The Ganja Tradition of India


CANNABIS CULTURE – In India, we are dealing with a sacramental role for cannabis, from antiquity to the present. This continued use of cannabis over the millennia provides many insights into the beliefs and role of cannabis, which was probably spread in ancient times.

The general consensus of botanist historians is that cannabis came to India via the Indo-Europeans. "At around 3,000 BP, cannabis most likely emigrated west and south across the Himalayas and into India, probably with nomads and traders across the trade routes that crossed the region" (Clarke & Fleming, 1998).

The original Aryan tribes probably introduced the hemp plant into India sometime in the second millennium BC. These wandering invaders most likely entered the Indian subcontinent via accessible passes in the adjoining high mountain regions. In the early stages of Indian history, hemp was therefore likely to be a relatively opaque plant for the mass of the population, focusing on the lowland dip (interfluves) and in the river valleys. (Merlin, 1973)

In fact, the Sanskrit word for cannabis comes from an earlier Indo-European root for that word. As Alphonse de Candolle stated in Origin of Crops: "It has Sanskrit names, Bhanga and Gangika. The root of the word ang or an occurs in all Indo-European and modern Semitic languages: Bang in Hindu and Persian, Ganga in Bengali, hemp in German, hemp in English, Chanvre in French, Kanas in Celtic and Modern Breton. Cannabis in Greek and Latin, Cannabis in Arabic "(de Candolle, 1886).

Given the universally recognized antiquity of cannabis in Indian culture, it is curious to note that no remains of the plant have been found at archaeological sites in the area. " Although archaeological and historical data provide a basis for our understanding of the spread of cannabis in Asia, palynological and archaeological references are still lacking to correlate this data" (Clarke & Fleming, 1998).

Not many references could be found related to analytical evidence for cannabis pollen throughout Asia, and no archeological findings of cannabis from southern India have been obtained at all. Although archaeological sites have been studied, translations of foreign studies seem to be rare. This may simply be the result of researchers focusing their research on subjects other than cannabis residues. Many early excavations overlook botanical evidence in the search for cultural assets. Long core samples from an earlier era could reveal cannabis pollen grains, giving us a much earlier time scale for the origin, development, and migration of cannabis. This is an area worth pursuing, and will help expand our biological and historical knowledge of this important crop. (Clarke & Fleming, 1998)

As will be shown, the use of cannabis in India as a medicine and as a spiritual intoxicant goes back to antiquity, although it has been debated, as discussed earlier. As the late pioneer of medical marijuana, dr. Todd noted Mikuriya: "There seems to be some disagreement over the nature of the earliest medical uses of cannabis in India. It was built before 1000 BC. Chr. Used as medicine. "(Mikuriya, 1973). "Medical and sacred use in India is based on written records (Atharva Veda, 1400 BC)." (La Barre, 1980) Alleviation of hemorrhoids, gonorrhea, asthma, side-stitches and diarrhea. It was called an aphrodisiac … "(Nahas et al., 1999).

Ayurvedic picture

The ancient Ayurvedic system of Indian medicine contains a number of references to cannabis. Ayurveda traces its mythological roots back to the gathering of sages in the Himalayas, which took place some 5,000 years ago. The sages who traveled from all parts of the country exchanged their healing knowledge and these were passed on orally for several generations, until they finally committed themselves to writing sometime in the first century AD.

Ayurveda doctors in India use Bhang to treat dozens of diseases and medical problems, including diarrhea, epilepsy, delirium and insanity, colic, rheumatism, gastritis, anorexia, consumption, fistula, nausea, fever, jaundice, bronchitis, Leprosy, spleen disorders, diabetes, colds, anemia, menstrual cramps, tuberculosis, elephantiasis, asthma, gout, constipation and malaria … (Robinson 1996)

There is also considerable agreement that cannabis in ancient India was not only regulated for medicinal and fiber use, and that hemp was also venerated for its intoxicating properties:

The Fourth Book of the Vedas sometimes refers to it as Vijahia (Source of Fortune) and sometimes under the name Ananda (Laughter Provokator). Therefore hemp was not used in India because of its textile properties. at the beginning of the Christian era, the use of its fibers was still unknown there. It is only because of its intoxicating properties that hemp owes the great honor of being sung in the Vedas … (Bouquet, 1950)

As others have noted: "In India and Iran, it became [cannabis] as early as 1000 BC. Used as a Bhang intoxicant. "(Goldfrank, 2002); "The narcotic properties of C. sativa were recognized in India around 1000 BC." (Zohary & Hopf, 2000). "The narcotic and euphoric properties of cannabis were known to the Aryans who immigrated to India thousands of years ago, and few doubt that they made use of these traits" (Chopra & Chopra, 1965); "narcotic properties of cannabis were already known in India (1000 BC) ( Southworth, 2005); . [1400 B.C.,] The ancient sacred book of the Aryans, the Artharva Veda, named it [cannabis] ]Liberator of Sin &, and "Heavenly Leader & # 39;" (La Barre, 1980); "The Atharva Veda of India dates from the period between 1400 and 2000 BC and mentions a sacred grass, the Bhang, which is still a modern term for cannabis, and medical evidence of cannabis comes from Susruta I, from the 6th to 7th centuries BC "(Weiner, 2002).

In the Hindu scriptures of AtharvaVeda, the fourth book of the Vedas, the ancient writings of the Brahman religion (circa 2,000-1,400 BC), Bhang (hemp) was identified as one of the five sacred plants of India. Bhang is "a sacred grass" and its use is said to "save one from disease". , , and extend the years we have to live. "[both qualities of Soma] In Book II, Hymn IV, 5, we read:" May the hemp and the gangida protect me from Vishkandha [hostile demon]! One (Gangida) is brought here from the forest, the other (hemp) from the sap of the furrow. "(Hanus, 2008)

When G. A. Grierson wrote in the late nineteenth century, in his well-researched essay "On the Hemp Plant Occurring in Sanskrit and Hindi Literature," he also noted the following early indications of cannabis:

The name Bhanga occurs in Atharvaveda (around 1400). The hemp plant is simply mentioned there as a holy grass. Panini (about 300 BC) Mention the pollen of the hemp flower (Bhanga). At the beginning of the sixth century we find the first mention of Vijaya, which I have noticed. It is a sacred grass and here probably means the hemp plant.

Cir. B.C. 1400.

In Atharvaveda (around 1400 BC) The Bhang Plant is mentioned once (11, 6, 15):

"We tell of the five herbal kingdoms cited by Soma; may it and kuca-grass and bhanga and barley and the herb Saha free us from fear. "

Here is evidently referred to the sacrifice of these herbs in offerings.

The grammarian Panini (5, 2, 29) mentions Bhangukata, the pollen of the hemp flower, as one of his examples.

Cir. C. 300.

It is noteworthy that the pollen of this particular flower was cited. (Grierson, 1893)

The detection of cannabis near the area is not limited to literary evidence. "It should also be noted here that the most recent archaeobotanical evidence of cannabis between 400 BC. – 100 AD Found in the Kali Gandaki valley in Nepal, which connects the Tibetan plateau with the plains of India "(Merlin, 2003). "In Nepal, ascetics, shamans, and wizards have always consumed small amounts of this remedy [cannabis] to trigger trance states" (Gruber, 1991). Thus, cannabis has clearly played a central role in ancient India, as medicine, mild social intoxication and religious sacrament.

The well-known anthropologist Weston La Barre believed that cannabis use in India was even before written reports:

In India, the use of cannabis as an anesthetic has been uninterrupted since prehistoric times. It is tempting to argue that even if cannabis was not actually as early as Mohenjodaran-Harappan-India (geographically suspiciously adjacent to Mesopotamia Sumeria and / or Scythia-Southwest Asia), from which the shamanic Pasupati prototype "Master of Animals" emerged of the top-selling Shiva has surfaced, then cannabis could just as well have been brought by the first Aryan invaders, considering that the hemp word is common throughout Europe … (La Barre, 1980)

Shiva Lord of Bhang

Shiva, the oldest continuously worshiped god on earth, is known for his penchant for bhang (cannabis). In Rudrayamal, Danakand and Karmakand Shiva say to his wife, "Oh Goddess, Parvati, hear the benefits of bhang. The worship of Bhang elevates one to my position. "As the 19th-century Indian Hemp Drug Commission report

noted about Shiva's cultic connection to cannabis:

Especially in connection with the worship of Shiva, the great god of the Hindu Trinity, the hemp plant, and especially perhaps Ganja, is associated. It is generally believed that the hemp plant was a great favorite of Shiva, and … the drug in one form or another is used … extensively for practicing the religious practices associated with this form of worship … [R] elite ascetics Considered with great reverence by man, the hemp plant is a special attribute of the god Shiva, and this belief is largely shared by the people … There is evidence that on almost all occasions of worshiping this God's use of cannabis drugs is in some form … these practices are so closely linked to their worship that in some ways they can be considered an integral part of it. (IHDCR, 1894)

This relationship between God and plant was generally attributed to Shiva's role in one of the most important myths of Hinduism.

Shiva prepares a strike

The Circulation of the Ocean of Milk

In Hinduism, Samudra Manthan or The Churning of the Ocean of Milk is one of the most famous episodes in the Puranas (500-300 BC), and the story is still celebrated in the folk festivals known as Kumbha Mela. Interestingly enough, this ancient myth, written within two centuries of the first pogrom against Soma, apparently deprives the cult of Indra of the sacramental use of hemp and lends it to the followers of Shiva.

The stirring up of the ocean of milk tells the story of the search for the elixir of immortality, the "Amrita" of both gods, to restore their diminishing power. The myth tells that Indra, king of the gods and all three worlds, had long ago become rude and arrogant. As a result of this impudence, the great Rishi Duravas, a part of Shiva, laid a garland before Indra, riding on an elephant. Indra placed the victim on top of the elephant's trunk, which was irritated by his smell, threw it off and stomped on the garland in front of the insulted Duravas, who cursed Indra for his arrogance.

Due to Durava's Curse, Indra and all of his three worlds, including the other gods, were weakened and deserted, and this gave the demons the opportunity to use their power against the weakened gods. The gods turned to Brahman, who advised them to seek Vishnu, the demon tamer. Brahama led the gods along the edge of the ocean of milk to Vishnu's seat, where they prayed for his help.

Contemporary painting of Vishnu in the Sea of ​​Milk as Brahma, Shiva and other deities approach from shore (by Kailash Raj).

Vishnu promised to restore her power by ordering them to prepare the Amrita, a sacred substance that gives immortality and power. stick the serpent Vasuki for the rope, and stir the ocean for the dew of life [amrita] "(Coomaraswamy & Nivedita, 1914). In this way, they wrapped the giant snake around the mountain and could use them together as a giant pestle to devour the "strong herbs" that they throw into the ocean of milk and make Amrita! Here we see a cosmic report that is clearly comparable to the use of mortar and pestle for grinding milk and cannabis to bring about the earthly bang.

Vishnu tells the gods that the work in front of them will be far too big for them to do on their own, and that they will need the help of the daityas (demons) to accomplish the task. Vishnu then asks the gods to promise the demons a part of Amrita and to tell them that he will give them immortality. But this was a trick when Vishnu stated, "I will make sure that they have no share in the water of life, their share will only be from work" (Coomaraswamy & Nivedita, 1914).

When the gods and demons joined forces to confuse the ocean of milk, various things came into being. First, the desired cow Surabhi got out and pleased gods and demons alike. then Varuni, with rolling eyes the divinity of the wine, followed by the Parijata, the fragrant tree of paradise, then the graceful troops of the Apsaras. There followed the moon, which was seized by Shiva and laid upon his forehead, and then a train of deadly poison, which was also taken by Shiva, who drank of it, that he should not destroy the world, a selfless act of which it is said she dyed the god blue when the poison was in his throat. Then appeared Dhanwantari, holding the vessel of Amrita, the dew of life, and illuminating the eyes of both the gods and the demons with desire.

Painting depicting the gods and demons using a mountain as a pestle to throw "strong herbs" into the ocean of milk to produce the sacred Amrita d. H. To create the cosmic bang. Correct, contemporary image of Shiva pouring hemp into a milk bowl with a pestle.

The story goes that after the appearance of Amrita in the Kumbha (urn) the demons tried to gain control over it, and as a result a 12-day battle of twelve Earthly years took place between the gods and the demons in heaven. During the battle, the Sky Bird, flew Garuda (known for its association with Soma) with the Kumbha of Amrita to protect it from the hands of the demons.

To ensure that the precious Amrita did not fall into the hands of the demons, the Kumbha [vessel] was temporarily hidden by Nektar at four locations on Earth – Prayag (Allahabad ), Haridwar Ujjain and Nasik . At each of these places a drop of nectar has flowed from the pot, and from these drops of this precious water of immortality it is believed that these places have attained mystical power. For this reason, a Kumbh Mela is celebrated at the four places every twelve years. According to ancient tradition, one of the miracles that resulted from the spilling of the Amrita was the creation of hemp.

[Cannabis] … was originally made as nectar from the sea by stirring up Mount Mandara and is insofar as there is victory in the three worlds, the joy of the king of the gods is called vijaya, the victorious one. This desire-fulfilling drug was obtained by the people of the earth through the desire for the well-being of all human beings. (Grierson, 1893)

With the help of Vishnu, the gods finally defeated the demons and finally gained control of the pot of Amrita. Strengthened by the sacred elixir, the gods were able to drive the demons to hell and restore order and prosperity in the three worlds. In honor of their success against the demons, the gods named cannabis Vijaya ("Victory") to commemorate the event.

The god closest to Amrita's gathering was Shiva, and his followers still participate in cannabis today to commemorate this event. "Eudra-Siva voters are addicted to cannabis sativa" (Chakbraberty, 1944). "According to the ancient Hindu poems, Lord Shiva has toppled the hemp plant from the Himalayas and given it to humanity" (Chopra, 1939). This close association clearly stems from the myth of the ocean's effervescence: "Shiva, in flames with the poison stirred up by the ocean, was cooled by Bhang" (Campbell, 1894).

According to a report, something should purify the nectar when nectar was made from the whirling ocean. The deity provided the deficiency of a nectar cleaner by producing Bhang. This bhang Mahadev [Shiva] was made from his own body and is therefore called angaj or body born. According to another report, some nectar fell to the ground and the bhang plant jumped out of the ground. Because they used this child of nectar or mahadev in accordance with religious forms, the seers or rishis became siddha or one with the deity. Whoever does not use a blow despite the example of the Rishis, will lose his fortune in this and in the coming life. In the end, he is thrown into hell. The mere sight of bhang cleanses of as much sin as a thousand horse sacrifices or a thousand pilgrimages. Who outraged the user of the Bhang, will suffer the torments of hell as long as the sun lasts. He who drinks foolishly or for pleasure without religious rites bhang is as guilty as the sinner … of sins. Anyone who drinks wisely and according to the rule, no matter how low, though his body is smeared with human suffering and urine, is Shiva. No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of Bhang. The students of the scriptures in Beanres are given a punch before they start to study. In Benares, Ujjain, the other holy places, yogis, bairagis and sanyasis take deep features of Bhang to focus their thoughts on the eternal.

The Hindu poet of Shiva, the Great Spirit, who lives in the Bhang, goes over into the drinker and sings the Bhang as the purifier of ignorance, the giver of knowledge. No gem or jewel can touch the value of the Bhangs really and awesomely taken. Who drinks Bhang drinks Shiva. The soul in which the spirit of Bhang finds a home slides into the ocean of deliverance from the weary round of the material-blinded self.

…. The right consumer of Bhang or Ganja offers Mahadev the drug before he starts smoking. He says: Lena Shankar, Lena Babulnath: Be pleased to take Shankar, take it Babulnath. According to Shiva Parann, from the dark fourteenth of Magh (January-February) to the bright fourteenth of Asbadh (June-July), that is, during the three months of hot weather, daily Bhang was to be poured over the Ling [sacred phallic image] of Shiva be poured every day at least in the first and last days of this period Bhang. After the Meru Tantra on every Monday, especially on Shravan (July-August) Monday, on all twelfth Pradoshs and on all dark fourteenths or Shivratris even more on the Mahashivratri or Shiva's Great Night on dark fourteenth Magh (January-February). ) and in all solar or lunar eclipses wistful people of this or the coming world should offer Shiva beatings and cast them over the ling. (Campbell, 1894)

Contemporary depiction of Shiva attending the hillside offered by his wife Parvati while his elephant-headed son Ganesh prepares more of the holy elixir with a mortar and pestle in the foreground (by Kailash Raj)) , Given this picture of family happiness and bhang, it is interesting to note that in a myth about the discovery of cannabis, Shiva was "angry at family worries" and retreated to the fields. The cool shade of a plant soothed him. He crushed and took part in the leaves, and the blow refreshed him. The right user of Schlag or Ganja offers Mahadev the drug before he starts drinking or smoking. He says: Lena Shankar, Lena Babulnath. take it Babulnath "(Campbell, 1894).

The Amrita of the Puranas can be considered as the "Celestial Soma" that was drunk by the gods from the vessel of the moon, and when the nectar from the khumba (vessel) that contained it fell to the earth, The Earth produced cannabis, the secular part of Amrita, a label that clearly identifies hemp as an earthly counterpart to the celestial Soma / Amrita.

The use of cannabis in the form of Bhang is traced far back. The current form follows the tradition of ritual use of soma, such as washing, grinding, mixing with milk and spiritual invocation. The use of Bhang by Brahmans and homeowners at festivals has a form and style that can be traced back to something … (Morningstar, 1985)

Video Supplements: The God of Cannabis, a National Geographic video on Shiva and cannabis

Mike Aldrich discusses the role of cannabis in India

A group of Bhang drinkers pictured in a postcard from the early 20th century

To this day, Hindu saints, sadhus and other worshipers celebrate their most important festival, the Kumbha Mela, smoking hashish chillums and drinking designs from the Bhang Holy Places every three years in honor of Lord Shiva, which is believed to spill the Amrita was returned to each of the four sacred places in a cycle of twelve years. Over 60 million worshipers are said to have participated in the 2001 Kumbha Mela, making it the largest human gathering ever.

The Chillum, youtube video

The Holy Smoke

Smoking of cannabis and hashish in chillums or shisha is considered a relatively new development, a method introduced after the discovery of tobacco smoking in the New World and possibly spread due to attempts to control the ritual has use of bhang:

In Hindustan, in distant times, when the mystery of priests was revealed or stolen, hemp was used exclusively to make potions. The Brahmins seem to have tried to control their use. They authorized it only on the occasion of certain important religious celebrations (Kali festivals, Druga puja, etc.). We can not know if people willingly accepted limiting their use of cannabis potions to the data allowed; Nor can we say whether it was not about satisfying the passion for the intoxicating drug while respecting the law issued by the ministers of the deity that the practice of smoking hemp was born. This practice, which is more attractive, faster and less dangerous [?] spread at great speed, and currently smokers make up the vast majority of the hashish addicts in India. (Bouquet, 1950)

In Sadhus – India's mystical Holy Man, Dolf Hartsuiker explains more about Shiva's special relationship with cannabis and the development of smoking:

… Charas smoking [cannabis] is considered a sacred act … Poisoning as a "respected" … Method of self-realization is associated with soma, the nectar of the gods, which is recommended in the Vedas as sure means, divine To gain wisdom.

Mythically, charas is closely associated with Shiva: he smokes it, he is constantly drunk, he is the lord of Charas … Babas offer him the smoke; they want to participate in his ecstasy, his higher vision of reality. (Hartsuiker, 1993)

Lord Shiva smoked with half-closed eyes, steadily stoned, a chillum and with the half moon in his hair symbolizing the drained cup of heavenly Somas. (Illustration of the author).

1842 Illustration by W. Taylor, "The Sunyasees" showing two sadhus, one of which smokes a ritual chillum, also with a traditional coconut water pipe "Nargila" at his feet.

Marble carving of a sadhu smoking a chillum

– 8A –

Shiva holds up a chillum

Here is a very simple chillum ritual that can be performed as Puja for Lord of Bhang: The Three Chillums Trinath ritual dedicated to the Three Faces Shiva.

Creation date. – In 1867, Babu Annnda Chandra Kali or Kailai from Dhamrai, a village in Thana Sabhar, in the district of Dacca, began worshiping at his father-in-law's home in Fatehpur, Atia Pargana in the Mymensingh district (Tangail sub-division). Predecessor: the author. – Dhamrai is an important village in the Dacca district for its car test, which takes place annually in honor of a local idol named Madhab Thakur and is witnessed by a large concentration of people. Ananda Chandra received training at Dacca Normal School. After graduation, he served for some time as a Pundit (schoolmaster) and then entered the police, but was only a short time there. He is a Barendra Brahman and belongs to a respected family. He learned to smoke ganja when he was a boy. His current age is 60 years. He is reputed to be a Versifier. He smokes two pieces of ganja every day.

He married in Fattehpur, Mymensingh district. There he introduced the Trinath worship 27 years ago. A Panchali (poem) reciting the praise and exploits of Trinath was first published in Dacca in 1871 and the first issue (1,000 copies) was sold in a few months.

The circumstances in which the service began for the first time. Ananda Chandra Kali was living in his father-in-law's house at the time. He thought of introducing the worship of a common God who could be worshiped by all classes, rich and poor, Brahman and Chandal, and all creeds, Saktas, Baishnavas, and Shaivas, and the idea came to him, the present have worship, where ordinary and cheap things, like ganja, oil and betel leaf, should be used alone. ·
Trinath (from Sanskrit Tri, three and Nath, Lord) is depicted as Brahma, Bishnu and Shiva, the Hindu Trinity in one.

Ananda Kali selbst Ganja-Raucher zu sein, könnte auch gedacht haben, dass er durch die Einführung der Anbetung die Ganja-Raucher vor Verruf retten könnte, da Ganja dann im Namen eines Gottes und unter der Farbe des Tuns konsumiert werden könnte eine religiöse oder fromme Handlung.

Religiöser Aspekt der Anbetung. Die folgende Übersetzung der Einführung in die Trinath Mela Panchali gibt eine Vorstellung von dem Thema:

Das Universum besteht aus der Erde, dem Himmel und der Unterwelt, und Trinath ist der Herr dieser drei Welten.
Die Sünder predigten den Namen Hari, aber der Herr war damit nicht zufrieden und sorgte sich um die Geschaffenen, und bald wurde er wieder inkarniert. Brahma, Bishnu und Shiva, Götter in drei Formen, manifestierten sich in einer Form. Der eine Gott, der Herr der. Als das Universum das Elend der Menschheit sah, kam es zu ihrer Befreiung. Ananda (Ananda Chandra Kali, der Urheber) erklärt, dass die wahren und aufrichtigen Anbeter Trinaths mit Sicherheit Erlösung erlangen werden. Brahma, Bishnu und Shiva trafen sich und drückten ihren Wunsch aus,

in einer Form auf diese Welt zu kommen, um Anbetung zu empfangen. ,

„Er ist ein wahrhaft frommer Mann, der Trinath verehrt, und der Anbeter wird mit Segen überschüttet.

„Der Gottesdienst sollte in einer Form abgehalten werden, in der sich die Reichen und die Armen gleichermaßen anschließen und ihn leicht ausführen können.

„Für diese Puja (Form der Anbetung) werden nur drei Dinge benötigt, die jeweils ein Stück wert sind.

Die Dinge, die allen gefallen, müssen ausgewählt werden. Das Opfer sollte aus Siddhi (Ganja) bestehen. Pfanne (Betelblatt) und Öl, jeweils ein Stück wert. ,

„Die Wähler sollten sich nachts versammeln und mit Blumen beten. Die Ganja sollte in der Art und Weise gewaschen werden, in der Menschen Ganja zum Rauchen waschen. Der Anbeter muss drei Chillums mit gleichen Mengen Ganja füllen und dabei die gebührende Ehrfurcht und Ehrfurcht wahren. When all, the worshippers are assembled the lamp should be lit with three wicks, and the praises of Tri- should be sung. As long as the wicks burn, the god should be worshipped and his praises chanted. The god should be reverentially bowed to at the close of the puja. When the reading of the Panchali is finished, those that will not show respect to the Prasad (the
offering which has been accepted by the god), i.e., chillum of ganja, shall be consigned to eternal hell, and the sincere worshippers shall go to heaven. ,

How the worship spread.–Anauda Kali commenced the puja with the aid of some ganja smokers in the village of Fattehpur. A large number of people consume ganja in the Dacca and Mymensingh districts, and the worship soon became popular. In fact it spread like wild-fire from one village to another among the ganja-smokers. Those that were not in the habit of consuming ganja also followed their example.

The following circumstances assisted the spread of the Worship :

I.–The puja is open to all classes from Brahmans to Chandals and to the rich and the poor. Caste does not stand in its way, and it may be performed almost every day and in all seasons.
II.–The pup is a Manarik Puja (made in pursuance of a vow on the fulfillment of the object desired).. People have been led to believe that Trinath possesses the power of .healing the sick and fulfilling desires, and .that those who. neglect his worship meet with disgrace, while those who observe it attain success in life. There are several stories m the Panchali narrated in illustration of this statement. It is also popularly believed that in the house where Trinath is worshipped cold: fever and headache do not appear.

III.–This is a cheap form of worship. The puja can be performed by even the poorest, only three pies being required.

IV.–People of the lowest class can mix with those above them without distinction of caste or creed on the occasion of these pujas.

V.–Ganja can be consumed by all in the name of a god, and the practice cannot be looked down upon, because it is done under certain forms and religious ceremonies. It is also popularly believed that those who mock the worshippers of Trinath shall be ruined and shall be the victims of misfortune.
The worship prevails not only among the poor, but also among the well-to-do. The latter often entertain their friends after the puja.

The worship is more or less general in the following districts :–(1) Dacca, (2) Mymensingh, (3) Faridpur, (4) Backergunge, (5) Noakhali, (6) Tippers, (7) Chittagong, (8) Bogra, (9) Sylhet, and (10) Pabna (SerajgaDj side). .,,

The worship is on the decline. It is almost dying out among the educated, but among the masses it Still exists.

I have ascertained the above facts from Dr. Chandra Sekhar Kali (brother of the originator, Ananda Chandra Kali) and many other respectable persons, and also from personal inquiries in the Daces, Chittagong and Rajshahi divisions. (IHDC, 1894)


3 faced Shiva smoking a chillum and drinking bhang

bronze 3 faced Shiva

Kali Weed

 Although Shiva is the Lord of Bhang, cannabis appears in offering to a number of other deities such as those dedicated to Shiva’s consort Kali, Goddess of Life and Death. Kali’s cannabis mantra is, “Om, Hrim Ambrosia, that springeth forth from ambrosia, Thou shalt showerest ambrosia, draw ambrosia for me again and again.  Bring Kalika within my control. Give success; Svaha” (Avalon, 1913). In Tantric rites, cannabis retained its ancient Vedic epithet of ‘Vijaya’ (Victory). As Arthur Avalon (aka, Sir John Woodroffe) explained: “Vijaya, (victory) used in ceremonies to Kali: That is the narcotic Bhang (hemp)… used in all ceremonies” (Avalon, 1913).

In medieval India and Tibet, sorcerers in search of magic powers glorified the use of a marijuana drink (bhang)… in Tantric sex ceremonies derived from the ancient soma cult. A circle of naked men and women is conducting an experiment of the central nervous system. They consecrate a bowl of bhang to Kali, goddess of terror and delight. As the bhang begins to take effect, the worshippers mentally arouse the serpent at the base of the spine, sending waves of energy up tothe cortex. (Aldrich, 1978)

Cannabis also played an important role in the Durga Puja, the annual Hindu six day festival that celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. Up until the 19th century, at the close of the Durga Puja, it was customary to drink bowls of bhang and to offer them to others. As the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report recorded:

The custom of offering an infusion of the leaves of the hemp plant to every guest and member of the family on the… last day of the Durga Puja, is common in Bengal, and may almost be said to be universal. It is alluded to by many of the witnesses who refer to its use on this occasion as well as on other days of the Durga Puja festival. But, while there can be no doubt as to the existence of the custom, there is considerable divergence of opinion as to the true nature of it. The custom itself is a simple one. On the last day of this great festival the male members of the family go forth to consign the image to the waters and on their return the whole family with their guests exchange greetings and embrace one another. During this rejoicing a cup containing an infusion of the leaves of the hemp plant is handed round, and all are expected to partake thereof, or at least to place it to the lips in token of acceptance. Sweetmeats containing hemp are also distributed. Opinion is almost equally divided as to whether the custom is a mere social observance, or whether it is an essential part of the religious ceremonial of the festival. There is difference whether there is any injunction in the opinion among the witnesses as to Shastras rendering obligatory the consumption of hemp; but Tantric religious works sanction the use, and the custom whatever be its origin may now be said from immemorial usage to be regarded by many people as part of their religious observances. From the evidence of the witnesses it would appear that there is no specific direction in the Shastras of the manner in which the drug should be used but from the references quoted it would appear that the use alluded to is authority that of bhang in the form of an infusion. (IHDCR, 1894)

Kali and Shiva embrace, carved from black marble


Vishnu’s Party Plant

Cannabis was consecrated to the Vedic God Vishnu as well, which is not really surprising considering the important role Vishnu played in the Puranic myth The Churning of the Ocean of Milk.  This relationship likely goes back to the earlier days when cannabis was consecrated as Soma, as Vishnu’s love of Soma, was duly noted in the Vedas “Drink of this meath… Viṣhṇu; drink ye your fill of Soma… The sweet exhilarating juice hath reached you” (RV.6.69). In the late 19th century Campbell recorded: “Vaishnavas [Vishnu worshippers]… make offerings of bhang. The form of Vishnu Or, the Guardian to whom bhang is a welcome offering is Baladev… in the worship of Baladev all present, worshipper and, ministrant alike, join in drinking” (Campbell, 1894). Kaemper recorded an ecstatic celebration involving bhang taken in honor of Vishnu in this 300 year old account:

In Malabar, at the time of the sacrifices in honour of Vishnu, virgins pleasant to behold and richly adorned were brought from the temple of the Brahmins. They came out in public to appease the god who rules over plenty and fine weather. To impress the spectators, these young women were previously given a preparation with a basis of hemp and datura, and when the priest saw, by certain symptoms, that the action of the drugs was about to show itself, he began his invocations. The Devadassy (servants of the gods) then danced, leapt about yelling, contorted their limbs, and, foaming at the mouth, their eyes ecstatic, committed all sorts of eccentricities. Finally the priests carried the exhausted virgins into the sanctuary, gave them a potion to destroy the effect of the previous one, and then showed them again to the people in their right mind, so that the crowd of spectators might believe that the demons had fled and the idol was appeased. (Kaemper, 1712)

Cannabis is also ritually consumed by the Jagannath cult in Puri, particularly in their famous “Festival of Chariots”, a traditional remnant of the chariot riding Aryans and which is of pre-Vedic origins. Jagannath, “the Lord of the Universe” is a form of the God Vishnu. The Temple of Lord Jagannath is one of the major temples in India. The worship of Lord Jagannath is so ancient that there is no accurate record of how long it has been going on. It is strictly forbidden for non-Hindus to enter the Jaganath temple.

The Jagganath Temple in Puri.

As the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report recorded, “bhang is largely used by the attendants and worshippers at the temple of Jagannath at Puri” (IHDCR, 1894).  In this ancient, and still partially performed rite, massive elaborately decorated chariots (representing the world in motion) are drawn carrying the veiled figures of Jaganath and his bride.

The Jagannath Mandir was the last temple to maintain classical  [Indian] dance, up until the mid-1950s – now it is strictly a theatrical art… The British… suppressed this aspect of liturgy as rude, calling the devadasis or maharis (the ritual wives of the god) nuatch-girls or prostitutes (they performed naked, judging by the sculpture on the natamandapas or natamandiras, ‘dance platforms or temples,’ for the public, and among their duties was maithuna-type ritual sex with the Brahmins in the temple, with which Cannabis use seems to be associated, to please Indra and bring on the monsoon).  As a result the practice, once widespread throughout India… all but disappeared, except in Puri, and the other styles were preserved only in villages by gotipuas, boys dressed as girls, only to be revived as classical art in our time… (Ott 1996)

India’s Festival Intoxicant

In his exquisite essay on the importance of cannabis in Indian spirituality, On the Religion of Hemp, J.M. Campbell noted that “So holy a plant must play a leading part in temple rights” (Campbell, 1894). Clearly with celebrations like the Kumbha Mela and other holidays where hemp products have been commonly consumed in India for centuries if not millennia, the same can be said of Indian festivals as well. It should also be noted that the “use of bhang by Brahmans and householders at festivals has a form and style that may be traced to soma…” (Morningstar, 1985)

It has been suggested that the Holi festival of India, in which thousands of participants drink bhanga and playfully throw colored paint on each other in a celebration of life and joy, is a remnant of the Soma cult. The Holi festival “the Saturnalia of India… terminates with feasting, drunkenness, obscenity and a bonfire…” (Boleton, et al., 2000).

The whole festival is one of sex and fertility worship and presents in India the pictures of bands of noisy and excited revellers parading the streets, unrestrained in demeanour, gesture and speech… their dress dip wet and bespattered with daubs of red powder and yellow water…. the red powder… and yellow… water… with which the Holi revellers bespatter one another… appear to have their origins in Hinduism and the soma tradition of Mount Meru…. the intoxicating juice of the soma plant when mixed with milk represents the nectar of the gods (Indra): the wine of immortality among men; the elixir of life: the heavenly water….In seeking an explanation of the red powder and yellow water used in the Holi… we are reminded that Vedic ritualists recognized two elements in the immortal properties of  Soma, the one food, the other a beverage… it may be possible that the red powder… and the yellow water… used in… the Holi… may represent these elements. (Bolton, et al., 2000)

As the 19th century Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report noted of this and other festivities, “at the Holi festival… bhang is commonly consumed; and, according to many witnesses, at such festivals as the Diwali, Chait Sankranti, Pous Sankranti, Sripanchami, Sivachaturdasi, Ramnavami, and indeed on occasions of weddings and many other family festivities” (IHDCR, 1894).

Holi Revellers intoxicated on bhang.

The Warriors Herb

Just as Soma was the drink of the warrior God Indra, cannabis continued with this role on the earthly plain, as Grierson noted at the close of the 19th century:

In folk-songs, ganja or bhang (with or without opium) is the invariable drink of heroes before performing any great feat. At the village of Bauri in Gaya there is a huge hollow stone, which is said to be the bowl in which the famous hero Lorik mixed his ganja. Lorik was a very valiant general, and is the hero of numerous folk-songs. The epic poem of Alha and Rudal, of uncertain date, but undoubtedly based on very old materials (the heroes lived in the twelfth century A.D.), contains numerous references to ganja as a drink of warriors. For instance, the commencement of the canto dealing with Alha’s marriage, describes the pestle and mortar with which the ganja was prepared, the amount of the intoxicating drink prepared from it (it is called sabzi) and the amount of opium (an absurdly exaggerated quantity) given to each warrior in his court. (Grierson, 1893)

As also noted by J.M. Campbell in his essay ‘On the Religion of Hemp’:

Another great spirit time during which bhang plays an important part is the time of war. Before the outbreak of a war and during its progress the Ling of Mahadev should be bathed with bhang. Its power of driving panic influences from near the god has gained for bhang the name of Vijaya, the unbeaten. So a drink of bhang drives from the fighting Hindu the haunting spirits of fear and weariness. So the beleaguered Rajput, when nothing is left but to die, after loosing his hair that the bhang spirit may have free entrance, drinks the sacramental bhang and rushing on the enemy completes his juhar or self-sacrifice. It is this quality of panic-scaring that makes bhang, the Vijaya or Victorious, specially dear to Mahadev in his character of Tripur, the slayer of the demon Tripurasur. (Campbell, 1894)

This association between cannabis and the courage needed for battle, is one of the key reasons why the plant has played such an important role in the Sikh religion for centuries.

19th century illustration by Armitage of ‘The Battle of Meeanee (Sind) – Pakistan,’ which was fought on the 17th of February, 1843, and was an account of British Imperialistic forces encountering fierce resistance from Sikh warriors said to be under the influence of  bhang. According to British sources hemp provided  the Sikhs with a furious excitement under which their assaults against the British were made, so  much so that the usually steady front of the 22nd regiment, armed with rifles against the Sikh’s swords and spears, lost many soldiers to the Sikh’s cannabis inspired courage.

The Sikhs and Sukhnidhaan

Besides its prominent role in Hinduism, cannabis has also played an important part in the later Sikh religion of the Punjab region. Sikhism grew out of Hinduism and began in the 16th century AD, but is now one of the world’s five major religions. The name Sikh itself comes from a Sanskrit root śiṣya meaning “disciple” or “learner”, or śikṣa meaning “instruction”. In a chapter on “Social and Religious Customs” the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report reported on the 19th century Sikh relationship with cannabis:

Among the Sikhs the use of bhang as a beverage appears to be common, and to be associated with their religious practices. The witnesses who refer to this use by the Sikhs appear to regard it as an essential part of their religious rites having the authority of the Granth or Sikh scripture. Witness Sodhi Iswar Singh, Extra Assistant Commissioner, says: “As far as I know, bhang is pounded by the Sikhs on the Dasehra day, and it is ordinarily binding upon every Sikh to drink it as a sacred draught by mixing water with it.” Legend–Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, the founder of the Sikh religion, was on the gaddi of Baba Nanak in the time of Emperor Aurangzeb. When the guru was at Anandpur, tahsil Una, Hoshiarpur district, engaged in battle with the Hill Rajas of the Simla, Kangra, and the Hoshiarpur districts, the Rains sent an elephant, who was trained in attacking and slaying the forces of the enemy with a sword in his trunk and in breaking open the gates of forts, to attack and capture the Lohgarh fort near Anandpur. The guru gave one of his followers, Bachittar Singh, some bhang and a little of opium to eat, and directed him to face the said elephant. This brave man obeyed the word of command of his leader and attacked the elephant, who was intoxicated and had achieved victories in several battles before, with the result that the animal was overpowered and the Hill Rajas defeated. The use of bhang, therefore, on the Dasehra day is necessary as a sacred draught. It is customary among the Sikhs generally to drink bhang, so that Guru Gobind Singh has himself said the following poems in praise of bhang: “Give me, O Saki (butler), a cup of green colour (bhang), as it is required by me at the time of battle (vide ‘Suraj Parkash,’ the Sikh religious book).” Bhang is also used on the Chandas day, which is a festival of the god Sheoji Mahadeva. The Sikhs consider it binding to use it on the Dasehra day-The quantity then taken is too small to prove injurious.” As Sikhs are absolutely prohibited by their religion from smoking, the use of ganja and charas in this form is not practised by them. Of old Sikh times, is annually permitted to collect without interference a boat load of bhang, which is afterwards distributed throughout the year to the sadhus and beggars who are supported by the dharamsala. (IHDCR, 1894)

In the 19th century, one of the 12 confederacies of the Sikhs was identified by the name “Bhangi, called from their fondness for Bhang, extract of hemp” (Eastwick & Murray, 1883). However, for the most part, it seems the use of cannabis preparations have fallen out of favor with the devotees of the Sikh religion. “The Nihang of Punjab, who are the defenders of Sikh shrines, are an exception. They take cannabis to help in meditation” (Beck & Worden, 2002).

The Akali Nihang claim direct lineage from the founding Gurus of Sikhism. Their itinerant lifestyle, rites and rituals have been sanctioned from the time of the sixth Sikh Guru – Hargobind Singh.

Yet as Sikhism has grown and spread around the globe, the Nihang have been outcaste by their own people. Once seen as heroes and demi gods, they are now vilified as thieves and drug addicts. (Kandola, 2009)

The Nihang also referred to as the Akalis, are a largely nomadic Sikh military order known for their military prowess, and historical victories in battle even when they were greatly outnumbered. Nihang are easily identifiable by their steel iron bracelets, weaponry and particularly by their “electric blue” attire and tall turbans. The Nihang’s defence of Sikh sacred sites has earned them the title of “Knights of God”. With their cannabis use, prowess in battle, excellent horsemanship, and nomadic lifestyle, it is hard not to see this sect in parallel with the ancient Scythians who are known to have left a cultural imprint in Northern India.

Nihang Sikhs preparing Suhka

Up until 2001, Cannabis use was a condoned part of Nihang ritual and spiritual practice and this use was identified by them a “time-respected tradition’ bestowed upon the order by the tenth Guru of Sikhism, Gobind Singh (1666- 1708). The Nihang used the name of Suhka, meaning ‘Peace-Giver’ for the preparer of their ritual cannabis preparations which they used in the form of baked cookies and a bhang like beverage referred to as sukhnidhaan. As described in Nav Kandola’s fascinating film The Nihang – A Secret History of the Sikhs, cannabis is clearly viewed as a”sacred herb”, that is used to “help meditation, reciting mantras and is cooling internally”, other names for cannabis used by the Nihang include Shaeedy Degh, meaning the “Martyr’s Sacrament” and also “the Guru’s herb” (Kandola, 2009).Nihang use of cannabis has been particularly associated with the Sikh holiday Hola Mohalla, a sort of military celebration where it is consumed en mass in a large rowdy celebration.

19th century miniature painting depicting the tenth Guru of Sikhism, Gobind Singh, who is said to have made the following poem in praise of bhang: “Give me, O Saki (butler), a cup of green colour (bhang), as it is required by me at the time of battle (vide ‘Suraj Parkash,’ the Sikh religious book).”

Singh Sahib Bhai Joginder Singh Ji offered the following references in support of the Nihang’s use of Sukhnidhaan:

1. According to the ‘Janamsakhi Bhai Bala’, Mogul King Babur offered ‘Bhang’ to Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Delighted on this, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji granted him the boon to have the kingdom for seven generations. Guru Ji recited a ‘Shabd’ also on this occasion, in which he did not condemn ‘Bhang’. On the other hand, when Yogi Jhangar Nath offered a cup of wine to Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Guru Ji recited a ‘Shabd’, in which drinking wine was condemned.

2. The ‘Mahant’ (abbot) of ‘Gurusar Satlaani’ got license for ‘Sukhnidhaan’ from the British government.

3. The ‘Sukhnidhaan’ is being offered at Sri Amritsar Sahib, Taran-taaran, and Sri Anandpur Sahib Ji.

4. ‘Nihangs’ of the ‘Budhha Dal’ offer ‘Sukhnidhaan’.

5. There is description of ‘Sukhnidhaan’ on many pages of book ‘Sooraj Prakash’.

6. At ‘Shaheedi Baag’ in the city of Sri Anandpur Sahib, a small room, which was constructed during Guru’s time, has been excavated, in which there were big ‘Suneharas’ (a kind of big vessel). It proves that ‘Sukhnidhaan’ was prepared and offered during the time of Guru Sahib.

7. According to the book ‘Khalsa Dharam Shaastar’, Guru Gobind Singh ordered to take intoxicants to remove sadness. The quantity of ‘Chhatar-dhara’ (opium) and ‘Sukhnidhaan’ was fixed.

8. All the ‘Rahats’ can be known only from Guru history and ‘Rahatnamas’. We cannot know ‘Rahats’ from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

Nihang warriors

19th century Europeans certainly held a disdain for the Nihangs, who themselves in return considered the British as a foreign power with clear imperialistic desires to rule over their native homeland. As a Colonel Stienbach recorded of the sect in 1846 after encountering them in the Punjab: “They are without exception the most insolent and worthless race of people under the sun. They move about constantly armed to the teeth and intoxicated on cannabis. Insulting everybody they meet, particularly Europeans. They are quite uncontrollable and the only way to deal with them is to exterminate them.” As we shall see at the conclusion of the next chapter, similar condemnations of hashish ingesting Islamic faqirs, sufis and mendicants for their similar unruly behaviour, was also expressed by the British raj.

It was probably from over a century of such European influence that in 2001 the apex Sikh clergy instituted a prohibition of cannabis products as part of their “campaign against drug addiction”. This prohibition of their sacred cannabis beverage sukhnidhaan was vehemently rejected by the Nihang leader Baba Santa Singh, along with 20 other chiefs of the sect. As the Indian paper The Tribune recorded “Baba Santa Singh pointed out that the consumption of ‘bhang’ among the Nihangs was not a new phenomenon. He said it had been going on ever since the Nihangs came into existence and fought battles against Mughal and Afghan invaders” (The Tribune, 2001) As a result of his refusal to accept of the prohibition of cannabis products, Baba Santa Singh was excommunicated and replaced by Baba Balbir Singh who complied with the apex Sikh clergy’s ban on the use of hemp, and although many Nihang still reject this prohibition, in orthodox circles this controversial ban has been maintained until the present.

The People’s Medicine

Like these other aspects, the medicinal qualities of Soma continued on as cannabis medicines in India. Later Indian texts such as the Tajni Guntu, the Rajbulubha, The Bhavaprakaca and the Susruta list cannabis as a treatment for clearing phlegm, expelling flatulence, inducing costiveness, sharpening memory, increasing eloquence, as an appetite stimulant, for gonorrhea, and as a general tonic.

The Bhavaprakaca,… [a]medical work written by Bhavadevamicra (cir. A.D. 1600), has as follows:

“Bhanga is also called ganja, matulani, madini (the intoxicating), vijaya (the victorious), and jaya (the victorious). It is antiphlegmatic, pungent, astringent, digestive, easy of digestion, acid, bile-affecting; and increases infatuation, intoxication, the power of the voice, and the digestive faculty.” (Grierson, 1893)

Much of cannabis’ medicinal attributes were combined with the magical and ritualistic beliefs from the Vedic period and this influence lasted well into the 20th century:

Bhang the cooler is a febrifuge. Bhang acts on the fever not directly or physically as an ordinary medicine, but indirectly or spiritually by soothing the angry influences to whom the heats of fever are due. According to one account in the Ayurveda, fever is possession by the hot angry breath of the great gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. According to another passage in the Ayurveda, Shankar or Shiva, enraged by a slight from his father-in-law Daksha, breathed from his nostrils the eight fevers that wither mankind. If the fever-stricken performs the Vijaya abhishek, or bhang-pouring on the Ling of Shankar, the god is pleased, his breath cools, and the portion of his breath in the body of the fever-stricken pleased to inflame. The Kashikhanda Purana tells how at Benares, a Brahman, sore-smitten with fever, dreamed that he had poured bhang over the self-sprung Ling and was well. On waking he went to the Ling, worshipped, poured bhang this cure brings to Benares sufferers from fever which no ordinary medicine can cure. The sufferers are laid in the temple pour bhang ever the Ling whose virtue has gained it the name Jvareshwar, the Fever-Lord. In Bombay many people sick of fever vow on recovery to pour bhang over a Ling. Besides cure for fever bhang has many medicinal virtues. It cools the heated blood, soothes the over-wakeful to sleep, gives beauty, and secures length of days. It cures dysentery and sunstroke, clears phlegm, quickens digestion, sharpens appetite, makes the tongue of the lisper plain, freshens the intellect, and gives alertness to the body and gaiety to the mind. Such are the useful and needful ends for which in his goodness the Almighty made bhang.

…. Shitaladevi, the Cooler, the dread goddess of small-pox, whose nature, like the nature of bhang, is cooling, takes pleasure in offerings of bhang. During epidemics of small-pox the burning and fever of the disease are soothed by pouring bhang over the image of Shitaladevi. So for the feverishness caused by the heats especially to the old no cure equals the drinking of bhang. (Campbell, 1894)

From most ancient times, to the near present, cannabis “remained one of the important drugs in the Indian Materia Medica… until 1945. Cannabis was widely used in the rural areas for asthma and bronchitis” Nahas, et al., 1999). Not surprisingly, current research into medical marijuana has reawakened practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine to the use of the ancient healing plant of their ancestors, as Ancient Wisdom has become modern scientific fact.

As well, numerous Indian texts indicate Soma’s reputation for ensuring longevity continued on with cannabis, The Mahanirvana Tantra (XI,105-8) recorded: “Intoxicating drink (containing bhang) is consumed in order to liberate oneself, and that those who do so, in dominating their mental faculties and following the law of Shiva (yoga) – are to be likened to immortals on earth.” Again, “the well-documented Indian treatise, Anandakanda, ca. 1200 c.e., suggested strong neuroprotective effects of cannabis as part of a rigorous medical, religious, and ritualistic regimen of celibacy… ‘it is claimed that the man lives 300 years free from any disease and sign of old age’” (Russo, 2007). “…[T]he Root of Bliss (¯Anandakanda)…. has been called ‘the most encyclopaedic work of the entire Hindu alchemical canon’…and although much of the work is derivative of earlier authors, one innovations a long and detailed chapter on cannabis (vijay¯akalpa: i.15.313–499)” (Wujastyk, 2001).

[T]he Anandakanda describes rejuvenation treatment based on cannabis. This involves treatment over a long period in a specially constructed hut (kut.i). This procedure is strongly reminiscent of a similar rejuvenation procedure described in the earliest Sanskrit medical literature, one that requires not cannabis but the unknown plant Soma. And that procedure itself echoes a rite of ritual rebirth that dates from the mid-first millennium BC. (Wujastyk, 2001)

The Religion of Hemp

Clearly, it was in the continued medicinal and religious use of cannabis in India, that Soma has left its greatest historical echo. The role of cannabis as a religious sacrament in India was most eloquently captured in J.M. Campbell’s report for the British Raj, who were trying to decide whether to tax or prohibit the popular intoxicant of the Indian people at the close of the 19th century. Not before or since the Vedas sang the religious praise of the Soma, has a plant been the subject of such sanctifying words as in Campbell’s 1894 essay, ‘On the Religion of Hemp’ from which we have already freely quoted, and now quote again in closing this essay:

To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in the bhang leaf… the bhang leaf is the home of the great Yogi or brooding ascetic Mahadev [Shiva].

So holy a plant should have special rearing. Shiva explains to his wife, Parvati, how, in sowing hemp seed, you should keep repeating the spell ‘Bhangi’, ‘Bhangi’, apparently that the sound of that guardian name may scare the evil tare-sowing influences. Again, when the seedlings are planted the same holy name must be repeated, and also at the watering which, for the space of a year, the young plants must daily receive. When the flowers appear the flowers and leaves should be stripped from the plant and kept for a day in warm water. Next day, with one hundred repetitions of the holy name Bhangi, the leaves and flowers should be washed in a river and dried in an open shed. When they are dry some of the leaves should be burnt with due repeating of the holy name as a jap or muttered charm. Then, bearing in mind Vagdevata, or the goddess of speech, and offering a prayer, the dried leaves should be laid in a pure and sanctified place. Bhang so prepared, especially If prayers are said over it, will gratify the wishes and desires of its owner. Taken in the early morning such bhang cleanses the user from sin, frees him from the punishment… of sins, and entitles him to reap the fruits of a thousand horse-sacrifices. Such sanctified bhang taken at day break or noon destroys disease….

Such holiness and such evil-scaring powers must give bhang a high place among lucky objects. That a day may be fortunate the careful man should on waking look into liquid bhang. So any nightmares or evil spirits that may have entered into him during the ghost-haunted hours of night will flee from him at the sight of the bhang and free him from their blinding influences during the day. So too when a journey has to be begun or a fresh duty or business undertaken it is well to look at bhang. To meet some one carrying bhang is a sure omen of success. To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky; it brings the goddess of wealth into the dreamer’s power. To see his parents worship the bhang-plant and pour bhang over Shiva’s Ling will cure the dreamer of fever. A longing for bhang foretells happiness: to see bhang drunk increases riches. No good thing can come to the man who treads under foot the holy bhang leaf.

….[T]oo its devotee bhang is no ordinary plant… [it]became, holy from its guardian and healing qualities….  [T]o the worshippers of the influences that, raising man out of himself and above mean individual worries, make him one with the divine force of nature, it is inevitable that temperaments should be found to whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into light the murkiness of matter or illusion and self is lost in the central soul-fire….. To the meaner man, still under the glamour of matter or maya, bhang taken religiously is kindly thwarting the wiles of his foes and giving the drinker wealth and promptness of mind.

….To forbid or even seriously to restrict the use of so holy and gracious a herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to the large bands of worshipped ascetics deep-seated anger. It would rob the people of a solace in discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences, and whose mighty power makes the devotee of the Victorious, overcoming the demons of hunger and thirst, of panic fear, of the glamour of Maya or matter, and of madness, able in rest to brood on the Eternal, till the Eternal, possessing him body and soul, frees him from the having of self and receives him into the ocean of Being… “We drank bhang and the mystery I am He grew plain. So grand a result, so tiny a sin.’” (Campbell, 1894)

This article has been excerpted from Cannabis and the Soma Solution (2010)