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Some dope on pot: It’s Hazy

Some dope on pot: It’s Hazy

by Vinta Nanda September 2 2020, 3:05 am Estimated Reading Time: 6 mins, 58 secs

Vinta Nanda collates information from available materials on the web for us to find out what Bhang, Charas and Ganja mean to Indians at large.

This article is pieced together from the research of Tim Leffel and Ada McVean - from their articles: Smokin' Sadhus: India's Wandering Stoned Holy Men and Getting more Bhang for your buck: Cannabis in India – both are linked here if you’d like to read more.

Tim Leffel writes: The half-naked man pushes back his orange turban and gets down to work. The Sadhu breaks off chunks of hash and mixes them with tobacco in his bony fingers, then dumps the contents into a chillum.

The flaming wooden match lights up the painted lines on his forehead as he shouts, “Bom Shiva!” and starts puffing away, his head disappearing behind a cloud of smoke.

After two massive lungfuls, he passes the pipe on to his brethren, more thin men dressed in a minimum of cloth, with long beards, matted hair and a happily glazed look in their eyes.

They are sadhus, India’s wandering holy men. They have renounced their worldly life, said goodbye to both their possessions and their families and now lead a life of celibacy, ascetic yoga, and a search for enlightenment. Most make pilgrimages across the subcontinent and spread ashes on their body, while the more radical test themselves by holding one arm in the air for years on end or spending twenty-four hours a day standing up. A far more pleasant and widespread characteristic, however, is the tendency to get stoned out of their minds on a regular basis.

Tim Leffel goes further to say: While sadhus can be divided into a zillion different sects, most follow either the god Vishnu (the preserver) or Shiva (the destroyer, and thus, the rejuvenator). While many followers of Vishnu manage to find reasons to smoke charas (hash) for enlightenment, it’s the latter group that really has a ready excuse. Shiva is generally pictured meditating alone in the Himalayas, his eyes half-closed from the effects of his hash.

Dolf Hartsuiker, in his authoritative book Sadhus, the Holy Men of India, writes, “Mythologically, charas is intimately connected with Shiva: he smokes it, he is perpetually intoxicated by it, he is The Lord of Charas.”

So by becoming social outcasts and smoking ganja or charas, the sadhus claim that they are only trying to emulate Shiva. If even the most devout Hindu man were to sit down to talk with a group of sadhus, he would have no choice but to join in if the chillum came his way. To refuse the pipe would be to pass up the chance, the obligation really, to share a holy experience with the ascetics.

In his article, Tim Leffel goes on to write: As I sat for a half-hour with a group of three sadhus near Manikaran, a steady stream of visitors came through; an old woman depositing some coins and flowers by a shrine of tridents, a farmer dropping off some vegetables and two broken-down truck drivers with a big hunk of charas to share. The last two were most warmly welcomed. When I naively asked one sadhu how he got around the country, he looked puzzled. “Train is free,” he said simply. “Food free, train free, charas free. Baba’s life is a good life.”

According to Hindu beliefs, when a sadhu dies he leaves his body and floats off to Mount Kailash, the source of the Ganges River and the home of Shiva. There he goes about a life of doing pretty much what he was doing anyway: smoking heavenly hash and meditating in divine bliss.  

India is known for many things like cricket, its population and marijuana. Did you know that India grew the best weed in all of Asia?

Pot, weed, ganja, and marijuana - it goes by many names. Let’s just start by saying, yes we know that weed is illegal in India, but it is legal to consume it at the following six cities in India:  Jaisalmer, Pushkar, Varanasi, Mathura, Noida and Hampi.

You would have heard of Manala cream and Idukki Gold. A long time ago a small town/village called Idukki in Kerala, along the Western Ghats, had favorable climate and set up to grow weed.

Locally known as Neela Chandayan, this weed has a very desi origin. Idukki was all the rage in the 1980s when cultivation was in full swing and legalities on the down low; slowly and steadily, law enforcement started cracking down fields and catching suppliers.

Things went south with fields being burnt down by law enforcement agencies from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. With the cops cracking down, deforestation in full swing, the plantations suffered and eventually dwindled down to nothing - pushing cultivators to find land elsewhere and start farming.

As reported by Cathline Chen in Whats Hot dated 1st May 2020, even though the good old days of Idukki Gold are long gone, there is a new king in town, called Shilavati. Not only is this known as the most potent strain of weed one can find in India, but that can be bought for anything ranging from Rs 2000 to 20,000. Other strands and famous weed varieties are Mango Kush, Manala Kush and Manipuri Strain.

According to the 2017 World Drug Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, two of the top 10 cities that consume the most cannabis in the world are in India: New Delhi and Mumbai. The trick here is that much of the cannabis consumed isn’t smoked, but rather drunk in a drink called bhang.

Bhang looks somewhat like a shamrock shake or a green smoothie, but tastes of spices and herbs like saffron, fennel, garam masala and more. Strictly speaking, the term bhang refers to a paste made by steeping finely ground cannabis leaves (not buds) in hot milk. This paste can then be eaten on its own or used to create drinks or snacks like pakoras.

Bhang is especially common during Hindu festivals, in particular Holi. Cannabis has a rich history in sacred Hindu texts and is named as one of the five sacred plants in the Atharva Veda.

The Hindu god Shiva has long been associated with cannabis, and is said to have used bhang for meditative and healing purposes. Cannabis has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat conditions ranging from skin disorders to anxiety.

Despite India’s rich cannabis-history, marijuana is actually illegal in the country. Bhang manages to maintain its huge consumption rates due to a legal loophole. It is against Indian Law to possess hashish and ganja, but not the leaves of the cannabis plant, which is what bhang is made from. Incidentally, despite its illegality, hashish (made from the resin of the cannabis plant and commonly mixed with tobacco before smoking), is much more popular in India than in North America.

Interestingly, cannabis of all preparations was legal in India until 1961, when the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs moved cannabis to the hard drug category. Prior to this, cannabis consumption had been seen as an inherent part of the religious and social customs of India. Even the colonial British rulers concluded, after commissioning the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report of 1894 that, “to forbid or even seriously to restrict the use of so gracious a herb as cannabis would cause widespread suffering and annoyance.”

My contention is only this: Shouldn’t the moral police as well as the very judgmental middle class treat this matter with empathy? After all, you also belong to the land of Shiva, don’t you? Change must happen and without delay but does it have to be the outcome of a malicious discourse? 

Ada Mcvean in an article dated 11th March 2020 in McGill - Office of Science and Society writes that today any flowering top (called ganja) and separated resin (called charas) from the cannabis plant remains illegal in India, although that is clearly not limiting citizen's ability to imbibe in THC and CBD. So long as only the leaves of the cannabis plant are consumed, Indians are within their legal rights.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.