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Malana, an ancient village in Himachal Pradesh, hidden from the outside civilization for thousands of years, has been fostering a primitive existence in harmony with nature and a unique model of democracy of consensus. Mystery shrouds their ancestral roots. A popular myth suggests them to be the descendants of exiled Greek soldiers of Alexander. Reminiscent of a lost world four to five thousand years old, the people of Malana still speak in a primeval language presumably that of mythical Rakshashas. It is only in last five decades that this mysterious isolated community has come in contact with the outside world. The fact remains that in the eighties the international drug mafia pulled them into the hashish trade. Malana crémè became world famous but the village remianed isolated and underprevilaged. The village even today is grossly uneducated and no systematic effort had ever been made to bring to them the light of modern civilization in a positive humane way. In 2008 this ancient civilization received a sudden shock of our modern age when half the village including four ancient temples got destroyed by a tragic fire arising out of an electrical short circuit. Today’s Malana represents an obscured victim of human progress, an ancient civilization on verge of extinction, an anthropological asset that we need to preserve.

We cannot walk back in time, we cannot deny progress, we cannot stop modernization… then how can we ethically integrate this ancient community into modernity in a more inclusive way… how do we preserve their traditional culture… how do we restore their unique treasure - their trust!

A living ethnic community cannot be protected by simply constructing a real wall so we propose a virtual sheild Bom-Wall - where the traditional wisdom modernity and go hand in hand.

an ancient chant in a primeval language

Wall 1

The language group of Malana supposedly belongs to that of the mythical ethnic group Rakshahshas. This primeval language Kanashi does not have a script and follows an oral tradition. It is a living language whose purity is getting fast contaminated with influence of foreign words. In order to keep alive a near extinct language spoken by a population of merely 2500 people one has to look at delivery of primary and appropriate education in their own language. This also means that the people themselves must be able to understand, read and write their language in a script format. It is imperative to do a detailed study of the language, prepare lexicon and grammar and create an audio-visual interactive program for language training, followed by appropriate education in Kanashi language through e-education.
It is to be noted that ‘Ethnologue: Languages of the World’ mentions and gives basic notes on the language Kanashi but has no resources as there does not exist any. Study and development of lexicon of this language will set a remarkable milestone in the linguistic world especially in the field of Sino-Tibetan languages.

Project Duration:

5 years in 3 phases

Phase 1: Preparation of Lexicon

Phase Duration:

2 years
1) 20 hrs of word segmented speech corpus
2) Lexicon containing root words with available morphological inflexions
3) Dictionary (basic meaning only )

Phase 2: Identification of Phonemes and Phonology of the language

Phase Duration:
1 year
List of phonemes used in the language and their characteristics including IPA symbols

Phase 3: Grammar & Language Learning Program

Phase Duration:

2 years 6 months
1) Interactive language learning programs
2) Operating computer booth in the village

Project Guides:

Prof Asoke Kr Datta, President, Bom-Bom Charitable Trust
Former HOD, ECSU, Indian Statistical Inst. (ISI), Kolkata.

Dr Krishna Bhattacharya
Former HOD & Professor, Dept of Linguistics, University of Calcutta

Probable Consultants:

Prof John Ohala
Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Berkley.

Prof James A. Matisoff
Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Berkley.

Prof Aditi Lahiri
Professor of Linguistics, Faculty of Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics, Oxford

Prof Peri Bhaskar Rao
Institute of Asian and African Languages and Cultures, Tokyo

some traditional practices                                                                                                                           hemp shoe

Wall 2

An ancient culture cannot be preserved by simply erecting a protective shield where the pressure of mainstream popular culture is truly overpowering. But we can somehow try restoring it with a systematic cultural and knowledge exchange process with the modern world where the villagers also recognize values of their own culture and wisdom. It is not just that we need to teach them something; instead we have so much to learn from them too. Bom-Bom Charitable Trust has taken a comprehensive plan of 5 years towards 360 degree cultural archiving of Malana through a Concept Museum comprising of real exhibits and an interactive virtual archive.

Though the community still speaks in the language of rakshashas suggesting a lost world may be five thousands year old yet there are no real ancient relics available in the village. Whatever was there, the most was destroyed by a tragic fire in 2008. What still exist are their ancient chants, their myths, their songs – a living oral culture.The proposed virtual museum will be a cross platform project with interactive audio-visual archive of Malana.

As an indigenous community they had many traditional nature friendly practices, many of which are fast disappearing in their transition to modernity. By showcasing benefits of such time tested practices one can create the much-needed awareness about an environment friendly living. One main objective of the museum would be to showcase their unique model of democracy, one of the oldest forms of democracy in the world.

This model of a Concept Museum with both real and virtual components may set a benchmark for preservation of endangered tribes and cultures in India.

Project Duration:
3 phases in 5 years
Phase 1: Audio visual archive showcasing their democracy, their history, their language, their myths, their way of life, their traditional tools and tackles, their rituals and practices etc
Phase 2: Building an interactive virtual museum
Phase 3: Constructing a real museum with interactive virtual screens and viewer’s gallery
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