Bhang (Punjabi: ), a beverage prepared from the leaves and flowers (buds) of the female cannabis plant, has a long history of use in the Indian subcontinent. With the buds of the plant maturing in the spring, the preparation of bhang has traditionally been associated with the harvest festivals of Hola mohalla or Holi in March and Vaisakhi in April. Although drugs and alcohol are prohibited in Sikhism, Nihangs are traditionally very fond of bhang, which they call "Sukhni Dhaan" meaning "Giver or peace" or "Sukkha Prasad" i.e. "Peace-Giver".
The holy Granth condemns the use of Bhang for human consumption. In Punjabi the word "Sukhi" means happy and, "Prasad" is an offering to God which God has tasted and decided to share with the masses. Bhang was used as a pain killer before and after battle as many of the Nihangs returning would have major injuries. It was also used to give an adrenalin rush (a feeling of immortality or invincibility) before a battle.
The ‘Sukhnidhaan’ or ‘Bhang’ (cannabis)
An article by Bhai Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’ from www.amritworld.com
According to the 'Sikh Rehat Maryada', "A Sikh must not take hemp (cannabis), opium, liquor, tobacco, in short any intoxicant. His only routine intake should be food and water".
At Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib Ji (one of the five seats of power in the Sikh Panth), the 'Sukhnidhaan' is offered as a holy food. Generally, 'Bhang' (from Cannabis plant)is called 'Sukhnidhaan, but seeing condemnation of 'Bhang' in the Gurbaani and in the Panthic 'Sikh Rehat Maryada', those in favour for the consumption of Bhang have named it 'Sukhnidhaan', instead of 'Bhang'. Whatever is the case, we have to accept that 'Sukhnidhaan' is a drink, in which 'Bhang' (cannabis) too is mixed.
In his book 'Sri Hazoori Maryada Prabodh', Singh Sahib Bhai Joginder Singh Ji, then the “chief priest” of Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib Ji, has expressed his views about 'Bhang' under the heading of 'Sukhnidhaan De Bhog Baare' (page 257 to 264). He wrote that all the 'Maryada', which is being followed at Takht Sahib, is 'Puraatan' (old) tradition.
S S Bhai Joginder Singh
Supporting the offerings of 'Sukhnidhaan' at Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib Ji, Singh Sahib Bhai Joginder Singh Ji presented the following arguments: -
- 1. According to the 'Janamsakhi Bhai Bala', the Mughul King ‘Babur’ offered 'Bhang' to Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Delighted on this, it is claimed that Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji granted him the boon to have the kingdom for seven generations. Guru Ji recited a 'Shabad' (divine hymn) also on this occasion, in which it is argued he did not condemn 'Bhang'. On the other hand, when Yogi Jhangar Naath offered a cup of wine to Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Guru Ji recited a 'Shabad', in which drinking wine and alcohol was condemned.
- 2. The 'Mahant' (abbot) of 'Gurusar Satlaani' Gurdwara obtained a license for 'Sukhnidhaan' from the British government.
- 3. 'Sukhnidhaan' is being offered at Sri Amritsar Sahib, Taran-taaran, and Sri Anandpur Sahib Ji.
- 4. 'Nihangs' (Vanguards in the Sikh Panth) of the 'Budhha Dal' offer 'Sukhnidhaan'.
- 5. There is description of 'Sukhnidhaan' on many pages of the book 'Sooraj Prakaash'.
- 6. At 'Shaheedi Baag' in the city of Sri Anandpur Sahib, a small room, which was constructed during Guru's time, has been excavated, in which there were big 'Suneharas' (a kind of big vessel). The existence of these Suneharas has been offered as proof that 'Sukhnidhaan' was prepared and offered during the time of Guru Sahib.
- 7. According to the book 'Khalsa Dharam Shaastar', Guru Gobind Singh suggested taking intoxicants to remove sadness. The quantity of 'Chhatar-dhara' (opium) and 'Sukhnidhaan' was fixed.
- 8. All the 'Rehats' (codes of conducts) can be known only from the Guru’s history and 'Rehatnamas'. It is claimed that we cannot know 'Rehats' from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Let us now discuss these points one by one: -
Janamsakhi Bhai Bala
The main argument by Singh Sahib Bhai Joginder Singh Ji, from Hazoor Sahib, is that the Mughal King Babur offered 'Bhang' to Guru Nanak Dev Ji, according to 'Janamsakhi Bhai Bala'. Pleased by this, Guru Nanak Dev Ji granted him the boon to have the kingdom for seven generations. Singh Sahib Ji says that Guru Ji recited a 'Shabad' also on this occasion, in which he did not condemn 'Bhang'. On the other hand, when Yogi Jhangar Naath offered a cup of wine to Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Guru Ji recited a 'Shabad', in which drinking wine and alcohol was condemned.
Quoting to the 'Janamsakhi Bhai Bala', Singh Sahib Ji made it clear, in a way, that 'Sukhnidhaan' and 'Bhang' are one and the same. The particular 'Saakhi' (narration) of 'Janamsakhi Bhai Bala' does not use the word 'Sukhnidhaan'. Only the word 'Bhang' has been used.
It is absolutely opposite to the fact saying that according to 'Janamsakhi Bhai Bala', Guru Ji was pleased when Babur offered him 'Bhang'. In fact, though it says in 'Janamsakhi Bhai Bala' that Babur offered 'Bhang' to Guru Ji, there is no mention that this “pleased Guru Ji”. Instead, Guru Ji was pleased when Babur released innocent prisoners.
'Janamsakhi Bhai Bala' states that Babur heard Guru Nanak Dev Ji sing the shabad:
'kuraasaan kasmaanaa keeaa hindustaan daraaeiaa.' “Having attacked Khuraasaan, Baabar terrified Hindustan…” (Ang 360, SGGS)
Hearing this shabad, Babar called Guru Ji and asked him to sing it again. Guru Ji sang it again. Babur said, "Friends, he is a nice 'Faqeer' (Holy man)." Then, he offered 'Bhang' to Guru Ji and said, "O Saint, eat the 'Bhang'."
However, Guru Ji replied, "Meer Ji, I have eaten the Bhang, whose stimulation never ends". Babur asked, "Which is the Bhang, whose stimulation never ends?"
Guru Ji asked Baba Mardaana Ji to play on 'Rabaab'. Guru Ji recited this shabad: -
tilang mehlaa 1, ghar 2, ik ounkaar satgur prasaad. bhau teraa bhaang, khalrree meraa cheet. mai devaanaa bheiaa ateet. kar kaasaa darsan kee bhookh. mai dar maangau neetaa neet.1. tau darsan kee karau samaae. mai dar maangat bheekiaa paae.1.rahaao. kesar kusam mirgamai harnnaa sarab sareeree charrnnaa. chandan bhagtaa
jot enehee, sarbe parmal karnnaa.2. ghia patt bhaanddaa kehai na koe. aisaa bhagat varan mehi hoe. terai naam nive rehe liv laae. naanak tin dar bheekiaa paae.3.1.2.' “Tilang, First Mehl, Second House: One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru: The Fear of You, O Lord Vaheguru, is my marijuana (cannabis); my consciousness is the pouch, which holds it. I have become an intoxicated hermit. My hands are my begging bowl; I am so hungry for the Blessed Vision of Your Darshan. I beg at Your Door, day after day. ||1|| I long for the Blessed Vision of Your Darshan. I am a beggar at Your Door - please bless me with Your charity. ||1||Pause|| Saffron, flowers, musk oil and gold embellish the bodies of all. The Lord's devotees are like sandalwood, which imparts its fragrance to everyone. ||2|| No one says that ghee or silk are polluted. Such is the Lord's devotee, no matter what his social status is. Those who bow in reverence to the Naam, the Name of Vaheguru, remain absorbed in Your Love. Nanak begs for charity at their door. ||3||1||2||” (Ang 721, SGGS)
Guru Ji clearly says that ‘Bhau Tera Bhaang’, meaning 'The Fear of You, Vaheguru, is my marijuana (cannabis)'. Thus, Vaheguru's Fear is the true 'Bhang' for a Sikh. Reading this holy shabad, how can we say that Guru Ji accepts ‘Bhang' and that he has not condemned it? If Guru Ji was pleased when Babur offered 'Bhang' to him, why did Guru Sahib not drink it? 'Janamsakhi Bhai Bala' does not state that Guru Ji drank 'Bhang'.
Then, according to 'Janamsakhi Bhai Bala', King Babur offered land to Guru Ji, but Guru Ji refused again. Babur requested Guru Ji to have mercy on him. Hearing this, Guru Ji asked him to release innocent prisoners. Babur requested for a boon of kingdom for his generations. Guru Ji granted him the boon. Babur released the prisoners and gave them cloths. On this, according to 'Janamsakhi Bhai Bala', "Taan Baba Ji Barhe Prasann Hoye" (At that time, Baba Ji was so pleased).
Therefore, we see that neither Guru Ji accepted 'Bhang', which was offered to him, nor he was pleased on this. Guru Ji did not accept it, because he was against its use, it is obvious. In its place, Guru Ji was happy, when Babur released the prisoners.
British Licensed it
According to the second argument given by Singh Sahib Bhai Joginder Singh Ji, the 'Mahant' (abbot) of Gurusar Satlaani got a license for 'Sukhnidhaan' from the British government of that time.
A 'Mahant', even if he has many devotees, cannot be an ideal for Sikhs, who prays for the victory of invaders against his own brothers/fellow-countrymen. Also, how can it prove that the 'Maryada' of offering 'Bhang' at Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib Ji is an old ('Puraatan') tradition just because some 'Mahant' got a license for 'Bhang' from the British government?
'Sukhnidhaan' is offered elsewhere
The third argument given by Singh Sahib Ji says that at Sri Amritsar Sahib, Tarantaaran Sahib, Sri Anandpur Sahib, 'Sukhnidhaan' is being offered.
It is possible that when Singh Sahib Ji visited Sri Amritsar Sahib Ji, 'Sukhnidhaan' was being prepared there. However, it still does not prove anything. If something is happening in modern age, how does it prove that it was in practice even Guru Gobind Singh Ji's time? Recently, a Gurdwara was in the news, where the Police found opium being cultivated. Does this prove that cultivating opium in Gurdwara premises is a 'Puraatan Maryada' (old tradition)?
'Nihangs' of the 'Budhha Dal' use it
The next argument given by Singh Sahib Bhai Joginder Singh Ji says that 'Nihangs' of the 'Budhha Dal' offer 'Sukhnidhaan'.
If some Nihangs of Budhha Dal use 'Sukhnidhaan', it does not prove that it is a 'Maryada' started by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. According to the book 'Twaareekh Guru Khalsa', written by Giani Gian Singh, the Budhha Dal was founded in Samvat 1791 Bikrami (1734 CE). (See, 'Twaareekh Guru Khalsa', part second, page 119, year 1987, the Language Department, Punjab). Any 'Maryada', which is being practised presently in an organisation, which was founded many years after Guru Gobind Singh Ji left for his heavenly abode, does not prove that it is an old tradition from the Guru’s times.
For example, nowadays, Budhha Dal has started to install 'Sri Sarab-loh Granth' along with Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Sri Dasam Granth. It is a well-known fact that installing Sri Sarabloh Granth alongside with Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is not an old tradition. Instead, it is a completely new idea. Even Singh Sahib Bhai Joginder Singh Ji himself has not written that Sri Sarabloh Granth should be installed in Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib Ji. Can anyone claim that installing Sri Sarabloh Granth is an old tradition, because at the present time it is being installed by Budhha Dal at some places?
Not only Budhha Dal', but 'Tarna Dal' also was founded in the year of 1734 CE. In addition, none of these organisations were founded by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
Mentioned in 'Sooraj Prakash'
In another argument, Singh Sahib Ji writes that description of 'Sukhnidhaan' has been given on many places in the book 'Sooraj Prakash' (Sri Gur Prataap Sooraj Granth).
Singh Sahib Bhai Joginder Singh Ji himself would not have accepted every point of the 'Sooraj Prakaash' a reliable source. For example, it is the same 'Sri Gur Prataap Sooraj Granth' (Sooraj Prakash), which does not believe that 'Raag-Mala' of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is recited by Guru Ji. It is not rational to accept one thing and reject another in 'Gur Prataap Sooraj Granth'. Only a serious analysis of many books and sources can show us the way to a result.
Big vessel excavated
Giving another argument, Singh Sahib Ji wrote that At 'Shaheedi Baag' in the city of Sri Anandpur Sahib, a small room, which was constructed during the times of Guru Sahib, has been excavated, in which there were big 'Suneharas' (a kind of big vessel). It proves that 'Sukhnidhaan' was prepared and offered during the time of Guru Sahib.
A big 'Suneharas' found in an old room does not prove that only 'Sukhnidhaan' was being prepared in them. If someone finds a cauldron in an old room, how can it be said that only 'Karhaah Parshaad' (sacred pudding) was cooked in it, and not any vegetables? Even we believe that 'Sukhnidhaan' was prepared in those 'Suneharas', it is impossible to prove that this 'Sukhnidhaan' was prepared for Guru Ji, or by his permission.
It removes sadness
Singh Sahib Ji wrote that according to 'Khalsa Dharam Shaastar', Guru Gobind Singh Ji ordered to take intoxicants to remove sadness. The quantity of 'Chhatar-dhara' (opium) and 'Sukhnidhaan' was fixed.
First, the 'Khalsa Dharam Shastar' is not an old book. Therefore, the tradition of 'Sukhnidhaan' cannot be proved an old tradition by this book. If we accept the argument of 'Chhatardhara' and 'Sukhnidhaan' given by the 'Khalsa Dharam Shastar', then why is only 'Sukhnidhaan' being offered at Takht Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib Ji? Why don’t they offer 'Chhatardhara' (opium)? There is description of opium and marijuana in a same line. One is being offered at Takht Sahib Ji, and another is not. Why is it so?
Rehats v Guru Granth Sahib
Singh Sahib Ji wrote that all the 'Rehats' could be known only from the Guru’s history and 'Rehatnamas'. We cannot know 'Rehats' from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Though it is right that we obtain information about all the 'Rehats' from the Guru’s history and 'Rehatnamas’, but only one book of history or only a single 'Rehatnama' cannot be accepted as an authority. We know that the present 'Maryada' of an 'Amrit Sanchaar' (Sikh initiation ceremony) is not written in any of old 'Rehatnamas'; even then, the present 'Maryada' of an 'Amrit Sanchaar’ is being followed across the world. Why is it so? Does it not indicate that we obtain the 'Sikhi Rehat' from an unbroken tradition, which was started by Satguru Kalgeedhaar, the tenth Guru?
It is obvious from arguments given by Singh Sahib Bhai Joginder Singh Ji that he used the terms 'Bhang' and 'Sukhnidhaan' as synonymous with each other. Being the “head priest” of Takht Sahib Ji, he must have read these lines of Gurbaani: -
‘kabeer bhaang maachhulee suraa paan jo jo praanee khaa(n)hi. teerat barat nem kee-e te sabhe rsaatal jaa(n).233.’ “O Kabeer! If people after ‘speaking with the Holy’ and go on pilgrimages, perform fasts and practice rituals etc, and those sharaabi, intoxicated, people also consume marijuana and fish (i.e. they attend the Satsang and also consume Sharaab-Kebab and commit immoral deeds) – those persons pilgrimages, fasts and rituals are totally useless. ||233||” (Ang 1377, SGGS)
I do not know why Singh Sahib Ji did not consider it necessary to mention these lines when he was discussing such an important topic.
Bhang use in the rest of India
Bhang is consumed in the Indian subcontinent as a beverage. The traditional harvest and preparation of bhang occurs during the celebrations of Holi in March and Vaisakhi in April, hence associated with Lord Shiva. It has now become synonymous with Holi, to the point where consuming bhang at that time is standard practice.
Bhang Ki Thandai (Hindi) is a drink popular in many parts of India which is made by mixing bhang with thandai, a cold beverage prepared with almonds, spices, milk and sugar. Consumption of Bhang and psychotropic substances has been forbidden by certain Hindu religious sects such as the Shikshapatri, and is also forbidden in Islam, though not in all sects.
Bhang was first used as part of the Hindu rite in India around 1000 BC and soon became an integral part of Hindu culture. In the ancient text Atharvaveda, bhang is described as a beneficial herb that "releases anxiety".
Many sadhus use Bhang to boost meditation and to achieve transcendental states. Bhang or cannabis is also known to be popular amongst Sufis as an aid to spiritual ecstasy.
The tradition of consuming bhang during Holi is particularly common in North India where Holi itself is celebrated with a fervor unseen elsewhere.
Bhang is heavily consumed in Mathura, an ancient town of religious importance to the Hindus. Here, it is believed to have been introduced by the followers of Lord Krishna and has stayed over here since. The Choubey community or the Chaturvedi's of Mathura have a long history of consuming Bhang on a daily basis. They begin the preparation by Sanskrit chants and recitation of prayers to the Hindu God, Shiva. Some people from Mathura have Bhang to work their appetite while others do it to relieve themselves off stress. But the hub of bhang is Varanasi or Banaras, the Land of Shiva, where bhang is prepared on its famous ghats.
Anywhere on the ghats, one can find large number of men engaged in the process of preparing bhang. Using mortar and a pestle, the buds and leaves of cannabis are ground into a green paste. To this mixture milk, ghee, and spices are added. The bhang base is now ready to be made into a heady drink, Thandai, an alternative to alcohol. Bhang is also mixed with ghee and sugar to make a green halva, and into peppery, chewy little balls called 'golees' (which in this context means candy or pill in Hindi).
Being so ancient, bhang has become so much an integral part of Indian tradition that it has become symbolic for many things.
It is associated with Lord Shiva, as the hemp plant is regarded as holy by the Hindus of North India. There is even a belief that to meet someone carrying bhang is an omen of success. And, if longing for hemp plant foretells happiness, to see it in dreams ensures prosperity for a person in future. Also, walking on a holy bhang leaf is believed to spell doom.
People believe in the medicinal properties of the hemp plant. If taken in proper quantity, bhang is believed to cure fever, dysentery and sunstroke, to clear phlegm, quicken digestion, appetite, cure speech imperfections and lisping, give alertness to the body. Natives also claim that it produces a tingling sensation in the nape.
Some erotic drawings from the Mughal era of India depict a couple having sexual intercourse while smoking bhang to enhance intimacy.
In Nepal, on the day of Hindu festival Maha Shivaratri, bhang is taken in different forms such as smoke, mixed with sweets and drink. Offering bhang to lord Shiva is a common practice during the festival
Shabad connected with marijuana
|SGGS Page 1377 Full Shabad|
ਕਬੀਰ ਭਾਂਗ ਮਾਛਲੀ ਸਰਾ ਪਾਨਿ ਜੋ ਜੋ ਪਰਾਨੀ ਖਾਂਹਿ ॥
ਤੀਰਥ ਬਰਤ ਨੇਮ ਕੀਝ ਤੇ ਸਭੈ ਰਸਾਤਲਿ ਜਾਂਹਿ ॥੨੩੩॥
Shabad connected with intoxicants
|SGGS Page 15 Full Shabad|
ਅਮਲ ਗਲੋਲਾ ਕੂੜ ਕਾ ਦਿਤਾ ਦੇਵਣਹਾਰਿ ॥
ਮਤੀ ਮਰਣ ਵਿਸਾਰਿਆ ਖਸੀ ਕੀਤੀ ਦਿਨ ਚਾਰਿ ॥
ਸਚ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਤਿਨ ਸੋਫੀਆ ਰਾਖਣ ਕਉ ਦਰਵਾਰ ॥੧॥
- Guru Granth Sahib on Drugs
- Gurmat view on intoxicants
- Guru Granth Sahib on alcohol
- Prohibited Behaviour in Sikhi
- Guru Granth Sahib
- Alcohol And Cancer
- Drug Abuse in the Punjab
- Visiting a Gurdwara
- Sikh Code of Conduct
- Sikh Rehat Maryada
- Sikh Basic & Misconceptions
- Hymns of Guru Nanak
- Guru Gobind Singh
- Introduction to Sikhism
- See Wikipedia article on Bhang for more information
- Bhang Ganja Charas, Thandai Chai Lassi, IndiaCurry.com
- "A Bit about Bhang"
- Recipe: Bhang Lassi
- Hot-Buttered Bhang Recipe
- "A Word from the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission" A 19th century British report on Bhang
- Special Featured Article on Bhang
- "Recipe for Bhang-Elixir of life"
- Bhang news page - Alcohol and Drugs History Society