Cannabis, also known as ganja, grows wild throughout Northern India, with particular prevalence along the foothills of the Himalayas. Although it is considered illegal in most parts of the world, certain forms of cannabis, most notably bhang, a cannabis and milk mixture, are sold in government-sanctioned shops with great popularity.
The Cultural Significance of Charas
Another popular form of cannabis, known as “charas,” plays an important cultural role in India. In the Hindu religion, the god Shiva is known for his love of cannabis, and cannabis is widely used during the Hindu festival of Holi. Shaivs, a sect of Hinduism devoted to worship of the Lord Shiva, smoke charas freely as part of their religious practice.
In modern practice, young professionals and sadhus, or religious ascetics, continue to use charas regularly, usually by smoking it out of a small clay pipe called a chillum. Before lighting the