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A bhang shop in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

Bhang (Hindi: भांग, pronounced [bʱaːŋɡ]; Punjabi: ਭੰਗ; Bengali: ভাং [bʱaŋ]) is a preparation from the leaves and flowers (buds) of the female cannabis plant, consumed as a beverage in the Indian subcontinent. [1]

The traditional harvest and preparation of bhang occurs during the celebrations of Holi in March and Vaisakhi in April, hence associated with Lord Shiva. It has now become synonymous with Holi, to the point where consuming bhang at that time is a standard practice.

Bhang Ki Thandai (Hindi) is a drink popular in many parts of India which is made by mixing bhang with thandai, a cold beverage prepared with almonds, spices, milk and sugar. Consumption of Bhang and psychotropic substances has been forbidden by certain Hindu religious sects such as the Shikshapatri, and is also forbidden in Islam, though not in all sects.

Contents

History

Bhang was first used as part of the Hindu rite in India around 1000 BC and soon became an integral part of Hindu culture. In the ancient text Atharvaveda, bhang is described as a beneficial herb that "releases anxiety".

Many sadhus use Bhang to boost meditation and to achieve transcendental states. Bhang or cannabis is also known to be popular amongst Sufis as an aid to spiritual ecstasy.[2]

Preparation

An erotic drawing depicting a couple smoking bhang while engaged in coitus

The tradition of consuming bhang during Holi is particularly common in North India where Holi itself is celebrated with a fervor unseen elsewhere.

Bhang is heavily consumed in Mathura, an ancient town of religious importance to the Hindus. Here, it is believed to have been introduced by the followers of Lord Krishna and has stayed over here since. The Choubey community or the Chaturvedi's of Mathura have a long history of consuming Bhang on a daily basis. They begin the preparation by Sanskrit chants and recitation of prayers to the Hindu God, Shiva. Some people from Mathura have Bhang to work their appetite while others do it to relieve themselves off stress. But the hub of bhang is Varanasi or Banaras, the Land of Shiva, 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 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 heady drink, Thandai, an alternative to alcohol. Bhang is also mixed with ghee and sugar to make a green halva, and into peppery, chewy little balls called 'golees' (which in this context means candy or pill in Hindi).

Culture

Being so ancient, bhang has become so much an integral part of Indian tradition that it has become symbolic for many things.

It is associated with Lord Shiva, as the hemp plant is regarded as holy by the Hindus of Northern India. 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 on a holy bhang leaf is believed to spell doom.

People believe in the medicinal properties of the hemp plant. If taken in proper quantity, bhang is believed to cure fever, dysentery and sunstroke, to clear phlegm, quicken digestion, appetite, cure speech imperfections and lisping, give alertness to the body.[3] Natives also claim that it produces a tingling sensation in the nape.

Some erotic drawings from the Mughal era of India depict a couple having sexual intercourse while smoking bhang to enhance intimacy.

In Nepal, on the day of Hindu festival Maha Shivaratri, bhang is taken in different forms such as smoke, mixed with sweets and drink. Offering bhang to lord Shiva is a common practice during the festival.

Sikhism

Although drugs and alcohol are prohibited in Sikhism, Nihang are traditionally very fond of bhang, which they call Sukkha Prasad i.e. "Peace-Giver". In Sanskrit the word "Sukhi" means happy and, "Prasad" is an offering to God which God tasted and decided to share with the mass. It was used as a pain killer before and after battle as many of the Nihangs returning would have major injuries. It was also used to give an adrenalin rush before a battle. Sikhs were taught to use it as a medicine rather than for recreation, but it is strictly looked down upon in today's time.

See also

References

  1. ^ bhang definition The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. Retrieved 10 September 2006.
  2. ^ Fuller, Robert (2000). Stairways to Heaven. Westview Press. ISBN 0813366127. 
  3. ^ Holi Festival, http://www.holifestival.org/tradition-of-bhang.html  Tradition of Bhang

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BHANG, an East Indian name for the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa (see Hemp), but applied specially to the leaves dried and prepared for use as a narcotic drug. In India the products of the plant for use as a narcotic and intoxicant are recognized under the three names and forms of Bhang, Gunja or Ganja, and Churrus or Charas. Bhang consists of the larger leaves and capsules of the plant on which an efflorescence of resinous matter has occurred. The leaves are in broken and partly agglutinated pieces, having a dark-green colour and a heavy but not unpleasant smell. Bhang is used in India for smoking, with or without tobacco; it is prepared in the form of a cake or manjan, and it is made into an intoxicating beverage by infusing in cold water and straining. Gunja is the flowering or fruit-bearing tops of the female plants. It is gathered in stalks of several inches in length, the tops of which form a matted mass, from the agglutination of flowers, seeds and leaflets by the abundant resinous exudation which coats them. Churrus is the crude resinous substance separated from the plant. The use of preparations of hemp among the Mussulman and Hindu population of India is very general; and the habit also obtains among the population of central Asia, the Arabs and Egyptians, extending even to the negroes of the valley of the Zambezi and the Hottentots of South Africa. The habit appears to date from very remote times, for Herodotus says of the Scythians, that they creep inside huts and throw hemp seeds on hot stones.


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