85113-20-3
- "About Malana" http://www.mykullumanali.com/malana/about-malana.html
- Dr. Virendra Bangroo, "Malana: A Lost Utopia In The Himalayas," http://ignca.nic.in/nl002401.htm
- Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International, "Kanashi, a language of India," http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=xns
- Giroti R, Talwar I, "The Most Ancient Democracy in the World is a Genetic Isolate: An Autosomal and Y-Chromosome Study of the Hermit Village of Malana (Himachal Pradesh, India)." Hum Biol. 2010 Apr;82(2):123-41. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20649396?dopt=Abstract
- Malana (Manali): Athènes de l'Himalaya