INDIA PEOPLE & PORTRAITS MALANA TRIBE KULLU VALLEY 2008-08-15 07_40_14 INDIA AWFJ
INDIA MALANA TRIBE KULLU HIMACHAL PRADESH UNFORGETTABLE HIMACHAL INCREDIBLE INDIA SundeepKullu PEOPLE & PORTRAITS PHOTOSTORIES
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Malana is an ancient village to the north-east of Kullu Valley. This solitary village in the Malana Nala, a side valley of the Parvati 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 torrential Malana river at a height of 3029 m above the sea level. Unaffected by the 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 autochthonus language Kanashi, the traditional language of the inhabitants of Malana are approximately 1700. According to the 1961 census, language speakers were 563. Today the population of Malana is at least three times as large as 40 years ago.
Malana is located at 32°0'19"N 77°14'43"E . It has an average elevation of 3029 metres (9940 feet).
Malana has a history and it goes back to Jamlu rishi (sage) who inhabited this place and made rules and regulations. It is one of the oldest democracies of the world with a well organized parliamentary system. All of this is 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 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 that includes Sanskrit, 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. The Hydro Malana Project has also ruined the beauty of the valley
Culture and lifestyle
The village administration is democratic and is believed[by whom?] to be the oldest republic of the world.
The social structure of Malana in fact rests on villagers' unshaked 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. It is although a real fact that Malanis through this council perform a political system of direct democracy very similar to that of ancient Greece. 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. 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 Devt 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.
Despite of being a part of the Kullu valley, the Malanis have very distinct physical features, and a dialect which is different from the rest of the 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 predate 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.
Malana was also once famous for producing some of the best quality hashish (Cannabis resin) in the world, known as "Malana Cream", which sells for 1,200-1,800 rupees per tola (= 10 grams).