I have never tried a recreational drug (including bhang) in my life…Never…Ever!
So when my friend and I were gawking at the long list of Thandai for sale in Varanasi we (almost) sheepishly asked the shopkeeper,
“Bhaiya bhang peena legal hai kya?” (Is it legal to drink bhaang?)
Aapko peeni hai? (Do you want to drink Bhang?)
My friend who had by then googled some extra information, whispered in my ears, “It’s legal to have bhang here”.
“Thik hai, ekdum light wali bhang thandai bana do”, we said with pounding heart! We had convinced each other that we would be able to handle a VERY light bhang.
Post our “Bhang Thandai” we went for the Ganga Aarti which was mesmerising.
In the name of Bhang we occasionally felt as if we were rocking but then we were on a boat listening to the Ganga Aarti at the Dashwamedha Ghat. So I am not sure it was the boat rocking or we can (dis)credit the bhang for that feeling.
All you need to know about bhang in Varanasi!
My encounter with bhang wasn’t as colourful as I had witnessed in Hindi movies, nevertheless, the thrill of having asked for it is still there.
So here’s my dope on Bhang in general and having it in Varanasi in particular.
What is Bhang?
Bhang is a mild narcotic drink which causes mild euphoria and even serves as a mild aphrodisiac. The ‘not so mild’ use of the word ‘Mild’ in the above sentence is purely intentional!
I have read many blog posts misleading the readers by calling bhang a weed.
BHANG IS NOT WEED.
Ganja (weed/marijuana) are made of flowers and resins of the female cannabis plant which are very high in THC.
Bhang on the other hand is made using the leaves of the male cannabis plant. The Active component in bhang is also THC but its level is lower than that of ganja. It is a recreational drug unlike ganja (Source).
Use of Cannabis in India has been known since at least 1000 BC.
Ayurveda attributes various medicinal properties to the cannabis plant if taken in proper quantity. Ayurveda, however, does not prescribe cannabis for smoking recipes.
In fact, bhang chutney in Uttarakhand state of India, is a speciality which is consumed as an accompaniment to other dishes. The Hemp seeds and cumin seeds are ground together with mint leaves and lemon juice to make a delicious Bhang chutney which is high in nutrition and is not intoxicating.
Is Bhang Legal in India?
Until 1985, cannabis derivatives in India — bhang, charas and ganja — were regulated by the various state excise departments and legally sold by licensed shops.
It was in 1985 that the Rajiv Gandhi government buckled under International pressure and enacted the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985. The NDPS Act banned the production and sale of cannabis resin and flowers, but permitted the use of the leaves and seeds, allowing the states to regulate the latter.
Since, Bhang is made using the leaves (and not resin or flowers) of the cannabis plant it is legal to sell bhang by Government Authorised shops.
The leaves of cannabis are ground into a paste using a mortar and pestle. To make Bhang thandai it is mixed with milk and flavoured with kusha grass, dry fruits, sugar, and various spices.
In Varanasi they sell it as “bhang thandai” and “bhang lassi”. In Bhang Lassi, milk is substituted with yoghurt!
It is also available in the form of dry cookies.
Locals also consume it in the form of chewy little Bhang Goli. A Goli in hindi means a pill or a tablet.
Bhang is sold not only in the temple markets of Varanasi but also of Puri and Nathdvara.
where to find Bhang Thandai in Varanasi
If not Bhang thandai, even the plain thandai is very refreshing at this shop.
Highly recommended by our Home stay host was Blue Lassi.
Blue Lassi Shop
CK 12/1 Kachowri Gali Chowk, Near Rajbandhu, Bangali Tola, Lahori Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221001
Tips on consuming bhang
Just as there are many different strengths to cannabis, so are there different potencies to bhang!
- From gentle to day-Glo tripping, or
- Cruisy smiles to crashed and wasted.
Be careful when first trying this drink.
If Shiva can smoke ganja and drink Bhang so can I !?
“If Shiva takes drugs, so must I,” said a student to his teacher.
“A good idea,” said the teacher, “but first you must make yourself Shiva, no?”
Shiva is yogi. He withdraws. The drugs are meant to withdraw. They are thus tools for yoga, not bhoga.
None of the drug-takers want to be yogis. For most people, drugs are about bhoga, pleasure.
Unable to handle social responsibilities and social pressures, they take drugs to escape the harsh realities of life.
This dual aspect of withdrawal and engagement makes Shiva, Shiva. Until we can become this Shiva, who helps the world, and does not fear it, it is best to stay away from drugs. (Source of above Excerpt)