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Untold Story of Himachal’s Malana Village: World’s Oldest Democracy

Malana Village- a paradise for travellers is a remote village that is located in the Parvati Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Many people have heard of Malana village but its best kept secrets are what makes it ever so charming and attractive.

Malana Village is a different world in itself. It is like a sacred book of fabled folklore, a sanctimonious land for the people who reside in it. Malana Village is the World’s oldest democracy and lives by the rules set thousands of years ago. Travellers are welcome here but never allowed to be a part of it in its entirety. 

Set in the shadow of the peaks of Deo Tibba and Chanderkhani,  Malana village has a unique culture that has not changed in ages. Not only are their habits and traditions alien to others parts of the country and the world, but they are also completely different from other settlements in the Parvati valley. This distinctive character makes this mysterious land all the more interesting to travellers. 

If you wish to lose yourself in a place far away from the hustle bustle of city life, there is nothing more tempting than this remote but mesmerizing haven that offers a treat to your eyes and soul. A view of the tall mountain ranges, the gurgling sound of parvati river, villagers living a simple yet hard life will make you appreciate the simple joys of life.

I had only heard about this ancient Malana village previously but nothing came as close as truly experiencing its beauty. Come live the pages of this fascinating far-off land with me.

Malana Village: An Overview

Location North India
State Himachal Pradesh
Altitude 2,652 m (8,701 ft)
Accessibility Throughout the year
Best time to visit May to October
Nearby places to visit Kasol, Kheerganga, Tosh
Ideal Visiting time One day
How to reach Cab/bus and then foot
Food Local cafes and budget eateries
Cost for a day’s trip INR 1500-2500

 

malana village

The entrance gate to Malana Village. Picture by Uday Sankhe

 

How to Reach Malana Village?

In order to reach Malana Village, you must first reach Kasol. Kasol is located at a distance of about 30km from Bhuntar. An hour’s ride through the mesmerizing valley will take you to Kasol.

The journey to Malana village constitutes of two parts. First reaching Kasol and then reaching Malana from Kasol. Here’s how to get there.

Part 1 How to reach Kasol?

You can reach Kasol from any part of Himachal or from other Indian states. If you are travelling from Delhi or Chandigarh, you can take a Volvo bus to Kullu. All buses to Kullu go through a station called Bhuntar.  Ask the conductor to drop you here.

Local buses are available at an interval of one hour or less. The bus fare is somewhere between INR 20-30. You will find a number of fellow travellers-both Indian and Foreigners and locals travelling by these buses. Alternately you can also hire a cab from Bhuntar to reach Kasol.

Part 2 How to reach Malana Village from Kasol?

Malana village lies at a distance of about 21.5 km from Kasol. A bumpy cab ride will see you sifting through rickety roads for about an hour until you finally reach the starting point from where you’ll have to continue your journey by foot.

There are not many buses that will take you there due to the rough terrain. However, you can hire a cab from Kasol or from Jari (which is around 21.9 km away from Kasol) for 1200 INR.

It is safer and a much easier ride. About 1.5 km from Jari is the Malana Power House. One can use this as a landmark while travelling up to the village.



The Trek Up and Down Malana Village

Like I mentioned earlier, it is impossible to reach Malana village in a vehicle. Only your feet will take you there.

Once the cab drops you in front of the Malana village Gate (about 2-3 km before the Malana Dam), you’re left on your own. It’ll take you about an hour to walk a rough climb before reaching Malana village.

When you reach the gate, you’ll be welcomed by a big green arched sign that says “Way to Malana Village.” That is the only thing you will see. Reason being, there is a paved pathway running straight down the hill.

This leads to a mini bridge hanging over the lush trail of the river. The bridge connects you to the hill on the other side which you will have to climb up in order to reach the Malana Village.

Always wear a comfortable pair of shoes on Malana village trek.

Don’t be afraid of climbing up the hill to Malana Village. Mesmerize yourself amidst the distant Himalayas.

Complexity of the Malana Village Trek

Let’s get this straight now – the Malana village trek isn’t going to be easy, especially for a beginner.

It’s going to take you about 120 minutes or 2 hours, depending on your strength and the number of pit stops you make. But what’s good to know is that you won’t be alone in your climb up.

The people of Malana village are constantly moving up and down the hill, going about their daily deeds and doing so in great effortless fashion.

Their strong legs have endured years of practice living the life of a Pahaadi as some may say.

The only way to get out of the Malana village is to make the climb up. So it isn’t surprising to see them swift past you as you struggle to hold your legs together.

They also whisper words of encouragement as they pass by telling you that you’re not too far away from your destination and that you have ‘just a little more to go.’

I found this quite inspiring and much in tune to their pleasant and inviting culture. The people there are sweet and they are proud of their village.

It’s an entirely different world out there.

Malana Village

The trek up and down to Malana can be slightly tedious but worth it. Picture by Siddharth

Setting up Base at Kasol

When someone thinks of visiting the Parvati Valley, the first thing that pops to mind is Kasol. Such is the destination’s popularity.

With a massive surge in the number of backpackers flocking into Himachal Pradesh, Kasol has emerged as a serene getaway spot.

Himachal as a location is known for providing well-awaited, mountainous escapades to travellers. Kasol is a nestled spot amidst the Kullu district of the dev bhoomi (land of deities) Himachal. 

Kasol is situated in Parvati Valley somewhere between Bhuntar and Manikaran. It is located at a distance of 31 km from Bhuntar and 5 km from Manikaran.

When visiting Malana village, the smart thing to do is to set up a base at Kasol. Then do a day trip to Malana village. Start for Kasol in the morning and be back to your accommodation in Kasol by the evening  

There are loads of good places to eat at Kasol. Also, it is the starting point to your journey through the Himalayas, as many would say.

It is a reasonable option to stay at Kasol since certain new rules now have forbidden travellers to live inside the Malana village. This has been done for keeping their traditions intact and not allowing outside intrusion.
malana village rules

Parvati Valley in Kasol is a natural wonder. Picture by Mehr

Budget Accommodation Near Malana Village

Finding budget places to stay near Malana Village can be difficult in case you don’t have prior bookings. So it is recommended that you make arrangements in advance. This will ensure ample rest for a comfortable trek till Malana village. 

Budget Accommodation  Facilities Provided
Nomads Hostel (Beds as low as INR 399) Provides an excellent scenic view

Accessible location with friendly & helpful staff

Common Room to mingle with other travellers

Himtrek Camps (Camps as low as INR 699) Hot Spring baths

Hiking

Gypsy hideouT (Rooms as low as INR 500)

 

Proper Cleaning Services

Good Breakfast

Lovely location

Padma Guest House (Rooms as low as INR 500)

 

Good for Family stays

Friendly Staff

Things to Do in Malana Village

On your day trip to Malana village, here are a few things that you should look out for based on my personal experience. 

Experience the Rural Lifestyle at Malana Village

Now if you must desire to feel the rural lifestyle of the mountains and are looking for some peace and quiet, Malana village is the place to go.

In the recent years, Kasol has witnessed a mad rush of tourists and hippies. But oh Malana village– the beauty that has still been untouched by the modern man, remains to be one of the oldest democracies of the world even now.

The houses in Malana are built in the Kath kuni style. They have stones on the roofs and have two to three stories. The ground floor is used as a cow shed. The middle or 1st floor called ‘Gaying’ is used as a store. The top floor or ‘Pati’ has a balcony and serves as the living area with rooms and kitchen.

You can also see the men of the village gather in the central part playing a game of ‘Panji’ or dice.

Witness the Harlala Mask Dance Festival in February

If you are visiting Malana in Phalgun or February, you might get a chance to witness this unique dance festival. On this occasion, all villagers take a ritual bath.  A group of people wear cannabis leaves and masks and dance around the village houses spreading cow dung.  

A procession for Emperor Akbar is also held during this festival.

Visit the Jamlu Devta Temple

Jamlu Devta is the presiding deity of Malana Village. His temple is the main attraction of the village.  The temple is used as a court for the villagers. Outsiders are not allowed to touch this temple.

Visit the Shrine of Renuka Devi

The shrine is located in lower Malana. The walls of the shrine are beautifully adorned with intricate woodwork. The front portion of the temple is decorated with the horns of sacrificed animals.

Experience nature at its very best

Malana Village is set in the lap of Himalayas. The beauty is unparallel. The trek to Malana is mesmerizing. The steep tracks, view of the mountains and the fresh air will make you fall in love with the region. There is also a small waterfall just before you enter Malana village.

See ‘Black Gold ‘ but DO NOT Consume

It is no secret that Malana Village is famous for one of the best quality hashish in the World. The Black Gold or Malana Cream is a major source of income for the people here. You can witness Cannabis plantation and sometimes even people making malana cream. However, because of strict laws against cannabis, the authorities are cracking down on these plantations and rightfully so. DO NOT BUY OR CONSUME MALANA CREAM.

malana village

Malana is a beautiful region with a lot of background and strangeness. Picture by Umed Khaitan

Interesting Trivia for First Time Visitors to Malana Village

 A place so different from all the other surrounding regions is bound to have interesting aspects about it. As a traveller visiting Malana village, you have got to understand and respect the different facets.

The Devil’s plant of Malana Village Found abundantly in the Himalayan region and very well on your climb up to the Malana village is the Girardinia diversifolia.

This is commonly called the Himalayan nettle or the Nilgiri nettle. As a visitor, you should be aware of this devil plant.

It will sting you at the slightest touch and will leave you quivering with itchy pain. I say so with such severity because it happened to me.

I brushed across this plant on my climb up and I’m telling you, the biting pain is going to make you feel like you’re about to pass out.

So, if you don’t want parts of your body swelling up, you may as well lay your curiosity to rest and abstain from touching the wild plants you see around Malana village.

Don’t Touch Anything in Malana If you thought untouchability was a thing of the past – think again. The people of Malana village consider all outsiders to be impure to their kind and they restrain from touching anyone who is not a Malani.

If visitors don’t stick to prescribed paths and touch anything that has otherwise been termed off-limits, they will have to pay a heavy fee which will cover a goat who will be used as a sacrifice to purify that which has been made impure.

Malanis don’t accept food or water from outsiders. But if they do, then they have to undergo a strict cleansing ritual before they enter their house.

Abstain from Consuming Local Drugs Under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, it is illegal for anyone to produce, possess, sell, purchase, transport, store, or consume any narcotic drug or substance of psychotropic nature.

The NDPS Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 23rd August 1985 and passed by both the Houses of the Parliament. The act holds true throughout India and applies to each and every one of its citizens.

It is not of any hidden knowledge that Malana village is well known for its Hash. It’s locally produced and is widely grown in the mountainous regions of the Himalayas.

Malana village, in fact, gathers its major source of revenue from the selling of its Hash to drug markets around the world.

It is a popular strain of cannabis and many people from around the world engage in its consumption.

However, it is not a wise idea to treat yourself to the cream of the crop as it happens to be officially illegal throughout India.

So, there isn’t much to discuss here and because it is pretty self-explanatory to understand what might happen if you do get caught with an illegal substance.



Legend of the Jamlu Rishi

The very functioning of Malana village rests on the local deity – Jamlu Rishi. He controls Malana village through a council. The village council consists of eleven members, all of whom act on part of their powerful deity in governing the village. 

Jamlu’s decisions are made clear through a spokesperson called ‘Gur.’ It is believed that he makes himself heard either by entering the body of the spokesperson or by appearing in his dreams.

Jamlu’s decision is final and it cannot be changed. All disputes within the village are handled by the council alone and no outsider is required to lend a hand on matters concerning the village. Malana village, after all, is the oldest democracy in the world.

The People of Malana Village and Their Customs

Unaffected by whatever that happens outside of the Malana village, the people here lead a quiet, simple, and pleasant lifestyle. It’s an age-old republic, isolated from the rest of the world.

Situated at a height of 9,938 feet above sea level, this remote village stands untouched by modern civilization. In fact, the inhabitants don’t wish to change their usual way of living.

The Malanis are a proud lot and you can see that they hold their culture and their customs close to the heart and consider it with high regard. Despite being a part of the Kullu valley, Malanis have a distinct appearance and dialect.

The residents of Malana village claim to be the descendants of troops from the time of Alexander the Great. The legend goes to say that after the great warrior left the country, some of his soldiers settled down in Malana village and called it their own.
malana village

Jamlu Rishi is a highly revered figure in Malana. Picture by Akshay Shetty

8 Malana Village Rules Every Traveler Should Know

Each visitor planning a trip to this part of the world should be fully aware of the Malana village rules. Some of them are strange and others terrifying.

Do not touch any person or thing while in Malana village
Video making is banned in Malana village. Click pictures only
It is forbidden for travellers to learn Kanashi – the local language of Malana village
Never fix nails on any tree in Malana village
Avoid burning wood in any forest in Malana village
Hunting animals in this region is totally forbidden
Entry of cops is totally banned in Malana village
No traveller is allowed to marry any man or woman from Malana village

A Brief Encounter with a Man from Malana Village

During my brief time at the Malana village, I came across Rajesh. He was a man of 23 years who had lived all his life in Malana village. Manali was the furthest place he’d ever been to. 

He loves his people, his village, and most of all, his God all-mighty – Jamlu Rishi. The deity, who once inhabited the Malana village and laid the foundation for democracy that is followed to this day.

Rajesh was pretty clear about what he wanted from life. He knew he led a simple life but somehow, it was a much richer life.

Rajesh was a talkative lad who loved his village and pretty clearly wanted me to love it just the same. He said Malana was one big happy family and that whatever they did was keeping their brethren in mind.

One could see the love he had for his culture and his people in his eyes and for the two hours I spent chatting with him, I swear I felt the same.

Rajesh spoke with his head held high, telling me these 23 years have been his happiest. He woke up every day with a smile on his face and a lot of enthusiasm to lead another long day in service of himself and his God. He was outspoken yet kind.
malana village

Lovely women of Malana. Picture by Vineet Chopdekar

Malana Cream – Officially Banned in India

Finally getting to the one thing that makes Malana village the most sought-out for – its charas. The black gold also called Malana Cream is the Hash every traveller comes sniffing for in this place.

Malana village draws its major source of revenue from the hashish it sells and its truly a stoner’s paradise. The hash is a strain of Cannabis with high oil content and an insanely rich aroma.

When you enter Malana village, you are welcomed by the familiar scent of the burning of this almost sacred hashish. It is a pleasant greeting and you’ll be quite surprised to see the locals treating themselves to chillums of hash.

They’re lost in a haze and enjoying themselves all too much. If there is anyone who knows how to make high quality cannabis, it is the people of Malana village.


Imprisonment Up To Ten Years

Anyone going to the mountains is expected to return with some cream as the most sought-after souvenir next to chocolates but do not indulge as there is an imprisonment up to ten years in jail.

This is also one of the main reasons why the village has now forbidden travellers to live inside. Many hippies came flocking into Malana and in many ways disrupted the Malanis way of being.

After having turned Kasol into a hippie town with trippy trance and psychedelia oozing out of its chambers, the same was starting to happen in Malana. Malana being the only village to have its own set of customs and rituals, found this to be sort of sacrilegious.

Their deity Jamlu Rishi banned Malana village from allowing travellers to rent out their property saying those who do violate this basic rule would face his wrath in the form of a curse.

When I went to Malana village, I was oblivious to this rule. It may help to know that though you can’t stay inside the village, there are a couple of hotels near the Malana Dam which is only a short distance away from the Malana gate.

If you wish to stay longer in the village or return the next day, you can choose to stay at one of these lodgings. They offer a great view of the valley and an open sky for stargazing in the night.

The likes of Malana cream draws its popularity as one of the best in the world and also fetches a considerably high amount in foreign markets especially Amsterdam – the drug capital or so I’d like to believe. 

It is no secret that Malana village is known for its hash. However, the substance is totally banned in India. So avoid consuming it or even transporting it under any circumstance.

malana cream hash

Malana is a place with a lot of untold stories and secrets. Picture by Liyakath

The Untold Story of Malana Village

Malana village is ever so famous for its Hash but there is a lot more to it than just that. Malana is much more than it seems for it is a wonder in itself.

Here’s what I found out about the region and its people –

Self-respecting Folks The people of Malana hold themselves in high regard. 

When visitors enter, they are expected to follow certain rules and guided pathways.

They aren’t allowed to touch people or walls of buildings. If anyone fails to comply with this, they will have to pay a heavy fine.

No Cops Allowed Inside Malana Village Police are not allowed inside Malana Village. All the disputes of the village are handled within.
Tales of Missing Travelers There were numerous rumours about Israeli travellers going missing in the valley.

People who never turned up and were wiped off the face of this earth forever.

Some bodies were claimed to have washed up on the banks of the river and some – well never to be seen again.

It created a whole lot of ruckus and for a while, there was the slightest contemplation of visiting this sacred village and its people who apparently had a lot to do with the missing travellers.

Forbidden Language Kanashi is the local language of the residents of Malana Village and they are pretty damn conservative about it.

Nobody apart from the Malanis can speak in this dialect. Believed to have a mixture of Tibetan and Sanskrit origins, this is a sacred language.

Malanis avoid speaking in with outsiders in order to protect its sanctity.

Kanashi is quite different from the other dialects you find in and around Himachal Pradesh.

Marriage Rules The men here are allowed to have more than one wife. Divorce is common and though the men do decide to split from their wife, they still have to financially support them.

Also, it is a sort of crime for a Malani to marry an outsider.

If they do so, then they will never be allowed to set foot into the village again.

Malana is truly wonderful in itself. A class apart, this place can mesmerize you and also terrify you. Malana village is prized as an ancient civilization. It has been the same since the time of its inception.

Now certain traces of modernization can be found in the village. When you reflect upon it, it gives you the impression of yet another mighty village falling prey to the evils of growth in the name of progression as it slowly starts to lose its essence.

Some may call this remote and primitive land a paradise, while some may say it has an eerie appeal to it. But the real Malana is the one you will see when you get there.

There is nothing quite like it. I feel extremely grateful for having had the privilege to document my time up in Malana  village. Nothing will ever give you the authentic feel of having experienced a village so true in its tradition, social customs, and faith, then with your own eyes.

Happy wayfaring 🙂

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sukanya Menon

Sukanya Menon

Sukanya Menon feels that she is just a tiny human in a big world who loves zoning out and contemplating this life, the universe, and everything. Apart from the time she spends outside, Sukanya prefers losing herself to the pages of the many books she reads. If you don’t find her do that, she’s probably doodling or listening to indie bands. Oh and she also writes well.

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