INDIA: Myths, folklore and taboos of Malana

Malana, is an isolated village of Himachal Pradesh, having their own parliament and constitution. The people of the village don’t consider themselves to be Indians, but Aryans so special you can not even touch them or their belongings. And they grow marijuana – it is everywhere. Discover Myths, folklore and taboos of Malana.

From Kasol, Malana is about 21 km. A jeep carries you over the first 18 km, and then you trek uphill. But the climb up the frost-hardened slopes is still tough. Malana is located on a narrow plateau, high on one side of a wild and remote glen that abuts the river Parvati in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh. The Malana Nullah, which flows through the valley, comes from Deotibba, 6,000 meter or 20,000 feet, snow-covered peak that overhangs the glen and the village.

“Touch the temple or a local and pay a Rs 1,000 fine”,

we are told on our way to Malana. In the far north of India in the Himalayas, in the Parvati Valley, under the majestic peaks, there is a village of about two hundred houses called Malana.

The people of the village don’t consider themselves to be Indians, but Aryans so special you can not even touch them or their belongings. This unique settlement of about 2,000 inhabitants, is self-governing with a system that is considered democratic, working according to the orders of their powerful deity ‘Jamlu Devta’.

 

INDIA: Myths, folklore and taboos of Malana

MYTHS, FOLKLORE & TABOOS OF MALANA

How Malana came to be

Jamlu Rishi

A ccording to the Puranas, Jamdagni Rishi (sage) is the father of Parashuram, one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu (Dashavatara). After his intense prayers, Lord Shiva appeared before him. Jamdagni Rishi asked for a secluded place, full of nature’s bounty. Lord Shiva told him to go to Malana.

Another myth tells that, Jamdagni Rishi, named in local dialect Jamlu Rishi lived with two brothers. Jamdagni stayed and the brother went away. One of them to Lahaul and the other to the Banjar valley. He is believed to dwell in this part of Himachal Pradesh, gradually forming a community and making rules and regulations for his devotees. Jumlu Rishi is a God-like figure to the people of Malana.

We headed straight for their main temple of Jamdagni Rishi that is richly decorated with wood carvings depicting flora, fauna and dancers. The presiding deity within this wooden temple, is veiled behind the facade and adorned by the horns and skeletons of animals sacrificed to him.

INDIA: Myths, folklore and taboos of Malana
Jamdagni Temple, Malana, India. Via: Descgram

However it is only the people of Malana who have access to the sanctum. We read a sign:

NO TOUCHING — PHOTO OF JAMDAGNI RISHI 1000 RS FINE

 Akbar

L egend has it, that the residents of Malana are the descendant of Aryans, and they acquired their independence during the Mughal reign.

The story goes that – Emperor Akbar’s tax gatherers charged tax from a man in Delhi who had been given a gold piece from Jamlu’s treasury in Malana. Akbar was immediately struck with leprosy, he sent his men with the piece of gold back to Malana with more gold and silver. Jamlu Devta was pleased and Akbar was cured. He never collected any tax from the village of Malana thereafter. Every year this incident is enacted at Malana in the festival of Fagli or Phagli, and the gold images are brought out from inside Jamlu Devta’s temple.

Phagli — The village fair

As the name suggests, Phagli fair begins during the month of Phalgun (February and March). Phagli is celebrated in most of the villages of Kullu valley but it holds a very important place among the people of village Malana. It depicts the victory of good over evil and shows the struggle between God and devil for supremacy. Ultimately, God emerges victorious.

A person is disguised as a demon by putting a mask on his face and tying some grass around his body. God is represented by a ‘Gur’ (God’s spokesman). They perform special dances called Deo Khel (acted upon by the Gur) and Raksh Khel (performed by the person who is personating the demon). The demon was known as “Tundi Raksh” who used to trouble the people living between Malana and Archhandi villages. He was finally killed by Manu Rishi and Shandalya Rishi. To commemorate this event, the fair is held in Malana, Jana, Soil, and Halan villages and in all the temples of Jamlu devta.

Alexander The Great

T he green eyes and sharp features of the locals lay claim to being descendants of the Aryan army of ‘Alexander – The great’ of Greece.

Popular folklore holds that Malana villagers are descendants from the remnants of Alexander’s Greek soldiers who chose to stay back after his conquest in 326 BC.

In 4th Century B.C., some soldiers while returning to their homeland liked Malana so much that they decided to settle down here. This is also supported by the local folklore of some carvings, showing soldiers on the wooden houses. Thus Malana is also known as the “Athens of Himalayas” or “Little Greece.”

FOLKLORE: Customs and Traditions

Entering the village we see a sign:

touch the temple or a local and pay a Rs 1,000 fine.

We follow a stone path, dotted with various sacred stones, that passes through the center of the village.

The houses are built of wood and stone with two or three floors and each floor has a specific function, the ground floor is called Khudang and is used as stables for livestock. The first floor, Gaying, is used as a warehouse for food, clothing and firewood. The top floor has a large balcony and is the residential area.

 

Malana-lady

Kanashi

A little girl carrying a hay bale, wait it is marijuana on her shoulders shouts to us :

don’t touch – don’t touch.

Her native language is Kanashi. The language of Malana, does not resemble any of the dialects spoken in the Parvati valley where they speak languages belonging to the Indo-European family. Kanashi has been classified as a Sino- Tibetan language. Although the inhabitants claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great’s soldiers, there is no evidence of lexical links with Greek and Macedonian languages. The Malanese speak a language that has no script.

Malana’s beautiful wooden Kath Kuni buildings are unique.
Malana’s beautiful wooden Kath Kuni buildings are unique.

Old village folk watched us, sitting on a stone platform in the village main square, while serenely gurgling on their Chillums. The central square, is the place where the village council makes its decisions, just as in ancient Greece.

DEMOCRACY

Malana village doesn’t have any police or court; they have their own laws to solve any problem. It thus has an Upper house and a Lower house where rules and regulations are formulated.

The Malana administration is based on religion and the elected members are selected among the inhabitants of Bhandaria which are assigned the tasks of collecting tax on the land area, which falls under the jurisdiction of the village shrine, deposit all revenue in the sanctuary treasure, keep the profit and loss account, collect and deposit the offers, arrange funds for functions and organize the festivities, hold the symbols of Jamlu Devata during religious processions.

The priestly office is hereditary. Jamlu is the deity who is considered lord of the village. His courtiers are elected and raise funds for the maintenance of civic services by revenues produced by the village land, strangers who graze their cattle, cash contributions from devotees, gold and silver horse and visitors offers.

The parliament of Malana is a bicameral parliament, comprising of a lower house called Kanishthang and an Upper house called Jayeshthang.

There are 11 members in the Upper House (Temporary-8, Permanent-3). The 8 members are from 4 wards who are elected and called ‘jethra’.

Malana
Malana elders.

Out of the 3 permanent members:

  • one is the village head who is also the principal administrator of the Upper house and works according to the orders of their powerful deity ‘Jamlu Devta’.
  • The second member is a priest whose main responsibilities include offerings to Jamlu Devta and make people follow the religious customs.
  • The third member is known as ‘Gur’ or ‘Goor’ who is believed to have direct connection with the deity. At times it is believed that the deity himself chooses a person and enters into his body, following which the person starts shivering and then predicts future of anyone. That particular person is called ‘Gur’ and thus is not elected by the villagers. There may also be two Goor, or none, as happened after the 1985 death of Madgu that was not replaced (due to bad influences of evil forces). Tradition has it that when a Goor is recognized as such, you wear a white hat and let your hair grow. On occasion the Goor, in a rite of shamanic type, dance in ecstasy possessed by the spirit of Jamlu Devta. On these occasions hears the complaints of citizens and expresses its opinions.

The other members are elected. The justice is self-managed. Judgments are discussed first from the bottom board, until it reaches unanimity. They are then issued by the High Council and especially, monetary fines. Sometimes decisions are re-discussed and after weighing the interests of the village, the pros and cons, are changed. Anyone who does not accept the verdict is driven away from the valley. The most severe sentence on the theft of sacred objects, provides that the offender be tied to a stone and thrown off a cliff.

In the earlier days none of the cases of Malana went to the court of Kullu but recently few cases related to drug trafficking have entered the court.

Animal sacrifices

When there is an upcoming decision to be made about an unresolved conflict between two parties, the right foreleg of two lambs are cut about one and a half inches deep, stuffed it with poison and sewn right back up. Each lamb is assigned to a party and whichever lamb dies first, that particular party loses the judgment. This is done because they believe the decision is made by their Devta.

Environmental regulations

Subjected to their rules, it clearly briefs them as highly environment-friendly,

  • its prohibited to chop down trees for any purpose,
  • even fixing a nail in its stem for that matter;
  • villagers are only permitted to collect dry wood or twig as fuel;
  • hunting is only allowed in certain period of a year with permission of village council, hunter is rewarded if one kills a bear but then its skin, according to the rule book, needs to be submitted to the temple authority.
INDIA: Myths, folklore and taboos of Malana
Via: Indiamike

Taboos – DON`T TOUCH

In this democracy there are also rules to follow for us. The people are friendly, but we need to keep our distance and not touch anything in the village.

Any visitor touching a resident must pay a fine of 1,000 rupees.

Anything which is touched by a visitor is purified by the blood of a sacrificed animal, usually a lamb or a goose. We are also not allowed to take photographs of the religious monuments of the village. Also it is not accepted to enter the temples.

Malana Cream

For ages the use of  ‘Bhaang‘, cannabis, has been an integral part of Manalas people, from medicine to footwear. But in the past they had never traded it; neither did they know the value of it.

Malanis bartered ghee, wool, honey and game birds with the other Kullu villages for salt, food and tools. Today, nobody barters because a thriving illegal cannabis trade has made the villagers cash rich.

The wet weather in Parvati Valley is excellent for cannabis cultivation. Baskets, ropes and slippers made of hemp had always brought in income. Then, at some point in the 70s, the commercial cultivation of cannabis was introduced.

Malanis tell the story of Glenu, an Italian who stayed in the village and taught the villagers how to rub the cream – the cleaner and more potent hashish suitable for an international market. The village now is famous the world over for producing ‘Malana cream’, considered one of the best charas (hashish) in India. The buds unleash a complex blend of aromas, a pleasant mix malty sweet, fruity, and hashy notes, some say it tastes ghee – clarified butter, like.

Malana cream became an international brand. Hashish production grew as a home industry for each household. The high quality cannabis so produced, fetched fabulous prices. In fact, in 1995, Malana Cream was adjudged one of the finest hashish smokes at Cannabis Cup, Amsterdam.

As its fame grew, Malana soon became a famed center for recreational drug tourism, with stoners flooding the valley, as they continue to do today.

While growing cannabis was part of the traditional crops in much of Kullu valley, including Malana, it having been declared a contraband and its growing banned is resented by the villagers. From time to time they have been agitating to get marijuana cultivation legalized.

INDIA: Myths, folklore and taboos of Malana
Rubbing ‘charas,’ a black and sticky hashish, in Malana village in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. AP Photo/Rishabh R. Jain.

Villagers now produce this world-renowned Hashish out of its plantations, grown despite the laws of the Indian government. The police at times try to go and destroy the crops but it grows naturally and at a great length due to which they fail in this operation. Cannabis is grown in mountain fields around the village and the hilly slopes of Kullu and Parvati valley are filled with Cannabis – properly cultivated as we know of farms or estates.

Before leaving, we see Malana men gather in groups or loitering in the warm sunshine, some smoking and some taking part in an administrative discussion in front of the main temple.

Woman are hanging clothes, grandma is spinning yarn using a spindle, anther one is weaving. On the balconies woman and children are rubbing buds. Younger siblings are holding a goat on a string and joking.

The village is an enigmatic as we had heard. Malanis admire their culture, customs and religious beliefs. Though some traces of modernization are visible:

jamlu-devta-mandir-kullu-malana
Jamul Deva, Malana. NO TOUCHING PHOTO OF JAMURGH RISHI, ONE THOUSAND RUPEES FINE जमीन के इस पवित्र स्थान को हने पर 1000/- ना लिया जाएगा।

Yet again we read a sign.

NO TOUCHING PHOTO OF JAMURGH RISHI, ONE THOUSAND RUPEES FINE

जमीन के इस पवित्र स्थान को हने पर 1000/- ना लिया जाएगा।

– There is a thick smell in the air, herbal… burned pine wood, or is it vanilla like…

Malana view of the road.
Natural Beauty – view from Malana village in Himachal Pradesh.

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Works Cited & Multimedia Sources

  • Winds of change in Malana. https://travelshoebum.com/2016/03/12/winds-of-change-in-malana/amp/
  • Explore INDIA with earthstoriez.