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Saturday, February 04 2023
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Malana: One of the oldest democracies in the world

One of the oldest democracies in the world
Photo Credit : Facebook

India is the land of villages. Being one of the largest democratic countries in the world, villages are the backbone of India. There are lakhs of villages with different cultures and traditions. Indian villages are not only known for their varied culture but also known for their natural beauty. Villagers are the ones who still stick to their practice which are followed for many generations.

But do you know about a village which has isolated itself from the rest of the world though it is a part of our country? Yes, there is a village named “Malana” in Himachal Pradesh which considers itself as different though it is a part of India.

Malana is an ancient Indian village in the State of Himachal Pradesh. This solitary village in the Malana Nala, a side valley of the Parvati Valley to the northeast of Kullu Valley, is isolated from the rest of the world. It is situated on a remote plateau by the side of the torrential Malana River, at a height of 2,652 metres (8,701 ft) above sea level. Malana has its own lifestyle and social structure and people are strict in following their customs. Their authentic language is Kanashi. According to the 1961 census, the language speakers were then 563, but today the population of Malana is at least three times as large as 40 years ago.

According to the local legends, Jamlu rishi (sage) inhabited this place and made rules and regulations. The locals claim it to be one of the oldest democracies of the world with a well-organised parliamentary system, guided by their devta (deity) Jamlu rishi. Malana has been called ‘one of the oldest democracies in the world. The villagers believe that they are descendants of the Aryan civilisation. There are various legends about their origin.

According to one of them, it is believed that they are the descendants of Greek soldiers of Alexander’s army. As the legend goes, some soldiers took refuge in this remote land after Alexander left the country and later settled there permanently. A festival called Fagli is celebrated in mid of February. Another festival, Shaun is celebrated on 15 August
Although the village is situated in Himachal Pradesh, India, the people of this village do not consider them to be a part of India.

They have their own judiciary system as well. The village is governed by a bicameral parliament, consisting of a lower house called the Kanishthang and an upper house called the Jayeshthang. All matter in Malana is resolved only with the help of the council. The intervention of the police is strictly not allowed. In Malanavillage, the parties in conflict resolve their conflicts by poisoning lambs. The party that loses its lamb first is said to lose the conflict.

The economy of Malana was traditionally based on making baskets, ropes and slippers from hemp. Marijuana was cultivated as a legal cash crop for centuries. Beginning in the 1980s, Malana became a destination for recreational drug tourism. The village also produces maize and potatoes. While tourism is now a major source of income for the village, tourists can only stay outside the village in cafes, but not inside the village or in homestays which were previously allowed.

A very interesting and strange thing about this village is that one cannot touch them or their belongings without their permission. The people are friendly but outsiders are told to keep their distance and not touch anything in the village. The shopkeepers will ask you to keep the money on the counter and place the goods on the counter, without any physical contact. In case of any contact, they will rush for a bath.

In the village of Malana, every house is two-storeyed and each storey has a specific name and purpose. The ground floor of the house is used as cattle shed and also as a place for storing the fodder for the goat and sheep. The first floor is used for storing eatables, and wood and for weaving woollen fabric. The top floor of the house is a balcony which is also the living area of the people.

Malana is famous for its ‘Malana Cream,’ a product made from cannabis plants which grow in the Parvati valley. Malana cream is regarded as a high-purity hash.

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Thilak T. Shetty

The author is a BA Sociology  graduate. He is into poetry and literature. His varied interests include Literature, Music, Culture, Politics, Philosophy And Nationalism studies.

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