Malana : Shangrila in the Himalayas

Malana : Shangrila in the Himalayas
An Exhibition of Photographs by Virendra Bangroo and Krzysztof Stronski

at Matighar, IGNCA


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A civilized society in a country like India originates in the village where people of different identities interact for mutual benefit, self-sufficiency and autonomy. All villages outwardly appear to be similar but each has its core, a soul, which is a distinct as one fingerprint from the other. There are what are called artist villages, epic villages, shrine villages, fringe villages and forsaken villages distinguished by their inhabitants and their traditions. Of these, in Himachal Pradesh, the most distinctive are the shrine villages. In every such village there is a presiding deity recognized by people of all religions on the basis of faith only. Malana is one such village in the district Kulu that has preserved its age-old traditions and customs.

Below the Chanderkhani pass of the Kulu valley lies a small cluster of around two hundered stone roof houses constituting a village called Malana. Its inimitable culture and the temple of Jamlu distinguish the village. The village consists of around 1500 inhabitants and has an impeccable system of administration with even a higher and lower court guided by the spirit of village God Jamlu. Malana stands out as an autonomous self-created unit whose inhabitants claim Greek ancestry.

The Republic of Malana; a little Greece in Malana; the Drug Mafia in Malana; do’s and don’ts in Malana – all sort of fanciful stories are being regularly published in newspapers and magazines. A Malanese is subject to all sorts of probes and investigations.

However, what distinguishes this village in the interior of the Himalayas are the striking characteristics such as:

· Persistent & adamant effort by the inhabitants to retain their unique age-old heritage.
· Inaccessibility of the village so far makes it a greater attraction for adventure tourists and scholars alike.
· Unique geographical location, which has preserved its bio-diversity and is an ecological heaven.
· The village God is considered by the inhabitants as superior in power as compared to those of the other Gods in the Kulu valley.
· Their manner of worship in strikingly different from the usual Himachal traditional rituals.
Some words of the language and the architectural motifs are arguably of Greek provenance.
· A strange legend exists related to Emperor Akbar legitimizing pre-eminence of the Jamlu devta.
· Language locally called Kanashi does not belong to the Indo-Aryan group and serves and acts as a medium of communication among the Malanese only.Architecture is also unique and each architectural structure has a specific purpose and bears a vernacular name.
· The motifs on the residential houses have no resemblance to those in the adjoining regions. The motifs have connotations, which could be of interest to scholars.
· An elected village judiciary enforces rules and regulations adopted over the centuries for the benefit of the Malanese.

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