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A bhang shop in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

Bhang (Punjabi: ਭੰਗ, بھنگ, /pə̀ŋg/, Bengali: ভাং, /bɦaŋ/) is preparation from the leaves and flowers (buds) of the female cannabis plant, consumed in the Indian subcontinent. It is consumed either as a beverage or smoked.[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 standard practice.

Resin (sometimes crystalline) is culled from the leaves and buds of cannabis. The psychotropic bhang helps to escalate the spirit of Holi, a festival which does not impose any restrictions. Thandai, pakoras and vadas, cultural delicacies all having bhang as an essential ingredient, are savored by everyone on that day.

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 orthodox Islam, though not in all sects.


[edit] 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". Preparations of bhang were sacred to the gods, particularly Shiva. One of Shiva's epithets is "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 to achieve transcendental states. Bhang or cannabis is also known to be popular amongst Sufis as an aid to spiritual ecstasy.[2]

[edit] 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 gusto unseen elsewhere.

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 tasty green halva, and into peppery, chewy little balls called 'golees'.

[edit] Culture

Ancient as it is, 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 North 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[who?] 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[citation needed]. Native informants[who?] 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 and then taking bhang is a tradition during the festival.

[edit] Sikhism

Nihang are traditionally very fond of Bhang, which they call Sukkha Prasad i.e. "Peace-Giver". In Sanskrit the word "Sukh" means Pleasure, Love and happiness while "Prasad" is an offering to God which God tasted and decided to share with the mass. So "Sukhka Prasad" literally means "a love and happiness giving drink provided by God to the masses."

[edit] See also

[edit] 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. 

[edit] External links

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