Bhang has become synonymous with Indian festivals that are associated with Shiva and plays an important role in religious life as a sacred intoxication. So much so that the preparations of bhang have become an essential ingredient of festivities as important as Holi Festival. The Bhang is a preparation made from leaves and chalices of cannabis plants. It can be smoked, ingested, chewed or prepared in infusions. The intake causes a slight sensation of euphoria.
The history of this plant is closely linked to the history of mankind. Over the years, their shoots have been cultivated for medicinal purposes, their stems used to make fibers and their seeds to make food. The bhang was first used as a toxic product in India around the year 1000 BC and soon became an integral part of the Indian culture.
In the ancient text of Atharvaveda, Bhang is described as a beneficial herb that releases anxiety. The bhang preparations were sacred to the gods, in particular to Shiva, who, according to legend, discovered the transcendental properties of the mixture. In imitation of Shiva, many sadhus use bhang to push and reach states of transcendental meditation.
In India, there are many popular traditions and superstitions associated with bhang. People believe that unknowingly crushing the sacred leaf of bhang can have negative effects for the person and that dreaming of the sacred plant augurs good omens. The Indians also firmly believe in its medicinal properties by using it to cure fever, dysentery or sunstroke. Taken in its right measure energizes the body and clarifies the mind.
One of the most popular variants in India is bhang lassi, a drink made from fresh leaves and cannabis seeds and a spiced yogurt shake. In areas of tourist predominance like Jaisalmer, Pushkar or Puri, it is easy to find shops dedicated to the legal sale of bhang. Although there is an official center of bhang lassi is Varanasi, the sacred city founded by Shiva. There, in his famous ghats, it is very common to find a large number of men dedicated to the preparation and sale of bhang lassi.
Another variant, popular in northern India is Bhang Ki Thandai, whose essential ingredients are Bhang and Thandai, a cold drink made with almonds, rose petals, ginger and spices like garam masala (cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom), among other ingredients. The bhang can also be ingested in the form of spicy balls or halva, a dessert made with semolina, butter, and sugar.
The powerful intoxicating effect of the bhang forms an important part of Holi celebrations. Its consumption is especially unbridled in the north of the country, where it is celebrated with a special enthusiasm. In Holi, the festival of color, drinks, and food are impregnated with Bhang Ki Thandai, pakoras and foods, all hide that secret and sacred ingredient that helps to intensify the festive spirit of Holi.
The Thandai or Sardai is a cold, tasty and energetic drink popular mostly in Varanasi. It is a sweet blend of milk, nuts, and spices that are frequently taken during Maha Shivaratri and Holi.
Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Calories per serving: 25 calories per 100 gms
10 cannabis leaves/flowers
1 tsp poppy seeds
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp watermelon seeds
1/2 tsp cardamom
A pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp sugar
300 ml milk
Boil 300 ml of water, then remove from heat, add the cannabis and let stand 5 minutes. Stir vigorously for a few minutes to flavor the water, and then remove the cannabis and put the water aside.
Remove all the seeds and twigs from the cannabis. Put it on a chopping board or in a pestle and make a smooth paste, then slowly add the milk and other ingredients already pulverized and mix, except poppy seeds, watermelon, and sugar. Make a paste and set aside.
Grind the watermelon seeds and poppy to a paste. Mix the two pastes with remaining milk, and mix well and filter through a thin fabric. Remove the unfiltered content.
Add the sugar, stirring until completely dissolved, and filter again. Add milk to your desired consistency, and add the flavored water previously set aside. Serve chilled.