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NOTE BY MR. G. A. GRIERSON, C.I.E., MAGISTRATE AND COLLECTOR, HOWRAH, ON REFERENCES TO THE HEMP PLANT OCCURRING IN SANSKRIT AND HINDI LITERATURE
I have the honour to state that I have searched through all the Sanskrit and Hindi
books accessible to me, and to forward the accompanying note on the references to the hemp
plant occurring in the literatures of those languages.
I have met the hemp plant in Sanskrit and Hindi literature under various names. The
(3) Vijaya or Jaya
The earliest mention of the word ganja which I have noted is dated about the year 1300
Whenever the word vijaya is used, it is doubtful whether the hemp plant is meant, or
the yellow myrobolan, as the words means both.
The name Bhanga occurs in the Atharvaveda (say, B.C. 1400). The hemp plant is there
mentioned simply as a sacred grass. Panini (say, B.C. 300) mentions the pollen of the hemp
flower (bhanga). In the commencement of the sixth century we find the first mention of
vijaya which I have noted. It is a sacred grass, and probably means here the hemp plant.
The first mention of bhanga as a medicine which I have noted is in the work of Sucruta
(before the eighth century A.D.), where it is called an antiphlegmatic. During the next
four centuries bhanga (feminine) frequently occurs in native Sanskrit dictionaries in the
sense of hemp-plant.
In the tenth century the intoxicating nature of bhang seems to have been known: and the
name Indracana, Indra's food, first appears, so far as I know, in literature. Its
intoxicating power was certainly known in the beginning of the fourteenth century. In a
play written in the beginning of the sixteenth century, it is mentioned as being consumed
by jogis (Caiva mendicants). It is there named "Indra's food."
In later medical works it is frequently mentioned under various names.
I append a more detailed account of the passages in which I have noted the uses of the
I may add that I have not traced in literature any difference between the uses of the
word ganja and the word bhanga, though modern kavirajas tells me that they are
Cir. B.C. 1400. In the Atharvaveda (cir. 1400 B.C.) the bhang plant is mentioned
(11, 6, 15) once:
"We tell of the five kingdoms of herbs headed by Soma; may it and kuca
grass, and bhanga and barley, and the herb saha release us from
Here reference is evidently made to the offering of these herbs in oblations.
The grammarian Panini (5, 2, 29) mentions bhangukata, the pollen of the hemp
flower, as one of his examples.
Cir. B. C. 300.
The fact that the pollen of this special flower was quoted is worth noting.
Varahamihira in his Brihatsamhita (XLVIII, 39), mentions vijaya as used
with other grasses in the rotes of the Pusya, bathing festival.
Vijaya is this passage certainly means some plant or other. The word may mean
either the Indian hemp-plant or be a synonym of haritaki (the yellow myrobolan).
Dr. Hoernle informs me that in the oldest medical words the word is explained by
commentators in the latter sense. It is doubtful what meaning we are to adopt here. The
word may mean the hemp-plant bhanga. In the passage from the Atharvaveda,
already quoted, amongst the five plants special honoured as oblations, bhanga is
closely connected with the herb saha. So also in the Brihatsamhita, vijaya
is mentioned as one of a long list of plants to be used in the offering, and the very next
plant mentioned is saha, which is apparently the same as saha. This would
encourage the theory that the vijaya of the Brihatsamhita was more probably the
same as the bhanga of the Atbarvaveda.
In Sucruta (Ut. XI, 3) Bhanga is recommended together with a number of other
drugs as an antiphlegmatic.
Before the eighth century.
Vijaya is mentioned in the same work as a remedy for catarrh accompanied by
diarrhea (Ut. XXIV, 20, and Ut. 39, page 415, 20), as an ingredient in a prescription for
fever arising from an excess of bile and phlegm. In these two passages, however, vijaya
is probably an equivalent of haritaki, the yellow myrobolan, and does not mean
In the various kosas, or dictionaries, bhanga is frequently mentioned as
meaning the hemp-plant. Thus,
(1) Amarakosa, 2, 9, 20.
Cir. A. D. 500. (2) Trikandacesa, 3, 364.
Tenth or eleventh century(3) Hemacandra's Anekarthakosa, 2, 37.
Twelfth century. (4) Hemakandra's Abhidhanacinlamani, 1179.
The Sarasundari (date not known to me), a commentary on the Amarakosa mentioned above,
Twelfth century by Mathureca, and quoted in the Cabdakalpadruma, mentions that the seed
of the bhanga plant is the size of that of millet (kalaya).
Cakrapanidatta is said to have flourished under Nayapala, a prince who reigned
Cir. 1050 A.D. in the eleventh century A.D. In his Cabdacandrika, a medical
vocabulary, he gives the following Sanskrit names for bhang:
(1) Vijaya (victorious), (2) Trailokyavijaya (victorious in the three
worlds), (3) bhanga, (4) Indracana (Indra's food), (5) Jaya
These names seem to show that its use as an intoxicant was then known.
The Rajanighantu of Narahari Pandita adds the following names to those given by
A.D. 1300. Cakrapanidatta in the Cabdacandrika above mentioned:
(6) Virapattra (hero-leaved or the leaf of heroes),
(8) Capala (the light-hearted),
(9) Ajaya (the unconquered),
(10) Ananda (the joyful),
(11) Harsini (the rejoicer)
and adds that the plant possesses the following qualities:
(1) Katulva (acridity); (2) kasayatra (astringency); (3) Usnatva
(heat); (4) tiktatva (pungency); (5) vatakaphapahatva (removing wind and
phlegm); (6) samgrahitva (astringency); (7) vakpradatva (speech-giving); (8)balyatva
(strength-giving); (9) medhakaritva (inspiring of mental power); (10) cresthadipanatva
(the property of a most excellent excitant).
The Carngadhrasamhita, a medical work by Carngadhara, the date of which is unknown,
Say A.D. 1500. but which must have been compiled during the Muhammadan
period of Indian History, specially mentions (1, 4, 19) bhanga as an excitant (vyavayin).
In the same passage it mentions opium.
The Dhurtasamagama, or "Rogues' Congress," is the name of an amusing if coarsely
A.D. 1550. written farce of about the year 1500 A.D., the author of
which was one Jyotirica. In the second act two Caiva mendicants came before an unjust
judge, and demand a decision on a quarrel which they have about a nymph of the bazar. The
judge demands payment of a deposit before he will give any opinion. One of the litigants
"Here is my ganja bag; let it be accepted as a deposit."
The Judge (taking it pompously, and then smelling it greedily): "Let me try
what it is like (takes a pinch). Ah! I have just now got by the merest chance some
ganja which is soporific and corrects derangements of the humours, which produces a
healthy appetite, sharpens the wits, and acts as an aphrodisiac."
The word used for ganja in the above is Indracana (Indra's food).
The Bhavaprakaca, another medical work written by Bhavadevamicra (cir. A.D.
1600), has as follows:
Cir. A. D. 1600.
Bhanga ganja matulani madini vijaya jaya
Bhanga kaphahari tikta grahini pacani laghuh
Tiksosna pittala moha -mada vag vahni vardhini
"Bhanga is also called ganja, matulani, madini (the intoxicating), vijaya
(the victorious), and jaya (the victorious). It is antiphlegmatic, pungent,
astringent, digestive, easy of digestion, acid, bile-affecting; and increases infatuation,
intoxication, the power of the voice, and the digestive faculty."
"The Rajavallabha, a materia medica, by Narayanadasa kaviraja, the date of which I
17th century. do not know, but which is quoted in the Cabdakalpadruma, and is
believed to be ancient, has the following:
Cakra-canam tu tiksno-snam moha-krit kustha-nacanam
Bala-medha-gni-krit-clesma -dosa-hari rasayanam
Jata mandara-manthanaj jala-nidhau piyusa-rupa pura
Trailokye vijaya-prade 'ti vijaya cri-devaraja-priya
Lokanam hita-kamyaya ksiti-tale prapta naraih kamada
Sarva-" tanka-vinaca-harsa-janani yaih sevita sarvada.
"Indra's food (i.e. ganja) is acid, produces infatuation, and destroys leprosy. It
creates vital energy, the mental powers, and internal heat, corrects irregularities of the
phlegmatic humour, and is an elixir vitae. It was originally produced, like nectar, from
the ocean by the churning with Mount Mandara, and inasmuch as it gives victory in the
three worlds, it, the delight of the king of the gods, is called vijaya, the
victorious. This desire-fulfilling drug was obtained by men on the earth, through desire
for the welfare of all people. To those who regularly use it it begets joy and destroys
The Rasapradhipa, a work, the date of which is unknown to me, and which is quoted in
? Date. the Cabdakalpadruma mentions jaya as a remedy for indigestion:
Ksaratrayam sutagandhou pancakolam idam cubham
Sarvais tulya jaya bhrista tad-ardha cigruja jata
Natron, saltpetre and borax, mercury and sulphur, and the prosperous five spices (long
pepper, its root, piper chaba, another pepper, and dry ginger). To these add an
equal amount of parched jaya and half of that amount of horse-radish (moringa)
It is not certain whether jaya here means bhang or Haritaki (yellow
myrobolan). The word has both significations. The latter, perhaps, suits the formula best.
In the Rasaratna-samuccaya, a work written in the south of India, jaya is
classified as a semi-poison,
Langoli visamustic ca karaviro jaya tatha
Tilakah kanako rkac ca vargo hy upavisatmakah.
Langali (Vanguiera spinosa), the root of the Nerium odorum, jaya
(Symplocos racemosa) kanaka and ak (a kind of Euphorbia), are
Bhang is frequently mentioned by vernacular poets. The oldest instance with which I
1400 A.D. am acquainted is the well-known hymn by Vidyapati
Tbakur (1400 A.D.), in which he calls Civa "Digambara bhanga," in
reference to his habit of consuming that drug. According to an old Hindu poem, on which I
cannot now lay my hands, Civa himself brought down the bhang plant from the Himalayas and
gave it to mankind. Jogis are well-known consumers of bhang and ganja, and they are
worshippers of Civa.
In folk-songs, ganja or bhang (with or without opium) is the invariable drink of heroes
before performing any great feat. At the village of Bauri in Gaya there is a huge hollow
stone, which is said to be the bowl in which the famous hero Lorik mixed his ganja. Lorik
was a very valiant general, and is the hero of numerous folk-songs. The epic poem of Alha
and Rudal, or uncertain date, but undoubtedly based on very old materials (the heroes
lived in the twelfth century A.D.), contains numerous references to ganja as a drink of
warriors. For instance, the commencement of the canto dealing with Alha's marriage,
describes the pestle and mortar with which the ganja was prepared, the amount of the
intoxicating drink prepared from it (it is called sabzi) and the amount of opium
(an absurdly exaggerated quantity) given to each warrior in his court.
That the consumption of bhang is not considered disreputable among Rajputs may be gathered from the fact that Ajabes, who was court poet to the well-known Maharaja Bishwanath Singh of Riwa, wrote a poem praising bhang and comparing siddhi to the "success" which attends the worshipper of "Hari." Here there is an elaborate series of puns. The word siddhi means literally 'success,' and hari means not only the god Hari, but also bhang.
NOTE BY BABU ABHILAS CHANDRA MUKERJI, SECOND INSPECTOR OF EXCISE, BENGAL, ON THE ORIGIN
AND HISTORY OF TRINATH WORSHIP IN EASTERN BENGAL.
Date of origin._In 1867 Babu Ananda Chandra Kali or Kailai, of Dhamrai, a
village in thana Sabhar of the Dacca district, first started the worship at the house of
his father-in-law at Fattehpur in the Atia pargana of the Mymensingh district
Antecedents of the originator._Dhamrai is an important village in the Dacca
district noted for its car festival, which is annually held in honor of a local idol named
Madhab Thakur, and which is witnessed by a large gathering of people.
Ananda Chandra received education at the Dacca Normal School. After leaving school he
served for some time as a pundit (schoolmaster), and then entered the Police Department,
but was there only a short time. He is a Barendra Brahman and belongs to a respectable
family. He learnt to smoke ganja when he was only a boy. His present age is 60 years. He
has the reputation of being a versifier. He smokes two pice worth of ganja every day.
He married at Fattehpur in the Mymensingh district. There he introduced Trinath worship
27 years ago. A panchali (poem) reciting the praises and exploits of Trinath was
first published at Dacca in 1871 and the first edition (1,000 copies) was sold in a few
The circumstances under which the worship was first started._Ananda Chandra Kali
was at the time living in the house of his father-in-law. He was thinking of introducing
the worship of a common god, who might be worshipped by all classes, rich and poor,
Brahman and Chandal, and by all creeds, Saktas, Baishnavas, and Shaivas, and the idea
occurred to him of having the present worship at which ordinary and inexpensive things,
such as ganja, oil, and betel-leaf, were alone to be used.
Trinath (from Sanskrit Tri, three, and Nath, lord) is represented to be
Brahma, Bishnu and Shiva, the Hindu Trinity in one.
Being a ganja-smoker himself, Ananda Kali may have also thought that by introducing the
worship he would be able to save the ganja-smokers from disrepute, as then ganja could be
consumed in the name of a god and under colour of doing a religious or pious act.
Religious aspect of the worship._The following translation of the Introduction
to the Trinath Mela Panchali gives some idea of the subject:
"The universe consists of the earth, the heaven, and the nether world, and Trinath
is the lord of these three worlds.
"There was an incarnation of God in the form of Gour (Chaitanya), who delivered
the sinners by preaching the name of Hari, but the Lord was not satisfied with this, and
became concerned for the created, and soon he became incarnate again. Brahma, Bishnu and
Shiva, gods in three forms, manifested themselves in one form. The one God, the Lord of
the universe, seeing the miseries of mankind, came to their deliverance. Ananda (Ananda
Chandra Kali, the originator) declares that the true and sincere worshippers of Trinath
are sure to obtain salvation. Brahma, Bishnu, and Shiva met together and expressed their
desire to come to this world in one form to receive worship.
"He is a truly pious man who worships Trinath, and blessings are showered on the
"The worship should be made in a form in which the rich and the poor may equally
join and may perform it easily.
"Only three things, each worth one pice, are required for this puja (form
of worship). The things which please all must be selected. The offering should consist of siddhi
(ganja), pan (betel-leaf), and oil, each worth one pice.
"The votaries should assemble at night and worship with flowers. The ganja should
be washed in the manner in which people wash ganja for smoking. The worshipper must fill
three chillums with equal quantities of ganja, observing due awe and reverence.
When all the worshipers are assembled the lamp should be lit with three wicks, and the
praises of Trinath should be sung. As long as the wicks burn, the god should be worshipped
and his praises chanted. The god should be reverentially bowed to at the close of the
puja. When the reading of the Panchali is finished, those that will not show
respect to the Prasad (the offering which has been accepted by the god), i.e.
chillum of ganja, shall be consigned to eternal hell, and the sincere worshippers
shall go to heaven."
How the worship spread._Ananda Kali commenced the puja with the aid of some ganja-smokers in the village of Fattehpur. A large number of people consume ganja in the Dacca.
NOTE BY MR. J.M. CAMPBELL, C.I.E., COLLECTOR OF LAND REVENUE AND CUSTOMS AND OPIUM,
BOMBAY, ON THE RELIGION OF HEMP
To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in the bhang leaf. As the wife of
Vishnu, the preserver, lives in the hysteria-curing tulsi, or Holy Basil, and as
Shiva dwells in the hysteria-curing bel, Ęgle marmelos, so the properties of the
bhang plant, its power to suppress the appetites, its virtue as a febrifuge, and its
thought-bracing qualities show that the bhang leaf is the home of the great Yogi or
brooding aascetics Mahadev.
So holy a plant should have special rearing. Shiva explains to his wife, Parvati, how,
in sowing hemp seed, you should keep repeating the spell 'Bhangri,' 'Bhangi,' apparently
that the sound of that guardian name may scare the evil tare-sowing influences. Again,
when the seedlings are planted the same holy name must be repeated, and also at the
watering which, for the space of a year, the young plants must daily receive. When the
flowers appear the flowers and leaves should be stripped from the plant and kept for a day
in warm water. Next day, with one hundred repetitions of the holy name Bhangri, the leaves
and flowers should be washed in a river and dried in an open shed. When they are dry some
of the leaves should be burnt with due repeating of the holy name as a jap or
muttered charm. Then, bearing in mind Vagdevata, or the goddess of speech, and offering a
prayer, the dried leaves should be laid in a pure and sanctified place. Bhang so prepared,
especially if prayers are said over it, will gratify the wishes and desires of its owner.
Taken in the early morning such bhang cleanses the user from sin, frees him from the
punishment of crores of sins, and entitles him to reap the fruits of a thousand
horse-sacrifices. Such sanctified bhang taken at daybreak or noon destroys disease. Before
the religious user of bhang stand the Ashtadevata or Eight Guardians with clasped hands
ready to obey him and perform his orders. The wish of him who with pure mind pours bhang
with due reverence over the Ling of Mahadev will be fulfilled.
Such holiness and such evil-scaring powers must give bhang a high place among lucky
objects. That a day may be fortunate the careful man should on waking look into liquid
bhang. So any nightmares or evil spirits that may have entered into him during the
ghost-haunted hours of night will flee from him at the sight of the bhang and free him
from their blinding influences during the day. So too when a journey has to be begun or a
fresh duty or business undertaken it is well to look at bhang. To meet some one carrying
bhang is a sure omen of success. To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is
lucky; it brings the goodness of wealth into the dreamer's power. To see his parents
worship the bhang-plant and pour bhang over Shiva's Ling will cure the dreamer of fever. A
longing for bhang foretells happiness: to see bhang drunk increases riches. No good thing
can come to the man who treads under foot the holy bhang leaf.
So evil-scaring and therefore luck-bringing a plant must play an important part in the
rites required to clear away evil influences. During the great spirit time of marriage in
Bombay among almost all the higher classes of Gujarat Hindus, of the Jain as well as of
the Brahmanic sects, the supplies sent by the family of the bride to the bridegroom's
party during their seven days' sojourn includes a supply of bhang. The name of the father
who neglects to send bhang is held in contempt. Again, after the wedding, when the
bridegroom and his friends are entertained at the house of the bride, richly-spiced bhang
is drunk by the guests. The Gujarat Musalman bride before and after marriage drinks a
preparation of bhang. Among the Pardeshi or North Indian Hindus of Bombay bhang is given
not only at weddings, but the Pardeshi who fails to give his visitor bhang is despised by
his caste as mean and miserly. Another great spirit time during which bhang plays an
important part is the time of war. Before the outbreak of a war and during its progress
the Ling of Mahadev should be bathed with bhang. Its power of driving panic influences
from near the god has gained for bhang the name of Vijaya, the unbeaten. So a drink of
bhang drives from the fighting Hindu the haunting spirits of fear and wariness. So the
beleagured Rajput, when nothing is left but to die, after loosing his hair that the bhang
spirit may have free entrance, drinks the sacramental bhang and rushing on the enemy
completes his juhar or self-sacrifice. It is this quality of panic-scaring that
makes bhang, the Vijaya or Victorious, specially dear to Mahadev in his character of
Tripur, the slayer of the demon Tripurasur. As Shiva is fond of bel leaves, as
Vishnu is fond of tulsi leaves, so is Tripuresvar fond of bhang leaves. He who
wishes to obtain his desires must constantly offer bhang to Tripuresvar.
Bhang the cooler is a febrifuge. Bhang acts on the fever not directly or physically as
an ordinary medicine, but indirectly or spiritually by soothing the angry influences to
whom the heats of fever are due. According to one account in the Ayurveda, fever is
possession by the hot angry breath of the great gods Brahma, Vishnu, and shiva. According
to another passage in the Ayurveda, Shankar or Shiva, enraged by a slight from his
father-in-law Daksha, breathed from his nostrils the eight fevers that wither mankind. If
the fever-stricken performs the Viraya abhishek, or bhang-pouring on the Ling of Shankar,
the god is pleased, his breath cools, and the portion of his breath in the body of the
fever-stricken ceases to inflame. The Kashikhanda Purana tells how at Benares, a Brahman,
sore-smitten with fever, dreamed that be had poured bhang over the self-sprung Ling and
was well. On waking he went to the Ling, worshipped, poured bhang and recovered. The fame
of this cure brings to Benares sufferers from fever which no ordinary medicine can cure.
The sufferers are laid in the temple and pour bhang over the Ling whose virtue has gained
it the name Jvareshwar, the Fever-Lord. In Bombay many people sick of fever vow on
recovery to pour bhang over a Ling. Besides as a cure for fever bhang has many medicinal
virtues. It cools the heated blood, soothes the over-wakeful to sleep, gives beauty, and
secures length of days. It cures dysentery 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. In this praise of the hemp
the Makhzan or great Greek-Arab work on drugs joins. Ganja in excess causes abscess, even
madness. In moderation bhang is the best of gifts. Bhang is a cordial, a bile absorber, an
appetiser, a prolonger of life. Bhang quickens fancy, deepens thought, and braces
As on other guardian-possessed objects, the cow, the Vedas, or the leaf of the bel
tree, oaths are taken on the bhang leaf. Even to a truthful witness an oath on the bhang
leaf is dreaded. To one who foreswears himself the bhang oath is death.
So holy a plant must play a leading part in temple rites. Shiva on fire with the poison
churned from the ocean was cooled by bhang. At another time enraged with family worries
the god withdrew to the fields. The cool share of a plant soothed him. He crushed and ate
of the leaves, the bhang refreshed him. For these two benefits bhang is Shankarpriya, the
beloved of Mahadev. So the right user of bhang or of ganja, before beginning to drink or
to smoke, offers the drug to Mahadev saying, lena Shankar, lena Babulnath: be pleased to
take it Shankar, take it Babulnath. According to the Shiva Purana, from the dark
fourteenth of Magh (January-February) to the light fourteenth of Asbadh (July-July), that
is, during the three months of the hot weather, bhang should be daily poured over the Ling
of Shiva. If not every day, bhang should be poured at least during the first and last days
of this period. According to the Meru Tantra on any Monday, especially on Shravan
(July-August) Mondays, on all twelfths or pradoshs, and on all dark fourteenths of shivratris,
still more on the Mahashivratri or Shiva's Great Night on the dark fourteenth of Magh
(January-February), and at all eclipses of the sun or moon, persons wistful either for
this world or for the world to come should offer bhang to Shiva and pour it over the Ling.
Not every devotee of Shiva makes offerings of bhang. Such rites in Bombay are seldom
performed except in the Bhuleswar and Babulnath temples and there only on special
occasions. The bhang offered to Mahadev is without pepper or other spice. It is mixed with
water, water and milk, or milk and sugar. It is poured over the Ling. According to some
authorities the offerer should not touch the offered bhang. Temple ministrants Atits,
Tapodhans, Bhojaks, Bhopis, Bharadis, Guravas alone should drink it. If there are no
ministrants the remains of the offering should be poured into a well or given to cows to
drink. Other authorities encourage the offerer to sip the bhang, since by sipping the
bhang reaches and soothes the Shiva-Shakti or Shiva-spirit in the sipper. On certain
special occasions during failures of rain, during eclipses, and also in times of war
libations of bhang are poured over the Ling.
Vaishnavas as well as Shaivas make offerings of bhang. The form of Vishnu or the
Guardian to whom bhang is a welcome offering is Baladev, Balaram, or Dauji, the elder
brother of Krishna. Baladev was fond of spirits, not of bhang. But Banias, Bhatias, and
other high class Hindus, not being able to offer spirits, instead of spirits present
bhang. In Bombay the offering of bhang to Baladev, unlike the special offerings to Shiva,
is a common and every-day rite. Without an offering of bhang no worship of Baladev is
complete. Unlike the plain or milk and sugared bhang spilt over the Ling, Baladev's bhang
is a richly-spiced liquid which all present, including the offerer, join in drinking. Such
social and religious drinking of bhang is common in Bombay in the temple of dauji in
Kalyan Kirparam lane near Bhuleshwar. As in the higher class worship of Baladev the liquor
offering has been refined into an offering of bhang so it is in the worship of Devi,
Shiva's early and terrible consort. On any Tuesday or Friday, the two weeks days sacred to
Devi, still more during the Navratra or Nine Nights in Ashwin or September-October, those
whose caste rules forbid liquor make a pleasing spiced bhang. And as in the worship of
Baladev all present, worshipper and ministrant alike, join in drinking. Shitaladevi, the
Cooler, the dread goddess of small-pox, whose nature, like the nature of bhang, is
cooling, takes pleasure in offerings of bhang. During epidemics of small-pox the burning
and fever of the disease are soothed by pouring bhang over the image of Shitaladevi. So
for the feverishness caused by the heats especially to the old no cure equals the drinking
of bhang. Unlike spirits the tempter to flesh bhang the craver for milk is pleasing to the
Hindu religion. Even according to the straitest school of the objectors to stimulants,
while to a high caste Hindu the penalty for liquor-drinking is death, no penalty attached
to the use of bhang, and a single day's fast is enough to cleanse from the coarser spirit
of ganja. Even among those who hold stimulants to be devil-possessed penalty and
disfavour attach to the use of hemp drugs only when they are taken with no religious
object and without observing the due religious rites.
At the other extreme of Hindu thought from the foes to stimulants, to the worshippers
of the influences that, raising man out of himself and above mean individual worries, make
him one with the divine force of nature, 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 or illusion and elf is lost in the central soul-fire. The Hindu poet of Shiva, the
Great Spirit that living in bhang passes into the drinker, sings of bhang as the clearer
of ignorance, the giver of knowledge. No gem or jewel can touch in value bhang taken truly
and reverently. He who drinks bhang drinks Shiva. The soul in whom the spirit of bhang
finds a home glides into the ocean of Being freed from the weary round of matter-blinded
self. To the meaner man, still under the glamour of matter or maya, bhang taken
religiously is kindly thwarting the wiles of his foes and giving the drinker wealth and
promptness of mind.
In this devotion to bhang, with reverence, not with the worship, which is due to Allah
alone, the North Indian Mussalman joins hymning the praises of bhang. To the follower of
the later religion of Islam the holy spirit in bhang is not the spirit of the Almighty. It
is the spirit of the great prophet Khizr or Elijah. That bhang should be sacred to Khizr
is natural. Khizr is the patron saint of water. Still more Khizr means green, the revered
colour of the cooling water of bhang. So the Urdu poet sings 'When I quaff fresh bhang I
liken its colour to the fresh light down of thy youthful beard.' The prophet Khizr or the
Green prophet cries 'May the drink be pleasing to thee.' Nasir, the great North Indian
Urdu poet of the beginning of the present century, is loud in the praises of his beloved
Sabzi, the Green one. 'Compared with bhang spirit are naught. Leave all things thou fool,
drink bhang.' From its quickening the imagination Musalman poets honour bhang with the
title Warak al Khiyall, Fancy's Leaf. And the Makhzan or great Arab-Greek drug book
records many other fond names for the drug. Bhang is the Joy-giver, the Sky-flier, the
Heavenly-guide, the Poor Man's Heaven, the Soother of Grief.
Much of the holiness of bhang is due to its virtue of clearing the head and stimulating
the brain to thought. Among ascetics the sect known as Atits are specially devoted to
hemp. No social or religious gathering of Atits is complete without the use of the hemp
plant smoked in ganja or drink in bhang. To its devotee bhang is no ordinary plant that
became holy from its guardian and healing qualities. According to one account, when nectar
was produced from the churning of the ocean, something was wanted to purify the nectar.
The deity supplied the want of a nectar-cleanser by creating bhang. This bhang Mahadev
made from his own body, and so it is called angaj or body-born. According to
another account some nectar dropped to the ground and from the ground the bhang plant
sprang. It was because they used this child of nectar or of Mahadev in agreement with
religious forms that the seers or Rishis became Siddha or one with the deity. He who,
despite the example of the Rishis, uses no bhang shall lose his happiness in this life and
in the life to come. In the end he shall be cast into hell. The mere sight of bhang
cleanses from as much sin as a thousand horse-sacrifices or a thousand pilgrimages. He who
scandalises the user of bhang shall suffer the torments of hell so long as the sun
endures. He who drinks bhang foolishly or for pleasure without religious rites is as
guilty as the sinner of lakhs of sins. He who drinks wisely and according to rule,
be he ever so low, even though his body is smeared with human ordure and urine, is Shiva.
No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang. The students of the scriptures
at Benares are given bhang before they sit to study. At Benares, Ujjain, the other holy
places yogis, bairagis and sanyasis take deep draughts of bhang that they may centre their
thoughts on the Eternal. To bring back to reason an unhinged mind the best and cleanest
bhang leaves should be boiled in milk and turned to clarified butter. Salamisri, saffron,
and sugar should be added and the whole eaten. Besides over the demon of Madness bhang is
Vijaya or victorious over the demons of hunger and thirst. By the help of bhang ascetics
pass days without food or drink. The supporting power of bhang 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 a herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and
annoyance and to the 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, and whose mighty power makes
the devotee of the Victorious, overcoming the demons of hunger and thirst, of panic fear,
of the glamour of Maya or matter, and of madness, able to rest to brook on the Eternal,
till the Eternal, possessing him body and soul, frees him from the haunting of self and
receives him into the ocean of Being. These beliefs the Musalman devotee shares to the
full. Like his Hindu brother the Mussalman fakir reveres bhang as the lengthener of life,
the freer from the bonds of self. Bhang brings union with the Divine Spirit. 'We drank
bhang and the mystery I am He grew plain. So grand a result, so tiny a sin.'
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