HubMob Weekly Topic: Spring in India and Boom Bhang a Bhang!
Traditionally, Holi the festival of colours was a kind of letting down of one’s hair after the harvest was over. When all the toil and work was done, it was time for a bit of levity – and maybe levitation of the spirits. So, along with the riotous splashing of colours on everyone, the mood is also on a high thanks to bhang, without which no respectable Holi celebration especially in North India is complete.
What exactly is ‘bhang’?
It’s a paste that is made by pounding the buds and tender leaves of the female cannabis plant. It is usually pounded with a mortar and a pestle and then mixed into a drink or added to food. During Holi, the most popular way to have bhang is to mix it into milk which has been sweetened and into which spices and almond paste have been added. It is usually drunk cold. At some Holi parties, bhang is also served in snacks like pakoras – or savoury fried dumplings.
Bhang’s been around
It’s very much a part of Indian history and culture. The plant is considered holy and has been associated with Lord Shiva who, it is said, was the one who discovered the transcendental properties of this plant. This is probably why even today on the banks of the Ganges in the holy city of Benaras, you will still see bhang being prepared all round the year. It is after all, Lord Shiva’s holy place.
The benefits of bhang
The practice of making bhang a part of the happy events in one’s life goes back to at least a thousand years. While some believed it was an enjoyment not to be missed, especially during celebrations, others firmly believed it was beneficial to health. Physically, bhang is said to be good for so many ailments from indigestion to fever to dullness. Mentally, it is said to make you very alert. And spiritually, it is supposed to raise you to the plane of ecstasy. According to traditional nutritionists, it is a complete food that corrects any deficiency in the body and strengthens the immune system.
Bhang moments – each to his own
Every bhang experience is different. Some keep laughing and can’t seem to stop. Others just have this warm feeling inside of them. For most, it’s a great sense of freedom that washes over them, helping them forget proprieties and plunge headlong into the fun the festival demands. It’s an enlivening experience that has no equal.
Bhang and music
Besides Holi, bhang is popular at music festivals too. Mixed into flour which has spices added, it is then made into papads or poppadoms which are carried into the venue. With bhang inside you, the sound of music affects all your senses, filling you with joy with each note that is played or sung.
A plant you probably wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know – and it has such power. The potent way it affects the mind, body and soul is something that stays on in the memory long after the last bit of colour of Holi is washed off.