Malana Village – The Great Unknown!
If you are an ardent PC gamer, then you will remember the Himalayan country of Kyrat in Far Cry 4. Kyrat is the fictional country where the storyline of the game develops. Everything I loved about the game had to do with Kyrat- a country of extensive mountains and forests, vast water systems, and villages. I always wondered if such a place existed in the real-world; if so, how would it be? Malana village is the perfect, if not, the only example of such a countryside. Located in the Malana valley, this village is locked away from the rest of the world. Until a few years ago, the trek to Malana would take hours and at times- was an overnight journey. The distance was about 21 kilometers but that changed after the advent of the Malana Hydro Power Station.
The new “road” takes you all the way to the adjacent hill and from there it is a 2 hour trek to the village. At several points along the way there is no road- just stones and boulders which is hard to steer clear from. Imagine, we traveled in a Maruti Alto thinking it was cost-effective (which it was) and the roads were fairly okay (which it wasn’t)..! The cab ride from Manali to the adjacent hill will cost you INR 1300 and this includes a waiting period of 3 hours. For every additional hour they tend to charge INR 100. If you ask me, the duration of 3 hours is not sufficient to go up, spend time and then come down.
It was the first time for any of us climbing a steep trail- that too 3 kilometers and so, we took our time. In terms of preparing for such a climb, my only advice is to carry a bottle of water- preferably with electrolyte powder diluted. We made it to to the top in about an hour and a half (~ 90 mins). The houses in Malana village are distinct from the ones that are built on hill slopes. They are very appealing because of the vibrant paintwork. I cannot say the same about the inhabitants- they are not forthcoming; especially if you are a foreigner. I’ve even read that they think of non-Malanis as inferior and at times, even untouchable.
They are happy going about their business which is- producing the “best Hashish in the World”! Due to the tremendously high oil content, the Hashish produced in Malana also known as M-Cream or Malana Cream is renowned worldwide. I’ve heard a lot about it and was curious to see how they did it. Believe it or not, one of the local residents allowed us to see him hand-rub Charas from the Marijuana plant- videos were out of the question. He even offered to sell some but we respectfully declined (say what.. declined??). The village was pretty much deserted and we didn’t find anything interesting to do. So, we visited this nearby cafe and had some refreshments. We lazed around for a bit and then descended from Malana to the place where our cab was parked.
There are a lot of fascinating myths and legends that have mentioned about this solitary village. At times even calling it one of the oldest democracies dating back to the pre-Aryan times. Another interesting fact was about the origin of the people- said to be descendants of Greek soldiers of Alexander’s army. One thing is for sure, most of the stories that float are arguable- which is why Malana has been the subject of various factual films; to name one- Malana: Globalization of a Himalayan Village. Another engaging read- “Fear and Loathing in the Magic Valley of Malana” and lastly, the critically acclaimed Hindi movie- M Cream.
Truth is, we may never know for sure what has transpired or transpires in this village. Maybe, if we live long enough amongst the Malanis we might come across the truth but until then most of it will remain uncertain. Malana is without a doubt the most mysterious village I have ever heard about or seen. All I can hope for is that it remains that way because, some things are better left that way!