Marijuana In India
In Indian tradition marijuana is associated with immortality. There is a complex myth of the churning of the Ocean of Milk by the gods, their joint act of creation. They were in search of Amrita, the elixir of eternal life. When the gods, helped by demons, churned the ocean to obtain Amrita, one of the resulting nectars was cannabis. After churning the ocean, the demons attempted to gain control of Amrita (marijuana), but the gods were able to prevent this seizure, giving cannabis the name Vijaya (“victory”) to commemorate their success.
Other ancient Indian names for marijuana were “sacred grass”, “hero leaved”, “joy”, “rejoicer”, “desired in the three worlds”‘ “gods’ food”, “fountain of pleasures”‘ and “Shiva’s plant”.
Early Indian legends maintained that the angel of mankind lived in the leaves of the marijuana plant. It was so sacred that it was reputed to deter evil and cleanse its user of sin. In Hindu mythology hemp is a holy plant given to man for the “welfare of mankind” and is considered to be one of the divine nectars able to give man anything from good health, to long life, to visions of the gods. Nectar is defined as the fabled drink of the gods.
Tradition maintains that when nectar or Amrita dropped from heaven, that cannabis sprouted from it. In Hindu mythology Amrita means immortality; also, the ambrosial drink which produced it.
In India hemp is made into a drink and is reputed to be the favorite drink of Indra (the King of Indian gods.) Tradition maintains that the god Indra gave marijuana to the people so that they might attain elevated states of consciousness, delight in worldly joy, and freedom from fear.
According to Hindu legends, Siva, the Supreme God of many Hindu sects, had some family squabble and went off to the fields. He sat under a hemp plant so as to be sheltered from the heat of the sun and happened to eat some of its leaves. He felt so refreshed from the hemp plant that it became his favorite food, and that is how he got his title, the Lord of Bhang. Cannabis is mentioned as a medicinal and magical plant as well as a “sacred grass” in the Atharva Veda (dated 2000 – 1400 B.C.)
It also calls hemp one of the five kingdoms of herbs…which releases us from anxiety and refers to hemp as a “source of happiness”, “joy-giver” and “liberator”. Although the holy books, the Shastras, forbid the worship of the plant, it has been venerated and used as a sacrifice to the deities. Indian Tradition, writing, and belief is that the “Siddhartha” (the Buddha), used and ate nothing but hemp and its seeds for six years prior to announcing (discovering) his truths and becoming the Buddha.
Cannabis held a preeminent place in the Tantric religion which evolved in Tibet in the seventh century A.D. Tantrism was a religion based on fear of demons. To combat the demonic threat to the world, the people sought protection in plants such as cannabis which were set afire to overcome evil forces.
In the tenth century A.D. hemp was extolled as indracanna, the “food of the gods”. A fifteenth-century document refers to cannabis as “light-hearted”, “joy-full” and “rejoices”, and claimed that among its virtues are “astringency”, “heat”, “speech-giving”, “inspiration of mental powers”, “excitability” and the capacity to “remove wind and phlegm”.
Today in the Tantric Buddhism of the Himalayas of Tibet, cannabis plays a very significant role in the meditative ritual to facilitate deep meditation and heighten awareness. In modern India it is taken at Hindu and Sikh temples and Mohammedan shrines. Among fakirs (Hindu ascetics) bhang is viewed as the giver of long life and a means of communion with the divine spirit. Like his Hindu brother, the Musalman fakir reveres bhang as the lengthener of life and the freer from the bonds of self.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission set up to study the use of hemp in India contains the following report:
“…It is inevitable that temperaments would 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 the light the murkiness of matter.
“…Bhang is the Joy-giver, the Sky-filler, 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 a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine. To forbid or even seriously restrict the use of so 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 on discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences…