Malana The Lost Legacy in Himalaya.

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MALANA:

Malana is situated in  Kullu region of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is at the north east side of rich Kullu valley and lies at northern side of Parvati valley. It has famous Chanddrkhani pass and Deotibba at one side and and beautiful Parvati valley at the other side.Malana is an interesting place with nature blended with history and stories. The place offer an ideal weekend getaway and a quite trek in Himachal pradesh. Malana has its own culture and system to follow and very much frequented by foreign national in search of cannabis. I took this exciting trek to Malana in month of March and was fascinated by the trip.

malana village house

 

INTRODUCTION:

The other day I met a traveller from Europe and while engaging in a chat, he revealed a very interesting information to me. He said In Europe and especially in Amsterdam major cafes and restaurant has MALANA CREAM as their top menu item  and I was amazed to hear that. The rich Malana cream comes from our country’s remote village of Malana.

Malana is a small remote village towards eastern side of Kullu. The village has a legacy to be explored and narrated along  with nature as its defender.

The village Malana is known for famous Malana cream and is known to be descendant of Alexander’s Greek army. It is said that while Alexander was returning to Greece, one part of his army stayed back in India at this place called Malana. The facial features of people also certify the story. The place is mystical and full of surprise element.

This remote village of Kullu valley is isolated from main cities of India and is very popular among charas lover across the world. I am trying to pen down my experience of Malana village and trek for readers, guiding them to plan their trek/ visit to this magnificent village.

ORIENTATION:

As mentioned above Malana is situated in Kullu region of Himachal Pradesh, India. It can be easily reached by road and a short trek upto the village from last motor able point. The road bifurcate from Bhuntar towards Manikaran and then from village Jari. Jari is starting point of Malana. the road ascent from Jari to Malan village leaving the main Manikaran highway. The motor able road is now functional right upto Malan village. From this point village is only a kilometre walk. There are hydel projects on the way to village and makes it easier to reach now.

AIRPORT: Nearest airport is Bhuntar in Kullu region. One can hire a taxi or hire a jeep towards Manikaran and take a diversion at Jari to reach Malana.

RAIL HEAD: Nearest railway station is Ropar and Chandigarh on broad gauge and jogindernagar on narrow gauge.. One can hire a taxi or bus from here towards Kullu.

ROAD: The village is accessible by road. One can take a Bus or Taxi going towards Manali from Chandigarh or Delhi and get down at Bhuntar. Jeep or taxi can be hired from Bhuntar towards Manikaran with diversion at the Jari to reach the last leg of the road journey.

1.Google Map of Village Malana:

A general map orientation of Village Malana, Himachal pradesh.

2.Driving direction from Chandigarh to Malana:

Popular driving direction to reach Malana from Chandigarh is given below. The total distance is 300 km and it takes apron eight and half hour to reach Malana from Chandigarh via Mandi. It is an ideal weekend getaway destination and trek  from Chandigarh.


3.Driving Direction from Delhi To Jari/ Malana:

Mentioned below is the popular driving route from Delhi to Malana via Ambala Chandigarh Ropar Mandi and Bhuntar. Total distance to Malana is 650 km and it takes around 12 hours to reach, making it an ideal weekend getaway destination and trek from Delhi.

4.Driving direction from Amritsar to Jari / Malana.

I belong to Amritsar and usually start my travel from here. Below is the route we took from Amritsar to Malana. We crossed Jalandhar, Ropar, Mandi Bhuntar and Jari to reach Malana.

The Malana village can be reached by main Delhi-Manali national highway and leaving the highway at Bhuntar towards Manikaran state highway and further leaving the Bhuntar Manikaran highway at Jari.

Railway: Nearest railway station is Ropar and Kiratpur  on broad gauge. Though Chandigarh is the newest main railway station and entry point to Himachal pradesh.

Airport: Nearest airport is Bhuntar in Himachal pradesh.

MY JOURNEY:

Here comes the Holi festival again and our favourite time of the year to escape into mountains away from the hustle bustle city life. We started early in morning to reach Malana from Amritsar. We drove onto our car Maruti swift with early breakfast at Jalandhar. Drove towards the himachal via Ropar entering hills from the Swarghat Bilaspur Mandi route. The starting stretch of Chandigarh Manali national highway is bad and not maintained. As you go further into himachal the road improves. It is frequented by trucks and road has lot of mud holes. The road improves  after Bilaspur.

We were excited to explore this forbidden land of Himachal pradesh. I had read lots of article on Malana and its people and culture. Wanting to visit the place for a long time and finally we were driving up the hill to explore the remote region of Alexander army.

The Route:

Crossing Sundernagar, Mandi, Pandoh dam and Bhuntar we took a diversion towards Manikaran at Bhuntar and drove till Jari on Bhuntar Manikaran highway It was evening by the time we reached Jari and decided to stay into a guest house in the area. We crossed the Parvati river which was flowing along with us from Bhuntar at Jari and took the road leading to Malana village. At this point we explored the affordable guest house and checked into one decent local guest house.

After the day long drive we decided to have quite evening had our  drink and oriented our self with area. The guest room guy lighted a bon fire and we had our dinner around it. At this point we were first exposed to the controversial stuff Malana cream. We were offered to taste the Malana cream by the guest house owner but none of us were keen for it. we declined the offer and realised how this stuff is so popular and easily accessible in the area.

The Trek:

Next day morning we started driving towards Malana hydel power project and parked our car at the gate. We decided to take the trekking route from here and trek to Malana village. There was an old route which villager use to take to reach Malana on foot from this point. The trek or the trail was around 8 to 10 km and was interesting way up.

Old Malana village trek route
Starting point of Old Malana village route.

 

The trail was steep and we were told about the accident it invited due to steep descent while coming down.

There was water body which flowed along with us to about 4 Km. The water was swift and noisy. The valley kept on getting steeper with every step and there was point where we realised that we were at the edge of the mountain cliff with no tree around. Any wrong step could lead to a deep  down fall into gorge with no support. The route was interesting in many ways and offered old shepherd shelter enroute along with magnificent view of Parvati valley, Chanddrkhani pass and Sar pass on towards our right. The air was getting chiller and rarer with every turn. We were gasping for breath and reached the entry point of village from southern side.

steep trail of Malana village

enroute to malana village

Last leg of Malana trek

The last leg was full of snow trails as the snow had not melted yet. There was  small primary school in the area from where the Malana village started. The snow made us excited and thrilled with new energy. The ascent had come to an end end and we traversing through the snow trail. The snow was getting dirtier and dense as we approached into the village centre point.

The Village:

On reaching the village we came across the local village store and halted for our quick energy booster chocolates and other dry ration. Further ahead was the sacred temple of Malana village which was out of bound for travellers. We were warned before not to touch old relics and temple artifacts as the local consider us to be untouchable. The villager were friendly but not very comfortable with our presence. There is very different law and order system the Malana village excersise.

Malana village was divided into upper village and lower.village. After the trek we got settled into a guest house in upper village. The guest house had basic living room and were given a common room at the first floor to stay over night. The owner of the guest house offered us hot welcome tea. We asked him to prepare maggi along with it. The day was coming to end and we were tired enough to explore the village.

The Guest House:

The guy who served us did not made any eye contact with us. The body language of the care taker was not giving us comfort. Finally, we asked the owner about him and was surprised to learn the details of the person. He was a french national residing in the village for quite some time. The owner gave him shelter and in returned he helped him in domestic chores. WElCOME to the Forbidden land of surprises, we said to each other laughing and giggling. Never in our life we would have thought of a french guy serving us in country location of India. Hahaha…

The room we stayed was cozy and a fire place in middle. The guest house had a toilet. When we woke up in the morning everything was frozen. After fretting up, we explored the lower Malana village. We saw the temple and the common ground where festivals are celebrated.

Overall it ws a great trek with lot of culture to explore.

THE VIDEOS:

Below are the videos, I shot during my visit to Malana village.

FACTS & SECRETS ABOUT MALANA:

Malana is an interesting place with lot of secrets and strange customs to explore.

History:

According to locals, village was inhabited by rishi Jamlu and the entire village follows rules and regulation made by him. The local legends also claimed themselves to be the oldest Democracy of the world with well organised parliament system. Some legend claimed Malana to be Anthens of Himalayas. Interestingly the Rishi Jamlu has his presence in Aryan times and the village follows the orthodox aryan culture in some forms.

Another local legend says Malana to be descendant of Aryans and got it freedom from Mughal empire during the time of King Akbar. The King has visited the village for a cure to his ailment and on success the Malana village was exempted to pay taxes. Interesting isn’t it…

The Malana Cream:

malana cream

The place grows cannabis hashish in abundance and famous for world renowned Malana cream. The Malana cream and cannabis is very popular due to it’s oil content and the distinct flavour it offer. The Malana cream is considered to be very different in fragrance. It is one of the most sought after menu item  in European countries.

The Malana village prime occupation was farming and Cannabis was grown as a major crop. The Charas and marijuana is fine product made from the flower of Cannabis. The flower is plucked and rubbed in hands, giving a sticky residual on hands. The sticky residual is then rubbed of and collected. This black residual is known as Malana cream or marijuana or charas of mountain. The Malana village is isolated from world and cultivate cannabis very easily and in abundance, but recent coming of Malana hydel power project has brought the village closer to the main world. making it difficult to grow the restricted plant in the area. Though the plant is still grown in far reaches of mountain area not easily accessible by authorities.

arial view of Malana village and vegetation.

The Untouchable:

The travellers visiting the Malana village are considered to be untouchable. The local clearly guide you, not to touch any Malana person or their belongings. The same is clearly visible in the village as the shop keeper will not take money from your hand and will not hand over the things to you directly. Instead he will keep the things and money on counter to avoid any physical contact with you. The society and people consider themselves superior than the outsider and follow clear distance from you. Though they are friendly people but maintain their custom firmly. In case of any physical contact with visitor they would go for bath and purify themselves again.

Malana people

The Descendant of Alexander the great:

This was very interesting legend about the Malana people. They claim to be descendants of Greek army. It is apopular story that while king Alexander was returning back from India, a small part of his army decided to stay back in India. The Malana people are the one who descended from the Greek army. The Temple and court of village also depict similar stories and follow the old greek custom and system.

The Judicial & Administration system:

The Malana follow unique Judicial system which is different from main  India. They consider themselves to be the oldest republic of the world and follow their own unique judicial system.

In case of any dispute the lamb of parties is taken with their fore feet chopped off. The legs are then filled with poison and stitched back. Whomsoever lamb dies first the judgement is given against him.

The local Jamblu devta is worshipped and it is said to be highest authority of the village. The Jamblu devta gives the decision and his decision is considered to be final. They claim Jamlu gives decision and due to this the village have survived the turbulent times and could preserve their culture.

The Temple:

The village has 5 to 7 Jamlu devta temple. The visitors are out of bound in most of temples. The travellers can visit the temple with permission of the priest.The wall of temples are full of horns of animals. Few of the temple has mask of devil displayed as part of decoration. The temple is unique in its deity and sculpture. The Jamlu devta is devil and worshipped here. The same has presence in stories from Aryan times.

temple of malana village

THE MALANA SOCIETY:

The social structure of Malana is unique in many sense. The society is not open for change and consider all other to be inferior. Jamblu devta governs the Malana society. The village administration is democratic and is believed to be oldest in the world by the locals. The society worship the devil and the festivals are quite strange and unique from rest part of India.

Malana temple

Language:

The language spoken is Kanashi. The dialect does not resemble any neighbour hood language. It is a mixture of sanskrit and local Tibetan dialect. the language is said to be spoken by devil once residing in the village long ago. The language is not understood by any outsider, preserving their culture and customs.

Festivals:

Fagli and Shaun are the major festivals of Malana. The Fagli festival is celebrated in month of February and Shaun is celebrated in month of August.

Fagli harlala mask dance festival is celebrated with dance and a strange ritual. The local take bath and wear a devil mask on their face. The cloth are replaced by cannabis leaves all around the body and the men keep dancing with spreading cow dung around their houses protecting it from cold and bad weather.

MALANA FIRE:

malana fire malana fire malana local villager

There was a sad incident of fire which gutted Malana village in Jan 2008 which destroyed local temples and wooden houses. It said to be a fire to control narcotic vegetation in the area. The society has changed forever as the setback was severe. The fire engulfed the live stock and the old diety of Jamlu devta giving an irreplaceable damage. It is said that the local narcotic authorities purposely setup the fire to destroy cannabis plantation. The house now are replaced by stone and cement. the village has taken to newer means of livilihood.

THE MODERN MALANA:

Malana women

Malana is changing fast with time. Advent of cable TV and satellite TV can easily be seen in the village. The local occupation of villagers have changed from farming to tourism and local govt job.

A road has built right upto the village by the local govt authority in recent time, exposing the isolated culture and communication increases in the area. The village which was once secluded and isolated is now frequented with visitors. The local have started to take education and local jobs in near by town. The coming of Malana hydel power project was an deliberate effort by the govt to mix the village with the main stream. The time is not far off when the unique culture of Malana village will be corrupted by our modern society and materialistic demand of human.

USEFULL LINKS:

  1. Wikipeda site:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kullu
  2. Malana Burns: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2008/20080106/main1.htm

 

PLACES AROUND:

Malana has Kullu Manali at one side and famous Sar pass and Chanderkhani pass on other.

  1. Kasol: A sleepy hippy town famous for Israelis and weed. The town is few kilometres ahead from Jari
  2. Manikaran: It is a religious town of sikhs ahead of Jari. Famous for natural hot springs.
  3. Kullu: The main district headquarter of the region.
  4. Kheerganga: A famous trekking spot ahead of Manikaran.
  5. 5. Tirthan Valley: A secluded Valley famous for Trout Fish and Great Himalayan national park.

ITINERARY:

Following Itinerary we followed while visiting the Malana village trek from Amritsar.

Day 1: Amritsar -Jari: Started early and reached Jari via Mandi Pandoh and Bhuntar. Stayed overbite at Jari.

Day 2: Jari – Malana village Trek: Started from Jari at morning and parked our car at Malana hydro project and trekked ahead to village.

Day 3: Malana- Manikaran- Kasol: Trekked back to base took our car and drove to Manikaran via Jari and  Kasol. Had a dip in hot water and visited the gurudwara and halted over night at Kasol.

Day 4 Kasol- Amritsar: Started early and drove back to Amritsar via Mandi and Ropar.

CLIMATE & STAY:

Climate is cold all year round with snow in winter.

Best time to visit is March to September. One can also visit the place during winter to enjoy the snow but the village has little amenities to offer as respite from snow. The place offer very basic local guest house offering basic bed and breakfast. It does not have any restaurant or hotel. Only offer basic accommodation run by local villagers.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Living in urban cities, I often wonder how distant we have become from mother nature. The tall concrete buildings, the roads, the traffic, the rush and race to reach no where takes major part of our life. Making life complicated and confusing. The beautiful gift of God was to live life in its simplicity and to its fullest. The undemanding environment and people around you with nature with its bountiful offerings. Every time I visit rural villages of Himachal, I feel we have complexed our lives and it can be made simpler. The perfect living examples are the villages in India and Himalayas. Malana is a good example of simplicity and serene environment to live in.

The Malana trek and village is exciting place to visit on a weekend. It offer varied natural beauty with magnificent view of Himalayas. On a weekend, the village can be easily reached from Delhi or Chandigarh. No prior booking is required to visit the place but knowing local norms is must. The village is to be visited only by nature enthusiast for a magnificent himalayan holiday. If you are looking for luxury and amenities this is not the place for you.

 

Follow Veren Mitter:

A relentless Traveler and a Landscape photographer, has many interest in ambit of Exploration and finding Happiness: A Short Walk down the trail, A night lying on the barren Helipad and counting stars, A car drive with friends down the Muddy road, Coal Burnt hot corn in rain under a thatched hut, A paraglide from the world’s second highest jumping spot, or finding his own Cleopatra while walking through the mummies, are only some of the recreational activities, I indulge in. A keen explorer, with tadka of Adventure, I am a foodie at heart and passionate about Photography. I live in Amritsar. I hail from Army family and have gone through the rigours of Army Officer training myself. Travelling and meeting people have been always a part of life, which I thoroughly enjoy. A keen adventurer myself, I have been organizing adventure tours for friends. As I always say its a long road and exploration should never stop.

2 Responses

  1. Is there a lot of police checkposts on d way to malana or while coming back from there ?

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