Lassi is a popular traditional yogurt-based drink from the Indian subcontinent.
Lassi originates from the Punjab period. Bhang means they added a narcotic, based on a paste from the buds and leaves of the female cannabis plant, that is traditionally used in food and beverages in the Indian culture. There are sources that claim that this was already being done at the time of 2000BC.
1. Lassi and its different varieties
Lassi is a popular traditional yogurt-based drink from the Indian Subcontinent and originates from the Punjab. Lassi is a blend of yogurt, water, spices and sometimes fruit. Traditional lassi (a.k.a., “salted lassi”, or simply, “lassi”) is a savoury drink, sometimes flavoured with ground and roasted cumin. Sweet lassi, however, contains sugar or fruits, instead of spices. Salted mint lassi is highly favoured in Bangladesh.
In Dharmic religions, yogurt sweetened with honey is used while performing religious rituals. Less common is lassi served with milk and topped with a thin layer of clotted cream. Lassis are enjoyed chilled as a hot-weather refreshment, mostly taken with lunch. With a little turmeric powder mixed in, it is also used as a folk remedy for gastroenteritis. In Pakistan, salted lassi is often served with almost all kinds of meals, and is mostly made at home by simply whisking salt in yogurt and water. It is also sold at most dairy shops selling yogurt and milk, and both the salty and sweet variety are available.
Traditional mild sweet (or salty) lassi
Traditional mild sweet (or salty) form of lassi is more common in North India and Punjab, Pakistan. It is prepared by blending yogurt with water and adding sugar and other spices to taste. Salt can be substituted in place of sugar. The resulting beverage is known as salted lassi. This is similar to ayran or doogh.
Sweet lassi is a form of lassi flavoured with sugar, rosewater and/or lemon, strawberry or other fruit juices. Saffron lassis, which are particularly rich, are a specialty of Rajasthan and Gujarat in India and Sindh in Pakistan. Makkhaniya lassi is simply lassi with lumps of butter in it (makkhan is the Gujarati, Hindi, Sindhi and Punjabi word for butter). It is usually creamy like a milkshake.
Mango lassi is gaining popularity worldwide. It is made from yogurt, water and mango pulp. It may be made with or without additional sugar. It is widely available in UK, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States, and in many other parts of the world. In various parts of Canada, mango lassi is a cold drink consisting of sweetened kesar mango pulp mixed with yogurt, cream, or ice cream. It is served in a tall glass with a straw, often with ground pistachio nuts sprinkled on top.
Bhang lassi is a special, narcotic lassi that contains bhang, a liquid derivative of cannabis, which has effects similar to other eaten forms of cannabis. It is legal in many parts of India and mainly sold during Holi, when pakoras containing bhang are also sometimes eaten. Uttar Pradesh is known to have licensed bhang shops, and in many places one can buy bhang products and drink bhang lassis.
Chaas or chaach is a salted drink like lassi, difference being that chaas contains more water than lassi and has the butterfat removed, so its consistency is not as thick as lassi. Salt and jeera (cumin seeds) is usually added for taste and sometimes even fresh coriander. Fresh ground ginger and green chillies may also be added as seasoning. Chaas is popular in the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, where it is a common accompaniment at mealtime. It aids digestion and is an excellent coolant in the Indian and Pakistani summers . It is called majjige in Kannada, taak in Marathi, majjiga in Telugu, moru in Tamil and Malayalam, mahi in the Madheshi languages, and ghol in Bengali.
2. Bhang lassi and legalty
Bhang is an edible preparation of cannabis. Traditionally it has been used in food and drink for centuries dating far back as 2000 BCE in the Indian subcontinent. Bhang in India and Nepal is distributed during some Hindu festivals like Holi, Janmashtami, Shivratri, and consuming bhang at such occasions is common.
Bhang has been used in India since before the Vedic period, and is an integral part of Indian Hindu culture. Hindu monks make use of the effects of bhang to boost meditation and to achieve transcendental states. In the ancient text Atharvaveda, Bhang is described as a beneficial herb that “releases anxiety”. Hindus associate it with two of their most powerful deities Lord Krishna, and Lord Shiva. One of Shiva’s epithets was “Lord of Bhang” as he is said to have discovered the transcendental properties of the mixture. Legend has it that Shiva brought bhang from the Himalayas for the pleasure of mankind.
A famous Greek historian Herodotus who lived in the 4th century B.C. mentions the use of bhang among Indians.
A 15th century Indian document refers to Bhang as light hearted, joyful, and inspirational spiritually to the mind and body. India’s holy men ritually use Bhang in order to facilitate communication with their deities. According to a legend, Siddhartha Gautama lived on a daily ration of one bhang seed and nothing else during his six years of asceticism.
In 1596, Dutchman Jan Huyghen van Linschoten wrote three pages on “Bangue” in a work documenting his journeys in the East, also mentioning the Egyptian Hashish, Turkish Boza, Turkish Bernavi, and Arabic Bursj forms of consumption.
The historian Richard Davenport-Hines lists Thomas Bowrey as the first Westerner to document the use of bhang.
Anywhere on the ghats, one can find large numbers of men engaged in preparing bhang. Using mortar and pestle, the buds and leaves of cannabis are ground into a paste. To this mixture, milk, ghee, mangoes, and Indian spices are added. The bhang base is now ready to be made into a thick drink, Ghota (on ShivRatri) thandai, an alternative to alcoholic beverages; this is often referred to casually, if inaccurately, as a “bhang thandai” and “bhang lassi”. Bhaoong is also mixed with ghee and sugar to make a purple halva, and into peppery, chewy little balls called golee (which in this context means Bullet or Pill in Hindi).
Bhang has been an integral part of the traditions and customs on the Indian subcontinent for the past four thousand years and persists as a practice today.
In some parts of rural India, people attribute various medicinal properties to the cannabis plant. If taken in proper quantity, bhang is believed to cure fever, dysentery, sunstroke, to clear phlegm, aid in digestion, appetite, cure speech imperfections and lisping, and give alertness to the body.
Bhang lassi is a preparation of powdered green inflorescence with curd and whey put in a village blender (a hand blending operation is carried out till the butter rises). It is regarded as tasty and greatly refreshing, with one or two large glasses having little effect. It is legal in many parts of India and mainly sold during Holi, when pakoras containing bhang are also sometimes eaten. Uttar Pradesh is known to have licensed bhang shops, and in many places one can buy bhang products and drink bhang lassis.
The tradition of consuming bhang lassi 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 the practice is believed to have been introduced by the followers of Lord Krishna and has stayed ever since. They begin the preparation by Sanskrit chants and recitation of prayers. In Mathura, some people take bhang to work up their appetite while others do it to de-stress. But the hub of bhang use is Varanasi (or Banaras) where the bhang is prepared on its famous ghats.
Bhang is also available as bhang goli which is just freshly ground cannabis with water. Apart from this, sweetened bhang golis are also widely available; these are not considered a drug, but a traditional sleeping aid and appetizer. Bhang goli has metabolizing effects after approximately two hours, sending one into a dreamlike meditational state. Bhang is also part of many Ayurvedic medicinal preparations; bhang powder is available legally at ayurvedic dispensaries.
3. Make your own Bhang lassi
Bhang lassi ingredients:
- 1/2 oz. Cannabis
- 2 Cups warm whole milk
- 1/2 Cup sugar
- 1 tbsp Coconut milk
- 1 tbsp Almonds, chopped
- 1/8 tsp Powdered ginger
- 1 pinch Garam masala
- 1/2 tsp Grenadine
- 1 cup Water
How to make it:
- Bring water to a boil in a teapot, and add cannabis to it.
- Brew for about 7 to 10 minutes, then strain.
- Gradually grind the strained cannabis along with 2 tbsp of milk using a mortar and pestle; repeat this process several times.
- Strain the milk into another bowl and keep aside.
- Add a little more milk to the cannabis and grind it along with the almonds, repeat this several times.
- Strain the liquid through your sieve to remove the excess cannabis plant matter, and proceed to pour the milk, coconut milk, grenadine and water into one pan.
- Add ginger, sugar, and garam masala, bringing to a boil while stirring continuously.
- Take the mixture off the heat. Once it is at a reasonable temperature, place it in the fridge to continue cooling for a few hours.
- Your bhang lassi is ready to serve!
As bhang has served such an important role in India’s culture and spiritual practices it would be impossible to criminalize cannabis completely in the country. Cultivation of cannabis is government regulated, and illegal without a government permit. Sale of bhang is also government regulated and illegal without a permit.
Cheers – चियर्स