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Bhang (Hindi: भांग) is an edible preparation of cannabis, traditionally it has been used in food and drink for centuries dating far back as 2000 BCE in the Indian subcontinent. Bhang in India and Nepal is distributed during some Hindu festivals like Holi, Janmashtami, Shivratri, and consuming bhang at such occasions is common.
Bhang has been used in India since before the Vedic period, and is an integral part of Indian Hindu culture. Hindu monks make use of the amazing effects of bhang to boost meditation and to achieve transcendental states. Bhang is probably one of the oldest nutritional foods, and drinks in the world still regularly used today. In the ancient text Atharvaveda, Bhang is described as a beneficial herb that "releases anxiety". Hindus associate it with two of their most powerful deities Lord Krishna, and Lord Shiva. One of Shiva's epithets was "Lord of Bhang" as he is said to have discovered the transcendental properties of the mixture. Legend has it that Shiva brought bhang from the Himalayas for the pleasure of the mankind.
A famous Greek historian Herodotus who lived in the 4th century B.C. mentions the use of bhang among Indians.
A 15th century Indian document refers to Bhang as light hearted, joyful, and inspirational spiritually to the mind and body. India’s holy men ritually use Bhang in order to facilitate communication with their deities. According to a legend, Siddhartha Gautama lived on a daily ration of one bhang seed and nothing else during his six years of asceticism.
In 1596, Dutchman Jan Huyghen van Linschoten wrote 3 pages on "Bangue" in a work documenting his journeys in the East, also mentioning the Egyptian Hashish, Turkish Boza, Turkish Bernavi, and Arabic Bursj forms of consumption.
Anywhere on the ghats, one can find large number of men engaged in the process of preparing bhang. Using mortar and pestle, the buds and leaves of cannabis are ground into a paste. To this mixture, milk, ghee, mangoes, and Indian spices are added. The bhang base is now ready to be made into a heavy drink,Ghota(on ShivRatri) thandai, an alternative to alcohol; this is often referred to casually, if inaccurately, as a "bhang thandai" and "bhang lassi". Bhang is also mixed with ghee and sugar to make a purple halva, and into peppery, chewy little balls called 'golee' (which in this context means candy or pill in Hindi).
Bhang since over the past four thousand years is still used as an integral part of tradition and custom in the Indian subcontinent.
In some parts of rural India, people attribute various medicinal properties to the cannabis plant. If taken in proper quantity, bhang is believed to cure fever, dysentery, sunstroke, to clear phlegm, aid in digestion, appetite, cure speech imperfections and lisping, and give alertness to the body. 
Bhang Lassi is a preparation of powdered green inflorescence with curd and whey put in a village blender (a hand blending operation is carried out till the butter rises). It is regarded as tasty and greatly refreshing, with one or two large glasses having little effect. It is legal in many parts of India and mainly sold during Holi, when pakoras containing bhang are also sometimes eaten. Uttar Pradesh is known to have licensed bhang shops, and in many places one can buy bhang products and drink bhang lassis.
The tradition of consuming bhang lassi during Holi is particularly common in North India where Holi itself is celebrated with a fervor unseen elsewhere. Bhang is heavily consumed in Mathura, an ancient town of religious importance to the Hindus. Here the practice is believed to have been introduced by the followers of Lord Krishna and has stayed ever since. They begin the preparation by Sanskrit chants and recitation of prayers. In Mathura, some people take Bhang to work up their appetite while others do it to de-stress. But the hub of bhang use is Varanasi (or Banaras) where the bhang is prepared on its famous ghats. Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BC when he gave his first sermon, "The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma Sutra", at nearby Sarnath.
Bhang is also available as Bhang Goli which is just freshly ground cannabis with water. Apart from this, sweetened bhang golis are also widely available. These are not considered a drug, but a traditional sleeping aid and appetizer. Bhang Goli, has metabolizing effects after approximately two hours, sending one into a dreamlike meditational state. Bhang is also part of many Ayurvedic medicinal preparations. Bhang powder is available legally at ayurvedic dispensaries.
As Bhang has served such an important role in India's culture and spiritual practices it would be impossible to criminalize cannabis completely in the country. Cultivation of cannabis is government regulated, and illegal without a government permit. Sale of bhang is also government regulated and illegal without a permit.
- Desi daru
- Cannabis in India
- List of Indian beverages
- Spiritual use of cannabis
- "Right kick for day-long masti". Times of India. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Holi 2014: Festival Of Colors Celebrates Spring (SONGS, PHOTOS)". Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- Burnell, Arthur Coke & Tiele, P.A (1885). The voyage of John Huyghen van Linschoten to the East Indies. from the old English translation of 1598: the first book, containing his description of the East. London: The Hakluyt Society. pp. 115–117. Full text at Internet Archive. Chapter on Bangue.
- Davenport-Hines, Richard (2001). The pursuit of oblivion: A global history of narcotics 1500—2000. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 1–2. ISBN 0297643754.
- Holi Festival Tradition of Bhang
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- Bhang Ganja Charas, Thandai Chai Lassi, IndiaCurry.com
- "A Bit about Bhang"
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- Hot-Buttered Bhang Recipe
- "A Word from the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission" A 19th century British report on Bhang
- Special Featured Article on Bhang
- "Recipe for Bhang-Elixir of life"
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