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View Finder | Malana, Himachal Pradesh

Scenes from a remote snow-clad village where the 21st century is thawing an ancient way of life
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First Published: Sat, Apr 13 2013. 12 12 AM IST
In winter, snow cuts off the village from the outside world. Photo: Harikrishna Katragadda.
In winter, snow cuts off the village from the outside world. Photo: Harikrishna Katragadda.
Out of the cocoon
Malana is a remote village in the Parvati valley of Himachal Pradesh. It is famous for its cream (hashish), but the village itself stands on a remote plateau 3,029m above sea level.

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      The village has been inaccessible to the outside world for centuries, its culture largely unaffected by modern civilization. Malanis are believed to be an ancient race—they consider themselves the descendants of Alexander’s Greek soldiers. They speak a language called Kanashi, one that does not resemble the dialects of any of its nearby areas. Malana has a parliamentary system that, according to locals, makes it the oldest republic in the world.
      photo
      The village is also known for its rigid religious beliefs, including the idea that all non-Malanis are untouchables (if a visitor touches a Malani, he must pay for the slaughter of a lamb to “purify” the Malani). Neither visitors nor locals can wear leather in any form. The food is non-spicy and basic and includes dahi (yogurt), rice, chicken and lamb.
      But Malana is today in the throes of change, thanks to a hydroelectric power project coming up in its vicinity. With better road connectivity and contact with the wider world, the Malanis’ daily life and traditions are already starting to be affected.
      The village has a pool table. Young people wear Levi’s jeans, and speak in Hindi and Punjabi. They are eager to embrace the modernization brought on by television and mobile phones. Smoking pot, a part of the local culture and a source of income, is becoming an addiction—even among teenage boys.
      Today we take a peek into remote, secluded Malana as it opens up to the wider world.
      As told to Pooja Chaturvedi
      A monthly travelogue in pictures.
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      First Published: Sat, Apr 13 2013. 12 12 AM IST
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