DA Travelography

Why you should or shouldn’t visit Malana

Sitting and watching the heavy flow of gushing Parvathi river from my camp in Kasol, I recalled my fast pace travel in the last 18 days in the lap of the Himalayas and how I had lived every breath, may be with a little huffing and puffing. Traveling from Mumbai to Delhi, Manali, Spiti, Lahaul; I reached Kasol to let my itchy shoes relax for a few days in this little backpacker’s town. While I was packing my backpack to leave this land of God, I still had a day remaining to experience something new and my adventure seeking soul took me to Malana! Yes, the same Malana which is famous for Malana cream, the supreme quality ‘charas’ (hashish form of cannabis).

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Road to Malana

 

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A small cottage on the way to Malana

 

I had always been fascinated by the stories of Malana and wanted to visit this small village which some consider one of the last isolated civilizations in the world and renowned for being the most ancient civilization anywhere on earth by some. It has its own set of rules and its own democracy, where everything is followed by God man’s instructions. While talking to my host in Kasol, I learnt the story from when Alexander the Great was making his way over the Himalayas looking for someone to defeat. The harsh terrain was too much for him and his army to bear and they decided to stop and live in peace in this small village. He eventually left, but the remnants of his army remained. Well, I was now even more curious to know the behaviour and everything else from the descendants of Alexander the great.

 

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Malani ladies bringing fodder for animals

 

The village of Malana sits high on in the mountains and is flanked by the peaks of Chandrakhani (3650m) and Deotibba (6000m), hidden at least an hour’s drive through a difficult and dangerous mountain road and is completely on the way to nowhere. There are no direct roads to Malana and after a certain point; one has to hike to reach there. Earlier, reaching Malana used to take 4 hours but now there is a road which has cut short this hiking time to around an hour. People in Malana have supposedly turned down the Indian government’s offer to build the roads; they don’t need roads or any modernization. I couldn’t relate to this thought especially when I saw the pain locals were bearing loading themselves with goods while hiking to reach their home.

 

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Malanis preparing for festival

 

The first sight was not too flowery as I saw a huge pile of garbage, but that’s the same for most of the lower Himalayan villages: The houses would be clean but the village’s entrance would be dirty. I could hear a familiar loud music from the very first house in village. And guess what it could be? Well, the national sensation Honey Singh with his ‘Love Dose’. So talking about modernization, I could see it’s inevitable. And so I thought all the stories about Malana preserving its ancient culture are bogus and Honey Singh yo-yoed to confirm this.

 

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A malani lady in the village

The distinguishable feature of Malanis makes them look very different; they are fair, have sharp nose and mostly curly hair. They speak a language called Kanashi/Raksh which is understood only by the villagers. This language of Malana does not resemble any dialects spoken in its neighborhood but it seems to be a mixture of Sanskrit and several Tibetan dialects. Some of the men were able to communicate in Hindi as well but the women couldn’t since they didn’t have much exposure beyond their village life. I stepped into the narrow lanes of the village to see more of the Malani lifestyle. Everything was pretty slow in Malana, could be an effect of hash! I could see people lazing around and smoking pot in the temple arena. Soon, I joined a group of young boys gambling for fun. The game was simple, to choose one option among six and bet for the same to get the double amount of money. The boys were welcoming and laughing with a sweet surprise to see a city girl gambling with them. I ended up winning some tens and they were teasing me for carrying a good luck in gamble. With all the laughter around, I moved on and decided to buy some chocolates and stationary for kids with the money I won and I wish I had not.

 

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Slow life of Malana

The stories I heard about Malana now came in front of me and certainly not in the way I had wanted to experience it. I stepped into a local shop and the shopkeeper suddenly warned me! He said “Madam ji , aise hi dukan ke andar nahi aate hain (mam, you shouldn’t step inside the shop)”. I obeyed and asked if no one from outside Malana is allowed to enter the shops. He explained ‘Rajputs’ are, we are kings and so Rajputs are considered equivalent and can enter. It was harsh but I said nothing lest I disrespected their culture.

 

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Malani style of playing cards and gambling

With the bag full of chocolates, I approached a little girl. She asked me, mostly using sign language, to put it on the floor. I understood immediately what she meant. She was not supposed to touch me directly, but she was too young, to know it all. Nevertheless I obeyed again. She picked up a couple of chocolates from the envelope, but then his brother entered the scene. He scolded his little sister for accepting the chocolates and she kept it back ruthlessly. I felt hurt, not sure why. Though some of the kids accepted it happily but they did it from ground, not from my hand. I didn’t want to go through this anymore and handed over the bag to the boys of gambling gang for distributing it to children. This time I kept it on the floor without any instructions, ensuring I am not making any mistakes.

 

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Malani kids playing with their toy pistol

 

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The girl in red boots

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was comparing this feeling, which is not even a tiny bit equivalent to the people who are victims of untouchability. I could almost visualize what they must be going through every day. This is something which I never felt before and the feeling was strange. I looked at the shiny temple in the center but I was not allowed to go inside. My initial enthusiasm had now hit rock bottom. I decided to go back. I walked fast seeing the imminent rain on my way while the locals I walked past shrieked at my proximity to them. I was not high after visiting Malana, in fact I was pretty low! What a strange place it was! What a strange people they were! It was not the same Himachal where I had been traveling for the last 18 days where I was welcomed, embraced and served with utmost hospitality.

15 comments

    1. Hey Agin! yes I am. I take pictures for my own personal projects, blogs and social media. Apart from that I travel on assignment for the requirements of content by travel and tourism industry.

  1. Very sad to read this experience and thanks for sharing…The tale is contrasting with the hospitality people have known about Himachal villages…The discovery must have been very depressing

    1. Depressing, yes but for that particular day. Today I don’t find it depressing as it was an experience to break my perspective about having only ‘good experience’ in the travel. Thankfully I accepted it as a learning to be prepared for more.

    1. Rajat, this article was not suggesting that you should ditch this place. Everyone has different experience of the same place specially the one which is so peculiar. I am sure a few people must have loved this place and have had great experiences. We all have different ways to perceive a place and its people as travelers. Good or bad, its all about experience.

  2. Hi,

    I am almost at a loss of words here, however to begin with, I felt that I was in your shoes experiencing the same situation that you did. I loved the way you wrote this blog. I am myself an aspiring blogger and want to start my own travel blog. Guess whose blog was the first that I read? That was yours obviously. I loved it-that’s all I can say.
    You’ll definitely hear some more from me in your future blogs as I want to learn more.

  3. Firstly, thanks a lot for introducing us to a less known place of Malana in Himachal region. Secondly, I’m in love with the way you have portrayed about the civilization of the village without being too rude or sarcastic. Your post depicts how traces of untouchability is still prevalent in remote parts of our nation. And the superb clicks are simply breathtaking.

    1. Hey thanks for stopping by and giving lovely feedback. I dont want to criticize them, as they are doing what they are supposed to do. And I still encourage travelers to go and experience it themselves. 🙂

  4. great article mam. I am the native of himachal pradesh, but studying in chandigarh. therefore I am feeling homesick by reading your post. Such a heart touching post you posted. Tnku very much! I’ll surely suggest my HP frndz to read your this post!

  5. Fantastically written. Thank you for showing Malana in your words. Now all the more I want to visit that place and experience it myself. Every travel is an experience and you grow on it. Oh yes.. wonderful clicks as well. Keep blogging Deepti 🙂

    Safe!

  6. I have had the same experience as you. i went there in September 2016. The entrance of the village become much more dirtier. And i met that guy (sitting far left, smiling and looking towards the camera) playing cards or gamble. he told me his name. but unfortunately i forgot it. all i remember that, his surname is THAKUR. and he told it very firmly.

  7. Hey, I visited Malana 15 years back but my experience was different 🙂 , actually we were working with a contractor company which has a hidro electric power project near Malana ( approx 3-5 K.M from Kasol) , One day we had much spare time because of machine break down, me and my one friend decided to visit Malana.
    We started the tracking and passed a dry river. After 2 hour tracking we reached Malana , at the entrance some old men stopped us and asked our cast , we told them about our casts , then they instructed us to do not touch the anything , they told us about their deities and temples over there .. I asked them for something for me as a token of spirituality and divine powers of their ancient deities … They given me some type of grass collected from the temple area . They told me that I have to wear it in a amulet which protect me from evil things , accidents etc.

    Then I saw a young villager who was selling hash on extremely high rates … It was non of my business and We had taken tea from a tea shop returned back to our camp, machines was ready for working 🙂

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