Malana and the ‘no touch’

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The view of Malana from the other side of the valley.

Trekking from Parvati Valley across to Kullu Valley, you are able to visit the mysterious village of Malana. There are so many myths and stories surrounding this one tiny village and the visit was a strange one.

The stories and myths:
– you are unable to touch the villagers
– the villagers believe they are descendants of the Hindi God Shiva.
– the villagers are descendants of Alexander the Great
– it is the richest village in the world due to the quality of its cannabis- Malana Cream
– there is a helicopter pad
– villagers have Swiss bank accounts

What we experienced:
It felt like we were trekking to lost pyramids or an ancient civilization. The view of Malana from the other side of the valley, showed the village on top of a steep hill with crops leading up. On the path up from the valley, we came across some locals, who avoided us and said ‘no touch, no touch’. Set on a slope, the houses of Malana were very similar to those we had seen in villages elsewhere. The village though, was one of the dirtiest we have seen. There were no obvious signs of wealth and although someone swore there was a helicopter pad, we failed to find it.

The village seemed very traditional but there were a few visible oddities compared to other villagers. There were many, many children all who seemed to play all day, except for some of the girls who were either carrying/caring for younger siblings, drying herbs and collecting wood/plants. We did not see too many old men, maybe they stayed inside enjoying the areas expensive charris (cannabis), did not live long or were simply out in the mountains looking after flocks of sheep and goats.

The villages did not seem the friendliest, avoiding coming anywhere near us and seemed to almost snigger at us as we walked past. The shops were a strange experience, as we were not allowed to enter. Standing outside the shop you told them what you wanted, they would place it on the ground outside next to which you would place the required amount of money. Change or any other exchange was handled the same way, on the ground.

Some of the villagers did seem to look differently to others in the region, however most looked like all the other mountain villagers we had seen in other parts.

A quick Internet search:
– The population of Malana is about 1500 people, which is three times as large as 40 years ago.
– Malana has its own strong caste system of which non-Malani people are considered to be inferior and consequently untouchable
– The fine for touching someone or a village house is 1000 rupees, which covers the slaughter of a lamb and a purification ritual for that or whom has been made impure.
– It is one of the oldest democracies in the world, with a well organised parliamentary system, guided by their deity, Jamlu Rishi. There are definate similarities to ancient Greece.
– The myth actually goes that Alexander the Greats soldiers sheltered in the village and that the villagers are descendants of the Greek soldiers, however genetic typing shows them to be more consistent with Indo-Aryans than Greek.

The ‘no touch’ was definitely the strangest belief in the village but I was unable to find out more information on it. It brings up so many more questions, such as the gene pool and the effects a small gene pool would have on the population.

The villagers are proud of their cultural heritage and do try to avoid modernization. As strange as their customs and beliefs were, it was refreshing to visit a place with such an ancient and strong culture and belief system. I hope they can hold on to it.

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Malana and its crops safe above the valley floor.

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Looking down from our guesthouse. All guesthouse owners were not from Malana and only came for the tourist season.

Some images from the village.

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This entry was published on July 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm and is filed under India, Travel, Trekking. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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