The legend of Alexander the Great lives on in Himachal Pradesh’s Malana

Malana village in the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh

The legend of Alexander the Great lives on in Himachal Pradesh’s sleepy Malana, a cluster of 12 villages comprising eight clans. The mystique comes alive when its inhabitants proclaim themselves as descendants of the Greek king and speak a language only they can understand.

This may be unravelled soon: a Swedish university is in talks with the Institute of Tribal Studies of Himachal University is to launch a research to understand the mysterious but small population. The Institute of Tribal Studies director P. K. Vaid says that the project had been broadly divided into two parts — trace the origin of the language that the people of Malana speak and trace the origin of the people. Alexander the Great had defeated the Indian king Porus along the banks of the Beas. After a series of campaigns on India, his soldiers felt tired and wanted to return home. Alexander, too, is said to have gone back home. Lore has it that some of his soldiers, too tired to return, preferred to settle down along the banks of the Beas and it is said residents of Malana may be their descendants.

Malanis have very distinct physical features and dialect, different from the rest of the region. Even the houses, temples and general architecture, of the village is distinct as compared to other villages in Himachal Pradesh. Malanis are very protective of their cultural heritage and have strong religious beliefs, they don’t even interact freely with non-Malanis. To such an extent that every tourist or visitor is considered an untouchable. So if you visit Malana, you are forbidden from touching any of their property, structure and people, and if you do touch, pay a fine of Rs 1000. Whereas if Malanis touch any visitor, they have to go through a purification ritual, before they eat or enter their house. This is contradictory to an Indian custom of considering guests to be god. Malana is popular among tourists for its hashish, Malana Cream, so many foreign tourists visit only for that, they don’t mind the staunch behavior of the locals.

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