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Religious Beliefs and Marriages in the oldest republic of the world

March 26, 2007
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Malana village

Malana is an ancient village to the north-east of Kullu Valley. This solitary village in the Malana Nala a side valley of the Parvati Valley is isolated from the rest of the world. The majestic passes of Chandrakhani and Deotibba shadow the village. It is situated on a remote plateau by the side of torrential Malana river at a height of 3029 m above the sea level. Unaffected by the modern civilisation, Malana has its own lifestyle and social structure. People are strict in following their customs. For an outsider, these customs are mysterious and amazing at the same time.

Malana has a distinct and glorious history and it goes back to Jamlu rishi (sage) who inhabitated this place and made rules and regulations.It is considered/reported to be one of the oldest democracy of the world with a well organized parilamentary system. All this is guided by the their devta (deity) jamblo rishi.
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.


Marriages

Except the two major functions in the village there is not any custom or ritual to be followed. Marriage is a simple affair for Malanese and is performed around the Mela in the village. Marriages are performed at an early age mostly below fifteen. The function lasts for only one night. They day marriage is fixed, the bridgegroom wearing a turban and the traditional attire along with his friends and relatives visits the bride’s house where a feast is arranged for the guests. Not more than 30-40 people accompany him. Rice, chapatti, dal and meat are served. Meanwhile, the bride also gets dressed up in the traditional attire and is bedecked with jewellery. The girl’s parents and relatives present gifts to the girl and bless her. Thereafter the bride alongwith the bridegroom prepares for the onward journey. According to the custom, the bridegroom is the first to leave alongwith baratis. He holds a mashal (torch) in his hand. Seeing this, the bride runs after him and ultimately lands in her in-laws, house. This is all about the marriage and the locals call it Rakshasi marriage. No ceremonies, no priest and no elaborate rituals. The only place in the outside world that malanese keep relations with is the village Rasol. Rasol worships the goddess Reneuka, the wife of Jamlu, and that is why girls from Malana can marry here. Malanese are allowed to marry inside the village. If they marry an outsider they may never be allowed to re-enter the village.

Divorce too is not uncommon is as simple as the marriage. In case of divorce, according to the law of the land, the boy has to arrange a separate house, the food etc. for the girl. Divorced women can remarry. The Malanese can keep one or more wives.

Similarly, there are not elaborate last rituals to be performed at the time of death. The dead body is wrapped in a coffin and taken to the cremation ground and consumed to flames on a pyre. One member of the village, the Hakim attends it besides the family members and the ashes are kept at the cremation ground only. The rituals of the deceased last for three days. A goat is sacrificed for the purification of the house. On the death of the husband, the widow can remarry but after a gap of one y ear.

Religious Beliefs

The shrine of Renuka Devi is situated in lower Malana. The shrine with its intricate wood work is noteworthy for its architectural excellence. Horns of animals sacrificed in the temple complex are usually fixed on the façade of the temple. The original abode of Jamdagani Rishi is said be at Baginda, 15 kms from Buntar. Another shrine of Jamdagani Rishi is at Tosh village, 6 kms from Pulga.

The village priest Bua Ram, who is the only person in the village to wear a white turban, can be recognized form a distance. His forefathers have been there since ages to take care of the village-shrine and pass on the injunctions of the Jamlu Rishi to the villagers.

Bua Ram, the priest has a two-storied house, well decorated from outside and embellished with intricate wood carvings. His family members are to stay separately but they do visit him while providing food and other things to him. In the close vicnity of the priest’s house is the abode of Jamdagni Rishi called Jamlu Rishi in the local dialect.

The post of the village priest is a hereditary one. Bua Ram has one son Bayi Ram and a daughter Suvari Devi. Bayi Ram has two sons Morsingh and Amarchand. The village is inhabited by Thakurs only except for fwo families belonging to the Julaha and Lohar castes. They don’t belong to this place and came here as drummers. While untouchability prevails, there are separate dharmsalas in the village for the lower caste people coming to the place to attend the festivals and other occasions.

Jamlu is the most revered and is considered to be the king. His courtiers are elected and they collect funds for the following services for the upkeep and maintenance of the civic amenities :

1. Land revenue from the villagers of Malana.
2. From outsiders who graze their cattle in Malana.
3. Offering of devotees in cash and gold and silver horses.
4. From the offering of visitors.

The administration of Malana is based on religious faith and to maintain the faith the elected members select Bhandaris among the villagers who are assigned the following tasks :

1. To collect tax on land from the area, which falls under the jurisdiction of the village shrine.
2. To deposit land and other revenues in the shrine treasury.
3. To maintain the income and expenditure account.
4. To collect and deposit the offerings.
5. To arrange funds for functions and festivals and to organize them.
6. To hold symbols of Jamlu devata during the religious processions.

The three-storied building near the courtyard is meant for keeping food and other necessities for the pilgrims. According to the rule of the land, nobody must remain hungry in the village. The visitors or pilgrims can get food from this place. To maintain this store house four persons from the village are selected every year.

There is a separate bhandar for the God, which is adjacent to his abode. In this huge bhandar are kept the food grains besides the offerings made in cash and gold and silver horses.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 17, 2007 10:29 AM

    hi nice to know abt Malana village. Previous to this I only know abt Malana cream thas abt marijuana I think nothng more than that ……

    Thanks fro a nice article
    Post more abt Himachal
    I’d luv to read abt land of gods….

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