Malana is an ancient Indian village in the state of Himachal Pradesh. This solitary village in the Malana Nala, a side valley of the Parvati Valley to the north-east of Kullu Valley, is isolated from the rest of the world. The peaks of Chanderkhani and Deotibba shadow the village. It is situated on a remote plateau by the side of the torrential Malana River, at a height of 2,652 metres (8,701 ft) above sea level. Malana has its own lifestyle and social structure and people are strict in following their customs. Malana has been the subject of various documentaries, including Malana: Globalization of a Himalayan Village, and Malana, A Lost Identity. The existing speakers of the autochthonous language Kanashi, the traditional language of the inhabitants of Malana, number approximately 1700. According to the 1961 census, the language speakers were then 563, but today the population of Malana is at least three times as large as 40 years ago.
According to the local legends, Jamlu rishi (sage) inhabited this place and made rules and regulations. The locals claim it to be one of the oldest democracies of the world with a well-organized parliamentary system, guided by their devta (deity) Jamlu rishi. Although Jamlu is currently identified with a sage from the Puranas, this is a relatively recent development. Jamlu is believed to have been worshipped in pre-Aryan times. Penelope Chetwood recounts a tale about an orthodox Brahmin priest, who visited Malana, and tried to educate the locals about the pedigree of their god, and what subsequently befell the hapless priest.
A dam project, the Malana Hydro Power Station, has brought Malana much closer to the rest of the world and provides revenue for the region. A new road has shortened the walking time from several days to just 4 hours. The Hydro Malana Project has also ruined the beauty of the valley. In 2004, Malana was adopted by Aryan Sharma, a businessman based in Delhi. On 5 January 2008, a raging fire in the village, which burnt for more than 5 hours, destroyed cultural structures and parts of ancient temples located in the village. In 2017, the village ordered the closure of approximately a dozen guest houses and restaurants, ostensibly on the orders of the deity Jamlu.
Malan is admiring their culture, customs and religious beliefs. They generally do not like to change though some traces of modernization are visible. People in Malana consider all non-Malani to be inferior and consequently untouchable. Visitors to Malana town must pay particular attention to stick to the prescribed paths and not to touch any of the walls, houses or people there. If this does occur, visitors are expected to pay a forfeit sum, that will cover the sacrificial slaughter of a lamb in order purify the object that has been made impure. Malani people may touch impure people or houses as long as they follow the prescribed purification ritual before they enter their house or before they eat. Malanis may never accept food cooked by a non-Malani person, unless they are out of the valley. Malanis may offer visitors food but all utensils will have to undergo a strict purification ritual before they can be used again.
Malana is considered to be one of the first democracies in the world. According to tradition, the residents of Malana are the descendant of Aryans, and they acquired their independence during the Mughal reign when the Emperor Akbar walked to the village in order to cure an ailment that he was afflicted with; after having been successfully cured he put out an edict stating that all the inhabitants of the valley would never be required to pay tax. An alternative tradition suggests that Malana was founded by remnants of Alexander the Great’s Army.