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Thread: Aryan Cannabis (Bhang) in India: The First Marijuana-Oriented Culture

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    Arrow Aryan Cannabis (Bhang) in India: The First Marijuana-Oriented Culture

    India: The First Marijuana-Oriented Culture

    India has known little peace. Invaded from both land and sea, it has seen many conquerors and has witnessed many empires come and go. Cyrus and Darius of Persia sent their armies there. On the heels of the Persians came Alexander the Great. After Alexander came more Greeks, then Parthians from Iran, Kushans from beyond the mountains in the north, then Arabs, followed by Europeans. Unlike China, which remained remote and isolated from the rest of the world for much of its history. India was known to all the great nations of the ancient world.

    Although the inhabitants of India are descended from a people known as the Aryans or "noble ones", the Aryans were not the original natives of the Indian subcontinent but instead invaded it from north of the Himalayas around 2000 B.C. Before the Aryans, who were light-skinned and blue-eyed, a dark-skinned and dark-eyed people, Australoid in origin, inhabited India.

    When the Aryans entered the country, they found a complex civilization, including well-designed housing, adjoining toilet facilities, and advanced drainage systems. The early inhabitants worked with gold and silver, and they also knew how to fashion tools and ornaments from copper and iron.
    When the Aryans first settled in India they were predominantly a nomadic people. During the centuries that followed their invasion, they intermarried with the original inhabitants, became farmers, and invented Sanskrit, one of man's earliest written languages.

    A collection of four holy books, called the Vedas, tells of daring exploits, their chariot battles, conquests, subjugation of enemy armies, eventual settlement in the land of the Indus, and even how their god Siva brought the marijuana plant down from the Himalayas for their use and enjoyment.

    According to one of their legends, Siva became enraged over some family squabble and went off by himself in the fields. There, the cool shade of a tall marijuana plant brought him a comforting refuge from the torrid rays of the blazing sun. Curious about this plant that sheltered him from the heat of the day, he ate some of its leaves and felt so refreshed that he adopted it as his favorite food, hence his title, the Lord of Bhang.

    Bhang does not always refer to the plant itself but rather to a mild liquid refreshment made with its leaves, and somewhat similar in potency to the marijuana used in America.

    Among the ingredients and proportions of them that went into a formula for bhang around the turn of the century were:

    Cannabis 220 grains
    Poppy seed 120 grains
    Pepper 120 grains
    Ginger 40 grains
    Caraway seed 10 grains
    Cloves 10 grains
    Cardamon 10 grains
    Cinnamon 10 grains
    Cucumber seed 120 grains
    Almonds 120 grains
    Nutmeg 10 grains
    Rosebuds 60 grains
    Sugar 4 ounces
    Milk 20 ounces

    Boiled together[36]

    Two other concoctions made from cannabis in India are ganja and charas. Ganja is prepared from the flowers and upper leaves and is more potent than bhang. Charas, the most potent of the three preparations, is made from flowers in the height of their bloom. Charas contains a relatively large amount of resin and is roughly similar in strength to hashish.

    Bhang was and still is to India what alcohol is to the West. Many social and religious gatherings in ancient times, as well as present, were simply incomplete unless bhang was part of the occasion. It is said that those who spoke derisively of bhang are doomed to suffer the torments of hell as long as the sun shines in the heavens.

    Without bhang at special festivities like a wedding, evil spirits were believed to hover over the bride and groom, waiting for an opportune moment to wreak havoc on the newlyweds. Any father who failed to send or bring bhang to the ceremonies would be reviled and cursed as if he had deliberately invoked the evil eye on his son and daughter.

    Bhang was also a symbol of hospitality. A host would offer a cup of bhang to a guest as casually as we would offer someone in our home a glass of beer. A host who failed to make such a gesture was despised as being miserly and misanthropic.

    War was another occasion in which bhang and more potent preparations like ganja were often resorted to. Indian folksongs dating back to the twelfth century A.D. mention ganja as a drink of warriors. Just as soldiers sometimes take a swig of whiskey before going into battle in modern warfare, during the Middle Ages in India, warriors routinely drank a small amount of bhang or ganja to assuage any feelings of panic, a custom that earned bhang the cognomen of vijaya, "victorious" or "unconquerable".[37]

    A story is told of a guru named Gobind Singh, the founder of the Sikh religion, which alludes to bhang's usage in battle. During a critical skirmish in which he was leading the troops, Gobind Singh's soldiers were suddenly thrown into a panic at the sight of an elephant bearing down on them with a sword in its trunk. As the beast slashed its way through Gobind Singh's lines, his men appeared on the verge of breaking rank.

    Something had to be done to prevent a disastrous rout. A volunteer was needed, a man willing to risk certain death to accomplish the impossible task of slaying an elephant. There was no shortage of men to step forward. Gobind Singh did not take time to pick and choose. To the man closest to him he gave some bhang and a little opium, and then watched as the man went out to kill the elephant. Fortified by the drug the loyal soldier rushed headlong into the thick of battle and charged the sword-wielding elephant.

    Deftly evading the slashing blows that could easily have severed his body in two, he managed to slip under the elephant and with all his strength he plunged his own weapon into the unprotected belly of the beast. When Gobind Singh's men saw the elephant lying dead in the field, they rallied and soon overpowered the enemy. From that time forth, the Sikhs commemorated the anniversary of that great battle by drinking bhang.

    "To the Hindu the Hemp Plant Is Holy"

    The earliest allusion to bhang's mind-altering influence is contained in the fourth book of the Vedas, the Atharvaveda ("Science of Charms"). Written some time between 2000 and 1400 B.C., the Atharvaveda (12:6.15) calls bhang one of the "five kingdoms of herbs... which release us from anxiety." But it is not until much later in India's history that bhang became a part of everyday life.

    By the tenth century A.D., for example, it was just beginning to be extolled as a indracanna, the "food of the gods". A fifteenth-century document refers to it as "light-hearted", "joyful", and "rejoices", and claims that among its virtues are "astringency", "heat", "speech-giving", "inspiration of mental powers", "excitability", and the capacity to "remove wind and phlegm".[38]

    By the sixteenth century A.D., it found its way into India's popular literature. The Dhurtasamagama, or "Rogue's Congress", a light farce written to amuse audiences, has two beggars come before an unscrupulous judge asking for a decision on a quarrel concerning a maiden at the bazaar. Before he will render his decision, however, the judge demands payment for his arbitration, In response to this demand, one of the beggars offers some bhang. The judge readily accepts and, tasting it, declares that "it produces a healthy appetite, sharpens the wits, and acts as an aphrodisiac".[39]

    In the Rajvallabha, a seventeenth-century text dealing with drugs used in India, bhang is described as follows:

    India's food is acid, produces infatuation, and destroys leprosy. It creates vital energy, increases mental powers and internal heat, corrects irregularities of the phlegmatic humor, and is an elixir vitae. It was originally produced like nectar from the ocean by churning it with Mount Mandara. Inasmuch as it is believed to give victory in the three worlds and to bring delight to the king of the gods (Siva), it was called vijaya (victorious). This desire-filling drug was believed to have been obtained by men on earth for the welfare of all people. To those who use it regularly, it begets joy and diminishes anxiety.[40]

    Yet it was not as a medicinal aid or as a social lubricant that bhang was preeminent among the people of India. Rather, it was and still is because of its association with the religious life of the country that bhang is so extolled and glorified. The stupefaction produced by the plant's resin is greatly valued by the fakirs and ascetics, the holy men of India, because they believe that communication with their deities is greatly facilitated during intoxication with bhang. (According to one legend, the Buddha subsisted on a daily ration of one cannabis seed, and nothing else, during his six years of asceticism.[41]) Taken in early morning, the drug is believed to cleanse the body of sin. Like the communion of Christianity, the devotee who partakes of bhang partakes of the god Siva.

    Cannabis also held a preeminent place in the Tantric religion which evolved in Tibet in the seventh century A.D. out of an amalgam of Buddhism and local religion.[42] The priests of this religion were wizards known as lamas ("superiors"). The high priest was called the Dalai Lama ("mighty superior").

    Tantrism, a word that means "that which is woven together", was a religion based on fear of demons. To combat the demonic threat to the world, the people sought protection in the spells, incantations, formulas (mantras), and exorcisms of their lamas, and in plants such as cannabis which were set afire to overcome evil forces.

    Cannabis was also an important part of the Tantric religious yoga sex acts consecrated to the goddess Kali. During the ritual, about an hour and a half prior to intercourse the devotee placed a bowl of bhang before him and uttered the mantra: "Om hrim, O ambrosia-formed goddess [Kali] who has arisen from ambrosia, who showers ambrosia, bring me ambrosia again and again, bestow occult power [siddhi] and bring my chosen deity to my power."[43]

    Then, after uttering several other mantras, he drank the potion. The delay between drinking the bhang and the sex act was to allow the drug time to act so that it would heighten the senses and thereby increase the feeling of oneness with the goddess.[44]

    At the turn of the twentieth century, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, which had been summoned in the 1890s to investigate the use of cannabis in India, concluded that the plant was so much an integral part of the culture and religion of that country that to curtail its usage would certainly lead to unhappiness, resentment, and suffering. Their conclusions:

    To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in the bhang leaf... To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky... No good thing can come to the man who treads underfoot the holy bhang leaf. A longing for bhang foretells happiness.

    ...Besides as a cure for fever, bhang has many medicinal virtues... It cures dysentry and sunstroke, clears phlegm, quickens digestion, sharpens appetite, makes the tongue of the lisper plain, freshens the intellect, and gives alertness to the body and gaiety to the mind. Such are the useful and needful ends for which in his goodness the Almighty made bhang... It is inevitable that temperaments should be found to whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge.

    In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into light the murkiness of matter... Bhang is the Joygiver, the Skyflier, the Heavenly-guide, the Poor Man's Heaven, the Soother of Grief... No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang... The supporting power of bhang has brought many has brought many a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine.

    To forbid or even seriously to restrict the use of so holy and gracious an herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to large bands of worshipped ascetics, deep-seated anger. It would rob the people of a solace in discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences... So grand a result, so tiny a sin![45]


    India was not the only country to be invaded by the Aryans. By 1500 B.C., Persia, Asia Minor, and Greece had been overrun and the Aryans were establishing permanent settlements as far west as France and Germany. Although the people who settled in these countries eventually developed into different nationalities, with different customs and traditions, their common Aryan ancestry can still be traced in their languages which collectively are called Indo-European.

    For example, the linguistic root an, which is found in various cannabis-related words, can be found in French in the word chanvre and in the German hanf. Our own word cannabis is taken directly from the Greek, which in turn is taken from canna, an early Sanskrit term.

    When the Aryans first settled in Persia (modern-day Iran, "the land of the Aryans"), they separated into two kingdoms - Medea and Parsa (Persia). Four centuries later, Cyrus the Great, the ruler of Parsa, unified the country, and with the combined forces of the Medes and Parsa behind him, he led his armies eastward and westward. By 546 B.C., the Persian or Achaemenid Empire as it was called (from Achaemenes, Cyrus' ancestor), reached from Palestine to India. Twenty years later, the Persians defeated Egypt and extended their control over that great kingdom as well.

    It was not until 331 B.C. that the Persian empire finally collapsed; its nemesis - the Greeks and their brilliant leader - Alexander the Great. The Aryans who settled in Persia came from the same area in central Russia as their cousins who invaded India, so it is hardly surprising that the Persian word bhanga is almost identical to the Indian term bhang.

    The Zend-Avesta is the Persian counterpart to the Vedas. However, unlike the Vedas, many of the books that were once a part of the Zend-Avesta have disappeared. The book itself was said to have been written by the Persian prophet Zoroaster, around the seventh century B.C., and reputedly was transcribed on no fewer than 1200 cowhides containing approximately two million verses!

    Professor Mirceau Eliade, perhaps the world's foremost authority on the history of religions, has suggested that Zoroaster himself may have been a user of bhanga and may have relied on its intoxication to bridge the metaphysical gap between heaven and earth.[46] One of the few surviving books of the Zend-Avesta, called the Vendidad, "The Law Against Demons", in fact calls bhanga Zoroaster's "good narcotic",[47] and tells of two mortals who were transported in soul to the heavens where, upon drinking from a cup of bhanga, they had the highest mysteries revealed to them.

    The Vendidad also contains a cryptic reference to bhanga's being used to induce abortions, but this seems not to have been an accepted usage of the drug in ancient Persia since the abortionist is called an old hag, not a doctor.[48]

    The Cult of the Dead

    Around the seventh century B.C., yet another swarm of Aryan warriors came out of central Siberia looking for new lands upon which to graze their animals. This time they claimed a vast territory stretching from northern Greece and beyond the Black Sea to the Altai Mountains in central Siberia as their new homeland.

    Known as the Scythians, these conquerors, like their Aryan ancestors before them, were skilled in warfare and renowned for their horsemanship. And also like their ancestors who settled in India and Persia, the Scythians were no strangers to the intoxicating effects of marijuana. According to Herodotus, a Greek historian who lived in the fifth century B.C., marijuana was an integral part of the Scythian cult of the dead wherin homage was paid to the memory of their departed leaders.

    Herodotus' passion for detail and devotion to fact has often provided scholars with their only contact with long-forgotten people and their customs. Nowhere was this more true than in the case of the Scythians. Were it not for Herodotus' description of the funerary customs of the Scythians, for example, one of the best known instances of the use of marijuana in the ancient world would never have been recorded.

    The funereal practice alluded to by Herodotus took place among the Scythians living northeast of Macedonia on the first anniversary of the death of one of their chiefs. The ceremony that commemorated that passing was a rather grisly affair, not one for the faint of heart, but of course the Scythians could hardly have been accused of being faint-hearted. First, it called for the death of fifty of the chief's former bodyguards, along with their horses.

    The bodies of these men were then opened, their intestines and inner organs were removed, various herbs were placed in the open cavities, and the bodies were then stitched back together. Meanwhile, their horses, each fully bridled, were killed and impaled on stakes arranged in a circle around the chief's tomb. The dead bodies of the chief's erstwhile protectors were then lifted onto the horses and were left to rot as they stood their last watch over the tomb of their former leader.

    Following this sobering rite, all those who had assisted in the burial cleansed themselves in a unique purification ritual. First, they washed their bodies thoroughly with cleansing oil. Then they erected small tents, into which they placed metal censors containing red-hot stones. Next, the men crawled into the tents and dumped marijuana seeds onto the hot stones. The seeds soon began to smolder and throw off vapors, which in the words of Herodotus, caused the Scythians to "howl with joy".[49] Seemingly, the purification was the Scythian counterpart to the hard-drinking frazzled Irish wake, with marijuana instead of alcohol as the ceremonial intoxicant.

    Even though Herodotus' accuracy in recording history has often been borne out by other historical documents, scholars found this bizarre burial custom including the marijuana-induced intoxication too incredible to be true.

    But in 1929 a Russian archaeologist, Professor S.I. Rudenko, made a fantastic discovery in the Pazyryk Valley of central Siberia. Digging into some ancient ruins near the Altai Mountains on the border between Siberia and Outer Mongolia, Rudenko found a trench about 160 feet square and about 20 feet deep. On the perimeter of the trench were the skeletons of a number of horses. Inside the trench was the embalmed body of a man and a bronze cauldron filled with burnt marijuana seeds![50]

    Clearing the site further, Rudenko also found some shirts woven from hemp fiber and some metal censors designed for inhaling marijuana smoke which did not appear to be connected with any religious rite. To Rudenko, the evidence suggested that inhalation of smoldering marijuana seeds occurred not only in a religious context, but also as an everyday activity, one in which Scythian women participated alongside the men.

    Although he does not identify them, Herodotus had also heard of another tribe of nomads who used marijuana for recreational purposes. Speaking of these people, Herodutus states that when they "have parties and sit around a fire, they throw some of it into the flames. As it burns, it smokes like incense, and the smell of it makes them drunk, just as wine does. As more fruit is thrown on, they get more and more intoxicated until finally they jump up and start dancing and singing."[51]

    The Scythians eventually disappeared as a distinct national entity, but their descendants spread through Eastern Europe. While remembrances of their ancestors were lost, memories of ancestral customs were still retained, although, of course, these were modified down through the centuries. It is in this regard that anthropologist Sula Benet's comment that "hemp never lost its connection with the cult of the dead"[52] takes on added significance since she has traced the influence of the Scythians and their hemp funerary customs down to the modern era in Eastern Europe and Russia.

    On Christmas Eve, for instance, Benet notes that the people of Poland and Lithuania serve semieniatka, a soup made from hemp seeds. The Poles and Lithuanians believe that on the night before Christmas the spirits of the dead visit their families and the soup is for the souls of the dead. A similar ritual takes place in Latvia and in the Ukraine on Three Kings Day. Yet another custom carried out in deference to the dead in Western Europe was the throwing of hemp seeds onto a blazing fire during harvest time as an offering to the dead - a custom that originated with the Scythians and has seemingly been passed on from generation to generation for over 2500 years.

    Source: UKCIA website.

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    Post Re: Aryan cannabis

    This poem may interest you, by a Hindu holy man;

    Many drink Bhung or Cannabis Indica,
    and say "Bhung is very pleasing to Lord Siva;
    The Lord Himself takes a lot of Bhung;
    so we also take Bhung"

    But friends! Lord Siva drank the poison -
    can you also do like this?
    Why do you practise vile imitation?

    Lord Siva is the ruler of the fourteen worlds;
    but you cannot have a rule
    even in your own house.
    You are an absolute slave of your wife;
    you are a slave of passions and appetites!

    Siva's Bhung is the nectar of Immortality;
    it is surely not the drink of Cannabis Indica.
    Abandon all vile imitations and Asuric* qualities.
    Place noble, sublime ideals before you.
    Tread the path of virtues and attain God-realisation.
    [Swami Sivananda; 'Vairagya Mala': 42]

    *'Asuric' - the Asuras were demons.

    Lord Siva
    Why are there beings at all, & why not rather nothing?

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    Post Re: Aryan cannabis

    Quote Originally Posted by Moody Lawless
    This poem may interest you, by a Hindu holy man;

    This is an excellent poem. I lived in India for two years and have met many saddhus (ascetic devotees of Lord Shiva). They smoked ganja all day long. Sometimes I joined them. One must become one with the cosmic unity - Brahma - the all-father. I worked for my parents' company in Bombay. It is all about marijuana research. Check it out:

    For Race and Motherland,

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