Little ahead of the beautiful Chandra Khanni Pass lies a tiny village of Malana, which is famous for the temple of Jamlu and its distinct and fully reserved social and cultural set-up. The wonder might strike out from here to the solitary Malana Pass and village. The pass hangs 1,341 metres above clustering chalets. Al the head of the valley, descending from the circle of snowy cones, is the Malana glacier. The Malana people have a district language and customes area cutrious pocket, aloof and closed unto themselves.
After crossing the narrow, muddy track that zig-zagged its way to the village of Malana, the sky is overcast with occasional drops of rain. A group of men sitting on a platform smoking and talking raucously. They will become silent when they see you trudging the last few steps to the village. Few of them even will get up. The stark difference between them and other hillmen is immediately apparent. They have sharp features, narrow eyes, dark bronze skin and are filthy. It might surprise you that they never had a bath. They wear thick, dirty, head-woven coats and trousers with patches all over. The woman sit in little group and are as dirty as the man. They have a ring on each nostril and the ears are pierced with many small rings. They wear heavy silver necklaces over the coarse, hand woven, kaftan-like dresses.
People of Malana are rough and tough. Their village lies on top of a mountain about 3,200 metres above sea level completely cut off from the rest of the State. The nearest village, Jari, lies 20 km down in the valley. For six to eight months a year, the area is snow-bound and inaccessible, making farming and sheep-rearing-their main livelihood impossible to carry out. The villagers not only survive in this condition, but live quite happily. There were 1,004 persons in 1985 in the village, and the population is growing steadily. And surprisingly, they are rich. According to a traveler camping on the outskirts of Malana, and who has visited the village often, the dream of every villager is to deposit Rs. 20,000 in the post office saving bank, which has a branch in the valley.
The income comes from herbs and charas. I asked one villager about charas. He asked me how much I wanted. The price ranged from Rs. 70 to 125 a kg, he said. It was sold openly to any one with money. Herbs and mushrooms also fetch a net sum. What do they do with so much money?’’ I only see them in dirty, torn cloths, they live in old crumpled wooden homes’’ said the traveler. Perhaps, they spend their earning in marriages. Even married woman can remarry if they wish. Age is no barrier. A 17 year old boy can marry a 40-year old woman or vice versa. Nobody bothers. However, these have never been any case of kidnapping eve teasing or rape. These are no rule of law in Malana or any law enforcing authority. The village has its own laws. There has never been police force in Malana. It is apparent the Malana people have no respect for outside authority. The laws just do not apply there. Malana has a unique system of administration. In fact, it is said to be the oldest republic still existent in India or for that matter anywhere in the world.
According to one legend, the village was Greek in origin. Some of the soldiers from Alexander’s army probably settled here after Alexander left the country. In the village, may be seen carving of the soldier with full length armored dress. Indian soldiers only wore half-length armored dress but never full-length armored clothes which almost touched the knees. It is now evening when you climb down the steep rocky track back to the valley. You will have a strange feeling of morbidity and feel that you had returned from a ghost village.