Updated: Dec 5, 2019
9 top insights about Indias most mysterious village "Malana"
Malana – Home of the cannabis-growing descendants of the deserters of Alexander the Great’s army.
As the smell of sweet marijuana filled the air, we climb up the steep mountain trail. Tucked away at the end of this trail is the infamous village of Malana.
The village itself is over 2000 years old and populated by the descendants of Alexander the Great’s soldiers. This is where the weary Greek soldiers created their very own world and bid adieu to the retreating forces of the Great Army. This post outlines a society that is nursing and thriving on millennia-old rules, clinging to the age-old idiosyncrasies, including ritual sacrifices, untouchability, and an economy fueled by hashish sales.
The experience we had in Malana definitely qualifies as an adventure to be shared over the campfires and in the bars. These stories will transport you directly to the snow-covered lap of the Himalayas, far-far away from our ‘civilized’ understanding of society. You will become immersed in the rustic legends and enjoy stories of this mystical village and its iconic and affable villagers.
What makes Malana so special?
Here is an insider report, written by us, just for you:
Malana is a tiny village amidst the lush green forests and snow-capped mountains in the Kullu Valley. The village is 9500 feet above sea level and is a slowly unfolding secret, well kept by the travelers that have a hankering for trekking and hashish.
The history of the village’s establishment is still shrouded with mystery and a matter of debate amongst historians and travelers. However, when Alexander was warring through India, the said settlement was populated by his soldiers. Whether the village was settled by their population or existed even before the said settlement is still a matter of debate. The Greek features are prominent amongst the residents of the Malana village, and their ancestral relations with Greece are a matter of fact.
Malana is not actually a part of Parvati valley, but instead, a part of Malana valley, which is adjacent to Parvati valley. It lies on the other side of the Rasaul Village, which is a village in the Parvati valley. The village has very recently become an integrated part of Indian democracy as it earned the right as an independent voting constituency in Himachal Pradesh.
Curious globe-trotters fist discovered Malana village in the 1950s. Historically, the village was extremely inaccessible due to a lack of motorable roads. In those days, the village used to be a self-sustaining ecosystem with very little dependence on the outside world. The villagers procured fuel-oil, grains, etc. from other low-lying villages. Essentially, these were the things that could not be grown or found in the village and the forests around it. Aside from being a self-sustaining eco-system that was surrounded by the inaccessible mountain terrain, the villagers carried out the trade by exchanging the precious stones found in caves in the mountains and forests surrounding the village, and the amazing charas grown by the villagers. It was through these exchanges that the people got to know about the amazing charas that the valley of Malana hid in its womb.
The discovery of this mystical village can be attributed to western travelers and adventurers, and the wandering enlightened souls (Babas and Sadhus). Once the secret of Malana started unfurling, and people learned of the secret bounties buried deep in the surrounding forests and mountains, soon, the village started gaining popularity among travelers from all around the world and throughout India.
It is important to note here that growing, dealing, or
consuming narcotics or psychotropic substances in India is a punishable offence, however the
same is hoodwinked by government due to historical and cultural backdrop of the village!
1. Malana Creame - The Best Hash in The World
The secret of Malana’s amazing hashish is still one that bewilders travelers to this date. However, there is no verified account of the cause for the legendary marijuana and hashish that is produced in and around the village. Some attribute it to the height, soil, rain, sunshine patterns, and magical water of the Beas River; whereas, others suggest it is the cross-breeding done by the early travelers who visited the place and left a part of themselves behind to enrich the secret village which they loved and cherished so much.
The hashish produced in Malana is so popular that even today, before each rubbing season, several people would travel to the village, identify the plants which they like, and get an estimate of the quantity of the charas that would be produced by the said plants. They then arrange to pay the money in advance, and when the plants have been rubbed for hashish, the produce from the plant is reserved especially for them.
But the village also has an independent identity from the charas that is grown there. Its ago-old ecosystem has survived over many centuries without input or influence from the outside world, and the same has led to the development of several social quirks among the village society. One of them being the untouchability practiced by the villagers; so, this is where they would be friendly with the outsiders, but should they incur even a small graze from an outsider, it would cause them to run for a bath immediately.
2. Strange Taboos
Apart from untouchability, there are several other taboos followed by the villagers; some of them are as follows:
The villagers do not allow people to affix nails on any tree in their forests as the same would damage the trees
Burning wood is also prohibited in the surrounding forest of Malana.
Hunting of animals without the permission of the village council is also prohibited in the village.
No one can carry live plants outside the forests of Malana, only the dry twigs and branches are permitted to be carried outside the forests.
There are several areas in the village, such as the Temple, village panchayat (municipality / townhouse), etc., where outsiders are not allowed at all. Try not touching anything around such areas as everything is considered pious, and the villagers may get offended by one’s ignorance of their laws. These areas are not marked as such, which makes it very hard to know about the forbidden parts of the village
3. You don’t want to be a sheep in Malana
The villagers are highly religious, god-fearing people. They have tried and preserved as many of their old rituals as they could. One such ritual is the version of trial by fire, which is practiced by the villagers when deciding disputes among the residents.
In case of a dispute between the residents, their words are tested against the hardiness of the cattle owned by them. The cattle of the disputing residents are given small cut on the leg with an infected knife. And then the things are left to be decided by the invisible hand of justice speaking through the hardiness of the cattle. After getting cut, the cattle slowly contract an infection, the cattle to rot first and die is considered to be the product of its owner’s wrong-doings and hence could not withstand the righteous infection inflicted on it.
In a mountain community, cattle are considered to be a valuable property as it is their main source of wool and food during the harsh winters faced by the residents. It is the health and well-being of a cattle, which is a direct reflection of the virtues and opulence of a household. And, hence, it is used as the barometer for weighing the virtues of the parties in dispute and facing the trial.
4. Better than you
The greek gene pool is what set the villagers of Malana apart from the residents of its surrounding villages. The villagers have toiled and labored to preserve their culture and the sanctity of their village. The culture, practices, and language of the village are not just a product of the surrounding and neighboring territories, but they also draw from its greek heritage, which distinguishes the villagers of Malana from the rest of the surrounding population.
These differences led to the development of a superiority complex among the founding fathers of the village, further contributing to the discriminatory practices which are now a deep-rooted part of the culture of Malana. It is also thought that this is responsible for the discrimination faced by outsiders, and why the people of Malana consider outsiders to be impure.
5. A traditional way of living
The architecture of the village, even though primitive, is very well suited to the prevailing conditions of the terrain and climate. Generally, the houses are 2 to 3 stories. The ground floor is known as Khudang. This the area where the cattle, its fodder, and the firewood are stored. The first floor is known as Gaying, which is used to store eatables, wool and is also used for weaving woolen clothes. And the top floor, which comprises of overhanging balconies, is known as Pati. The top floor serves as the living quarters of the resident family. The houses are built with alternate bands of stone and wood. The inner walls of the house are plastered with mud, and the outer side is made up of a wood which acts as a verandah.
6. The oldest democracy in the World!
Malana is one of the oldest democracies having a parliamentary system where representation is provided to every single sect in the village. This democracy is guided by the principles of their Deity, Jamlu.
7. The old Aryan gods
Jamlu Rishi is the village deity of Malana. As the story goes, Jamlu Rishi, in the days of yore, intensely worshipped lords Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh. Pleased with his prayers, Lord Mahesh/Shiva told him the secret of Malana. When Jamlu Rishi reached the place, he faced a rakshasa (demon), Banasura. After a long fight between the two, they came to an understanding where they agreed that the administration and justice were to be handled separately. The members of the executive were to be selected in consultation with Banasura. And justice was kept under the purview of Jamlu Rishi. In case of a dispute in the administration, it would be resolved by the judiciary.
With the passage of time, Jamlu Rishi has gained superiority over Banasura. But the influence of this cultural epic can still be seen in the village practices. Before undertaking any new task, the villagers still offer the first sacrifice to the Banasura.
The main contact between the village deity and the villagers is the village priest who not only manages the village-shrine but also passes on the injunctions of Jamlu Rishi to the inhabitants.
8. An economy based on Marijuana
Marijuana is key produce of Malana. In the days of hardships, it was one of the main currencies used by the villagers for performing economic exchanges. And that’s why this crop is placed in such high regard by the villagers. There have been instances that during the rubbing season, even the kids of the family bailed on their schools and colleges to help their family in the rubbing of charas.
Malana produces some of the most expensive, elusive, and exclusive hashish in India. It is very difficult to find genuine Malana-charas in India as most of the charas produced are smuggled out of the country. It has been almost 4-5 decades since the village saw a boom in tourism, and tourists have started visiting the village in burgeoning numbers.
With the huge influx of tourism, the villagers saw a severe escalation in profits and adopted the consumerist culture without any knowledge of how to deal with it. The villagers and tourists (both national and international) acted rather recklessly in and around the village and have created a plastic menace in the areas adjoining the village and all through the valley.
9. Cultural identity is at risk
The villagers are still ill-equipped and/or unwilling to deal with the mess created by tourism. And creeping consumerism is spreading like wildfire through the village and the surrounding areas; the same has led to several environmental concerns locally too.
Recently, Malana’s deity ordered the villagers to shut down the guest houses. At the time, this seemed like a good decision in the backdrop of all the pollution and problems being caused by extensive tourism and the consumerist tendencies that had started creeping into this rural society. Today, there are still some guest houses in operation around the village, but they are located outside the boundaries of Malana.
The same can be seen as a step in the right direction, but it would only be helpful if people understand their responsibility towards the environment and are willing to escape the clutches of greed which has engulfed them.
How DO YOU reach Malana?
One can reach Malana in any of the following ways:
By road: One can take a bus from Delhi or Chandigarh to Bhuntar (in Himachal Pradesh), and thereafter, from Bhuntar take a local bus to Jari. From Jari, Malana is 23 km away, and the distance can very easily be traveled by hiring a taxi. The taxi would drop you at the foothills of the village. Thereafter, there is a short trek of 4 km, which takes you through breathtaking scenery, leading up to the mystical village of Malana.
By air: Apart from road, one can also take a flight to Bhuntar from Delhi or Chandigarh and thereafter take a bus to Jari and trek up to the village.
-Written by Akshay Agarwal & Runa Lindberg
Akshay is an avid traveller, food and andventure enthusiast, and has worked as a Chef and Manager at a mountain cafe among the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. While he is not wandering through the terrains of India you can also find him passionately advocating for the right of the intellectual property owners before the Delhi High Court as a part of one of the biggest intellectual property law firm in India. You can participate him in his travels by following him on instagram. His instagram handle is Gandhi_Lama_King_Jr. (https://www.instagram.com/gandhi_lama_king_jr/)
Runa has been traveling through India for 11 years and lived there for over a year. She has a heart for Indian culture and mythology.
Runa is specialized in visual storytelling, portrait-, and street-photography.
She provides photo tuition for the beginner and advanced-level photography, and organizes photo trips to her favourite country India, for small groups of adventurous amateur photographers.