One of the most commonly consumed preparations of cannabis in India is called Bhang. Bhang is offered to Shiva images and statues throughout India, especially on the festival of Shivratri.
Cannabis is such an important part of the religious culture of Benaras, the main city of Shiva worship, that it is sold in government-run shops and used by pilgrims and common folks alike, being part of the religious culture.
In reviewing the use of cannabis in India, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission conducted a government study on the matter and made the following conclusions in their 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…”
Ayurvedic and Indian doctors still prescribe cannabis to treat a range of conditions. Slowly the west is finally beginning to recognize the true values of this remarkable plant.