Somebody wrote in this site some time back about the visit to Nepal (or was it Manas?) and that she was tempted to carry back some leaves of Cannabis sativa (Bhang). That encouraaged me to search for bhang and its close kins ganja and charas on the net. One keeps on reading about hashish, marijuana, and also heroin and cocaine, and I was never sure of their Hindi equivalent. Gone are the days when one went to a library and search for the relevant books. Things are easier now.
Cannanbis (Hemp) or Bhang is just the dried leaves of the plant. I have found it growing wild in Dehradun and also in Darbhanga, and so I feel that the entire terai belt will have it in the wild. It came out in some magazine that there is a cluster of some interior villages in Himachal where some foreigners have been living for years, and experiencing nirvana by raising bhang and probably opium and no outsider is welcome.
I spent most of my childhood and young days in Eastern part of U.P. before getting into the rut of government service. In those parts bhang is a normal drink on the festive day of Holi, and otherwise also a favourite of many a people. Thandai is a delicacy of Varanasi and more often than not it is laced with bhang paste! Once during the summer vacation I did take bhang for a few weeks followed by long swim in the Ganga which was about a kilometer away. The result was adding a few kilos which I could not get rid even later in life. Bhang is made into a paste by adding small quantity of water, and ground in a stone grinder (sil-lodha). They say that the longer the bhang is ground, the more intoxicating it becomes. It is also said that rubbing it with copper coin makes the intoxication deadly. I don't know. My feeling is that as Bhang is not soluble in water or milk, the suspension would be easier to swallow if the paste is fine.
Ganja is top leaves and unfertilized flowers young female plants. This is either smoked or brewed like tea. Marijuana is a close relative which is leaves and flowers of both male and female plants.
Then there is charas (hashish) which is resin extracted from the top leaves and unfertilized flowers of young female plants. It is smoked in a clay smoking pipe known as chillum. All the three are not addictive.
Opium is a different kettle of fish. There used to be some opiates in our country who were beyond rehabilitation and were issued a quota of opium every month by the government. They were known as afimchis and the bliss after having it was known as pinak. Ghazipur in Eastern U.P. had a govt. opium factory where opium was further processed into morphine and codein. Opium cultivation is officially allowed in Mandsaur district in western part of M.P. Govt. collects from the permitted cultivators a prefixed amount of opium (latex from a slit in the opium pod) based on average yield and there is always the rumour that every cultivator saves some on the sly which goes into the drug market. But India is nowhere on the opium map, with Afghanistan ruling the roost these days, totally illegal.
I don't know whether I have made it an interesting reading. About heroin and cocaine some other day, if you are not bored already.