Associated with Lord Shiva, bhang has now become synonymous with
holi. To the extent that bhang drinks have now become an official Holi
Culled from the leaves and buds of cannabis
- the very intoxicating
bhang helps to escalate the spirit of holi - a festival which does not
recognise any restrictions. Lip smacking thandai, pakoras and vadas, all
having bhang as a very essential ingredient, are savoured by all on the day.
Bhang Preparations in Banaras
The tradition of consuming bhang on holi is particularly rampant in North
India where holi itself is celebrated with a gusto unseen anywhere else.
But, the hub of bhang is Varanasi or Banaras, the land of Shiva worship,
where bhang is prepared on its famous ghats.
Anywhere on the ghats one can find large number of men engaged in the
process of preparing bhang. Using mortar and a pestle, the buds and leaves
of Cannabis are squashed and ground into a green paste. To this mixture
milk, ghee, and spices are added. The bhang base is now ready to be made
into a nutritious, refreshing drink - Thandai, a healthy alternative to
alcohol. Bhang is also mixed with ghee and sugar to make a tasty green
halva, and into peppery, chewy little balls called 'golees'.
A Brief History of Bhang
Bhang was first used as an intoxicant in India around 1000 BC and soon
became an integral part of Hindu culture. In the ancient text Artharvaveda,
Bhang is described as a beneficial herb that "releases anxiety".
Bhang preparations were sacred to Gods, particularly Shiva. One of Shiva's
epithets was "Lord of Bhang" as he is said to have discovered the
transcendental properties of the mixture.
In imitation of Shiva, many sadhus use Bhang to boost meditation and
achieve transcendental states. Besides, Bhang or cannabis is also believed
to be popular amongst Sufis as an aid to spiritual ecstasy since a long
Bond with the Bhang
Ancient as it is, bhang has become a inseparable part of Indian tradition.
So much so that it has become symbolic for a lot of things. They might be,
or rather they are, pure superstitious believes. But if one understands the
inherent sentimental and emotional nature of Indians, one can very easily
feel the emotional bond people have with bhang.
Associated with Lord Shiva, hemp plant is regarded holy by the Hindus.
There is even a belief that to meet someone carrying bhang is an omen of
success. And, if longing for hemp plant foretells happiness, to see it in
dreams ensures prosperity for a person in future. Also, walking underfoot a
holy bhang leaf spells doom for a person.
People also strongly believe in the medicinal properties of the hemp plant.
If taken in proper quantity bhang cures fever, dysentery and sunstroke. It
helps to clear phlegm, quicken digestion, sharpen appetite, cure speak
imperfection and lispering. Besides, it freshens the intellect and gives
alertness to the body and gaiety to the mind.
What is bhang?
Genus of three closely related species, often hybridized.
Cannabis is dioecious, i.e. individual plants are either male or female.
The female plant is the more potent, especially when unpollinated (hence
sinsemilla = without seed).
The plant has an ancient relationship with humankind, and has long been
cultivated as a source of medicine (the buds), fiber (the stalks), and food
(the seeds). It has been found in neolithic Chinese archaeological sites,
and is mentioned in the earliest Chinese pharmacopoeias. In India it is
associated with Shiva and has played an important role in religious life as
a sacred inebriant.
Native to Central Asia, now found worldwide.
THC Concentration varies greatly by strain.