Mysterious Village of Malana
YET again Kasol fell in as my next destination, just to sit back and enjoy lively evenings. In my previous blogs, I have already talked a lot about Hippie life of Parvati Valley. This time around, we were only interested to do a day hike to Malana. We reached Kasol by evening and stayed at one of my friend’s hotel. Though it was the end of season but Israeli influence was still evident on the streets of Kasol. Parvati River looked much milder than it was during monsoon when I visited it last time. We strolled along the bank of Parvati which was mellowing under October Sky. In the evening we met Om who shared interesting legends of Malana. Om also invited us to come back in summers to join one of those restricted and exotic parties of Israelis. Om is also an expert explorer of mountains around Parvati and he shared some amazing trails those are not popular among modern-day trekkers. While hitting the hay, I was imagining wedding a local girl from Malana which I believe would be the most coveted thing for a traveler. Not just because people from Malana are highly protective about their customs but because they are irresistibly gorgeous.
Waterfalls on the way to Malana
Next morning, we drove to Manikaran which is a highly revered Gurudwara. Manikaran was the reason travelers got to know about Parvati and its sweet temptations. Along with Sikh followers, travelers from Beatles age also wended to Parvati and made it their summer home before heading to Goa or elsewhere. Now Parvati has many layers of life running parallel to each other like tracks of railways. …In a way lively… In a way distractive… In a way soothing… In a way adventurous…. In a way secretive… you just need to go there and adopt the one which suits you the most.. White washed Gurudwara lies on the bank of the river and also known for hot water spring where all the devotees take dip before offering prayers to the main shrine… The hanging bridge over the river was adorned with a fringe of prayer flags (seemingly different from Buddhist Prayer flags) and down below, Parvati was making its way through the bizarre positioning of stones. Heavy pilgrim’s visitation made Manikaran surprisingly dusty. Lanes were dirty with dung and even feces.
Skulls of Sacrificed Animals on Temple walls
We had our breakfast in Kasol and headed to Jari (8 km from Kasol) from where we needed a permit to drive further towards Malana. By far, Malana is the most intriguing village of Parvati valley and luring curious souls from all over the world. Most of the traveler’s account generally circles around the interesting legends of the village or about terraced field of cannabis but very few people talk about the spectacular vista of the village and the route which you take to reach there. The long shining pipe snaking through the mountain makes Jari easily noticeable. Jari has got a hydro power plant which I feel was an extension of Malana Hydro power plant. We registered the chevy at power plant’s entrance gate and then took the winding roads further uphill. Soon after leaving the humdrum of Jari, you will enter much striking hills adorned with occasional water falls those are high enough to get captured in single gaze. Jari to Malana power plant is quite a ride on unpaved road which may get tarred in couple of years. Road to Malana was quite different than rest of Parvati. It was closer to that landscapes I had seen in Kinnaur district. Jari to Malana (starting of trek) is some 20 km ride. Dense vegetation of Deodar on surroundings hills were reflecting on the waters of rivulets and were exposing a natural shade of green to the lesser mortals like us. Finally after stopping at several places for guessing the height of waterfalls or just for splashing water on the face, we touched down to the Malana trek entrance. We were not aware of the shorter route so started our climb from that entrance itself.
Stone and Wood house in Malana
Distant view of Malana Dam
Trail to malana is more or less shadowed with towering deodar and very well outlined. As we climbed further, we got much better views of the valley underneath and the Malana dam which were reflecting its GREEN. After hiking for a while I started to notice the significant difference in my stamina due to unhealthy life style I ran into this year. I was panting more frequently and taking more stops. Considering my previous experience in Himalayas, Malana should have been an easy walk of 45 minutes and so but it took more than an hour which disconcerted me to some extent. After hiking for a while I started to notice the significant difference in my stamina due to unhealthy life style I ran into this year. I was panting more frequently and taking more stops. Considering my previous experience in Himalayas, Malana should have been an easy walk of 45 minutes and so but it took more than an hour which disconcerted me to some extent. Malana was a delightful walk with fresh breeze gushing around our face, rejuvenating us, an endless tract of deodar forest in the backdrop of snow peaked mountains those were barren and waiting for fresh snow. Enroute we also encountered a half burnt stem of Deodar where many coins were engraved. It was a peculiar site and we could not resist ourselves to explore more around the stem. Out of random curiosity, I also engraved my visiting card in that stem. Thousands of superstitious legends go around Malana so it’s common to come across something bizarre. Assuming its relation with exorcism, my friends persuaded me to leave the place and continue hiking. October sky was perfect with mild sun shining the rocks and pebbles on the trail… Perfect weather for hiking in Himalayas and the best part was there were no tourists in Malana those days…
Terraced fields of Cannabis Malana
As we reached closer to Malana village, we started to notice terraced plantation of hemp. It was for sure not wild cannabis. These were like harvesting the cannabis just like any other crop and then we found many more such fields. It became very clear that they are growing hemp legally in this part and its usual business here. First Glimpse of Malana was soothing. Like other villages of Himachal, it has labyrinth of wooden houses on stone slabs. Surrounded by hills laden with high deodar, Malana is a picturesque hamlet and will definitely inspire awe. Last evening, we learnt a lot about Malana from Om so those preconceived images were getting their true shape. We stopped at the primary school and refilled our bottle because we knew none is going to offer anything to us in Malana.
Sacred platform in Malana
One of the world's oldest democracy, little Greece of Himalayas, Malana is a reclusive village tucked in the remote corner of Parvati valley at an elevation of 2650 meter. Malana came into attention of the travelers due to its inimitable customs, life style, social structure and nearly extinct dialect (Kanashi).village is tangled with myriad of legends. Inhabitants are fiercely protected about their customs which surged the curiosity among outsiders. Besides all its mysterious facades, Malana is also notorious for growing the best cannabis in the world and consequently encouraging drug trade. Malana is also featured in various documentaries which made inspired more people to travel and investigate the secretive side of this tiny hamlet.
Partially Burnt Temple in Malana
Before our visit, everyone told us not to talk to anyone… not to touch anything.. not to photograph anything or anyone… While in Malana… I have been to umpteen number of villages across Himachal Pradesh and stayed overnight with locals but Malana was a different experience all together. We entered in the village where most of the houses were 2 storeys with ladies threshing the wheat/barley on second floor. In some households we also noticed corridors filled up with plucked leaves and plants of marijuana. They dry the leaves before transforming it further to the popular pot (Charas) of Malana. In the street of Malana, I was approached by couple of kids and ladies… All of them came closer and murmured…. Maal chhaiye?... Charas Chhaiye?... Now most of the locals of Malana speak and understand Hindi very well. They also know that most of the outsiders come to Malana to smoke charas which locals sell at very nominal price.
Jamlu Rishi Temple Malana
I am always tempted to Maal but not the maal which she referred at that time. Everyone in Malana smokes charas including all the ladies and even kids which I found quite disheartening. Finally we reached to some old wooden temples those were exquisitely carved on outer walls. There are sign boards in all the lanes of Malana warning visitors not to touch any house or temple of the village. Photography is also prohibited and there is hefty fine if you are found doing so. Restriction in the village does not allow you to do the exploration the way you might want to hence might leave you with frowning curiosity. Temples in Malana definitely occupy visitors for quite some time not because these are built in unique style but because you get to see panels decorated with horns, bones, skulls of the animals on the outer walls and doors of the temples. My guess is that these are from the animals those were once sacrificed on these temples. Jamlu Rishi Temple is the main temple of the village and Jamlu Rishi was the prime deity of the village. In January 2008, Malana suffered a devastating fire which destroyed many temples of the village. You can still see the remains of those temples while navigating through Malana. While in Malana don’t get nervous if someone is staring you or following you. I also noticed that Men don’t do anything in Malana and Women are primarily taking care of everything. Most of the men in Malana were lazing around a big stone platform which is again out of bound for outsiders. I would like to be part of such society where ladies are taking lead role and allowing men to enjoy siesta. With recent shift of freedom, Girls in contemporary India should learn something from Malana and should take that extra responsibility…. No offence ..
Warning Sign at one of the temple's walls
I believe if you make something a taboo then it will definitely arise curiosity and subsequently illicit invasion because we humans are adventurous by nature. Taking chances into unknown had always exhilarated us and this is why Malana became a buzzword in Parvati Valley. After taking 2-3 circles around the village where we attracted lot of unwanted attention, we receded back to the primary school to refill our water bottles and later hiked uphill to find a shelter in one of those guest houses overlooking malana from a safe distance.
Starting of Malana Trek
Household of Malana Village
My Malana Love