No, you are not at all welcome. Except for the Malana Village- others miles away from each other- the villages equal to each other represents nothing. Whereas, unlike other villagers, Malana folks do not encourage tourism, forget cordial greetings. Now, its human nature that whenever you are restricted to do something one is more prone to do exactly the same for a latent pleasure. Same happens with Malana too. As there lies no existence of hot-spring, nor even any riverfront, alleys are mean if not filthy that deters all but unwanted guests, Malana was never huge or reputed as a tourist spot on the state map, rather a small unknown society that comprises of few huts and few fine houses that are well, two or three storied without painted walls, temples invalid especially for outsiders. Moreover, one’s future completely depends on the well capable hands of the villagers if he/ she feels abased in the bazaar by inviting ados. The indigenous people of Malana are sensible, their concept of civilization barely matches ours, on a gladsome note they are subjected to different regulations conducted by their bicameral parliamentary body completely segregated from Indian constitution. Now when someone with queer feeling deep inside treks crossing the green semi-oval ‘Way to Malana village’ written iron gate that leads the ascending trail or treks downhill from Chanderkhani or Deotibba passes to Malana, keeps in mind that although its nothing hideous, it shares nothing with other hamlets except the overarching sky.
Let me begin with the history of the tribe. According to Purana, Sage Jumlu had been revered in Pre- Aryan times, who is believed to dwell in this part of Himachal Pradesh, gradually formed a community and made rules and regulations for his devotees. Jumlu Rishi is a God-like figure to the people of Malana as they continue to worship him even today in temples and shrines of household gods. There are a couple of main temples in the vicinity, foremost the Jumlu Devta temple and then, a Rukmini temple, where they celebrate popular festivals, like Fagli.
Malana folks speak their native language for communication, called Kanashi, meaning the language of devils. The language per se has no resemblance with the dialects that neighbouring villagers use as it is classified as a Tibetan-Burmese language whereas others have an Indo-Aryan source. Hence, no one from outside is capable of decoding their utterance, for they, being extremely conservative and magisterial, are stagnant, also neither believe in mix-culture nor show any interest in exchanging customs and traditions with the outer world. They are proud of whatever they possess and to practice their own culture, encourage to enhance their language rather than adopting other languages in order to grow business or make an alliance. The progressive digital world outside could impose minimum influence on them if not zero, as recently installed dish antennas and electric posts were noticed when the last time we visited the place. Our down-headed generation yet to make its mark, for the whole ambience that the village of Malana radiates would provide one an essence of the era of Murphy radio in mid 70’s.
In the morning it is obvious to encounter Malana folks gathered in groups or loitering in the warm sunshine, some smoking and some taking part in an administrative discussion in front of the main temple. Most of the male members of the family go shepherding or farming or collecting dry offshoots or branches as fuel after every day’s social meet, also a few teach minors in schools( they have built a primary and a mid-school, hopefully, understanding the value of education, although only a few could qualify 12th standard). On the other hand, ladies apart from serving regular household works and taking care of their children involve themselves in trimming wool from sheeps and spinning yarn using spindle to spun threads, and of course weaving sweaters, gloves and rugs. Ladies also make ropes and buskets using Hemp.
Witnessing the oldest democratic system( as Malana people claim so) of the world run in person is all hearty and fascinating. It is a Panchayat body that comprises of two houses, named Kanishthang and Jayeshthang, very much like Indian or British Parliamentary system, governs the village. Being an indigenous body it had set rules very different to what we have, which at times may seem thoughtful otherwise strange and ridiculous to us. Subjected to their rules, it clearly briefs them as highly environment-friendly, its prohibited to chop down trees for any purpose, even fixing a nail in its stem for that matter; villagers are only permitted to collect dry wood or twig as fuel; hunting is only allowed in certain period of a year with permission of village council, hunter is rewarded if one kills a bear but then its skin, according to rulebook, needs to be submitted to temple authority. Moreover, they avoid any intervention by Himachal Pradesh State Police or Government as they’ve declared that they are well-off and well-capable of taking care of themselves, also run their own judiciary system to maintain stability and peace. Hence, in order to sustain peace and avoid outrage the State as well as the Central Govt. do not poke nose in their matter which has now touched the level of ignorance. It is a bit of an oxymoron when you say silly and catastrophic at a stress, knowing an adjudication that Malana Judiciary Branch grants being clueless, facing a dilemma to decide the winner between two parties. With full power and authority in a difficult situation as such, the court orders both the parties to fetch a sheep each that would represent their respective party. Then one makes bloody deep injury in the forelegs of both the cattle and stitch it back after poisoning fatally, unaware of the torment caused. The party wins whose sheep staggers to live longer!! Moreover, any public penance is performed by sacrificing a lamb or goat that symbolizes mitigation of any issue as resolved. Therefore, superstitions preferred over logical thinking process many a time, that outsiders with rational minds might witness and ponder upon the need to change those rituals. But alas! there’s no point of giving any valuables( advice, in this case) to anyone who doesn’t appreciate it. So, AMEN.
If one is acquainted with hilly villages of the Northern part of India would know the pattern of their architecture and randomly scattered unplanned alleys across those localities. Basically, if they build two or three storied buildings they store hay and firewood in abundance as fuel for winter usage and make stables for cattle in Khudang, the ground floor of the building. The first floor, Gaying, is used as the storehouse for trimmed wool, woollen threads and grains and crops. And the uppermost floor is subjected to living only, also found with hanging veranda and corridor, is known as Pati. Malana is no exception as the valley across Malana Nallah holds so many buildings as such with a population of approximately two thousand now.
Residents of Malana treat all visitors as inferiors to an extent of untouchables. There are a couple of mythologies about their pedigree that might be aired to outsiders. As legends interpret, when Alexander after invading major part of Asia arrived in with an intention to conquer the whole world that ends at the edge of India( wronged by Greek Map of the world) few remnants of his troop took refuge in this remote area and those Greeks failed to follow the Great when he accepted Coenus’ plead to return back as his soldiers were longing to meet their close ones. Then onwards they as denizen settled in there and as believed, the administrative body even today reflects Greek way of ruling an empire. This concept scientifically proved to be nothing more than a rumour. Villagers think visitors as impure and restrict them to touch anything and everything built by them that includes even body contact. If accidentally touched a wall of a temple or hut then one is charged with a thousand rupees fine. On a lighter note, they are so hygiene concerned that they, blinded by customs, even consider to clean themselves by taking a bath if one touches them by any means.
Last but not the least, the major attraction of the village is the sight of legal cultivation of the cash crop that produces hemp fibre and illegally a psychotropic drug, called Cannabis, right under the nose of the State Government body, is an open secret. If anyone who descends down crossing Chanderkhani or Deotibba Pass to reach the village would notice the hilly slopes filled with Cannabis as properly cultivated as we know of tea estates. Villagers produce world-renowned Hashish out of its leaves named after the village as Malana Cream, the fragrance of which is so organic and refreshing that makes one feel like smelling mother nature intrinsically. Visitors all over the world pass through the village to score some authentic stuff. Smoking hashish is already legal in some parts of the world and the production is so enormous in this area that is believed that the remote area would turn into a city like California and each villager a millionaire in no time once it is legalized in our country.
Malana Cream has won the Best Hashish title twice, in 1994 and 1996, at High Times Magazine’s Cannabis Cup.
Moreover, the Govt. imposes no ban on cigarette and alcohol, being sold in daylight whereas those are far more injurious to health than Marijuana. Nothing but irony, when being organic Marijuana, used in treatments to cure leprosy or nervous system related diseases and astonishingly also, to prevent the growth of cancer cells, has zero side effects, unlike cigarette, high on nicotine, and chemical like alcohol that directly burn body parts. damage the nervous system and increase the possibility of activating cancer cells in the body and what not, have full access to the market.
Now, the moot point is whether should Indian Government legalize the production of Malana Cream thinking both, the advancement of the worn-out condition of the villagers and a walloping scope for drug-tourism, the cities like Amsterdam and California are popular for, would eventually help the economy of Government or, continue the ban of the production forever in order to make the country a drug free state and keep minors away from its reach. Talking of the present situation, smuggling of Malana Cream is in full swing, not only it reaches various states of India, it been exported for long, has even placed its name among other menu items in Amsterdam. The efforts of Narcotics Control Bureau of India is only to the level of showing people that they are active which by far has no contribution to put an embargo on Malana cream sell or its production. One can clearly get the hint that the whole system ranging from a seller to the extent of MLAs or MPs, are at stake but hey, who dares to point a finger at them!
My advice: Be there, as a happy visitor, explore, forget and forgive, sit on a roof with a guitar, relax, enjoy warm sunshine and mountains, listen to music or try to sing: Auld Lang Syne….. ah! what a track.
Consequently, all these in one place. #Malana
| Rick Biswas |