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Mahatma Gandhi
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Cannabis and Religion - Hindus and Rastas

By Shivapk1

Shiva Shankar
Shiva is the oldest known godhead figure in the world. Devotees of Shiva sometimes meditate by drinking a milk and cannabis mixture prepared by priests (Bhang). Sadhus and other devotees endlessly walk around India searching for the spiritual oneness with Shiva. These Sadhus also smoke 'Charas' and 'ganja' from chillums.

It is widely accepted amongst Hindus that Shiva takes Bhang. What's disputed is the consumption of it by ordinary mortals. Most Hindus do not know their ancestors used to take cannabis whenever they saw fit. Consumption of Bhang wasn't always reserved for the Gods and holy days. In fact, not so long ago it was considered an insult to refuse Bhang. I believe this change occurred no earlier than 1900, after the Indian Hemp Commission's report was released in the late 1800s.

Bhang is also considered a sister of the Mother Ganges (a holy river and a Goddess in India). There are many songs which start off: "Gang Bhang Dono Bhen Hai, Rehti Shivji Ki Sang. Charan Karne KI Gang Hai, Bhajan Karne Ki Bhang." Roughly translated this means the Ganges and Bhang (cannabis) are sisters and both live in Shiva's head. The water from the Ganges is poured over a Shivalingam (a form of Shiva in the guise of a phallus shaped black stone) at a Temple and Bhang is consumed by the devotee so they can mediate, be better able to sing hymns, achieve a blissful state and be like Shiva.

Another often forgotten subject is Soma. This is the Nectar of the Gods mentioned in one of the oldest Hindu scriptures, 'The Rig Veda'. Soma is said to be cannabis in some writings but some people dismiss this idea. I think that Soma is just an ancient name for Bhang. Bhang is made using cannabis leaves and milk, almonds, rose water and various other items. Bhang is also used as a word to describe the actual cannabis plant in some parts of India. In short it appears that the ancient Vedic Hindus knew how to extract THC from the cannabis plant using milk. Soma is one of the oldest intoxicants known to man.

Many Hindus are unaware of the significance of cannabis to Shiva. They seem to know that Bhang was Holy and relevant to Shiva but a lot of people did not know that Bhang contained cannabis. Cannabis use is stigmatised by Hindu's the world over but if you ask real priests in India about its position compared to alcohol they will tell you that cannabis and only cannabis is acceptable to a Hindu, and priests are only allowed Bhang and Ganja but not allowed alcohol.

The reason true Rastafarians have dreadlocks, are vegetarians and smoke 'Ganja' (a Hindi word for compressed female buds) in 'Chillums' (another Hindi word for a small clay pipe) is partly because of the British. When the British abolished slavery they shipped over hundreds of thousands of Indian labourers to work on sugar plantations. These immigrants brought the religion of cannabis to a new continent.

Cannabis appeared and started growing in many places where the British took Indians. The Caribbean is just one place where local people quickly acclimatised to the plant and claimed it as their own. There are stories about Rangoon in Burma being another of those places as well as Bangkok, Philippines and even Lebanon.

One of the most important things that Rastas call the best female weed is Kali. This is a Hindu term for 'Kali Mata' a dark form of Shiva's wife Parvati. In addition, Kali means Bud in Hindi (pronounced Kuli). I think Rasta's probably got the term from Kali Mata when the Poddkar priest named them after sexing.

Another thing that relates the two religions is Shiva and Rasta's dreadlocks. Most of the ancient Rishi's mentioned in the Hindu scriptures had grown their 'Jata' knotted hair when they renounced normal living and became Spiritual Sadhus; these are some of the most respected people from the religion. It is also noted that in the famous epic 'The Ramayana', both Ram and Lakshman grow their hair into Jata's when they went into the jungle for 14 years.

The Sannyassins in India usually go to the mountains or jungles to meditate and they probably did the same when they went to the Caribbean. The slaves were freed and some went to work as paid labour in the fields or the big plantation houses, but a few freed slaves went up to the mountains and hinterlands where they learnt about spirituality and cannabis.

When Marcus Garvey came along with his 'Look to East for the Coming of the Black King Speech' the Rasta's (freed people of the mountains) had a real interest because of the religious stories they had heard from the Hindu priests about the Avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu and how he will appear on earth again.

Then Haile Selasse got crowned King Emperor of Ethiopia and the Lion of Juda. This was it for the Rasta, they saw it as the Saviour and the Avatar mentioned in the old stories as well as the man in question was claimed to be the direct descendant of Solomon and Sheba. And also of Moses.