Malana village

Not sure where I was going, I was on the bus on the way to Kasol in the Parvati Valley when I met two young ladies from Catalunya. They told me they were headed to a quiet, secluded town and I decided to head that way as well. To get there we shared a taxi to a path alongside the Parvati River and had to hike the rest of the way. The taxi ride was rough, more like 4 X 4ing up the rocky, unpaved road crossing small streams and loose rock. Eventually we made it to the beginning of the path that led up the mountain to the village. I had my full-sized backpack on, while the smart girls had just small day packs. We hiked up a steep rock and mud path for two hours, our breath heavy and sweat steadily drenching our shirts, before reaching Malana village.

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This wasn’t like other villages, Malana people have specific religious laws that they abide by. The majority of the villagers belong to high caste families, and no lower caste or non-hindus are allowed to touch them or their dwellings. There were only two guesthouses at the top of the village, and they had the only two restaurants in the entire village. One day we met a man from Delhi and he told us that the people of this village are believed to be the descendants of Alexander the Great. They avoid touching lower caste or non-hindus to keep themselves spiritually pure. He said that in the whole village, only two houses belonged to lower-caste families and that they had to do the dirty jobs of the whole village. He said it was so engrained in the Indian mind that even he can tell by someone’s mannerisms what caste they belong to. He told us that in spite of their high-caste status, most of the village boys never go to school, wasting their time in the charras (hashish) business rather than developing their minds.

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I only spent two days there, a lot of the time in the guesthouse on balcony eating, playing cards with the ladies and listening to music in my room. Given the laws they live by, one doesn’t just stroll around the village. Even if I did I couldn’t touch anything or else risk the government imposed fine for doing so. One day my friends and I took a hike higher up the mountain via an old goat path, but the heavy slope made any progress slow. We stopped under a tree to relax and enjoy the scenery of the opposite mountain face until lunchtime.

My take on this village: It was an interesting cultural experience. The people here did have a different appearance than other Indians of the region; lighter skin, a different facial structure and hazel eyes. I would agree that they could be descendants of Macedonians and Greeks that passed through the region a little over 2300 years ago. As for the caste system, quite frankly it’s bullshit that two lower-caste families have to do the dirty work of the entire village. Maybe I don’t know enough about the caste system in India, but to me it’s absurd that one is born into his/her caste with little chance of social progress except for the hope that good merit in this life might grant them a better lot in the next. To me this is an ugly little social/cultural box that the Indians keep themselves in.

When we were ready to go, we started the hike down the mountain to the other side to get a taxi. The way day was much less taxing, and we soon arrived, and got a taxi to Jeri where we went our separate ways.

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