It was in the 1990s, while hosting the travel show Namaste India that filmmaker Anu Malhotra found herself exploring little villages and hamlets tucked away in the Himalayas. It was on such trips that she came across shamanic practices in the Kullu valley. “Shamans are prevalent in villages across India. They are considered conduits to the devtas or the presiding deities of the village. They are the voices of god,” says Malhotra, who has won over 16 national and international awards for films such as The Apatani of Arunachal Pradesh and The Maharaja of Jodhpur.
After nearly a decade of research, Malhotra decided to document the shamanic practices of Kullu in the film Shamans of the Himalayas. It is for the first time that the practices of the gur, as the shamans are called in Kullu, has been documented. “This is partly because people are not aware of the local culture, which has been prevalent in the region for thousands of years. It is astonishing that bus loads of tourists visit Kullu every year and they don’t bother to explore the traditions and practices that exist right under their noses,” rues Malhotra. Another reason is access. The villages safeguard these traditions from prying eyes. “I made several friends during my years of travel to the valley. Moreover I spent a lot of time eating, conversing, staying with the shamans. That really made a difference,” she says.
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