Bhang Your Head! Hindu Holi Festival Celebrated With Marijuana Milk Shakes


Photo: AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe
“Dude… I am soooo high.” (Or the local equivalent.) Men smear colored powder on each other’s faces during celebrations of Holi, the Hindu spring festival of color.

​They’re getting that old time religion in northern India, as the annual Holi festival, an extravagant Hindu spring celebration of colors, is observed with potent marijuana milk shakes.

The festival, celebrated in March each year (the exact date depends on the lunar calendar), is an occasion during which men, women and children play wildly with water guns and colored powder,  according to The Observers. And the fact that “bhang thandai,” an almond-flavored milk shake blended with cannabis, is a prominent part of the celebration doesn’t hurt the festive atmosphere one bit.

Photo: Fractal Enlightenment
While technically “illegal,” bhang is still sold in government-authorized shops in India.

​The marijuana milk shakes are widely served, from exclusive private gatherings to street parties. On this particular day, using bhang is considered completely acceptable for all adults, youths to grandparents.
Cannabis is technically illegal in India, since the nation is a signatory to Harry Anslinger’s 1961 Single Convention narcotics treaty. But the substance has been a part of the country’s cultural heritage for thousands of years, and a law that’s been around less than half a century hasn’t made much of an impact. Bhang is sold for consumption through government licensed outlets.
According to popular legend, bhang drinks were offered to the gods and were particularly loved by Lord Shiva. If that’s a close enough connection for the revelers to get stoned, then it works for me, too. Praise Shiva and pass the bhang, homies!


​”At places, the revelry becomes rowdy and violent,” said Percy Fernandez, a New Delhi-based consultant. “Not just bhang, Holi is also associated with heightened guzzling of alcohol. Marijuana is not legal in India, but the tradition of having bhang during Holi is that it has a religioius association.”
“I know of shops selling bhang served with thandai (a combination of milk, almonds, and cardamom) and sweets among other eatables,” Fernandez said. “Cannabis is traditionally smoked with tobacco or eaten in the form of pakkoras or even sweets.”
“For me, Holi is all about being a kid again, shedding your inhibitions, getting colors all on you, generally having a good time,” said Rahul Verghese, a Gurgaon-based entrepreneur.

Photo: Reuters/K.K. Arora
Women tear off the clothes of men as they play huranga, a game played between men and women a day after the Holi festival during which men drench women with liquid colors and women tear the men’s clothes off.

​”In our little colony… we have a little celebration with food, drinks and bhang,” Verghese said. “It tastes smooth, and doesn’t hit you initially, but a little later you’re knocked out.”
The fun’s not over on the day after the Holi festival. Huranga, a game played between men and women on the day after Holi, involves men drenching women with liquid colors and women tearing off the men’s clothes. [Craig Ferguson voice] I knooooow!”
Factor in that practically everybody involved is high as a freakin’ kite, and got-DANG if that doesn’t sound exactly like my kind of party.
Here’s a bhang-up recipe, courtesy of Fractal Enlightenment:

Photo: Cannabis Culture

2 cups water 
1 ounce marijuana (fresh leaves and flowers of a female plant preferred) 
4 cups warm milk 
2 tablespoons blanched and chopped almonds 
1/8 teaspoon ‘garam masala’ (a mixture of cloves, cinnamon, and cardamon) 
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger 
1/2 to 1 teaspoon rosewater 
3/4 to 1 cup sugar 

Bring the water to a rapid boil and pour into a clean teapot. Remove any seeds or twigs from the marijuana, add it to the teapot and cover. Let this brew for about 7 minutes. 
Now strain the water and marijuana through a piece of muslin cloth, collect the water and save. 
Take the leaves and flowers and squeeze between your hands to extract any liquid that remains. Add this to the water. Place the leaves and flowers in a mortar and add 2 teaspoons warm milk. Slowly but firmly grind the milk and leaves together. Gather up the marijuana and squeeze out as much milk as you can.
Repeat this process until you have used about 1/2 cup of milk (about 4 to 5 times). Collect all the milk that has been extracted and place in a bowl. By this time the marijuana will have turned into a pulpy mass. 
Add the chopped almonds and some more warm milk. Grind this in the mortar until a fine paste is formed. Squeeze this paste and collect the extract as before. Repeat a few more times until all that is left are some fibers and nut meal. Discard the residue. 
Combine all the liquids that have been collected, including the water the marijuana was brewed in. Add to this the garam masala, dried ginger and rosewater. Add the sugar and remaining milk. 
Chill, serve and enjoy.