More than its status as a champion hashish producer, Malana strikes a chord for its antiquity, its remoteness, its mysterious inhabitants and the several taboos that surround it. In the shadow of the Chandrakhani and Deotibba peaks in Kullu’s Parvati Valley (Himachal), the world’s oldest democracy of a few thousand people thrives, doles out its own brand of justice, aloof from the world as we know it.
At an elevation of about 10,000 feet, backpackers love the blue-green wilderness that surrounds Malana, the narrow trekking trails that curve its length, the quiet that befalls the valley after a bloodshot sunset, and the high from taking it all in with a drag of Malana Cream. Dubbed the finest quality hashish in the world, this strain of Cannabis is known for being oil rich with an invigorating aroma. Not just the dope, even the folks of Malana can be quite oddball for a first-timer. The natives believe themselves to be descendants of Alexander the Great. There are also stories to suggest that the Malanese are the only surviving Aryan race.
Don’t be surprised when you spot folks with blue eyes, a golden tan and caramel hair who speak a language which bears no resemblance with any other you have heard before. For good measure, we list some of the lesser known facts about this stoner’s paradise in case you intend making a weekend trip from Delhi.
1. Best hashish title went to Malana Cream, twice!
Hemp Plants in Malana
Malana is a ganja-lover’s haunt not for nothing! This remote village in the Parvati Valley produces one of the finest quality hashish in all the world. The High Times magazine’s Cannabis Cup went to Malana Cream twice in 1994 and 1996. The Beatles rediscovered their music here, and Steve Jobs after a visit to Malana returned home and came up with the first ever iPod. There is magic in its air. The cannabis plants fringe the Malana Nala, or river, that gushes through the valley, the only – and quite mighty – source of water for the village.
2. Malanese have their own unique language
Kanashi is the language spoken by the locals of Malana. This language bears no resemblance with Hindi, Sanskrit or any other from the Indo-European family. Linguists trace Kanashi’s roots in the Sino-Tibetan family of language, which is not spoken anywhere else outside Malana.
3. The houses in Malana resemble each other
Houses in Malana
Among a clutch of similar wooden facades that seem tumbledown at first glance, you will notice a pattern. The architecture of the entire village is identical. In their unique two storey (sometimes even three) structure, the ground floor called ‘khudang’ forms a cattle shed where the sheep, goat or cattle herd rests, and where firewood is also stored. ‘Gaying’ makes the first floor that serves as a warehouse for eatables and wool for making sweaters. The top floor of the house called ‘pati’ comes with a massive, plunging balcony and subsequent living quarters. The inner walls are doused in mud, while the external walls are finished with wood.
4. You cannot touch a native of this village
People of Malana
The Malanese consider themselves a superior race, and therefore outsiders are not encouraged from making any physical contact with them. So much so, you cannot even touch the walls of a local’s house, or give them a hand in cooking. And if you do not abide by this maxim, be prepared to face the ire of the village council. No police or government can come to your aid in this matter. If you are at a local shop, you cannot directly handover cash to the shopkeeper. Simply place it on the floor so that he can pick it up on his own without having to touch you.
5. Videography is prohibited in Malana
While villagers are happy to pose for a photograph or two, you cannot shoot a full-fledged video here, far less try to capture the interiors of a villager’s home or their way of life.
6. Malana Fagli – a mask dance festival
Festival In Malana
Come February and Malana gears up for the Harlala mask dance festival. Post an elaborate community bathing ritual, merrymakers clad in cannabis leaves and demon face masks dance around the local houses slathering cow dung on the walls which provides insulation in the harsh winter months.
How to reach Malana:
From Delhi’s Kashmiri Gate ISBT take a bus to Buntar in Kullu. From Buntar you need to take another bus ride to Jari which is enroute to Kasol, about 22km from Buntar. Jari is a tiny village from where you need to hail a taxi for Malana, about 800 bucks. In about 2 km you will arrive at the Malana hydro electric power plant. The taxi will drop you off at the vehicle stop point from where it is about an hour’s trek into the village of Malana.
Where to stay in Malana:
The Muzik Cafe is a cozy, laidback place with mattresses strewn across the floor, where weary travelers are either relaxing with a book or tucking into a delish sandwich. A brief five minute walk up the village brings you to this little nook which sees a host of artists, musicians among others settled in. You can order hearty meals, smoke joints, enjoy the sunshine, and stay in the small yet comfortable rooms. Dragon Guesthouse is another favorite of travelers to Malana. Looking out over the frosted peaks and the hemp jungles, this property offers wi-fi, and good room service in its spartan wooden setup. The breakfast is particularly lavish, and you can even hire the services of a local guide to show you around.
Places to visit around Malana:
Tosh, Kheerganga, Kasol, Pulga and Manikaran are all part of the Parvati Valley, and can be clubbed with a visit to Malana.
Some more unusual facts about Malana
Justice here is done by a Jamlu Devta
Legend has it that an ascetic from the Puranas was the earliest inhabitant of this village. He is believed to have set the foundation stone of its democracy and a parliamentary system steeped in unflinching faith in the devta. To a degree that he is believed to even tell them who to vote for during the village elections.
Death of lamb is their trusted judicial system
The village council has its own special way of resolving conflicts in Malana, and this is above the Indian judicial system. You need to pay a fine to the local council if you want any interference from local authorities. The way its done here is by making an incision in a lamb’s foreleg belonging to each of the parties involved, shooting poison into it and then sewing it back with needle. They then wait it out for the lambs to die. The party that loses its lamb first automatically loses the case.
Only two schools in Malana
There is just one government primary school in Malana that has 100 kids on roll, and one middle school which has one teacher each for science, history, and Sanskrit. While free midday meals are served at the primary school, girl students are offered free books through out.