Bhang on! An Awesome Guide on having Bhang in Varanasi

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.

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi

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.

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi

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.

Yeh Jawani hai diwani film poster
Tune Hawa Mein Bhaang Milaya (Source)

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!

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi
What is it that draws hippies to India?

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).

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi
Cannabis leaves put for drying to make Bhang

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.

Bhang Chutney
Bhang Chutney in Kumaon, India

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.

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi
Government authorised shop selling bhang Goli

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.

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi
A peep inside the shop!

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.

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi
A customer buying Bhang Goli!

Preparation

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!

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi

It is also available in the form of dry cookies.

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi

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

There are three shops selling thandai and lassi at the Godowlia Crossing in varanasi. We had bhang thandai at Badal Thandai.
 
Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi
 
Badal Thandai
Godowlia Crossing, Sponarpura Road, next to SBI ATM, Uttar Pradesh 221001
There is a place to sit inside and this is what is on offer :-
 
Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi

If not Bhang thandai, even the plain thandai is very refreshing at this shop.

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi
Bhavna enjoying Thandi Thandai!!

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!

  1. From gentle to day-Glo tripping, or
  2. Cruisy smiles to crashed and wasted.

Be careful when first trying this drink.

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi
For beginners mild is good.

There may be a delay while the body processes the cannabinoids, but then the effects will certainly come on strong (Source).

If Shiva can smoke ganja and drink Bhang so can I !?

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi

“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.

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi
Raw milk and Bhang offering for Lord Shiva

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.

Bhang Thandai Lassi Varanasi

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)

Say No to Drugs

16 thoughts on “Bhang on! An Awesome Guide on having Bhang in Varanasi

  1. What a fun article! Totally loved it. I have tried bhang only once couple of years back and honestly did not like the taste. I prefer the home made thandai better 🙂

  2. What an experience! Very interesting read given the current debate over legalisation in Australia (where I’m from) and elsewhere in the world. I think It’d follow your footsteps and give it a try!

    • Ha ha don’t forget to share your experience with me – Bhang 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. 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.

  3. I had never heard of this way of consuming cannabis! Its so interesting to hear about the traditional ways Indians have used this plant – especially as it relates to religion. In the West we think about it as a recreational drug. It’s interesting to think of it as so much more. Thanks for such an informative post.

    • The lower level of THC makes Bhaang a safer recreational drug – Ayurveda attributes various medicinal properties to the cannabis plant if taken in proper quantity. Ayurveda, however, does not prescribe cannabis for smoking recipes. I am glad you found the article useful 🙂

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