Malana Village

Himachal Pradesh, India


 

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Situated on a remote plateau by the Malana river and valley, Malana is an ancient village with an intense culture and is known for its world famous hashish, the Malana Cream. It is made entirely by hand and it is the main income for the Malanis. Arriving in late October, we were fortunate to witness the harvest of the marijuana plants, which occurs from September to November before the snowfall in winter, where they grow aplenty in the village and throughout the region.

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The only accessible route to Malana Village is by foot, with numerous treks from different directions. We chose a pleasant two-hour hike from the winding mountain roads that stem from Jari.

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Malana – the village of taboo.

 

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A typical house in Malana – the ground level acts as a cattle shed or for storing firewood, the first floor is used to store eatables, wool and for drying hemp, while the top level is the actual living quarters.

 

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One of the few sacred temples in the village, finely decorated with carvings and sacrificial animal heads.

 

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The Malani people follow an exotic custom, which considers all non-Malani to be inferior and impure, hence untouchable. Visitors of Malana are also not allowed to touch any of the walls or houses in the village. If they are touched by an ‘outsider’, he or she will have to pay a fine which covers the cost of a sacrificial lamb to purify the object that has been made impure. The only exception are the several guesthouses for travelers. At the handful of shops in the village, visitors are not allowed into the shops and transactions are dealt by placing money on the ground as the shopkeeper places the goods down simultaneously.

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This photograph was taken moments before I subconsciously placed a foot on the first step of their stairway to get a close-up shot, and immediately they stared at me with a horrified and incomprehensible look. I stepped down and backed away instantly, and gestured my apologies.

 

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Villagers returning to the main village after a day of harvest.

 

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A shepherd throwing stones to keep his herd in check.

 

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A house with marijuana fields for a frontyard, and a waterfall at its back.

 

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There are many myths to the origins of the Malana village and its people, and one of the beliefs is that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great’s army, however genetic typing has proven their association with Indo-Aryans rather than the Greeks. Malanis are generally friendly, although there are no means for any verbal communication. The language Kanashi, spoken by the people of Malana is sacred and unintelligible to all outsiders, and not resembling any of the Indo-Aryan dialects spoken in the valley.

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A Malani woman reveals her palm covered with cannabis resin, from rubbing the hemp plants, which are then compressed to form the famous hashish – Malana cream.

 

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November is a hectic period for the Malanis. They are usually seen returning to the main village just before the last light of day, having spent the entire day harvesting hemp plants, in addition to gathering firewood for winter.

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We started a campfire with a few Indian travelers. Shortly after, a trio of local boys from Malana brought with them firewood and the night went up in smoke.

 

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A place with puzzling practices, phenomenal vistas and provoking perceptions, it is little wonder that Malana is the magical valley of Himachal Pradesh.

 


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