Bhang Ki Thandai - A Special Drink for Holi

by - February 17, 2017

The bhang has become synonymous with Indian festivals. So much so that bhang based preparations have become an essential ingredient of Indian festivities as important as Holi Festival. In Holi, the festival of color, drinks and food is impregnated with bhang. The thandai, the pakoras and the vadas, all hide that secret and sacred ingredient that helps to intensify the festive spirit of Holi.

We arrived in Maheshwar around 9:30 in the morning from Omkareshwar. We took a bus that was supposed to leave from Omkareshwar at 6 o'clock in the morning but left half an hour later and the driver stopped continuously for no apparent reason other than having a tea or chewing tobacco. It was fun, I guess because we were not in a hurry.

This local bus costs 65 rupees per person. We were struck by the fact that in this area buses stop a lot in sacred places, like small temples on the edge of the road, and leave offerings like flowers or incense. When we passed a bridge that crossed the river Narmada the bus stopped and threw flowers into the water along with a small prayer.

The bus stopped us on the main road of Maheshwar, so we had to walk about 5 minutes to get to the area of the fort where most of the accommodations are located.

To stay, we chose a guest house for 500 rupees in one of the rooms at the top. After breakfast, we visited the fort and the ghats. We saw children carrying water guns with their colored faces and clothes. This was only the beginning. Locals made us wet and colored more. It was all fun. Many greeted us with the intention of putting some color on our hands or face. The Holi is one of the most important celebrations in India and is done to welcome spring.

The previous night bonfires are lit all over the country. Traditionally it is said that spring can cause colds and fever in the population. So throwing colored powder has a medicinal meaning. Traditionally those powders were made with flowers and medicinal herbs prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors. Nowadays the colored powders that are bought on the street are artificial dyes and have nothing to do with those that were used in the past. It is easy to see groups of men sharing a bottle with the drink called Thandai, which contains marijuana.

The Bhang is a preparation made from leaves and chalices of cannabis plants. It can be smoked, ingested, chewed or prepared in infusions. Its intake causes a slight feeling 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.



In India the bhang is associated with Shiva and plays an important role in religious life as a sacred intoxicant. The bhang was first used as a toxic product in India around 1000 BC and soon became an integral part of Indian culture. In the ancient text Atharvaveda, bhang is described as a beneficial herb that liberates anxiety.
The bhang preparations were sacred to the gods, particularly to Shiva, who, according to legend, discovered the transcendental properties of the mixture.

In imitation of Shiva, many sadhus use bhang to propel and attain states of transcendental meditation. In India, there are many popular traditions and superstitions associated with bhang. Many believe that stepping on a 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, using it to cure fever, dysentery or heatstroke. Taken in its proper 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 yogurt milkshake with spices.

In areas of tourist predominance like Jaisalmer, Pushkar or Puri, it is easy to find shops dedicated to the legal sale of bhang. Although if there is an official center of bhang lassi it is Varanasi. There, in its famous ghats, it is very common to find a large number of men dedicated to the preparation and sale of bhang lassi.

Another variant, very 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 such as garam masala of clove, cinnamon and cardamom, among other ingredients. The bhang can also be ingested in the form of spicy balls called "golees" or "halva" a dough made with butter and sugar.

The powerful intoxicating effect of the bhang forms an important part of the Holi celebration, a festival that knows no restrictions. Its consumption is especially rampant in the north of the country, where it is celebrated with a special enthusiasm.

Due to this festivity, most of the shops and restaurants are closed. We noticed that we asked in a hotel for a room, they showed us one. We liked it and we were going to keep it, but the man tells us that it would be closed from the next day since that day was Holi.

When we crossed the walls of the fort and arrived at the ghats, we liked what we saw. It is a large area where people enjoy bathing in the Narmada River, which carried much more water than there was in the area of Omkareshwar. The buildings and small temples that can be seen here are very well preserved, as well as the stone carvings and the numerous steps that are around. We also visited the palace, although it is not very spectacular, probably because the queen who lived there was quite austere and did not need grandiose buildings to do her job well.

Maheshwar was the capital of the Malwa for a period of time, after which the capital was moved to Indore. The word Maheshwar in Hindi means "Great God", an epithet of Shiva, and the locality appears in the accounts of the Mahabharata.

This town is a good place to rest and relax, but we only stayed one night. Our next destination would be Mandu, which is quite close, so the next day we get up early and take local buses.

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1 comments

  1. Very good. I'll take it.
    Bye bye from Italy.

    ReplyDelete