Everybody drinks bhang during the Holi celebration, even children get a sip.
Every spring Hindus all over the world celebrate the ancient Holi festival. It is widely known in South-East Asia and in the West it is known as the Indian New Year. People dance and sing in the streets, they throw colored powders at each other, like the ones you see in the Hymn for the Weekend Coldplay video. Everybody is having so much fun.
The festival begins with the full moon in the evening, but the celebration itself starts with the sunrise, and most of the people are pretty stoned by the afternoon. Amazing.
People have been getting stoned for this occasion for millennia thanks to one of the main ingredients of this colorful celebration – bhang. Bhang is a cannabis edible, known and used for more than 3000 years in the Indian subcontinent. During the festival, it has been sold in government shops since the times of the East India Company.
During the Holi festival, bhang is generally consumed in a form of a milkshake mixed with different spices, nuts, sugar, and a variety of other local ingredients, and is called bhang lassi. Everybody drinks bhag during the Holi celebration, even children get a sip.
Isn’t Cannabis Illegal in India?
But how is it even possible? Isn’t cannabis a regulated substance in India? Well, technically, yes. But thanks to Indian legislators’ efforts bhang was excluded from the legal definition of cannabis. According to the law, only the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant are regulated. So buying some bhang during Holi is not a criminal act, but rather a participation in an ancient cultural and spiritual tradition.
Different plants produce different bhang. Since it is an edible, it generally has a very potent and long-lasting effect. It is always wise to start small and, if the desired effect is not obtained, to take a little more, rather than to be ruthlessly thrown into the uncompromising embrace of Lord Shiva. Nobody wants to get a panic attack or miss all the fun throwing up in the bathroom.
Bhang is often called “Prasad (blessing) of Lord Shiva”. Shiva, the Hindu God of Destruction, is the one who gave the blessing of bhang to humans. There are many legends, most of them say, that the holy bhang came from the sky to bring higher consciousness to those who consume it. Lord Shiva is often depicted smoking and meditating, a practice that is a daily routine of many saghus, Hindu holy men. You can meet sadhus smoking up in the streets not only during Holi, but throughout the year, you can even join them for a puff, just don’t forget to praise Lord Shiva by saying “Hare Hare Mahadev!”.
Why Do People Throw Colored Powder During The Festival of Colors?
The whole throwing color powder business actually has a deep spiritual significance. Applying colors to everybody means, that no matter what skin color you have, you are equally important to God. The Hindu legend of Krishna shows how it all began. Krishna had dark skin, and he fell in love with Radha, a woman who had fair skin. Having experienced prejudice about his skin color, Krishna asked his mother how he could overcome this attitude, and stop people from judging him and Radha based on their appearance. Krishna’s mother gave him some color powder and told him that if they put colors on each other, the differences between them will disappear, and people will judge them no more.
The Holi festival has another very interesting aspect, which is much the same as in some medieval festivals when the society turned upside down and the boundaries alongside with hierarchies dissolved for a brief moment. During Holi the mundane is abandoned, and the cast separation disappears, low-cast workers are praised and high-cast priests are laughed upon, men and women participate in mock battles, young and old, poor and rich, lose themselves in a colorful whirlwind.
Holi is fun, but it would be wise to take some precautions since in the last few years there have been reports of people injured or even becoming blind due to the paints manufactured with harmful materials like oxidized metals or industrial dyes mixed with engine oil.