The foothills of the Indian Himalayas are well known for its abundance of cannabis plants. North India has developed many ways to ingest the plant – including bhang (a cannabis and milk beverage) and charas.
Cultural Significance of Charas
Charas has an interesting cultural place in India. The Hindu god Shiva is known to love cannabis and charas is widely used during the religious festival known as Holi. Many sadhus (the wandering renunciates that India is famous for) use charas openly as part of their religious practice.
Using a chillum, or clay pipe, the sadhus chant the Shiva sahasranama. This list of the thousand names of Shiva is used to invoke the god and all his forms before smoking – thus elevating the practice from the strictly recreational.
The History of Bhang
Believed to cure dysentery, fever, and other everyday ailments, Bhang has been used in Northern India for generations. Warriors drank it to prepare for battle while newlyweds took it to increase libido.
Today, the beverage is still used in festivals like Holi, Shrivratri, and Janmashtami. The government has even gotten in on the action, issuing permits for authorized dealers. Bhang comes in solid form, thandai’s, sardai’s, and lassis.
The Difference Between Charas and Bhang
The difference is primarily one of ingestion. Bhang is an edible drink, while charas is a form of hand rolled hashish which is smoked. While both require fresh cannabis, rather than dried and cured plants, the process for making each is distinct.
The secondary difference is in why it is used. Bhang is often a recreational drink used by many, while charas tends to retain its mystical origins and is mainly used by holy men or during religious ceremonies.
Charas can be made by rubbing cannabis flowers between your palms. The plant will begin to release oils and THC in the form of a tar-like substance. When this happens, you can use your fingers to gather the tar and continue rolling until the ball no longer secretes oil. The more patience you have with this process, the higher quality charas you’ll create. But be careful. The tar will stain your hands!
The process begins much like making tea. Steep the plant and flowers in hot water and then squeeze all moisture from them. Grind the plant with a few teaspoons of milk until you’ve created a nice milk extract. Combine spices and garnishes of your choosing together with the extract, more warm milk, and the steeped water. A sweetener is often good to add at the end.
If you’re looking for a new and interesting way to use your cannabis plants, take a cue from the ancient rishis of India and try smoking a chillum or enjoying a banana bhang lassi.