Malana: World's Oldest Democracy & Unique Facts of a Secluded Himachal Pradesh Village

Malana village has become popular in international stoner culture, with many people wanting to visit this little Greek-like village in the Parvati valley of Himachal Pradesh. Located at the interior summits of Kullu valley, below Chanderkhani pass and at an altitude of 2652 meters above sea level, Malana is so surreal and calm that one has to rub their eyes to believe it's real. The village has remained secluded from the rest of the world, which adds to its charm. Malana is a primeval emblem of tradition, social equality, faith, architectural elegance and ecology in the hoary Himalayas. 

Some portray Malana as a paradise, while some call it the adobe of Marejne. However, the real Malana is the one you see when you are there. Trekking the Himalayan routes and reaching Malana is no ordinary feat, which is why we've compiled a list of interesting facts about Malana that will definitely pique your interest.

Oldest Democracy in the World

Malana is a village that is considered to have one of the oldest democracies in the world. Its local inhabitants claim that it is the world's oldest democracy and has a well-organized parliamentary system guided by their Devta Jamlu Rishi. The judiciary system of Malana has not undergone any major changes since ancient times and is still considered preeminent. 

Legend has it that during the Mughal reign, Emperor Akbar visited the village to be cured of an ailment. After being successfully healed, he issued a decree stating that the inhabitants of the valley would never have to pay taxes. 

The village council of Malana is called "Hakima," and it is divided into two courts: higher and lower. The higher court consists of Goor, Pujari, and Kardar. Goor is believed to possess the spirit of Jamlu Devta and is considered the voice of God. The Pujari and Kardar are representatives of Jamlu Devta and hold hereditary posts. However, the Pujari ranks higher than the Kardar in the pecking order. The judiciary system also includes a Pardhan and Uppardhan, who are elected Pogudar nominated by Jestha.

Descendants of Alexander the Great?

According to local beliefs, Malana is inhabited by the descendants of soldiers who served under Alexander the Great. The villagers claim to be descendants of the Greek king and speak a language that only they can understand. The people of Malana have facial features that resemble those of the Romans to some extent. 

Legend has it that after Alexander defeated the Indian king Porus along the banks of the river Beas and conducted several campaigns in India, his soldiers grew weary and wanted to return home. Alexander himself is said to have also returned home. Some of his soldiers, however, were too tired to make the journey back and decided to settle along the banks of the river Beas. 

Even today, the local court system in Malana reflects the ancient Greek system, leading some to believe that the residents of Malana may be the descendants of these soldiers. However, the origin of the Malana residents remains a mystery, even to Vivek Mohan, who conducted over four years of study and produced a national award-winning documentary called "Malana," as reported by The Times of India. Therefore, it remains unclear whether or not these people are truly the descendants of Alexander the Great.

The Distinctive Kanashi Language of Malana

The village of Malana is known for its unique language, Kanashi, which is vastly different from its origins and has played a significant role in preserving the cultural heritage of this isolated village. 

Kanashi is believed to be a dialect of the devil who once resided in the village. It belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family under the category of West Himalayas and is spoken only in Malana. 

Although the village is said to be inhabited by descendants of Alexander the Great, recent studies suggest that the Kanashi dialect has inherited elements from Tibetan and Hindi languages. Only the upper sections of society are permitted to speak this dialect, and they avoid conversing with outsiders in the same language to maintain its sanctity.

Little Greece in the Himalayas

Malana village, located in the interior summits of the Kullu valley, is sometimes referred to as Little Greece in the Himalayas. The residents of Malana claim to be the descendants of Greek ancestry, though this remains a topic of debate. 

The village lies just below the Chandrakhani pass, and from an aerial view, it appears as a cluster of stone roofs resembling ancient Greece. The fact that the village is entitled as Little Greece in Malana is palpable. If you ever witness the Kullu district from a height, you would stumble upon this cluster of stone roofs that indeed look identical to ancient Greece.

A Story of Devotion and Democracy

Malana is a beautiful hilltop village in Kullu, believed to have been discovered by Jamdagni Rishi, a revered figure in Hindu mythology. Legend has it that Lord Shiva granted Jamdagni Rishi's wish for a place to worship nature's beauty by gifting him Malana.

However, when Jamdagni Rishi approached the valley, he encountered Banasura, a giant and mischievous spirit who ruled over the region. To gain control of the valley, Rishi challenged Banasura to a battle. But instead of fighting, the two reached a peaceful agreement, paving the way for a democratic and just administration in the region.

Sacred Customs and Hierarchy in Malana Village

The Malana people have a rich culture and unique practices that set them apart from other communities. They have strict rules and regulations that are guided by their local deity, Devta, who makes all the decisions about the village and its inhabitants. The pujari (priest) is the main person in the village and works as a subordinate of Devta. However, being a pujari is not an easy task in Malana, as it requires taking two oaths - not wearing shoes for the rest of their life and not leaving the district allocated to them.

In Malana, the people have a unique system of hierarchy, where Dhamyani and Dhurani Rajputs reside in upper Malana, while Nagvani and Pachani Rajputs live in lower Malana. The Dhamyani is at the top, followed by Dhurani, Nagvani, and Pachani. This system of hierarchy is only found in Malana.

Festivals and Celebrations in Malana

Like other villages in India, festivals are an integral part of life in Malana. It is the only way the locals can celebrate and add color to their otherwise monotonous life. They celebrate festivals throughout the year, including Badoh Mela, phagli Mela, and shaun festival, among others. During these festivals, the locals dress up in traditional attire and sing local folk songs.

Marriage Customs in Malana

Marriages in Malana are primarily fixed and made in early adolescence. On the wedding night, the bride has to run behind the groom and her in-laws while holding a torch in hand. If a villager marries an outsider, he or she can never enter the village again. Men in Malana can have more than one wife and are still required to support their ex-wife financially, even after a divorce.

A Village of Taboos and Unique Customs

Malana village is known for its strict rules and regulations that visitors must follow. 

  • Cutting down trees or fixing nails is prohibited, and burning wood in the forests is not allowed. 
  • Hunting is only permitted during a particular time of year, and visitors are not allowed to touch the temples' buildings. 
  • While the locals are friendly, they are told to maintain a distance from outsiders. Shopkeepers request visitors to place money on the counter instead of taking it directly, and heavy fines are imposed as a penalty for breaking the rules. 
  • The people of Malana take immediate baths if they come into contact with outsiders.
  • Malana is a unique village that is more suitable for backpackers and travelers rather than tourists with families. The village has a distinct culture and way of life that is not found elsewhere.

No Police Intervention Allowed

In Malana, police intervention is not allowed. If someone needs help from the police, they must pay a mandatory fine of Rs. 1000 to the village council. 

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