Welcome to the world wide web page of Tod H. Mikuriya, M.D.

Excerpts from the


with Centennial Thoughts

on Indian Hemp and

the Dope Fiends of Old England

Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report Centennial Volume

Volume I. Policy, Social and Religious Customs


Table of Contents:

Indian Hemp Drugs Commission: Centennial Thoughts.  Tod  H. Mikuriya, M.D.

Indian Hemp and the Dope Fiends of Old England: A sociopolitical history of cannabis and the British Empire 1840 - 1928.  Sean Blanchard and Matthew J. Atha,  M.Sc. 

Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report: Introduction.  Tod H. Mikuriya, M.D.

Chapter XVIII.  Summary.

Chapter XIV.   The Policy of Hemp Drug Administration

Chapter IX.  Social and Religious Customs.

Appendix A.  On References to the Hemp Plant Occurring in Sanskrit and Hindi Literature.   Mr. G. A. Grierson, C.I.E., Magistrate and Collector, Howrah

Appendix B.  On the Origin and History of Trinath Worship in Eastern Bengal. Babu Abhilas Chandra Mukerji, Second Inspector of Excise in Eastern Bengal

Appendix C.  On the Religion of  Hemp.  Mr. J.M. Campbell, C.I.E., Collector of Land Revenue and Customs and Opium, Bombay.


Indian Hemp Drugs Commission

Centennial Thoughts

Tod H. Mikuriya, M.D.

            It has been a century since the British House of Commons passed a resolution setting up the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, which resulted in a massive inquiry documented in a nine-volume report.  In the ensuing years there have been drastic changes in public policy in the United States and Great Britain.

            This monumental study exposes the overriding and pervasive powers of collective denial and moral failure underpinning contemporary policies of cannabis prohibition.  Motivated by convenient moralism, questions are repeatedly disingenuously raised concerning the harm of hemp drugs, cannabis, or marijuana.  The engine of agitprop bureaucratic ire fires up.  Hearings are scheduled, witnesses heard, proceedings transcribed, summarized, presented to the requesting organization, discussed, filed, and forgotten.  The prohibition policies go on.  Enforcement and corrections systems strain under the demands of magical beliefs in coercive powers of government, promoted by  self-serving government misinformation and censorship.

            From the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission's policy perspective, today's drug polices would be unthinkable.  The British policies for hemp drug regulation in India were explicitly predicated upon optimal and minimal government intervention.

            The subsequent century in the United States, Great Britain, and Europe has seen pandemic spread of prohibitionist authoritarian government interference.  Income taxes, drug laws, alcohol prohibition, mass conscription, and two world wars have seen regression from utilitarian governance based on enlightened non-interference to intrusive majoritarian autocracy. Authoritative government has become authoritarian.  Less and less government justification and demonstrated necessity are required.  The principle of non-interference is virtually inoperative. The space of human existence where a person reigns uncontrolled contracts even further.  The large departments of individualistic human life are contracted or eliminated by laws, public and corporate policy.

            The second intervention by government, that of giving advice and promulgating information, has seen a parallel degradation  from legitimate and trustworthy dissemination of factual information through the institutions of science and medicine to censorship, bad advice, dissimulation and deception in the service of coercion and manipulation. The ensuing chaos of ignorance, partial truths, and outright lies has produced a cacophonous toxic confusion surrounding the use of hemp drugs. The font of contemporary knowledge is now a stinking swamp, hopelessly poisoned by the ignorant fantasies, fears, and untruths resulting from prohibitionists' drug propaganda efforts.

            In America in 1944, fifty years after the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, the New York Mayor's Committee on Marihuana reported on use of the drug after a five-year study, seven years after national marijuana prohibition.  The perspective was based on the premise that departments of human life and individual circle with uncontrolled reign did not include the right to use marijuana.  Government intervention through prohibition was now accepted; the non-interference principle of the Millsean Indian Hemp Drugs Administration policy dead – a luxury enjoyed, ironically, by people of India subjugated by the British imperium.

            Descriptions of marijuana use were now from the perspective of studying the characteristics of the users of this illicit drug: extent of use, method of distribution, attitude of the smoker toward society and use of the drug, relationship with eroticism, crime, and juvenile delinquency. Discussions of the legitimacy of Government intervention were by implication discussions of the relative dangerousness of marijuana.  The legitimacy of prohibition as a social policy was neither justified nor examined. Religious use or freedom was not mentioned:

     "I am glad that the sociological, psychological, and medical ills commonly attributed to marihuana have been found to be exaggerated insofar as the City of  New York is concerned. I hasten to point out, however, that the findings are to be interpreted only as a reassuring report of progress and not as encouragement to indulgence, for I shall continue to enforce the laws prohibiting the use of  marihuana until and if complete findings may justify an amendment to existing laws."[1]

            In 1970 the latest revision in Government marijuana prohibition policy generated another report, issued in 1972:  Marihuana: a Signal of Misunderstanding – First Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse.  Here individual rights were at least discussed, in order to be heavily discounted:

     "So, while we agree with the basic philosophical precept that society may interfere with individual conduct only in the public interest, using coercive measures only when less restrictive measures would not suffice, this principle merely initiates inquiry into a rational social policy but does not identify it.  We must take a careful look at this complicated question of the social impact of private behavior.  And we must recognize at the outset the inherent difficulty in predicting effects on the public health and welfare, and the strong conflicting notions of what constitutes the public interest."[2]

            "Religious freedom" as currently delineated by the Government places the burden on the individual to pass certain "tests" to prove that hemp drugs are being used for sacramental purposes:

     "Cases dealing with religious freedom in other contexts have isolated three distinct foci of inquiry when a law is challenged as violative of the ‘free exercise’ clause:  (1) Is the claimant's belief and practice really a ‘religion’ within the meaning of the First Amendment?  (2) If so, is the practice prohibited by the challenged statute essential to the practice of the ‘religion?’  (3) Even if the answers to (1) and (2) are yes, is there nevertheless a sufficiently compelling state interest to warrant overriding the practice?  Only when the proscribed activity is essential to a qualified "religion" and the state's interest is not overwhelming will the courts invoke the First Amendment to invalidate an otherwise permissible legislative proscription."[3]

            In 1989 Carl Olsen, a white Rastafarian and director of Iowa NORML, unsuccessfully attempted a religious freedom defense for charges of  marijuana selling and importation for distribution to other members of the Ethiopian Coptic Zion Church:

     "If the 'compelling interest' test is to be applied . . . it must be applied across the board, to all actions thought to be religiously commanded. . . . Any society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy. . . . The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind – ranging from compulsory military service . . . to the payment of taxes. . . to drug laws."[4]

            Dutifully crafted by Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now on the Supreme Court, this opinion did not question that authoritative interference of Government is appropriate public policy.  Religious freedom is now restricted to activity that must be asserted and proven rather than assumed.  Proof of compelling interest has switched from the Government to the individual.  The departments of human life were seen not to be imperiously guarded for the individual, but rather regarded with mistrust as a source of opportunities for dissent against public policy.

            At the height of the Vietnam war marijuana use was strongly identified with the growing student antiwar resistance.  The non-intervention principle was at least recognized, but the departments of individuality and circle around the individual were routinely stepped over by Government, justified by concern for national security.  Militarism preempted any considerations of individual rights of privacy.

            Notwithstanding the cautious conclusion of the Commission  in 1972 that the policies of marijuana prohibition be critically examined, the report was conspicuously rejected sight unseen by then President Richard M. Nixon to demonstrate his being "tough on crime" in a Presidency struggling to end the Vietnam war.

            Twenty-two years later, on the centennial of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, the principle of Government non-interference is an all but forgotten faded idealistic icon, given hollow obeisance at state ceremonies, a quaint philosophical curiosity of the past.  The circle around the individual is reduced to a pale, flaccid, tattered, transparent, and permeable membrane.  Intrusion is limited only by the funding available for Government interference.  The worsening of the balance of  power between the individual and state has increased by an order of magnitude, facilitated by advances in technology.

            Toqueville in his prophetic Democracy in America[5]  warns of dangerous forms of despotism in democratic, egalitarian America:

“A great many persons of the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large.  This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience.”[6]

“Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself.  The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look upon them as benefits.

“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community.  It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.  The will of the man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting.  Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence, it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”[7]

            Attacked by "drug free" oaths, informers (including children), undercover police, drug-sniffing dogs, random and warrantless searches, child snatching, drug testing, forfeiture of property, surveillance of bank, business, electricity, and other records, the departments of human life wither.  The parts of human life considered reserved territory are noticeably smaller – and the individual, society and "civilization" suffer the loss.

            Review of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report is important for perspective in assessing the legitimacy and direction of contemporary Government drug policy in a democratic society.  Froude's theorem of functional governance – "No laws are of any service which are above the working level of public morality, and evasion" – was of importance to feudal England and to the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission in 1894.  A century later it points up a public policy issue of prime magnitude.

THM  April 16, 1994


[1] Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Foreword.  In The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York: Sociological, Meidcal, And Pharmacological Studies by the Mayor’s Committee on Marihuana.  Jacques Cattell Press, Lancaster, PA, 1944, p. v.

[2] Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding – First Report of  the National  Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.  2 vols. Stock No. 5266-0001, 5266-0002, 1972, p. 25. 

[3] Ibid., vol. 2 Appdneix page 1130.

[4] Olsen v. Drug Enforcement Administration.  279 U.S. App. D.C. 1, 878 F. 2d 1458.  In High Witness News: Religious Freedom Law Passed.  High Times, May 1994, pp. 13-14, 27.

[5] Toqueville, Alexis de Democracy in America, vol. 2, 1840. Vintage Books, Random House, NY 1990.

[6] Ibid., p. 320.

[7] Ibid., pp. 318-319.


Indian Hemp and the Dope Fiends of Old England

A Sociopolitical History of Cannabis and the British Empire 1840-1928

Sean Blanchard & Matthew J. Atha M.Sc.

            When the report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission (IHDC) reached 1890s England it met official and public apathy.  There was no political debate.  It went into the “forget about this” file on arrival and has stayed there ever since.  There was no publicity;  the news that “ganja is not appreciably harmful” was of no concern to the majority of users, who took cannabis products for their medical benefits.  The non-medical users were mostly artists who didn't mind a little harm.  Prohibitionist sentiment was concentrated on the opium trade between India and China and on alcohol at home.  Cannabis use in England was considered negligible, and the authorities were content to have no laws at all controlling it for another thirty years.

            When laws were later proposed, the Government paid no attention to the evidence in their possession from the IHDC.  In India, the recommendations of the IHDC report for control by taxes rather than prohibition went into force quietly, standardising laws and tariffs on cannabis in all the provinces.  In March 1895, the Indian Government passed a resolution after reviewing the report.  It said that for the last twenty years their policy had been of  “restraining use and improving the revenue by the imposition of suitable taxation” and “imposing as high a rate of duty as can be levied without inducing illicit practices” on the grounds that “the best way to restrict the consumption of drugs is to tax them”; so “to that policy the Governor-General . . . has decided steadily to adhere”[1]

            There was never any suggestion that the same rules might be applied in the UK; the Empire didn't work like that.  The Governor-General (also known as Viceroy), Lord Landsdowne, was appointed by the UK Government.  When they instructed him to commission a report, he did so, then accepted or rejected it, passed any regulations needed, and told the UK what he'd done.  His job was to “keep natives in their place” and help the British get on with it, not to give advice on home affairs.

From Mother's Friend to Opium Wars

            Cannabis was virtually irrelevant to nineteenth-century England.  The drug of the century was opium, freely available to the British population and so popular that the government went to war to prevent the prohibitionist Chinese from disrupting the trade.  The opium wars still write their history in the 1990s, as Britain is due in 1997 to hand back Hong Kong, the territory it won from China and those territories leased for 150 years.

            Thomas De Quincy in his Confessions of an English Opium Eater gave the first popular account of the “marvellous agency of opium, whether for pleasure or pain.”  He may have been the first glamouriser of the psychotropic effects of the drug, but for most people opium was a friend and medicine as indispensable as aspirin or Valium in the twentieth century.  Godfrey's cordial, or chemists' home-brewed versions of popular patent medicines, were used to quiet children, while no home would be without laudanum (alcoholic tincture of opium).  Opium was first used in the treatment of cholera in the epidemics of the early nineteenth century, and continued to be used for the treatment of diarrhoea and sickness, common complaints in the less than hygienic environment of the day.  It was during the Crimean war that the analgesic effects were fully exploited, and it is certain that the widespread use of laudanum, Collis Browne's mixture, or other opium-based medicines, available to the poor for a penny a bottle, enabled ordinary people to cope with the harsh realities of life in Dickensian England.  From the government's point of view, it was no doubt preferable to have the poor in a state of comfortable stupor than rioting in the streets.

            India was not the main source of opium for the domestic market. Most of this was grown in Turkey or Persia (Iran), as this opium was of generally high quality, and trade flourished in the period following the end of the Napoleonic wars, particularly after the treaty of Balta Limon (1838) granting the Ottoman Empire “most favoured nation” trading status.[2]  Indian opium, however, was responsible for the British Government in India becoming the largest drug-trafficking syndicate in the world during the latter part of the century.

            Opium and tea were the mainstays of the British East India Company, who had a monopoly on the opium produced in Bengal.  In 1772 Warren Hastings, then chief executive of the company, realised the potential for foreign revenue in exporting Indian opium to China.  Opium had been known in China for centuries, but imports had been banned in 1729 by decree of the Emperor.  All foreign trade was funneled through Canton, opium being smuggled with legitimate consignments in British ships, and sold through corrupt officials to an eager market.  Other traders smuggled opium to China overland, and the consumption spread to all levels of society, even to the personal retinue of the Emperor.  Exports to China rose from 10,000 chests in 1820 to 40,000 chests in 1840.  By 1836, a Chinese official in Canton, Hsu Nal-chi, petitioned the emperor to legalise the trade after witnessing the failure of prohibition: “The severer the interdicts against (opium) become, the more widely do the evils therefrom spread.”  He was summarily dismissed from his post and replaced with a committed “war-on-drugs”-minded individual, Lin Tse-hsu.

            Lin was determined to wipe out the opium trade by threatening the British merchants with the loss of the tea trade, and in 1839 forced them to surrender 20,000 chests of the drug.  Captain Charles Elliot, the British Chief Superintendent, retaliated by ordering all British ships out of the Canton estuary, transferring the tea trade to American ships who would transport their cargoes to Hong Kong – an inconvenience, but not an obstacle, to the trade.  Instead of using Canton, smugglers would take opium consignments ashore up and down the coast in boats fast enough to evade the Customs craft.  Meanwhile Elliot had ordered an expeditionary force of naval steamships which arrived in 1840 and put direct pressure on Peking.  Lin was dismissed and the trade continued uninterrupted following the Chinese capitulation and the end of the First Opium War in 1842.  To the domestic audience in the UK, Palmerston, the Prime Minister, had portrayed the war as an attempt to force the Chinese to accept free trade.  In reality, the only commodity directly involved was opium, tax revenue from which was becoming increasingly important to the Indian Government.[3]

            In Britain, the Conservative opposition was not satisfied with Palmerston's explanations and they opposed the opium trade in the 1840 Commons debate.  By the time they took power in 1841 their tune had changed, and the trade continued to expand.  The Chinese government was effectively warned that no British ships should be searched.  Although fresh edicts against the drug were issued by the Chinese, they were powerless to stop the trade following the treaty of Nanking, which ceded Hong Kong to Britain, allowing a bridgehead for further opium supplies.  In 1856, following growing anti-British sentiment, the Chinese gave the British government a further excuse for war by seizing the Arrow, a British vessel with a crew of Chinese criminals anchored off Canton.  The fact that the Arrow's registration had expired, technically justifying the Chinese action, was overlooked by Palmerston, once again the Liberal Prime Minister after fighting an election forced by government defeat on an opposition motion condemning the war, and winning on a wave of patriotic fervour.

            Lord Elgin was dispatched with an expeditionary force which burned down the Summer Palace in Peking to impress upon the Emperor the need to keep agreements.  The main consequence of the Second Opium War was that China was forced to legalise the trade in opium, and were only permitted to tax the product at a level acceptable to the British.  Consumption increased from 60,000 chests in 1860 to 105,000 by 1880.  The trade generated taxes to the British Indian Government equivalent to over half their total revenue, enough to cover the entire civil service and armed forces budgets.  In this climate, financial expediency, as so often is the case, took precedence over the growing moral arguments against the drug trade.

            Following increased public pressure to end the trade, and in response to a Parliamentary motion, the Government called a Royal Commission on the production and consumption of opium, which was only to consider prohibition among other options, after full investigation.  It was during these manoevres that the IHDC was also established.  The Indian Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne, was against anything that might disrupt business.  Prime Minister Gladstone was much more pro-trade than he was anti-drug.  They packed the opium commission with pragmatists from the Indian Civil Service, with some of the more economically literate abolitionists, and ensured that it would concentrate a good deal on money.  It first met in September 1893 and saw 2,500 witnesses by February 1894.

            When the report was published in 1895, it said that opium was “generally used in moderation,” and “led to no evident ill-effects.”   Even some senior anti-opiumists had been convinced.  The fact that Chinese missionaries were overwhelmingly critical of the effects of opium, in contrast to the Indian witnesses who were predominantly favourable towards the drug, was put down to the fact that in India the drug is normally taken orally, whereas in China it was generally smoked.[4]  There was only one dissent; Joseph Rowntree, one of the committee members, was later to denounce the Commission's report as a whitewash.  By that time there was another election under way.  Prohibition had no chance under the Conservatives, and there would be no Liberal government until 1905.[5] The government, despite public opinion, was determined to continue the opium trade.


"The Lunatic Asylums are Filled with Ganja Smokers."

            The question of cannabis occasionally cropped up as an incidental issue in skirmishes during the long legislative battle against the opium business.  As early as 1840 the pro-opium banker William Bingham Baring , MP told the Commons that if the opium trade were suppressed then there would be a danger of users turning to drugs “infinitely more prejudicial to physical health and energy than opium.”   Baring, one of ten MPs of both parties from the same pro-free-trade family, was particularly concerned about “an exhalation of the Hemp plant, easily collected at certain seasons, which is in every way more injurious than the use of the poppy.”[6]    This was another justification for the lucrative opium trade which flourished in a climate of official and unofficial governmental encouragement.  However, attitudes were slowly changing, and in 1875 Mark Steward, MP had proposed that the Indian Governor General be instructed to investigate the opium trade “with a view to gradual withdrawal,” and lost by 37 votes.  Similar moves were regularly defeated for the next twenty years.  By April 1891, a spokesman for the Society for Suppression of the Opium Trade (SSOT) had obtained a 30-vote majority for a motion that the Government’s revenue from opium was “morally indefensible.”

            On 16 July 1891 Steward asked a three-part question about ganja:[7]

i.   Whether the Secretary of State for India has seen a report in the Allahabad Pioneer of 10 May that ganja, which is grown, sold, and excised in much the same way as opium, is far more harmful, and that “the lunatic asylums of Bengal are filled with ganja smokers.

ii.   Is he aware that ganja has been made illegal in Lower Burma and that excise reports say this has been “of enormous benefit to the people?”

iii.  Will he call to the attention of the Governor General the desirability of extending the prohibition to other provinces?

            The answers to these questions were yes, yes, and that he would “enquire whether further steps should be taken to limit consumption.”   On 7 August 1892 those enquiries were answered at some length.  The Viceroy's office told London that the whole question had been extensively discussed with provincial administrations in 1871-73.  They sent 174 pages of old dispatches from Indian provincial governments to the centre, and from there to London.  After considering these, “The Governor General is of the opinion that while ganja may be among the most noxious of all intoxicants commonly used in India . . . .  Even if absolute prohibition could be enforced, the result might be to induce the use of more noxious drugs” [e.g. datura].  Apart from which, it would be impossible to enforce a prohibition.  It was “our duty to restrict consumption, but unnecessary to do more than persevere in the policy established in 1873.”  These papers languished unread in London, perhaps because there was a general election going on.

            The 1873 dispatches showed the pragmatism of imperial administrators which was to be repeated by the IHDC, in very similar words. The then Viceroy had said that while the Government should endeavour to restrict the use of ganja, it would be impossible to enforce general prohibition, especially because of religious feelings in some groups and because the plants grew freely some areas.  It would be inexpedient to order what could not be enforced: “It does not appear to the Governor-General to be specifically proved that hemp incites to crime more than other drugs or spirits.”  There was also some evidence that hemp, “usually so noxious,” might usefully be taken for medical reasons.  There was no doubt that habitual use tended to cause insanity, but not in very many cases relative to the numbers of the insane.[8]  “General opinion seems to be that the evil effects of Ganja have been exaggerated.”

            The dispatches from regional governments were more forthright.  The Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab wrote that considering the practicalities, they should not restrict hemp drug use unless there was proof of connection with crime.  Civil, police and medical officers disagreed on the details, but “His Honour is of the opinion that if people were prohibited from using preparations of hemp or opium, they would, in all probability, have recourse to some other stimulant, such as alcohol, the crime resulting from the use of which would be much greater than that resulting from the abuse of these drugs. . . . It seems that the amount of crime, violent or other, incited by ganja, is exceedingly small. . . . If, therefore, these preparations have no effect on crime and only injure the persons who use them, it is difficult to see in what manner the law can restrict their use in a country where opium is a monopoly of the Government, the effects of which are perhaps as injurious when taken in excess as those of hemp.”

            The local governments of Mysore, Hyderabad, Oudh, and Burma said that as hemp drugs were little used locally, restrictions were not necessary.  Central Provinces sent plenty of data but no opinions.  The Northwest Provinces (later Pakistan), one of the main cannabis growing areas, said the evidence on crime was confused, whereas if the situation was as bad as supposed there would surely be a consensus.  To stop production would be almost impossible, so they could not recommend attempts to limit or stop consumption.  Bombay, Madras, and Bengal said that restrictions and taxes already in place should be preserved.  All agreed excessive use to be somehow connected with physical harm and perhaps insanity, but the numbers harmed were very small.  Bengal sent the most information.  Asked if a particularly popular type of local ganja was more deleterious than others, they submitted a long report on cultivation, uses and profit margins on all hemp products by Dr. Watt, State Reporter on Economic Products.  Their local product was popular due to the quality of plants and traditional production skills, rather than sheer strength.  A table of samples analysed for “Resinous extracts or Cannabin” ranged from 1.4% (N.W. Provinces) to 12% (Madras), mostly about 4%.[9]  All of the legal trade was inside India.  The state of Bengal had been making an average 1 million rupees per year through the 1860s in tax on ganja shops and duty at government auctions, about £100,000 – tens of millions in today's money.

            When these papers were taken from the files, twenty years after they were written, the August 1892 elections were under way.  The Conservatives went out and the Liberals came in.  Drug control was not high on their agenda; however, the new Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, and Secretary of State for India were all known to be anti-opium, and the Prime Minister had spoken out against it in the past.  The prohibitionists knew they might get some sort of opium control agreed to if it didn't oppose the Liberals' central Free Trade policy.  Believing their moment had come, they began to quarrel among themselves.


Criminalise It!

            Before the development of the hypodermic syringe by Alexander Wood, the main concern about opium was not the threat of addiction, but the danger of poisoning.  Only after the 1860s did the risk of dependency start to cause concern among the medical profession.  Certainly, people would have been habituated to the drug, but the stereotype of the drug addict had yet to gain acceptance within the UK.  Even where individuals wrote of their habit, it was without any sense of stigma – as in the case of a chemist’s wife who had been using morphia for 30 years and who described her experience in a matter-of-fact way, her major concern being the perceived tendency of the drug to cause her to put on weight.  Although the dependency syndrome had been described two centuries earlier by Thomas Sydenham, the risk was not taken seriously by most medical practitioners.  Following increasing reports of dependency symptoms after 1860, culminating in a series of articles in The Practitioner in 1870, the debate on the wisdom of permitting free access to opium accelerated.  In 1878 Edward Levinstein in Germany started the “moral” argument about the effect of opium on the character of the user, and was one of the first to promote abstinence as a cure for the addict.[10]

            From the 1840s on, there were several anti-opium organisations, all small and mostly broke.  Their memberships overlapped, but the leaders didn't get on well.  None of them had ever tried to gain mass support.  The first organisation to come out against the trade were the Birmingham Quakers.  In 1869, Lord Shaftesbury urged the Indian government to withdraw from its monopoly position in the trade.  By 1884 the Society for the Study and Cure of Inebriety, founded by Sir Norman Kerr, aimed “to educate the professional and the public mind to the dangers of intemperance.”  At that time, alcohol was the main target for the temperance movement, whereas other, more exotic drugs were not seen as much of a threat to respectable Britons.  These drugs were not expected to be a threat to the well-adjusted British gentleman, and habituation among the Chinese and others was regarded as the kind of  “filthy foreign habit” that should be stopped for the foreigners' own good.  Kerr recognised the dangers of opium with a crusading zeal, and railed against its use, denying any possibility that some persons could be able to restrict their use to a moderate level.  The Society for Suppression of the Opium Trade (SSOT), founded in 1874, became the best-known anti-opium organisation, but had always been elitist, controlled by Quaker businessmen with knighthoods, and funded by one family.  Their best argument combined economic and humanitarian interest: other exports to China had been damaged by the sleaziness of the opium business.  Trade with China had been stagnant between 1860 and 1880 while business with Japan had tripled.  The SSOT moved for ending the India-China opium trade, and called for an enquiry into alternate ways of making up the money.  They took too long agreeing on a proposal with other lobbyists, but did manage to force the Government to concede the 1893 Royal Commission on Opium.[11]

            Meanwhile, in February 1893, William Caine, MP (Bradford East), had the papers on ganja collected the previous year placed in the House of Commons Library.   On the 2nd March 1893 he put a public question to the Under-Secretary of State for India: “If he will instruct the Government of India to create a commission of experts to enquire into and report on the cultivation of and trade in all preparations of hemp drugs in Bengal, the effects of that consumption on society, and on the moral condition of the people, and the desirability of prohibiting its growth and sale”;  would he also invite written reports on the same matters from all other provinces, and include in the commission non-official natives of India.  The Secretary of State would ask the Viceroy to do just that, “and he will be glad if the result of this inquiry is to show that further restriction can be placed upon the sale and consumption of these drugs.”[12]   Since the Government seemed so amenable, a secondary question by the Right Hon. Sir Charles E. Schwann, Bart, was then dropped.

            The members of the commission were named on 3rd July, and held their first meeting on 2nd August – a month before the Opium Commission began to meet.  They continued until April, seeing over 800 witnesses, assembling over 3000 pages into seven volumes, and a confidential extra volume on hemp drug use in the Army; then the Finance and Commerce Department of the Government of India considered the report, and another British election crept closer.  It is unclear what Caine and Schwann thought they were up to.  Both were Liberals, Temperance campaigners, and probably anti-opium.  Schwann had a safe seat, a comfortable merchants' fortune and radical opinions.  Caine wrote books, including Young India, Picturesque India,  and A Trip Around the World.  He had quit the Liberal Party six years earlier over the Irish question, and been readmitted in a new seat after losing as an Independent; he was to lose it again in 1895.  The timing, and the request for the commission to include non-official Indians, suggest that they were part of a faction among the anti-opiumists, perhaps trying to stir them into bolder demands or quicker action.  Perhaps they were simply trying to get in on what looked like a winning side.  Neither is recorded as ever mentioning hemp drugs in public again.


The Dope Fiends of Old England

            The international drugs trade was quite a different thing from home consumption; for example, although the British Empire produced a great deal of the world's opiates, over 80 percent of the opium used in the UK was from Turkey and Persia. [13] The economic pressure for international prohibition came from traders and nations with rival products.  In the UK drug control was at first part of an increase in medical involvement in social policy.  Prescription by professionals had to take over from self-medication before complete prohibition became possible.

            There was not much openly recreational drug use in Victorian England, other than alcohol. A few self-consciously unconventional young artists and mystics searched for inner experience, rejecting vulgar materialism, but the majority of drug abusers, then as now, considered themselves to be taking medicines, to help them work or relax.  This was an age which demanded refinement, in every sense of the term.  They took extracts, tinctures, distillations or the “active ingredients” of traditional medicinal plants like Indian hemp or poppies, in amounts that would kill modern addicts.  This was all for the good of their health, so morally impeccable.  They didn't do dope to get wasted, or didn't admit to it.

            Vulgar materialism provided ever more purified forms of relief from the stresses of righteous life, as opium was dissolved into laudanum, concentrated into morphine, reconcentrated into heroin.  Some condemned booze while chewing opium, just as well-known modern anti-drug campaigners have been tranquilliser addicts.  In this atmosphere Cannabis indica was just another potentially useful plant, which could be perhaps refined into some sort of medicine but was quite unsuitable in natural form.  The distinction between drug use and abuse had hardly been invented.  Doctors were expensive and not well trusted, so the poor dosed themselves with whatever remedies they could afford.  Pseudo-medical opiate use was decreasing, but still respectable; Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Florence Nightingale had used it, and William Wilberforce, saint of the anti-slavery movement, had eaten twelve grains a day for thirty years.  Self-medication blurred into non-medical use.  Boozing was low-class and unfeminine, so respectable ladies took “tonics.”  Patent medicines were a huge business, often including alcohol, opium, or cannabis.

            Sales of pure morphine, cocaine, and barbiturates were supposedly controlled by the 1868 Poisons and Pharmacy Act, but quack nostrums and patent medicines were not, and an attempt to extend the law in 1884 had failed.  The Act affected only shops, not users.  One especially dangerous popular remedy was Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne, containing chloroform and morphine, which the British Medical Association campaigned through the nineties to have banned.


"One of the Most Valuable Medicines We Possess"

            There had been increasing medical interest in cannabis since William O'Shaughnessy described the use of Indian hemp as medicine and intoxicant,[14] relying on accounts of hashish use from ancient Persian and Arabic sources, as well as on his own observations in India.  He described the use of hemp in the treatment of rheumatism, hydrophobia, cholera, tetanus and infantile convulsions, as well as describing the delirium induced by continued use.  O'Shaughnessy had written in 1839 that, with a couple of exceptions, “I have been unable to trace any notice of the employment of this drug in Europe.”  However, despite his citing Western works by Ainslie and von Estebeck, he managed to overlook one classic account.

            The noted medieval herbalist Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654) listed a variety of medical uses of the common European hemp (Cannabis sativa), including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antiparasitic activity.[15]  Culpepper made no mention of the psychotropic activity, although the temperate hemp he described would normally be of low drug content and be grown for fibre.  Culpepper's work would have owed much to the folk herbalism used by British witches, or wise women, who until the Christian persecutions had provided most primary health care to the rural population, as well as to the monastic healers who replaced them.  By the Victorian “age of reason” most traditional use had been suppressed, as the pioneer pharmacologists began to analyse folk medicines to refine and extract the active compounds therein.  An unsuccessful attempt had been made in the 1840s to grow hemp for medicine in the London suburb of Mitcham.  Experimenters used it for asthma and other chest problems, sleeplessness especially in cases of opiate or alcohol withdrawal, and with opium and bromide of potassium in treating insanity.

            One reason why cannabis was not as widely used as opium products or the newer chemical remedies was the difficulty found refining an “active ingredient.”  There were problems getting supplies of reliable strength, confusion about apparently different products from the same plant, and uncertainty about its effects in the body.  However, it was used to treat many disorders.  In 1889, Dr E.A.Birch described in the Lancet the successful use of Cannabis indica in the treatment of chloral hydrate and opium withdrawal, drawing attention to the abolition of craving and the antiemetic (vomit suppressing) effects and the stimulation of appetite in patients who would not normally eat, or keep down, their food.[16]  Queen Victoria's personal physician, J.R. Reynolds, described it in 1890 as “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.”  In another Lancet article published in 1890, he described the use of Cannabis indica for treating insomnia in the senile, alcoholic delirium, neuralgia, migraine, spastic paralysis, and convulsions.[17]  He allegedly prescribed tincture of cannabis to Queen Victoria herself for the treatment of menstrual cramps.  Cannabis tincture and an extract made from resin were available from Peter Squire of Oxford Street in 1864, and wholesale through the Society of Apothecaries by 1871.  Chemists extracted stuff they called cannabene, cannabin tannin, cannabinnene, etc.,  but had no idea which, if any, was the “active ingredient” until cannabinol was isolated in 1895.

            At the same time some thought of drug-taking as a form of poisoning, and some researchers proposed that it either caused, or was, a type of insanity.  W.W. Ireland compared the mental state of cannabis users to delirium, with its alteration of time and space and visual illusions.  British doctors' reports from Cairo Asylum in 1894 linked violent insanity with “hashism.”[18]   Some of the medical studies would have been considered recreational use in any other context.  Walter Dixon must have tried it on himself as well as small furry animals when he showed in 1899 that the effects vary according to type of preparation as well as method of ingestion.  He recommended smoking for immediate effect and wrote in the British Medical Journal, “Hemp taken as an inhalation may be placed in the same category as coffee, tea and kola.  It is not dangerous and its effects are never alarming, and I have come to regard it in this form as a useful and refreshing stimulant and food accessory, and one whose use does not lead to a habit which grows upon its votary.”   He was to be a member of the Rolleston Committee on Morphine and Heroin Addiction in the 1920s, who opposed criminalising narcotics policy.

            At the end of the century cannabis tincture became popular again as a cure for cramps, migraine, opium addiction, withdrawal and insomnia, but the fashion faded.  In the early 1900s a British Medical Association campaign against “Secret Remedies” got most of the opiates, cocaine, and cannabis out of tonics and non-prescription medicines.  Doctors became responsible for most drug distribution as the consumer beverage trade withdrew.  As drug dispensing was professionalised, substances used for self-medication were replaced by more refined, more medically controllable drugs.  The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission report made no apparent difference to this at all, and it is quite possible that nobody in the medical establishment read it.  It held quite a lot of scientific data, but its purpose had been political rather than medical.  The political and economic interests of the British Medical Association were quite different from those of the Government of India.

The Cosmopolitan Dope Fiends

            It is worth noting that most publications from the time refer to “Hashish,” the Arabic term, Indian Hemp, or Cannabis, rather than Charas, Ganja, or Bhang, the Hindi names.  The French empire in North Africa had at least as much effect on European cannabis use as the British empire in India.  A certain style of drug use, the Wasted Artist role, as established by the laudanum-swigging Coleridge and De Quincey early in the century, was revived by Dr. Jean Moreau in Paris after 1845.  The doctor, who experimented with hashish to treat insanity, founded the Club des Hashishins with the writer Theophile Gautier, for non-medical experiments.  Some of the members were quite keen on a little delirium.  Gautier was a hack with brilliant friends, an “art-for-art’s-sake” romantic with a taste for macabre fantasy who encouraged the Symbolist poets.  Rimbaud and Verlaine shared his drugs.  Baudelaire dedicated Fleurs du Mal to him, and wrote an essay that explained their attitudes, “On Hashish and Wine as a Means of Expanding Individuality.”  They created strange, sensuous art, struck foreign poses based on their beliefs about the romantic East, and scandalised bourgeois society.[19]

            By the nineties the club had imitators in London.  If there was no recreational drug use “subculture” in the 1890s, one network came close.  This was the circle of poets, psychics, writers, and would-be magicians around the Rhymers Club and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  They didn't define their connection by shared drug use, but they certainly included drug experiments in their self-definition.  Occult studies, drugs, hypnotism, proto-psychiatry, and new styles of arts were all 1890s fashions mingled in overlapping cliques in central London.  The Golden Dawn was established in 1888 by some occultist Freemasons, as a society of  “Christian practiced magic.”  In 1890 Yeats and two others formed the Rhymers Club as a sort of literary wing, drawing inspiration from the French Symbolists.  None of the Rhymers Club apart from Yeats ever achieved as much recognition as their French heroes, but they had the style.  They were melancholy, self-dramatising, they hoped Byronic.  They had doomed love lives and nervous breakdowns, and mostly died young.  Their defiance of conventional society included such un-English deviance as drinking black coffee and speaking comprehensible French, as well as attempted magic, sexual permutations not discussed in polite company, and hefty drug use.

            Yeats and his lover Maude Gonne tried using hashish to improve their telepathic powers.  Others had a more relaxed, recreational approach.  Arthur Symons was one Rhymer who survived to be described as “highly strong, over-sensitive” in the 1930s, best known for Confessions: A Study in Pathology, which described his two years in an Italian lunatic asylum and cure by near-fatal pneumonia in 1909.  He was the author of  “'The Opium Smoker”:  “I am engulfed, and drown deliciously / soft music like a perfume, and sweet light / Golden with audible odours exquisite / swathe me in cerements for eternity.”  In a biography of fellow Rhymer Ernest Dowson he described one afternoon: a couple of ballet dancers and a poet visiting, the host issuing tea, cakes, cigarettes and then hashish – “That slow intoxication, that elaborate experiment in visionary sensations. . . . he sat awaiting the magic, half shy in the midst of that bright company of young people.”  Dowson wrote poems with Latin titles about doomed love affairs, and consorted with the “most degraded” women in dockside dives.  He experimented with mescal in 1896, with the sexuality researcher Havelock Ellis.  He died of TB in 1900, aged 32.  The other poet present at the hash and tea party and the mescal experiment was John Addington Symonds, a historian who studied the criminal mentality; he was part blinded after several breakdowns and TB.  One of their associates, Count Eric Stenbock, who wrote The Shadow of Death and Studies of Death, was known for wearing a live snake around his neck; he died aged 35, of either alcohol or opium.[20]

            The Wasted Artists were picturesque and dramatic, and their style became a popular image of drug abusers – ethereal and rather unhealthy, possibly creative but definitely pasty-faced.  The perception of a difference between drugs suitable for legitimate use, under medical control, and drugs which can only be abused, was extended by their example; anything they took was obviously not doing any good for their health.  Still there was no anti-drug panic in the UK.  Drugs were still seen as foreign stuff, only used by those who wanted to act like foreigners.  The artists were added to an existing mythology of the opium addict and the opium den, spread by popular fiction from Willkie Collins to Oscar Wilde, the addict over-sensitive, hollow-cheeked with torment, the dens gilded in rococo brothel style, populated by vicious Chinese and degenerate aristocrats.

The Respectable Fear Begins

            The first demon dope stories came over from the USA in the mid-1890s.  There were, apparently, ever-increasing numbers of black men with cocaine, Chinese with opium, and Mexicans with both, plus marijuana.  These coloured men were allegedly using their fiendish substances to gain the flesh of white women, and many of them would go crazy with big knives if frustrated in any way.  The British media only retold a few of these tales at first.  The pathological imagination of the US press kept it up for the next forty years, changing the drug and the villains' colour now and again.  Heroin was refined in 1898, but for the first few years it was considered a miracle pain-killer and cure for morphine addiction.  The subject of the grossest stories was cocaine, also considered a miracle cure a few years earlier.  The medical enthusiasts didn't think it suitable for recreational use.  The recreational users disagreed.  The alcohol prohibitionists built a mass following and inflicted a huge social disaster on the USA.  When the alcohol ban was repealed, drug control was not.  The myths were retired for a few years, but similar stories can be found, only slightly less racist, in the mass media today.

            Before, during and after Prohibition, the USA lobbied for international drugs laws, mixing economic self-interest with moralism.  The Hague Conference in 1912 agreed to the principle of certain drugs being strictly for “legitimate medical purposes.”  It was never effective internationally because of obstruction by the British opiate and German cocaine businesses.  The conference suggested an investigation of hemp, but it wasn't followed up.  The Assam Opium & Ganja Committee of 1913 showed that the IHDC had been forgotten or ignored in that province of India, for instance accepting that ganja causes insanity without citing any evidence.  It did say that when ganja prices rose users turned to opium; when opium prices rose they turned to alcohol or, alarmingly, morphine.  The number of licensed shops in Assam had fallen from 1116 in 1878 to 347 in 1911, and the committee thought it couldn't be reduced further without provoking unrest.

            Recreational drug use in British literary circles in the nineties spread through the next two decades into a wider world.  Cocaine use had spread well into the upper class by the First World War.  Officialdom grew concerned about officers on leave, who often weren't afraid to wreck their health since their chances of survival were slim.  Morale would not be improved, it was felt, by the sight of the upper ranks behaving like beasts, and it would be worse yet if the common soldiers imitated them.  There was a press scare about the Germans using drugs and prostitutes, collecting blackmail material.  This unlikely tale and other stories of moral degeneracy caught the imagination of the Army Council, who banned the sale of all intoxicants to troops in mid-1916.   In July the first UK law against possession of drugs was sneaked through, Section 40B of the Defense of the Realm Act.  It covered cocaine and opiates; cannabis was not included, although it had been considered.  Section 40B also banned “Malththusian appliances” (contraception) and quack medicines.  The same Act established legal closing times for pubs, which caused a lot more fuss.

The Postwar Scandal Boom

            Immediately after the Great War the British press got their first US-style dope story.  Actress Billie Carelton, age 21, died supposedly from cocaine taken at an alcohol-free Victory Ball.  Her supplier was tried for manslaughter but could not be convicted.  It was just as likely the sleeping drug Veronal that killed her, but that didn't bother the Daily Express.  They included hashish eating in the habits of a circle of degenerates who, they said, had ruined a sweet and innocent girl.  In September 1920 a Dangerous Drugs Act was passed, clarifying the wartime possession law and effectively dividing the drug trade into medical versus criminal.  It was greeted with such apathy by Parliament that it was hard to make up a quorum in some of the committees.  Cannabis was still not banned.

            Internationally, the UK government stopped blocking drug controls after several scandals at home and reports that morphine and cocaine addiction were spreading in the colonies.  There were more sex, drug, and foreigner stories to keep up the postwar drug scare.  In 1922 the death of dancer Freda Kempton gained unwanted publicity for Brilliant Chang, Chinese restaurant owner and alleged dope king since 1917, handling morphine, opium and hashish as well as cocaine.  After many raids and mentions in the press he was sentenced to 14 months – not much for such an alleged villain – then deported in 1924.  Eddie Manning, Jamaican jazz drummer and alleged dope king, was convicted of dealing opium and cocaine in  1923.  Both, it was strongly implied, had used their dealing to get close to English girls.  In 1922 three sisters were found half dressed and unconscious in the company of a dead Chinese man, Yee Sing a.k.a. Johnny Hop, in a sealed room full of opium smoke above a Cardiff laundry.  The girls never told quite what had happened, so the press made it up, including a Chinese love potion made from hashish used especially to subdue white women, with an antidote made from geraniums.[21]  Pulp fiction by the likes of Sax Rohmer helped spread the corrupt-aristocrat and Chinese-dope-plot themes.

            Despite all this advertisement, there was still no working-class drug subculture.  The upmarket drug users of the twenties continued to be found where the overlap between high society and the arts copied what were seen as American fashions for jazz and cocaine.  Aleister Crowley’s 1922 novel, Diary of a Drug Fiend, thinly disguised a real West End scene where cocaine was dealt in the Cafe Royal on Regent Street.  Crowley was a former Golden Dawn member who publicised himself as “The Wickedest Man in the World,” and ran a black magic cult largely based on sex.  He occasionally kicked his morphine habit cold turkey in front of acolytes, to show the power of his will; he did quite a lot to establish a link in the public mind between heavy drug use and being a dangerous but pretentious creep.  Chloroform and morphine were popular with Lady Diana Cooper and Katherine Asquith, models for several wild aristos in fiction.  Morphine might be risky and maybe immoral, but boozing was common, which was much worse.  Compared to these types cannabis users were sweethearts.  Having previously tried smoking it to no effect, the painter Augustus John tried a hashish compote or jam after sardines and wine with friends in Hampstead: “Catching the eye of Iris, we were both simultaneously seized with uncontrollable laughter, about nothing at all.”   Despite the publicity, and penalties increasing in 1922, prosecutions under the Dangerous Drugs Act averaged a steady 60 a year for cocaine, 65 for opium.

            Cannabis first became illegal in the UK after the country agreed to the 1925 Geneva International Convention on Narcotics Control.  It was included in the 1925 Convention with the opiates and cocaine, because Egypt and Turkey proposed it.  An Egyptian delegate stirringly denounced “Chronic Hashism,” which he said caused most of the insanity in his country.  It also, he said, weakened users, gave them heart and digestive troubles and made them look wild-eyed and stupid.  India opposed including cannabis in the Convention, as their delegate said it had been used there since time immemorial, it grew wild, and they doubted that a prohibition could be enforced.  The British delegate abstained from the vote but signed in the end.  There was hardly any Parliamentary debate before it came into law as amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act on 28th September 1928.  In 1950 for the first time there were more prosecutions for cannabis than for opium and manufactured drugs together – 86 for cannabis, against 41 for opium and 42 for others.  That year a series of police raids on jazz clubs produced a new crop of stories about black men with drugs and white women, this time involving marijuana and benzedrine.  Cannabis had finally got into the shock horror league.


            The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission finally had its moment in Parliament in July 1967, after the Government had established an Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence.   J.J.S. Driberg, Chief of Police and Inspector of Prisons for Assam, had given evidence to the IHDC.  His son Tom was a Labour MP.  According to Tom’s autobiography,  the poet Alan Ginsberg asked Tom to “look up for him the report . . . in the House library.  I found that my father had given evidence before this commission, putting forward strongly the view that people living in a damp, cold climate needed the traditional consolation of ganja. . . . The climate referred to was that of Assam, rather than England; but I felt it was almost an act of filial piety to sign a full-page advertisement in the Times calling for a liberalisation of the laws on pot.”[22]   When it became obvious that there would be no liberalisation, be attacked the government, his own party, in the Parliamentary debate.  He said his father had told the IHDC that when insane people were arrested a form had to be filled out saying why they were insane, and the safest thing to say was ganja as the police knew that no further enquiry would be made.  When the government spokeswoman asked rhetorically, “What sort of society will we create if everyone wants to escape from reality?”  Driberg answered that “they want to escape from this horrible society we have created.”  The 1968 Wooton Committee on Cannabis was “in agreement with the conclusions reached by the IHDC . . . that the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects.”  Given wide publicity, the Government couldn't completely ignore this new study; instead they did exactly the opposite of what it recommended, and increased penalties for all cannabis offences in a new 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.  Cannabis use continued to increase dramatically.  By 1990 there were 40,194 convictions and cautions for cannabis in the UK, well over 90 percent of all recorded drugs crimes.

About the Authors

Sean Blanchard is a freelance journalist and researcher. From 1981 to 1983 he was coordinator of the Legalise Cannabis Campaign.

Matthew J. Atha B.Sc. M.Sc., was Legalise Cannabis Campaign Secretary from 1983 to 1989. His M.Sc. psychology thesis, “Quantitative Assessment of Illicit Substance Use” (Birmingham University 1987), included analyses of surveys of drug use at pop festivals.  He divides his time between advocacy work and performing as a rock musician.

[1]  Resolution 1369, Finance and Commerce Dept. (Separate Revenue), Government of India, 21/3/1895.   23 pp.

[2]  T.M. Parssinen, Secret Passions, Secret Remedies - Narcotic Drugs in British Society, 1820-1930.  Manchester University Press, 1980.

[3]  B. Inglis, The Forbidden Game. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1975.

[4]  Inglis, op. cit.

[5]  Report of the Royal Commission on Opium.  Parliamentary Papers, 1895.

[6]  Inglis, op. cit.

[7]  Hansand, Parliamentary Questions.

[8]   Resolution 3773, Finance and Commerce Dept., Government of India, 17/12/1873.

[9]  In full IHDC report.  India (Ganja) 97 in House of Commons papers 1893-4 LXVI.79.

[10]  Parssinen, op. cit.

[11] V. Berridge & J. Griffith Edwards, Opium and the People, Yale, 1982.

[12] In full IHDC Report.  India (ganja) 97 in House of Commons paper 1893-4 LXVI.79.

[13]  Parssinen, op. cit.

[14]  O'Shaughnessy W.B. (1839).  On the preparations of Indian Hemp, or Gunjah. Transactions                 of the Medical and Physical Society of Bengal, 1838-40 pp 421-461.

[15]  N.  Culpepper, Culpepper’s Complete Herbal.  London, W. Foulsham & Co.

[16]  Birch, E.A.  Indian hemp in the treatment of chronic choral & opium poisoning. Lancet 30/3/1989, p. 625.

[17]  J.R. Reynolds. Therapeutic Uses & Toxic Effects of Cannabis Indica.  Lancet, 22/3/1890.

[18] V. Berridge.  Origins of the English Drug "Scene" 1890-1930.  Medical History 32, 1988.   Also  J.T. Walsh.  Hemp Drugs and Insanity. Journal of Medical Science 40, 1894.

[19]  The Hashish Club.  Ed. P. Haining.  Peter Owen, 1975.

[20]  Berridge, op. cit.

[21]  Marek Kohn.  Dope Girls.  Lawrence & Wishart, London 1992.

[22]  Tom Driberg.  Ruling Passions.  Cape, 1977.



Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report:


Tod H. Mikuriya, M.D.


            The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, comprising some nine volumes and 3,698 pages, is by far the most complete and systematic study of marijuana undertaken to date.  Because of the rarity and, perhaps, the formidable size of this document, the wealth of information contained in it has not found its way into contemporary writings on this subject.  This is indeed unfortunate, as many of the issues concerning marijuana being argued in the United States today were dealt with in the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report.

            It is both surprising and gratifying to note the timeless and lucid quality of the writings of these British bureaucrats.  It would be fortunate if studies undertaken by contemporary commissions, task force committees and study groups could measure up to the standards of thoroughness and general objectivity embodied in this report.  In the current context of violently polarized attitudes toward marijuana, the prospect of a study of similar stature would  be improbable if not impossible.


History of British Involvement

            The British government in India had substantial knowledge of intoxicants other than alcohol because of their active involvement in regulation, taxation and actual trafficking in these substances for over a hundred years prior to the Hemp Drugs Commission investigation and report.

            In 1790 duties on alcohol and other intoxicant drugs were first levied by the British on landlords in India.  The regulation of cannabis preparations was further specified in 1793 in regulation XXXIV of that year: "No person shall manufacture or vend any such drugs (bhang[1],  ganja[2], charas[3] and other intoxicating drugs) without a license from the collector of the zillah[4]."

            This system of regulation was instituted "with a view to check immoderate consumption, and at the same time to augment the public revenue."

            In 1800 in a further modification of regulation, the manufacture and sale of charas was prohibited as "being of a most noxious quality,"  while daily rates of duty were declared as the basis for taxing procedures.  Curiously, in 1824 the restriction on charas was rescinded "as this drug was found on examination to be not more prejudicial to health than ganja or other intoxicating drugs."

            In 1849 limits on retail sale of cannabis drugs were fixed "for better securing the abkari[5] revenue of Calcutta," and later extended to the whole of Bengal.  Four years later the daily tax method was abandoned and a fee charged on a per weight basis, and in 1860 an additional set of dealers' fees imposed.

            It should be noted, however, that the system of the state of Bengal was only one of several schemes among the many provinces.  Variations on this approach existed in the other states, a function of the differing local administrations, reflecting the degree of administrative and fiscal controls exerted by the Imperial government.

            There had apparently been controversies as to the possible noxious effects of cannabis drugs, at least from the time of the inception of British controls on these products, unless we assume that the initial stated reasons for regulation were merely cynical rationalizations for obtaining additional sources of revenue.  Within a country of several hundred millions of inhabitants, divided into hundreds of regions, and with only rudimentary "homogenizing" forces of effective transportation and mass media, it is perhaps reasonable to infer that wide variations in opinions and beliefs would be encountered.


Formation of the Commission

            On 2 March 1893 a question was raised in the British House of Commons concerning the effects of the production and consumption of hemp drugs in the province of Bengal, India.  In response, the Government of India convened a seven-member commission to look into these questions, 3 July 1893.  Upon the suggestion of Lord Kimberley the scope of the investigation was expanded to include all of India.



            The Commission actually met for the first time in Calcutta 3 August 1893.  Between this date and 6 August of the following year, when the study was finished, the Commission received evidence from 1,455 witnesses.  Field trips were made to thirty cities in eight provinces and Burma from the end of October 1893 through the latter part of April 1894.  Eighty-six meetings for examination of witnesses transpired during the inquiry.  Actual participation of the members of the Commission was duly noted and reported – a custom that it might be worthwhile to revive. 

            Witnesses whose evidence was received by the Commission were divided into three categories:

      (1)  Official witnesses able to give information regarding hemp drugs, based on their official and local experience.

      (2)  Non-official witnesses of all ranks able to give information regarding the drugs generally or in connection with certain classes of the people.

      (3)  Other persons or associations having facts or holding opinions which they desired to communicate to the Commission.

               Civil Officers                                              467

            Medical Officers                                             214

            Private Practitioners (European methods)        34

            Private Practitioners (Native methods)             87

            Cultivators                                                      144

            Professional men                                             55

            Missionaries                                                     34

            Associations                                                     24

            Persons Engaged in Trade                               75

            Others                                                              59 



               To facilitate collection of information, seventy questions framed by the Commission were given to witnesses.  The written answers to these questions constituted the bulk of the evidence before the Commission. (16)  Where appropriate, witnesses were examined orally for further clarification or explanation.  In addition, witnesses who had not submitted written statements were examined orally.  It was duly noted in the record which forms of testimony had been provided by the individual witnesses.

      The excerpts in the present volume discuss evidence received in testimony and from other sources.  Philosophic premises concerning roles and responsibilities of the individual are outlined as a prelude to discussing the practical issues of taxation, political policy, public safety and health.  In applying the principles of English Common Law to peoples in a subcontinent whose beliefs and customs varied greatly from those of Great Britain, the issues of feasibility and the common good were of prime concern.  If schemes of regulation of intoxicants followed this rationalistic model today, the mistakes made then might not require repeating in each generation.  Current technologic advances do not produce progress in the area of human behavior; they only help to magnify defects and frailties.

[1]Leaves and flowers of wild growing or inferior cultivated cannabis plants.

[2]Flowering tops of the cannabis plant.

[3]Resin from the mature cannabis plant.

[4]A county-sized district or administrative division (India).

[5]Manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquors or drugs; hence, an excise or internal revenue tax on such manufacture or sale.  [Abkar: A wine seller; distiller.  Also, one whose trade is subject to abkari tax.]





Conclusions arrived at by the Commission

            740.  The following are the conclusions arrived at by the Commission:

               I. Total prohibition of the cultivation of the hemp plant for narcotics, and of the manufacture, sale, or use of the drugs derived from it, is neither necessary nor expedient in  consideration of their ascertained effects,    of the  prevalence of the habit of using them, of the social and religious feeling on the subject, and of the possibility of its driving the consumers to have recourse to other stimulants or narcotics which may be more deleterious (Chapter XIV,  paragraphs 553 to 585).

               II. The policy advocated is one of control and restriction, aimed at suppressing the excessive use and restraining the moderate use within due limits (Chapter XIV, paragraph 586).

               III.  The means to be adopted for the attainment of these objects are:

                 (a) adequate taxation (Chapter XIV, paragraph 587);

                 (b) prohibiting cultivation, except under license, and centralizing cultivation (Chapter  XVI, paragraphs 636 and 677);

                 (c) limiting the number of shops (Chapter XVI, paragraph 637);

                 (d) limiting the extent of legal possession (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 689 and 690).

            IV.  The method adopted should be systematic and as far as possible uniform for the whole of British India, and it is advisable that this method should be suggested for adoption by certain of the Native       States (Chapter XIV, paragraphs 588 and 590; Chapter XVI, paragraph 639; and Chapter XVII, paragraph 739).

               V.  A Government monopoly of production and sale is not recommended for practical reasons, though there is no theoretical objection to it (Chapter XIV, paragraph 589).

               VI.   For the purpose of adequately taxing consumption, the combination of a direct duty with the auction of the privilege of vend is ordinarily the best method (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 634 and 635).

               VII.  When sufficient provision has been made for restricting consumption of the  drugs by the means above detailed, there should be as little interference as possible on the part of the Government with their distribution (Chapter XVI,       paragraph 638, 654, and 678).

               VIII.  Import, export, and transport duties are undesirable as obscuring the real issue how far consumption needs to be checked by a rise in duty.  But in       regard to imports from_Native_States_which_have_not_assimilated_their_system_nbsp.css;    to that in force in British territory, the levy of import duty_may_be_necessary_nbsp.css;      (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 657 and 679).


Suggestions made by the Commission

      741.  The above mentioned conclusions embody the general principle and procedure recommended by the  Commission.  With a view to bringing the systems in different  parts of India into harmony with these conclusions and generally improving the administration, the Commission have made the following suggestions:

            (a)  That in Bengal Government warehouses for the storage of ganja should be constructed in Rajshahi (Chapter XVI, paragraph 643).

            (b)  That, subject to this addition, the Bengal system of ganja administration should be generally followed in the Central             Provinces, Madras, Bombay, Berar, and possibly in Ajmere and Coorg (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 656, 671, 672, and 673).

            (c)  That in the Central Provinces all ganja should pay a direct duty, whether consumed in the province or exported; that the rule under which ganja is supplied by wholesale to retail vendors at a fixed price should be abolished; and that the number of wholesale licenses should be granted more freely and without  charge (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 649, 654, and 655).

            (d)  That in the North-Western Provinces the cultivation and manufacture of ganja should be prohibited and the system of bonded warehouses introduced for its storage (Chapter XVI, paragraph 657).

            (e)  That in Madras and Bombay cultivation of the hemp plant should be prohibited except under license, and that the licensed             cultivation should be restricted to limited areas; also that a fixed duty should be imposed on ganja, such supervision of the manufacture and storage of the crop being maintained as is             necessary to its imposition (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 662, 669, and 671).

            (f)  That similar measures should be introduced into Berar and possibly Ajmere and Coorg (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 672 and 673).

            (g)  That on all charas imported into the Punjab a duty of not less than Rs. 80 per maund be levied, the drug being stored in             bonded warehouses, and duty paid when it is taken out by the vendors.  Inter-provincial arrangements regarding the crediting of duty to different provinces to be made under the orders of             the Supreme Government (Chapter XVI, paragraphs 674 and 675).

            (h)  That where possible a duty should be levied on bhang. Where refuse ganja is used as bhang, the rate may have to be fixed at a       higher figure with reference to this fact (Chapter XVI,  paragraph 677).

            (I)  That as a rule separate licenses should be granted for the sale of the different kinds of drugs. 

            (j)  That licenses for retail sale should not ordinarily be granted to wholesale dealers (Chapter XVI, paragraph 682).

            (k)  That a separate license should be granted for each shop (Chapter XVI, paragraph 683).

            (l)  That licenses for retail vend should contain a provision prohibiting the vendor from selling the drugs to children or insane persons (Chapter XVI, paragraph 684).

            (m) That when new shops are proposed, municipal bodies, rural notables, zamindars, or headmen, as the case may be, should be consulted as to the necessity of opening them and as to their location, and that objections, if made, should receive the most careful attention (Chapter XVI, paragraph 688).

            (n)  That the limit of legal possession of the hemp drugs should be the same for the whole of British India, viz:–     

            Ganja and charas, or any preparation or admixture thereof, 5 tolas.

            Bhang, or any preparation or admixture thereof, one quarter of a sér.

And that Native States should be invited to adopt this maximum (Chapter XVI, paragraph 698).

            742.  As regards the province of Burma, that the sale of ganja to natives of India should be licensed under proper control and taxation where there is a demand for it among such persons, the prohibition of cultivation in Burma, as well as that of the use by the Burmans being maintained (Chapter XVI, paragraph 695).

                            W. Mackworth Young          President

                            H. T. OMMANNEY

                             A. H. L. FRASER

                            C. J. H. WARDEN

                              SOSHI SIKHARESWAR ROY     

                              HARNAM SINGH, AHLUWALIA

                              NIHAL CHAND


6th August 1894.  

               Raja Soshi Sikhareswar Roy and Lala Nihal Chand sign the report subject to a note of dissent.

                                                             W. M. YOUNG





General principles regarding sumptuary laws and their application to India

       553.  The question of prohibiting the growth of the hemp plant and the sale of ganja and          allied drugs is one which stands in the forefront of the present inquiry.  It has been remarked by a well known historian[1] that "no laws are of any service which are above the working level of public morality, and the deeper they are carried down into life, the larger become the opportunities of evasion.”  If these words are true as applied to England under a feudal system, they are much more true in the present day as applied to British India. The Government of this country has not grown out of the forces contained within it, but has been superimposed upon them, and the paternal system of government which may have been suitable in England during the sixteenth century, and in the initial development of some Indian provinces during the period immediately following their annexation, becomes purely visionary when public opinion is in process of formation and the needs of the people are year by year finding more ready expression. Occasionally, no doubt, the Legislature in India has anticipated a standard of morality not universally accepted by the people, as in the case of laws relating to infanticide or the burning of Hindu widows; but these measures were passed under an overwhelming sense of the necessity of correcting popular notions of morality in matters coming well within the sphere of Government, and in the assurance that in the course of time they could not fail to secure the assent of all intelligent members of the community.  In the chapter of Mill's Political Economy which treats of the non-interference principle, a distinction is made between two kinds of intervention by the Government – the one authoritative interference, and the other giving advice or promulgating information.  And the following remarks are made regarding the former:

“It is evident, even at first sight, that the authoritative form of Government intervention has a much more limited sphere of legitimate action than the other. It requires a much stronger necessity to justify it in any case, while there are large departments of human life from which it must be unreservedly and imperiously excluded.  Whatever theory we adopt respecting the foundation of the social union, and under whatever political institutions we live, there is a circle around every individual human being which no Government, be it that of one, or of few, or of the many, ought to be permitted to overstep; there is a part of the life of every person who has come to years of discretion within which the individuality of that person ought to reign uncontrolled either by any other individual or by the public collectively.


“That there is, or ought to be, some space in human existence thus entrenched around no one who professes the smallest regard to human freedom or dignity will call in question: the point to be determined is where the limit should be placed; how large a province of human life this reserved territory should include.  I apprehend that it ought to include all that part which concerns only the life, whether inward or outward, of the individual, and does not affect the interests of others, or affects them only through the moral influence of example.  With respect to the domain of the inward consciousness, the thoughts and feelings, and as much of external conduct as is personal only, involving no consequences, none at least of a painful or injurious kind, to other people, I hold that it is allowable in all, and in the more thoughtful and cultivated often a duty, to assert and promulgate with all the force they are capable of their opinion of what is good or bad, admirable or contemptible, but not to compel others to conform to that opinion, whether the force used is that of extra legal coercion, or exerts itself by means of the law.  Even in those portions of conduct which do affect the interests of others, the onus of making out a case always lies on the defenders of legal prohibitions.  It is not merely a constructive or presumptive injury to others which will justify the interference of law with individual freedom.  To be prevented from what one is inclined to, or from acting contrary to one’s own judgment of what is desirable, is not only always irksome, but always tends, pro tanto, to starve the development of some portion of the bodily or mental faculties, either sensitive or active; and, unless the conscience of the individual goes freely with the legal restraint, it partakes, either in a great or in a small degree, of the degradation of slavery.  Scarcely any degree of utility short of absolute necessity will justify a prohibitory regulation, unless it can also be made to recommend itself to the general conscience; unless persons of ordinary good intentions either believe already, or can be induced to believe, that the thing prohibited is a thing which they ought not to wish to do.

These remarks have been given at length, because the Commission believe that they contain a clear exposition of the principles which should guide them in deciding whether the prohibition of the hemp drugs should be authoritatively enforced by Government.


The question of entirely suppressing all intoxicants

            554.  Now, a certain number of .persons (among whom may in all probability be reckoned

the mover of the question in the House of Commons which led to the appointment of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission) deem it to be the duty of the British Government to suppress the trade in all intoxicants in all the countries under its sway; and there are no doubt special circumstances in India which render it less impossible than in some other countrioes to consider even so drastic a policy.  These are notably the general sobriety of the races and the feeling, popular as well as religious, which prevails against their use among a large section of the community.  Even then no appeal in support of such a measure can be made to the public morality or practice of civilised nations at large, nor, so far as the Commission are aware, to any marked success attending the experiment in particular instances.  In the exceptional cases in which the experiment has been attended with partial success (as in some of the American States), the reformation of the habit has become an object of desire to the majority of the people, and the enactment for promoting such reformation has presented itself less as a restrictive force than as an auxiliary agency.


Not laid before the Commission

            555. But the Commission are not called upon to pronounce on so wide an issue.  It was not upon the basis of this general principle that the Secretary of State for India accepted the proposal made in the House of Commons, nor do the instructions issued to the Commission by the Government of India cover so wide a field.  The question of prohibiting the production and sale of the hemp drugs in India has to be considered by the Commission apart from the general question, and such prohibition must be justified, if at all, on some more special ground than the mere fact that they are intoxicants

The past history of the case how far to be relied upon

            556. Again, there are a certain number of persons whose evidence before the Commission points to the assumption that the case for prohibition of the hemp drugs has already been established in the records of the Government, and that further enquiry implies a wilful blindness to what has been abundantly proved by such records.  A reference to Chapter XII of this Report will show how untrustworthy these records are in regard to the production of insanity by the use of the drugs – an aspect of the question which is of the utmost importance, and has formed the basis of nearly all the official opinion heretofore recorded against such use.  And, after availing themselves fully of every opportunity of consulting the official literature on the subject, the Commission have arrived at the conclusion that it shows little originality, and that a very limited amount of personal observation has been made to do duty as the basis of large conclusions.  The want of reli­able data has been compensated by annual reiteration until the stamp of antiquity has secured for the opinions so expressed a large amount of acquiescence among officials who had neither the time nor the opportunity to examine the matter for themselves.  So far, therefore, as the effects of the hemp drugs are concerned, the Commission have had to approach the subject as almost a tabula rasa, and, while availing themselves of the imperfect data previously collected, have endeavoured to avoid accepting any conclusions without a substantial foundation of well ascertained facts.  The attitude, however, of the Government in regard to the question may be briefly described.  So far back as 1798 an inquiry was made in Bengal regarding the quality of ten intoxicating articles – “opium, madak, ganja, subzi, bhang, majum, banker, charas, tobacco, and toddy –” with a view to determining whether it might not be advisable to prohibit altogether the sale of any of them.  The conclusion arrived at, which was stated in a letter of the Board to the Governor-General in Council, No. 22, dated 29th May 1798, was to the following effect.

            “It appears that the original productions are as follows: Tobacco, opium, ganja, subzi or bhang, banker, and toddy, and that the three remaining articles are for the most part compositions of those here recited, as above mentioned. With respect to the drugs specified in the foregoing schedule, they are not for the most part represented as producing any very violent or dangerous effects of intoxication except when taken to excess; and, although the operation of them may be more powerful in their compound state, we apprehend it would be difficult to sanction the sale of the original productions, and to prohibit with effect the use of compositions of which they are susceptible; to which may be added that most of these articles, both as original productions and as artificial combinations, appear to be useful either in medicine or otherwise; for these reasons we do not deem it necessary to recommend that the sale of any of them be altogether prohibited, but shall proceed to state what appear to us the best means of restraining the use of them, and improving the revenue by the imposition of such taxes as are best adapted to the nature of the case.”

            A complete inquiry was made in 1871 from all provinces as to the effects of  several preparations of hemp; and if the result should call for any action in the direction of restricting them by enhancement of the duty or of limiting, or even prohibiting, the cultivation of the plant, the advice of the Local Governments was invited as to the expediency and practicability of such measures.  The result is contained in the Resolution of the Government of India, Finance Department, No. 3773, dated 17th December 1873. The following passage shows the conclusion arrived at:

       “Upon a consideration of all the opinions thus collected, it does not appear to the Governor-General in Council to be specially proved that hemp incites to crime more than other drugs or than spirits.  And there is some evidence to show that on rare occasions this drug, usually so noxious, may be usefully taken.  There can, however, be no doubt that its habitual use does tend to produce insanity.  The total number of cases of insanity is small in proportion to the population, and not large even in proportion to the number of ganja smokers; but of the cases of insanity produced by the excessive use of drugs or spirits, by far the largest number must be attributed to the abuse of hemp.  In Lower Bengal the circumstances have admitted of a system under which the consumption of ganja has been reduced one-half, while the amount of duty levied on it has been doubled.  It would be very desirable to control the cultivation and preparation of ganja and bhang elsewhere in the same way.  But it is believed that this would not be easy; indeed, it would probably be impracticable.  Moreover, with the exception of the Chief Commissioners of British Burma and the Central Provinces, the Local Governments are not in favour of altering existing arrangements.  His Excellency in Council, however, trusts that the various Local Governments and Administrations will endeavour, wherever it may be possible, to discourage the consumption of ganja and bhang by placing restrictions on their cultivation, preparation, and retail, and imposing on their use as high a rate of duty as can be levied without inducing illicit practices.  As regards British Burma, the Chief Commissioner has already been informed that the Governor-General in Council concurs with him in thinking that the cultivation and consumption of ganja should be absolutely prohibited, and it has been prohibited from the beginning of the year 1873-74. “

            In 1877 the Bengal Government appointed a special officer, Babu Hem Chunder Kerr, to make a full inquiry into the details of the cultivation of ganja, the sufficiency or otherwise of the present safeguards, and the reforms which it might be advisable to introduce. Sir Ashley Eden's conclusions on this officer's report in regard to the effects of ganja and policy to be followed were as follows: 

        “The Lieutenant-Governor has himself no doubt that the use of ganja in any form is injurious to the consumer, and that it is the duty of Government to make the tax on this article as high as it can possibly bear.  Unfortunately it is habitually used by large numbers of the lower classes of the population, who would, if deprived of it altogether, apparently find in the leaves of the wild hemp plant and in other drugs narcotics and stimulants of equally deleterious character.  It does not seem possible, therefore, to stop the cultivation altogether.  The policy of Government must be to limit its production and sale by a high rate of duty without placing the drug entirely beyond the reach of those who will insist upon having it.”

            The last important utterance on the subject previous to the appointment of the Commission is contained in the letter of the Government of India, Finance Department, to Her Majesty's Secretary of State, No. 212, dated 9th August 1892, in which the following remarks occur

            “We are inclined to believe that ganja is the most noxious of all intoxicants now commonly used in India.  But even if the absolute prohibition of the use of the drug could be enforced, the result might be to induce the use of still more noxious drugs.  India abounds with plants growing wild from which drugs can be procured which are more deleterious in their effects than ganja.  One such  plant is the dhatura (Stramonium), the seeds of which are already used to intensify the narcotic effects of bhang, a liquid preparation of hemp leaves; and we apprehend that if the use of ganja were suppressed altogether, dhatura might be largely resorted to by the poorer classes as a means of satisfying their craving for stimulants. Apart, however, from the objections just mentioned, we believe that it would be impossible to enforce in India a prohibition of the use of ganja.  That drug is produced in Native States, and the difficulties in the way of preventing its import from them, if the supply in British India were cut off, would be immense.  It would not, moreover, be possible to suppress the supply in British India.  The hemp plant grows readily in India, in many places wild without cultivation of any kind, and it would be easy for any one addicted to the use of ganja to grow a plant or two in the enclosure of his own house and in nooks and corners which would be safe from observation and from the risk of detection.  The question in the House of Commons suggests that as the possession and sale of ganja has been prohibited for many years in Burma, it is desirable that the same prohibition should be extended to other provinces of British India.  The analogy of Burma does not, however, apply to India.  When the prohibition was enforced in Burma, the drug was very little used by the Native Burmese, its consumption being almost entirely confined to coolies and other immigrants from India; and the cultivation of the plant in Burma, which had never been extensive, had virtualIy ceased, the consumers being dependent on importations for their supplies.  In India, on the other hand, the practice of ganja smoking has existed from time immemorial, and among certain sects of Hindus, ascetics, and religious mendicants hemp intoxication is habitually indulged in; and, as explained in the preceding paragraph, it would be impossible to suppress the growth of the plant.  But, although we consider it impracticable to enforce the absolute prohibition of the use of ganja, we fully recognise it as our duty to restrict its consumption as far as practicable, and we have distinctly laid down the policy to be pursued in respect of this drug in our Resolution of the 17th December 1873 already quoted.  The annual reports of Excise Administration show that the subject has since been continually before Local Governments, who are making every possible endeavour to minimise the evils and discourage the use of the drug.wherever it is a source of danger to consumers.”

            Thus “restraining the use and improving the revenue by the imposition of suitable taxation,” “discouraging the consumption by placing restrictions on the cultivation, preparation, and retail, and imposing on their use as high a rate of duty as can be levied without inducing illicit practices,” “limiting the production and sale by a high rate of duty without placing the drug entirely beyond the reach of those who will insist upon having it,” “restricting consumption as far as practicable, minimising the evils, and discouraging the use of the drug wherever it is a source of danger to consumers” have from time to time been the watch-words of the Government in the matter of the hemp drugs, a policy only once definitely abandoned, viz., in the case of Burma, where total prohibition was introduced in 1873

Prohibition in other countries

            557.  Allusion must be made to precedents for the prohibition of the hemp drugs in other countries in order to complete these general observations.  Excepting British Burma (reference to which will be made further on), the Commission only know of four cases of prohibition, viz., in Turkey, Egypt, Greece, and Trinidad.  For the first three of these, the only information at the disposal of the Commission is contained in the communications from Her Majesty's representatives addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in 1892 in consequence of a requisition made on them by the Earl of Rosebery at the request of Mr. W. S. Caine, M.P


            558.  The ground of the prohibition in Turkey is thus stated in a note addressed by the Grand Vizir to the Ministry of Commerce, Constantinople, on 1st March 1292 (sic):  “From the reports furnished by the Imperial Medical Council, it appeared that the use of hashish in the preparation of medicines was extremely rare, and that, being a narcotic, its use must of necessity be injurious, and that consequently the sup­pression of the cultivation of hashish could not fail to prove highly advantageous.”  The effect of the prohibition is thus described in an enclosure to the Ambassa­dor's reply:   “The importation and sale in Turkey of hashish, though contraband, is still, I hear, largely carried on, and is used for smoking, in the composition of various sweetmeats, and as an opiate in general.


            559.  In Egypt the cultivation, use, and importation of hashish were first forbidden in 1868, but in 1874 it was allowed to be imported_on_payment_of_duty._span_style_.css"mso-spacerun: yes">  In November 1877 an order was received from Constantinople that all hashish brought into Egypt was to be seized and destroyed, and finally, in March 1879, the importation and culti­vation of hashish were prohibited by a Khedivial decree.  In March 1884 it was provided that confiscated hashish should be sold by the Customs (for delivery abroad) instead of being destroyed as formerly, and the proceeds of the sale divided amongst the informers and officers who took part in the seizure.  “This measure was rendered necessary,” says Mr. Caillard, the Director-General of the Customs,  “by the absence of any fund from which rewards could be distributed; while, on the other hand, the profits of smuggling being very great, large sums were paid by the smugglers to insure the silence or complicity of the Customs officers, coastguards-men, and others.   A considerable number of persons are employed in the smuggling trade, many of them having no other means of subsistence.  Great ingenuity is displayed by the smugglers in this illicit trade, and no sooner has one trick been discovered than another is invented.  The great obstacle, however, to the complete repression of the contraband trade is the refusal of some of the European Governments to recognize the right of the Egyptian Government to search suspected shops or warehouses, and to punish the delinquents by fine as well as confiscation. . . .  In view of the impossibility of suppressing the contraband trade in hashish under the circumstances described above,  I suggested to the Minister of Finance the desirability of removing the prohibition against the importation of the drug, and I proposed to collect a customs duty of P. T. 100 per kilogramme (9s. 3d.per lb.), besides a license-tax on the sale of hashish.  It has been abundantly proved that the vice of hashish smoking cannot be suppressed by legislation, whereas by a system of licenses it may be kept under control to some extent.”  Mr. Caillard estimates that the quantity of hashish consumed annually in Egypt cannot be less than 50,000 okes (about lbs. 140,000) notwithstanding the prohibition. He states that the hashish appears to be manufactured chiefly in Greece.


            560.  In Greece there is no law regulating or specially alluding to the production, manufacture, or export of hashish.  The sale of it as merchandise is allowed, but a Police order of 1891 prohibits its sale and consumption in the small cafés of Athens and the Pirœus, in some of which, during the previous ten or fifteen years apparently, the habit of using this drug had been gradually introduced.  The order was based upon a report of the Sanitary Board at Athens, in which prominent mention is made of the observations made in India by English doctors, and the statistics of insanity in Bengal lunatic asylums ascribed to the use of the hemp drugs are put forward as justifying repressive measures.  The effect of the order passed is not mentioned, sufficient time not having elapsed.


            561. As regards Trinidad, the Commission are not sure that the hemp drugs are prohibited.  The fact has been stated by the Indian Immigrants Commission, Natal, 1885-87, and by Dr. Thomas Ireland, Government Medical Officer, British Guiana, in a paper published in the Alienist and Neurologist, St. Louis, in October 1893.  But, on the other hand, Surgeon-Major Comins, lately on special duty in British and Foreign Colonies and the Netherlands, in his Note on Emigration from India to Trinidad, 1893,  quotes a statement of the Protector of Immigrants, who says that in the year 1885 an Ordinance was passed requiring the payment of £100 per acre to obtain a license to grow ganja, which had previously been grown in large quantities.  This practically put a stop to the growth and consumption for several years, but immigrants who had left Trinidad two years previous to the writing of his report had been growing it in Venezuela, and several seizures had been made by the Customs officers from persons endeavouring to introduce it into Trinidad.  The Protector adds: “With a coast line such as ours, adjacent to that of the Spanish Main, it will be impossible to prevent its introduction into this colony if immigrants who go there continue to grow it.”   Dr. Comins himself says:  “I do not know what are the laws in force here regarding the sale of opium and ganja.

Basis of prohibition and results in these countries

            562. Thus in the case of other countries, where the use of the drugs has been prohibited, the Commission do not find in the literature available to them many arguments for prohibition.  In Turkey it rests upon the theory accepted by orthodox Muhammadans that hashish  “being a narcotic its use must of necessity be injurious,” while in Egypt the prohibition emanated from Turkey.  In both these countries the measure has by no means been attended with complete success.  In Greece the prohibition in the cafés of Athens is based largely upon Indian experience, which the Commission have had cause in great measure to recast.  In Trinidad, if there has been prohibition, it does not seem of late to have been effectual.  It must be added that the Commission have no scientific information regarding the strength of the article of commerce called hashish, and it may differ to some extent from the Indian products.  From the description of its manufacture even by the Mayor of Orchomenus in Mantinea in Arcadia, whence the Egyptian supply is mainly derived, it appears to resemble more the charas of Yarkand than the ganja or bhang of India.

Is prohibition in India justifiable, feasible, and advisable?

            563. Starting, therefore, from the position that what is known of the hemp drugs in the past is not sufficient to justify their prohibition in India, and that for such a measure there must be strong justification based on ascertained facts scientifically and systematically examined, the first question for the Commission to decide is whether such justification is to be found in the evidence before them, and the second whether, if this is so, prohibition is feasible and advisable on other grounds. These will now be considered.

Prohibition of bhang

            564. The effects of the hemp drugs have been treated in Chapters X to XIII of the Report; and as the first result of these conclusions, the Commission are prepared to state that the suppression of the use of bhang would be totally unjustifiable.  It is established to their satisfaction that this use is very ancient, and that it has some religious sanction among a large body of Hindus; that it enters into their social customs; that it is almost without exception harmless in moderation, and perhaps in some cases beneficial; that the abuse of it is not so harmful as the abuse of alcohol; that its suppression, involving the extirpation of the wild hemp plant, would in some tracts be a matter of great difficulty; that such a measure would be extremely unpopular, and would give rise to widespread discontent; and, finally, that, if successfully accomplished, it would lead to the use of more hurtful stimulants.  The Commission deem it unnecessary to traverse the evidence further than has been done in the preceding chapters of this report in support of these propositions.  It is almost unanimous in regard to them.  The utmost that is necessary in regard to this product is that it should be brought under more effective control, and this matter will be dealt with further on.  But absolute prohibition is, in the opinion of the Commission, entirely out of the question.

Prohibition of ganja and charas

            565. Though it has been shown that as a rule ganja and charas are used in moderation, and that the moderate use ordinarily does not cause appreciable injury, yet it has been established that the excessive use of these forms of hemp drugs has been more injurious than in the case of bhang.  Whether they should be prohibited or merely controlled is a question which might be settled merely with reference to their ascertained effects.  The Commission consider that the effects are not such as to call for prohibition, and on the general principles discussed in the opening paragraphs of this chapter, such interference would be unjustifiable.  Nevertheless, it. seems advisable to refer to the other evidence with a view to ascertaining the generally prevailing views on the subject, and considering the grounds on which prohibition is advocated or opposed.  

The evidence regarding prohibition of ganja and charas may be considered together

            566. In reviewing the evidence on these points, it will not be necessary to draw a distinction between ganja and charas.  The  effects of these two drugs have been shown to be  similar, though charas is cœteris paribus the more potent.  They are both ordinarily smoked, though very occasionally used for eating and drinking usually in the form of admixtures with other condiments.  As stated by Mr. Lyall (Bengal 1): “Ganja and charas are really one, and in time, if the question be scientifically followed up, possibly charas will be the only form used.”  The refuse of ganja is used in some provinces as bhang, but this substance more nearly resembles bhang than ganja properly so called.  The ganja of the different provinces varies in quality.  But these distinctions cannot here be specially observed; it will be sufficient to bear in mind that the opinions in Bengal, the Central Provinces, Madras, Bombay, and the smaller Administrations relate to ganja; that those in the Punjab relate to charas; and that those in the North-Western Provinces and Sind relate to ganja and charas, both of which are consumed.

Supply of ganja and charas in its relation to prohibition

            567. A few remarks, however, recapitulating the local conditions of ganja and charas will not be out of place.  Charas is practically a foreign article.  Small amounts are imported from Nepal and Gwalior, but they may be left out of the account.  The bulk comes from Yarkand through the Himalayan passes, or to a much smaller degree from other parts of Central Asia through the routes on the frontier of Afghanistan. It would not be a very difficult matter to stop these imports, though the co-operation of the Kashmir Darbar would be necessary in regard to Yarkand charas.  It may, therefore, be accepted that the supply of charas might be cut off without much difficulty, though, as this article forms the principal import from Yarkand, the prohibition of charas would paralyse, if not extinguish, the trade with this country.  In regard to ganja, the problem is more complex.  Ganja is regularly cultivated in Bengal, the Central Provinces, Madras, Bombay, and Berar.  In Bengal and the Central Provinces, the cultivation of the hemp plant for its production is under complete control.  In Berar cultivation is only permitted under license.  In the other tracts of British territory it is not directly controlled.  Assuming that control is possible in these tracts, it does not follow that it would be equally possible to prevent cultivation altogether.  Moreover, there still remains a considerable amount of production in many of the Native States all over India.  To induce these States to prohibit cultivation would be a difficult matter, and, even if this were done, the suppression of illicit cultivation would offer the most serious difficulties.  For, though ganja of good quality requires some cultivation and tending, the evidence before the Commission tends to establish the fact that ganja of an inferior kind can be manufactured from the spontaneous or casual growth which is found near human habitations and amidst cultivation of other crops in many parts of India.  While, therefore, it cannot be asserted that the task of preventing the manufacture of ganja is an impossible one, it would certainly at the present time be attended with considerable difficulty.

Opinions of the witnesses regarding prohibition of ganja and charas

            568. The question addressed to the witnesses regarding the prohibition of the hemp drugs (No. 35) was so framed as to elicit in the first place opinions as to the feasibility of such a measure.  The considerations bearing upon the subject were also set forth in the form of subsidiary questions.  The question whether the witnesses advocated prohibition was not specifically put, but it is not difficult, comparing the answers to the questions above mentioned with those relating to other questions, to decide what the opinion of each witness is on this question.  Those who hold decided views have no doubt generally stated them in some portion of their answers, and at all events ample opportunity of doing so was afforded them.  A larger number of the witnesses have contented themselves with merely giving an affirmative or negative answer to the questions on the subject.  It is impossible to attach much importance to such answers.  The Commission have abstracted them and considered them, but they feel bound to give far more weight to the opinions of witnesses whose replies show that they have formulated an opinion on the desirability of prohibi­tion.  Some account will now be given of these answers.

Opinions regarding prohibition of ganja and charas

            569. Out of the total of 1,193 witnesses, 575 have expressed a decided opinion on the question of prohibition.  Of these only 99 advocate it in their answers.  The remainder are against it.  The classification of these witnesses is shown in the following table:











For       Against








For         Against


Subordinate Civil





For       Against


Subordinate                 Medical

Officers &

Med. Prac-



For       Against








 For        Against








  For       Against 




 . . .




. . .






















 . . .








 . . .




 . . .
















 . . .






 . . .



































 . . .




















Central Provinces


 . . .
















 . . .










 . . .
























Bombay  & Sind


 . . .
























Berar, Ajmere,

Coorg,  & Quetta-Pishin




 . . .








 . . .




 . . .






















































































            Thus, not only is there a very large preponderance of opinion against prohibition, but the preponderance is specially marked among superior Civil officers.  The only witnesses indeed of the latter class who favour prohibition are three in the Punjab, where charas and not ganja is consumed.

            The most important of these opinions on either side will now be specified.  The most forcible opinions in favour of prohibition will be quoted at some length in order that the argument for this view may be thoroughly appreciated.  The opinions against prohibition are too numerous to be quoted, but the witnesses will be named under headings setting forth the most prominent views expressed.

Bengal: Opinions in favour of prohibition of ganja

           570. The Bengal witnesses in favour of prohibition of ganja consist of a Sub-Deputy Collector, an Assistant Surgeon, two Medical Practitioners, an Honorary Magistrate, two zamindars, two pleaders, a delegate from the Indian Relief Society, Calcutta, the Secretary to the Band of Hope, Faridpur, the Secretary to the Bogra Medical Society, and two Missionaries.  The Commission cannot find much to quote from these opinions, but the following are the most forcible:

            (238) Delegate, Indian Relief Society, Calcutta, Babu Amrita Krishna Mullick, B.A., B.L.:  After quoting official and medical opinions relating to the injuriousness of ganja, the Society endeavours to show that the cultivators of the hemp plant lose largely by their occupation, and maintains that it is the duty of the Government to come to their rescue by abolishing it.  The Society maintains that the privation to the consumers would not be serious, and that it is difficult to suggest any drug more deleterious than ganja to which they could take.  The Society contends that the alleged religious sanction to the use of the drugs is a fallacy, and refers to the opinions of several pandits in support of this view.  The Society argues that to meet the deficit in the revenue, which would be about 24 lakhs per annum, the salaries of European officers should be cut down, the duties on cotton goods re-imposed and the income-tax increased with an enhanced taxable minimum.  Savings would be effected by reduction of establishment and by decreased cost of lunatic asylums.

            (286) Secretary, Band of Hope Temperance Society, Faridpur, Babu Purna Chandra Maitra:  This Society begs to urge upon the Commission to consider the justice and propriety of a just, benign, and Christian Government to allow cultivation and sale of a drug which has been excluded from some countries, and in England doubly protected in the poison list.”  The witness argues that the drug “has been unreservedly condemned by eminent doctors as one of the most dangerous poisons known, as the most potent cause of lunacy, and as the most pernicious and deleterious of all excitants ever in use in any country.”   He admits that there are a number of jogis, sanyasis, fakirs, and mendicants addicted to ganja smoking, but states that ganja smoking forms no part of their religion, and there is not a single Hindu or Muhammadan religious book which sanctions the use of ganja.  “No real disaffection can under the benign rule of the British Government be seriously apprehended, and, even in the event of there being such apprehension, the fact should not be lost sight of that the Government in this case will have the support of the bulk of the population.”  He alleges that ganja produces crime, and that the taxation, amounting to 22 lakhs, is a drain on the poverty-stricken and half-famished people of Bengal.  He finds it difficult to suggest a substitute for ganja, but liquor may be one, and a peculiar preparation of strong tobacco may also serve the purpose.

            (134) Secretary to Bogra Medical Society (10 members), Pyari Sanker Dass Gupta, L.M.S.:  “The prohibition will give rise to no political danger.  For the ganja smokers have very little influence over society.  The Government has faced questions of a greater religious character, as the Suttee or the Age of Consent Act, with boldness.  This is comparatively a minor question affecting only depraved men.

            (203) Rev. W. B. Phillips, Missionary:  What with liquor and opium and hemp drugs of various kinds, all licensed by Government, it does seem as if the population were terribly exposed to degrading influences.  It is not my province to face the difficult task of dealing with these evils; and I sincerely sympathize with the Government in the heavy duty of solving the grave problems involved.  But I do feel it my duty to set forth as strongly as possible the assurance that very much mischief is being worked in the country by the various intoxicants so freely and largely sold.  I hardly care to distinguish between opium, alcohol, and ganja.  I regard them all as bad.  My mind is so impressed with the evil effects of excessive use that I do not care to consider the moderate use. I would wish Government to begin with ganja, to proceed with little delay against opium, and then tackle alcohol.  I prefer this as a matter of policy, as ganja is easiest dealt with.  I am prepared to prohibit all three intoxicants on account of the evil which I see done by them.

            (81) Kali Das Mukerji, Sub-Deputy Collector:  After advocating prohibition of ganja on the grounds of the evil effects, and stating that there would be no danger from the discontent caused owing to the small number of the consumers, the witness proceeds: “The reasons usually put forward in favour of ganja consumption are as follows: (1) that Hindu friars and jogis cannot do without it, for it helps them in their religious contemplation, and sustains them under severe  exertion and exposure; (2) that it is a safeguard against disease in malarious tracts; and (3) that it serves the labouring classes as a refreshing stimulant, alleviating fatigue.  I do not think that any of these reasons is conclusive, though plausible.  In fact, none of them stands the test of close examination. If any intoxicating drug is at all necessary for friars and jogis, alcohol, opium, or siddhi may serve the purpose.  Eight kinds of intoxicating drugs are prescribed in the Tantras for Hindu devotees, and it is optional with them to take any if they care to do so at all. . . .  That ganja is a safeguard against disease in malarious tracts is not necessarily true. . . .  Even as a stimulant and remover of fatigue, ganja has very little to recommend it to the labouring classes.  A careful observation is sure to establish the fact that any ordinary labourer whose only stimulant is tobacco is on the whole a better workman than his ganja consuming brother.

Opinions against prohibition of ganja in Bengal

           571. It is impossible to quote the mass of opinion against prohibition of ganja, but the following analysis of some of the most important opinions will give an idea of the strength of these opinions

            (1) Prohibition impossible or unnecessary, or could not be enforced without a large preventive establishment.

(1) Hon'ble D. R. Lyall, C.S.I., Member, Board of Revenue.

(2) Mr. Westmacott, Commissioner.

(9) Mr. Price, Collector.

(11) Mr. Skrine, Collector.

(21) Mr. Jenkins, Collector.

(17) Mr. Gupta, Commissioner of Excise.

(46) Ganendra Nath Pal, Deputy Collector.

(197) Mr. H. M. Weatherall, Manager, Nawab's Estates, Tippera

               (2) Prohibition would be strongly resented by religious mendicants, or would be regarded as an interference with religion, or would be likely to become a political danger.

  (1) Hon'ble D. R. Lyall, C.S.I., Member, Board of Revenue.

  (3) Mr. Westmacott, Commissioner.

(19) Mr. Manisty, Collector.

(18) Mr. Hare, Collector.

(16) Mr. Marindin, Collector.

(32) Mr. Bedford, Deputy Commissioner.

   (63) Abhilas Chandra Mukharji, Deputy Collector.

   (62) Kanti Bhushan Sen, Deputy Collector of Excise.

 (163) Maharaja Bahadur Sir Jotendra Mohan Tagore, K.C.S.I.

 (174) Radhika Churn Sen, Zamindar.

 (175) Raghonandan Parsad, Zamindar.

.(185) Jogendra Krishna Rai Chaudhri.

   (207) Purnendu Narayan Sinha.

   (208) Mahendra Chandra Mitra, Chairman, Naihati Municipality.

     (92) Mr. Ricketts, Manager, Nilgiri State.

    (217) Biprodas Banarji, Pleader, Newspaper Editor, and Chairman, Baraset

    (250) District Board, Monghyr.

    (228) Jadubans Sahai, Vice-Chairman, Arrah Municipality

        (3) Prohibition  might lead to the use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than ganja.

             (21) Mr. Jenkins, Collector.

   (46) Ganendra Nath Pal, Deputy Collector.

   (62) Kanti Bhushan Sen, Deputy Collector of Excise.

  (161) Maharaja Girijnath, Roy Bahadur.

  (164) Raja Surja Kanta Acharjya, Bahadur.

  (167) Radha Balav Chaudhri, Rai Bahadur.

  (233) Secretary, Rajshahi Association.

  (217) Biprodas Banarji, Pleader, &c.

Assam:  Opinions in favour of prohibition of ganja

            572. The opinions in favour of prohibition of ganja in Assam are those of a Civil Surgeon, the Secretary to the Tezpur RaiyatsAssociation, the Secretary to the Upper Assam Association, a merchant, and a pensioned Overseer, Public Works Department, and member of a Local Board.  There is nothing especially to note in these opinions.

Opinions  against

            573. Against prohibition we have the Commissioner of the Assam Valley, the Commissioner of Excise, the Director of Land Records and Agriculture, an Officiating Deputy Commissioner, a Civil Surgeon, an Extra Assistant Commissioner, a medical practitioner, four pleaders, and four planters.

            Mr. Driberg, Commissioner of Excise, says:  “It would be useless to prohibit the use of ganja in a province like Assam, surrounded as it is by independent hill people, who would cultivate it in their hills and smuggle it down with little risk of detection.  Any prohibition will only lead to the increase of illicit consumption and to the secret use of the drug, which would be decidedly bad; of course, stop cultivation in Bengal, and the prohibition of the use of excise ganja could be enforced; but there would be serious discontent, though in this province it might not amount to a political danger, and the prohibition would be followed by recourse to opium, and in some cases to alcohol.”  The evidence of planters tends generally to show that the use of ganja by the garden coolies, who (except in the western districts of the Assam Valley and those of the Surma Valley, all of which border on Bengal) are the principal consumers, produces no serious effects.  There is nothing in any of the Assam evidence to controvert these views.

North-Western Provinces:  Opinions in favour of prohibition of ganja and charas

            574. The advocates of prohibition of ganja and charas in the North-Western Provinces are as follows: 6 subordinate civil officers, 9 subordinate medical officers and private medical practitioners, and 18 non-officials.  But few of these witnesses give any reasons for their opinions.  And the Commission are not able to quote any one of them as having any special weight.  The only opinion which it appears worth while to quote is that of a Collector, Mr. Addis (4), who does not, however, specifically recommend prohibition.  He says:  “It probably would be feasible to prohibit the use of all these drugs.  Public opinion is against their use, and the people are very obedient to authority.  The prohibition would certainly lead to the increased use of opium and alcohol.”

Opinions against prohibition

            575. On the other hand, the opinions against prohibition are very strong.  The following is an analysis of some of the most important:

            (1) Prohibition impossible or unnecessary, or could not be enforced without a large preventive establishment.

  (1) Hon'ble A. Cadell, Member, Board of Revenue.

  (5) Mr. Stoker, Commissioner of Excise.

(12) Mr. Brownrigg, Officiating Deputy Commissioner.

(20) Mr. Partridge, Officiating Deputy Commissioner.

  (9) Mr. Jackson, Collector.

(10) Mr. Tweedy, Collector.

(17) Mr. Spencer, Officiating Collector.

(34) Mr. Cockburn, Assistant Sub-Deputy Opium Agent.

(32) Mr. Robarts, Joint Magistrate.

(26) Rama Shankar, Assistant Collector.

(24) Mr. Rogers, Assistant Commissioner.

               (191) Kanwar Kundan Singh, Zamindar. 

            (2) Prohibition would be strongly resented by religious mendicants, or would be regarded as an interference with religion, or would be likely to become a political danger.

(12) Mr. Brownrigg, Officiating Deputy Commissioner.

  (9) Mr. Jackson, Collector.

(10) Mr. Tweedy, Collector.

(34) Mr. Cockburn, Assistant Sub-Deputy Opium Agent.

(21) Mr. Gillan, Assistant Collector.

(26) Rama Shankar, Assistant Collector.

(46) Pandit Bishambar Nath, Deputy Collector.

(28) Mr. Bruce, Assistant Collector.

(33) Pandit Sri Lall, Officiating Joint Magistrate.

(185) Kewal Ram, Zamindar.

(220) Mr. Finch, Planter.

(190) Bas Deo Sahai, Zamindar.

(227)      Syad Mahammad Nuh, Zamindar.

            (3) Prohibition might lead to use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than ganja or charas.

  (6) Mr. Stoker, Commissioner of Excise.

(15) Mr. Ferard, Collector.

(28) Mr. Bruce, Assistant Collector.

(51) Thakur Tukman Singh, Deputy Collector.

Punjab: Opinions for prohibition of charas

            576. The advocates of the prohibition of charas in the Punjab are as follows: 3 superior civil officers, 3 subordinate civi1 officers, 2 subordinate medical officers, and 10 non-officials. 

            It may be noted that Mr. Ogilvie, Financial Commissioner in charge of Excise (2), records the following opinion: “I am inclined to hold the opinion, though I am not quite satisfied on the subject, that the use of charas is so deleterious that it might be permissible, both on grounds of morality and utility, for its use to be prohibited or for the price of the drug to be so artificially raised as to confine its consumption to a very small number indeed.  The reason why I say that I am not quite satisfied on the point is because I have not sufficiently investigated the facts.  All that I can, therefore, say with certainty is that my opinion tends to the direction above indicated. . . .  I would observe, however, with regard to the Yarkand trade that the imposition of a duty so high as to be practically prohibitive would very considerably injure that trade, because the Yarkand trader in exchange for the charas takes back the products of the Punjab to his own country or to Kashmir.  The extinction or serious injury of the Yarkand trade would, of course, be a very regrettable circumstance.  On the  other hand from my personal knowledge as Deputy Commissioner of the Dera Ismail Khan District, I would say no harm would accrue to general trade on the western border from the prohibition of charas.”

            Mr. Coldstream, Deputy Commissioner (5), though he does not seem to have formed a definite opinion regarding the moderate use of the drugs, says: “The gradual stoppage of import of_ganja_and_charas_might_be_tried._span_style_.css"mso-spacerun: yes">  It is not as yet a very widely-spread habit, but it might grow.  It would cause great pain and discontent if the prohibition were sudden and comprehensive, but this would not amount to political danger.  A prohibitory measure regarding ganja and charas would no doubt be followed at once by a recourse to opium and alcohol.  I can quite believe the moderate occasional use of the drugs may be comparatively harmless, but I am not aware that they are commonly used occasionally and in moderation.  They may, however, be so used for all I know.

            Mr. Wilson, Deputy Commissioner (14), says that he should like to see the experiment made in selected districts of prohibiting trade in charas (and bhang) altogether.  As regards charas, he thinks the prohibition would be feasible, as it is imported, and the discontent would be insignificant.  He knows of no class, such as labourers, who take the drug in moderation as an ordinary stimulant.  Among fakirs and other excessive consumers, he thinks the use produces great evils, and that there is no more harmful drug which they are likely to take to.  He does not know anything of the use of dhatura except its administration as a poison.  He thinks sudden prohibition would be cruel.  He would therefore begin by taxation and gradually raise it, leaving the question of total prohibition to be decided by experience. 

            The evidence of Arjan Singh, Extra Assistant Commissioner (19), is much to the same effect, but he states that the use of dhatura is general among the followers of Siva at the Shivratri in the Dera Ghazi Khan district.  He says it is taken in very small quantities, so that its effect is almost imperceptible.

            General Millet (69), formerly District Superintendent of Police, would like to see all intoxicants prohibited which cannot be proved to be actually necessary.  He thinks gradual prohibition of the hemp drugs feasible, and that educated, intelligent native public opinion, which to a great extent leads that of the lower classes, would support prohibition.  Discontent at first among the degraded classes would be inevitable, but there would be no political danger, though tact and discretion would be needed and calm-minded European officials at the helm.  He fears that recourse to alcohol would be the result.

            Shekh Riaz Husain, Zamindar (67), thinks that “having regard for the welfare and good of the people which the British Government has in view, the  prohibition of the hemp drugs (including bhang) is imperatively necessary.  Loyal and intelligent subjects and well-wishers of the country would welcome the prohibition, though the unscrupulous habitual consumers would indeed dislike it.  But as it would be for the good of the people, it is not hoped that any class of persons would resent it.  The enforcement of the prohibition should be effected like other new laws and regulations, exceptions being made to some extent in the case of the existing old habitual consumers, because its sudden stoppage would cause them serious privation.  The discontent resulting would not amount to a political danger. If it were possible to make charas as expensive as alcohol, that would be one way of dealing with the subject.”

            Sardar Sujan Singh, Rai Bahadur, Contractor (59), considers charas as certainly most injurious, and thinks its use should most certainly be prohibited.  It does no good to anybody. There are not many kahars who take it.  Those who do, go to the bad.  He does not know of the use of dhatura as an intoxicant.  The use of madak and chandu is more injurious than charas, and they also should be prohibited as well as liquor.  He would not recommend immediate prohibition, but would put on such a tax, increasing it gradually, as to make it impossible for the majority of people to buy them at all.

            Dr. H. M. Clark, Missionary (46), would like to see charas prohibited if it were possible.  He thinks. however, that alcohol does more harm than charas.  He cannot believe that a moderate use of charas is possible.  Fakirs and devotees are the chief consumers.

            Devi Dayal, Editor of the Kaistha Mitra, Lahore, circulation 300 copies (83), says:  “If charas be called poison (fatal, killing, murdering drug), it is not an exag­geration of any kind.  It is a great vice to smoke charas.  May God not give this even in the lot of a foe.  Only just people as have bad luck get engaged in this vice.  Government will do their subjects a very great obligation by saving them from early death and whirlpool of destruction and ruin.  My present belief is that there is no such thing as moderation in the use of charas, because, when a charsi visits another, he offers him the chillum, and they smoke in company.  The smoke is thus repeated frequently.”  Consumers acknowledge that they would have no complaint; and if Government were to prohibit the use of charas to-morrow, the bad habit would die out of itself.

            Ganesh Das, Pleader, and President, Sarin Sabha, Hoshiarpur (77): Charas is consumed by shoemakers, musicians, jogis, sanyasis, and suthra fakirs, and by some Khatris and Brahmins.  The physical effects are very bad, and most consumers become incapacitated for work and lead a miserable life.  The sub­committee of the Sarin Sabha appointed to consider the subject recommend prohibition.  Enquiry was not made from medical experts.  Consumers would not take to other intoxicants, because the intoxication of charas is not like that of opium or other intoxicants.  The greatest loss would be that of the traders of Hoshiarpur and Amritsar, who take merchandise to Ladakh and Yarkand and bring back charas.

Opinions against prohibition of charas

            577. The following is an analysis of some of the most important evidence against prohibition:

            (1) Prohibition impossible or unnecessary, or could not be enforced without a large preventive establishment.

            (1) Mr. Rivaz, First Financial Commissioner.

       (3) Mr. Thorburn, Commissioner.

       (6) Mr. Ibbetson, Deputy Commissioner.

       (8) Mr. Maconachie, Deputy Commissioner.

      (13) Mr. Drummond, Deputy Commissioner.

      (66) Kazi Syad Ahmad, retired Government servant.

                        (2) Prohibition would be strongly. resented by religious mendicants, or would be regarded as an interference with religion, or would be likely to became a political danger.

  (3) Mr. Thorburn, Commissioner.

  (6) Mr. Ibbetson, Deputy Commissioner.

(10) Mr. A. Anderson, Deputy Commissioner.

  (8) Mr. Maconachie, Deputy Commissioner.

(13) Mr. Drummond, Deputy Commissioner.

            (29) Mr. Brown, Officiating Deputy Inspector-General of Police.

  (39) Thakur Das, Rai Bahadur, Assistant Surgeon.

            (36) Bhagwan Dass, Assistant Surgeon.

            (25) Muhammad Ikramulla Khan, Khan Bahadur, Honorary Extra Assistant

            (27) Muhammad Barkat Ali Khan, Khan Bahadur, retired Extra Assistant Commissioner.

           (86) Bahram Khan, Honorary Magistrate.

            (93) Gujar Mal, Trader.

            (94) Jawala Bhagat, Trader.

            (3) Prohibition might lead to use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than charas.

            (76) Babu P. C. Chatterji, Judge, Chief Court.

            (10) Mr. A. Anderson, Deputy Commissioner.

            (18) Rai Bahadur Bhagwan Dass, Extra Assistant Commissioner.

            (39) Thakur Das, Rai Bahadur, Assistant Surgeon.

            (27) Muhammad Barkat Ali Khan, Khan Bahadur, retired Extra Assistant Commissioner.

            (85) Lachman Dass, Merchant.

Central Provinces:  Opinions in favour of the prohibition of ganja

           578. There are only two witnesses in the Central Provinces who advocate the prohibition of ganja.  Honorary Surgeon-Major Harrison (38), on the retired Central Provinces list, employed in the Kalahandi State, advocatesgradual prohibition, “which would cause discontent, but not any serious danger.  The prohibition would no doubt be followed by recourse to alcohol and other stimulants.”  The other is a pensioned hospital assistant, who also advocates gradual prohibition.

Opinions against prohibition of ganja

            579. The following is an analysis of some of the most important evidence against prohibition

            (1) Prohibition impossible or unnecessary, or could not be enforced without a large preventive establishment.

            (1) .Mr. Neill, Judicial Commissioner.

            (4) Mr. Laurie, Officiating Secretary to Chief Commissioner.

            (2) Colonel Bowie, Commissioner.

            (9) Mr. Drake-Brockman, Officiating Excise Commissioner.

            (39) Dr. Prentie, Civil Surgeon.

            (66) Rev. Israel Jacob, Missionary.

             (2) Prohibition would be strongly resented by religious  mendicants, or would be regarded as an interference with religion, or would be likely to become a political danger.

              (1) Mr. Neill, Judicial Commissioner.

              (4) Mr. Laurie, Officiating Secretary to Chief Commissioner.

              (2) Colonel Bowie, Commissioner.

              (3) Mr. Anderson, Officiating Commissioner.

              (6) Mr. Duff, Deputy Commissioner.

            (27) Mr. Lowrie, Officiating Deputy Conservator of Forests.

            (17) Batuk Bharthy, Superintendent, Kalahandi State.

            (66) Rev. Israel Jacob, Missionary.

            (68) Rev. Oscar Lohr, Missionary.

            (22) Vinayak Balkrishna Khare, Excise Daroga.

            (59) Lall Noorpraj Singh, Zamindar.

            (47) Mir Imdad Ali, Honorary Magistrate.  

            (3) Prohibition might lead to use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than ganja.

(1) Mr. Neill, Judicial Commissioner.

(9) Mr. Drake-Brockman, Officiating Excise Commissioner.

(39) Dr. Prentie, Civil Surgeon.

(64) Rao Sahib Balwantrao Govindrao Bhuskute, Jagirdar.

Madras: Opinions in favour of the prohibition of ganja

            580. The Madras witnesses in favour of prohibition are a Civil Surgeon, a subordinate civil officer, a medical practitioner, a Hindu priest, and six missionaries.

            Dr. King (85) says: “The restriction of the sale of ganja under condi­tions similar to those required for poisonous drugs in Great Britain would  be an unqualified  blessing to the country, thus contrasting with the action taken against opium, which agitation I believe  to be unnecessary and mischievous.  I consider special measures should be taken to restrain the use of ganja by sepoys, and especially  to prevent the young sepoy from acquiring the habit.”  In oral examination, however, Dr. King stated as follows:  “My opinion of the effect of the moderate use in impairing the moral sense and inducing laziness, etc., is a general impression and not based on actual observation.  My impression is based on the fact that persons alleged to have been ganja smokers have presented these characteristics.  They were pointed out as notorious ganja smokers.  I did not discriminate in these cases between the moderate and excessive use.”

            Syad Mahmud (122) says: “It is an unquestionable fact that ganja, bhang, and charas are poisons, and this fact is admitted by all.  In my opinion their suppression would be an act of virtue deserving of future reward, but it is not advisable to suppress their use at once.  Its suppression should be regulated under certain rules without any loss to the State.  To the best of my knowledge and researches, alcohol cannot be safely used as a substitute for ganja, charas, and bhang.”

            Rev. Mr. Laflamme (153), speaking on behalf of the Baptist Missionary Conferences of the Presidency, advocates prohibition in these terms:  “Owing to the scarcity of shops in these parts, practical prohibition exists.  Much that is consumed is consumed illicitly.  The introduction of the license system seems to have had no appreciable effect on the use of the drugs.  The ganja is nearly all grown by the consumers in their own yards.”  “The drugs should all be so safeguarded as to prevent or minimize any possible harm resulting from their abuse.”  “The general sense of the people is opposed to the use of the drugs.”  So far as the witness can gather, the members of the Mission are united in the belief that in these parts hemp drugs are far less injurious than opium and alcohol; thus far that the latter are not only much more extensively used, but much more baleful in their effects.  Two other missionaries, though neutral in opinion, are worth quoting.  Rev. Mr. Pittendrigh, Missionary (160)  says that he would have ultimate prohibition in view if possible, but there is no.

 c ground for special interference in anything that he has seen.  Another Missionary, the Rev. Mr. Goffin (145), cannot undertake to criticise the present or any system of exise administration.  His impression is that Government would be wise to adopt a strictly “let-alone” policy, leaving it to the spread of education and enlightenment among the people to prevent and lessen all its effects.  The province of government should be carefully to watch such effects, and wherever and whenever necessary interfere with prohibitive legislation.  Such necessity, however, in his opinion would not often occur.

 Opinions against prohibition

            581. Among those who are opposed to prohibition, the evidence of the following witnesses may be quoted :

            (1) Prohibition impossible or unnecessary, or could not be enforced without a large preventive establishment.

  (1) Hon'ble C. S. Crole, Member, Board of Revenue.

  (8) Mr. Willock, Collector.

(14) Mr. Bradley, Collector.

(19) Raja K. C. Manevedan, Collector.

(23) Mr. Campbell, Sub-Collector.

(30) Mr. Levy, Acting Deputy Collector, Salt and Abkari.

            (2) Prohibition would be strongly resented by religious mendicants, or would be regarded as an interference with religion, or would likely to become a politicaI danger.

  (8) Mr. Willock, Collector.

(10) Mr. Stokes, Collector.

  (6) Mr. Sewell, Collector.

(30) Mr. Levy, Acting Deputy Collector, Salt and Abkari.

(94) Dr. Walker, Civil Surgeon.

(95) Dr. Sarkies, Civil Surgeon.

(38) Buddhavarapu Narayana Murthi Pantalugaru, Assistant Collector.

(23) Mr. Campbell, Sub-Collector.

(121) H.S.A.M. Manju Miyyah Sahib, Medical Practitioner.

            (3) Prohibition might lead to use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than ganja.

(23) Mr. Campbell, Sub-Collector.

Bombay:  Opinions in favour of prohibition of ganja

            582. For the prohibition of ganja or charas in Bombay and Sind, we have the following advocates: in Bombay two mamlatdars, a hospital assistant, and a medical practitioner; and in Sind a health officer, two hospital assistants, and a banker.  There is not much that need be quoted from the evidence of these witnesses.  It may be noted that the Hon'ble T. D. Mackenzie, Commissioner of Abkari, etc. (1), holds that the policy of Government in relation to the hemp drugs should be one of restriction, as far as restriction is possible, and that, if absolute prohibition were possible, he thinks it would be a good thing.  Owing, however, to the fact that the territories of the Bombay Presidency interlace so extensively with foreign territory, and to the feeling which would be aroused among the consumers and those who sympathize with them, it would in his opinion be impossible or undesirable.  The Secretary to the Arya Samaj in Bombay (109) states that while fully sympathising with the objects of the Commission, which are apparently understood to be the restriction or prohibition of the drugs, the Arya Samaj “is of opinion that any Governmental action in the direction of further restricting  the preparation and sale of the drug will be productive of very little good. The Samaj believes that education of the masses is the only proper and effective remedy for correcting such baneful habits, and fears that any compulsion in this matter is likely to drive the consumers of these comparatively innocuous drugs to the use of more injurious intoxicants that are plentifully supplied to the people like the various preparations containing alcohol.”  The Samaj prays that the Government will devise measures for the restriction of the sale of European liquor in India, and leave the hemp drugs to themselves.  The only thorough advocate of prohibition whose opinion is worth specifying is Rao Sahib Shesho Krisna Madkavi (41), who considers such prohibition very necessary and holds that, although there would be temporary discontent among the consumers, such discontent would not amount to a political danger, “the people in this part of the country being loyal and of mild nature, and the proportion of the persons using bhang and ganja to the general population being too small to be taken into consideration.”

Opinions against prohibition

            583. On the other hand, the opinions against prohibition are weighty.  The following may be specially quoted:

            (1) Prohibition impossible or unnecessary, or could not be enforced without a large preventive establishment.                                                               


                          (1) Hon'ble T. D. Mackenzie, Commissioner of Abkari, etc.

                          (3) Mr. Vidal, Chief Secretary to Government. 

(10) Mr. Monteath, Collector.

(12) Mr. Cumine, Acting Collector.

(53) Mr. Vincent, C.I.E., Officiating Commissioner of Police.

(110) Rai Bahadur Vishvanath Keshava Joglekar, Merchant. 

(108) Daji Abaji Khare, Honorary Secretary, East Indian Association.


                        (1) Mr. James, Commissioner in Sind. 

                        (26) Seth Vishindas Nihalchand, Zamindar and Merchant.

            (2) Prohibition would be strongly resented by religious mendicants, or would be regarded as an interference with religion, or would be likely to become a political danger.


                           (l) Hon'ble T. D. Mackenzie, Commissioner of Abkari, etc.

                          (2) Mr. Reid, Commissioner.

                        (10) Mr. Monteath, Collector.

                          (8) Mr. Lely, Collector.

                        (59) Mr. Foard, Superintendent of Police.

                        (57) Mr. Austin, District Superintendent of Police.

                        (54) Mr. Kennedy, District Superintendent of Police.

                        (26) Khan Bahadur Dadabhai Dinshaji, Deputy Collector.

                        (38) Mr. Almon, Assistant Collector of Abkari.

                        (49) Yashvantrao Nilkanth, Superintendent, Office of Survey Commissioner.

                      (104) Desaibhai Kalidas, Pleader.

                        (46) Balkrishna Narayan Vaidija, State Karbhari.

                        (39) Rai Sahib Ganesh Pandurang Thakur, Mamlatdar.

                      (110) Rai Bahadur Visvanath Keshava Joglekar, Merchant.

                      (100) Parbhuram Jeewanram, Vaidya.

                      (115) Nanu Mian B. Shekh, Municipal Secretary, Surat.  


                          (1) Mr. James, Commissioner in Sind.

                          (4) Khan Bahadur Kadirdad Khan, Gul Khan, C.I.E., Deputy Collector.

                          (5) S. Sadik Ali, Deputy Collector.

                        (26) Seth Vishindas Nihalchand, Zamindar and Merchant.  

(3) Prohibition might lead to use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than ganja.  


                         (1) Hon’ble T.D. Mackenzie, Commissioner of Abkari, etc.

                         (6) Mr. Sinclair, Collector.

                        (53) Mr. Vincent, C.I.E., Officiating Commissioner of Police.

                        (49) Yashvantrao Nilkanth, Superintendent, Office of Survey Commissioner.

                        (62) Rao Sahib Pranshankar, Inspector of Police.

                        (102) Ramchandra Krishna Kothavale, Inamdar.

                        (109) Secretary, Arya Samaj, Bombay.

General Conclusions in regard to total prohibition of ganja, charas, and bhang

            584.  A general review of the evidence relating to the question of prohibition of ganja and charas brings the Commission to the same conclusion as that which they have framed upon a consideration of the evidence on the ascertained effects alone.  The weight of the evidence above abstracted is almost entirely against prohibition.  Not only is such a measure unnecessary with reference to the effects, but it is abundantly proved that it is considered unnecessary or impossible by those most competent to form an opinion on general grounds of experience; that it would be strongly resented by religious mendicants, or would be regarded as an interference with religion, or would be likely to become a political danger; and that it might lead to the use of dhatura or other intoxicants worse than ganja.  Apart from all this, there is another consideration which has been urged in some quarters with a manifestation of strong feeling, and to which the Commission are disposed to attach some importance, viz., that to repress the hemp drugs in India and to leave alcohol alone would be misunderstood by a large number of persons who believe, and apparently not without reason, that more harm is done in this country by the latter than by the former.  The conclusion of the Commission regarding bhang has been given in paragraph 564; under all the circumstances they now unhesitatingly give their verdict against such a violent measure as total prohibition in respect of any of the hemp drugs.

II. The policy advocated is one of control and restriction, aimed at

suppressing the excessive use and restraining the moderate use

within due limits (Chapter XlV, paragraph 586).

Policy in regard to hemp drugs

            586.  Failing prohibition, the question arises, what should be the policy of the Government in regard to the hemp drugs?  On this point some important evidence has been recorded, and the Commission deem it to be within the scope of their duty to state in general terms their own conclusions.  In the first place, then, they are of opinion that in view of the harmful effects produced by the excessive use, and in exceptional cases even by the moderate use, of the drugs, the action of the Government should be directed towards restraining the former and avoiding all encouragement to thelatter.  The object should be to prevent the consumers, as far as may be possible, from doing harm to themselves and to lessen the inducements to the formation of the habit which might lead to such harm.  In aiming at this object, however, other considerations need to be kept in view.  There is in the first place the question of illicit consumption.  If the restriction. imposed by Government is counterbalanced by a corresponding increase in smuggling, no advantage is gained, but, on the contrary, a  moral wrong is done to the community apart from the annoyance necessitated by such restrictions.  Then, if there is a legitimate use of the drugs, restrictions should not be such as to make the exercise of this use impossible. The Commission have formed the opinion that there is a legitimate use of the hemp drugs, and that it exists generally among the poorest of the population.  Again, if the restrictions lead to the use of more deleterious substances, or even drive the people from a habit the evil of which is known to another of which the evil may be greater, they are no longer justifiable. The policy of Government must be tempered by all these considerations, and the neglect of any one of them may lead to serious error.

[1] J. A. Froude’s History of England, 2nd Edition, Chapter I, page 57.






Scope of this Chapter

            431. In the instructions issued to the Commission by the Government of India, reference is made to the use of hemp drugs among fakirs and ascetics who are held in veneration by large classes of the people, and to the custom, which is believed to obtain to a large extent in Bengal, of offering an infusion of bhang to every guest and member of the family on the last day of the Durga Puja. The Commission were instructed to ascertain to what extent these and similar customs prevail in Bengal and other parts of India, and how far the use of hemp drugs forms a part of social, or possibly religious, ceremonial or observance.  Questions 32 and 33 of the Commission's questions were intended to elicit information on these points.



            432. In Bengal there is a considerable body of evidence dealing with these customs, and more particularly with the custom of offering an infusion of bhang on the last day of the Durga Puja.  Some few witnesses, it is true, state either that no social or religious custom with which hemp drugs are connected exists, or that they are unaware of any such custom; but the great majority of the witnesses either give an account of them more or less full, or allude to them briefly as matters of common notoriety.


Durga Puja

            433. The custom of offering an infusion of the leaves of the hemp plant to every guest and member of the family on the Bijoya Dasami, or last day of the Durga Puja, is common in Bengal, and may almost be said to be universal.  It is alluded to by many of the witnesses who refer to its use on this occasion as well as on other days of the Durga Puja festival.  But, while there can be no doubt as to the existence of the custom, there is considerable divergence of opinion as to the true nature of it.  The custom itself is a simple one.  On the last day of this great festival the male members of the family go forth to consign the image to the waters, and on their return the whole family with their guests exchange greetings and embrace one another.  During this rejoicing a cup containing an infusion of the leaves of the hemp plant is handed round, and all are expected to partake thereof, or at least to place it to the lips in token of acceptance.  Sweetmeats containing hemp are also distributed.  Opinion is almost equally divided as to whether the custom is a mere social observance, or whether it is an essential part of the religious ceremonial of the festival.  There is difference of opinion among the witnesses as to whether there is any injunction in the Shastras rendering obligatory the consumption of hemp; but Tantric religious works sanction the use, and the custom, whatever be its origin, may now be said from immemorial usage to be regarded by many people as part of their religious observances.  From the evidence of the witnesses it would appear that there is no specific direction in the Shastras of the manner in which the drug should be used, but from the references quoted it would appear that the use alluded to is that of bhang in the form of an infusion. Witnesses who can speak with authority on the subject, such as Mahamahopadhya Mahesa Chandra Nyayaratna, C.I.E., Principal of the Government Sanskrit College, Calcutta, testify to religious sanction for the use of bhang or siddhi, while many witnesses of high social position, well acquainted with the habits of the people, as, for example, Maharaja Sir Jotindra Mohain Tagore, K.C.S.I., Maharaja Durga Charan Law, Raja Piari Mohan Mukharji, C.S.I., Rai Rajkumar Sarvadhikari Bahadur, Rai Bahadur Kanai Lall Dey, C.I.E., and others, speak to the prevalence of the custom, its intimate asso­ciation with the religious devotions of the people, and the innocent harmlessness of the practice.


Other occasions on which bhang is used

            434. The custom described above, and which refers solely to bhang as distin­guished from other preparations of the hemp plant, is the most important occasion on which bhang is used as a part of social or religious ceremonies; but there is evidence to show that the drug in this form is used at other festivals.  For example, at the Holi festival, which is observed more generally in Behar than in other parts of the Lower Provinces, bhang is commonly consumed; and, accord­ing to many witnesses, at such festivals as the Diwali, Chait Sankranti, Pous Sankranti, Sripanchami, Sivachaturdasi, Ramnavami, and indeed on occasions of weddings and many other family festivities.  But, so far as the evidence shows, the use on those occasions is a matter of social custom observed more generally in some parts of the province than in others, and, although no doubt there may be some who consider it essential to their devotions, partaking but little of the nature of general religious observance.  In Orissa bhang is largely used by the attendants and worshippers at the temple of Jagannath at Puri; and there appears also to exist a custom, somewhat similar to that of the Durga Puja in Bengal, of offering siddhi or bhang in the form of sweetmeats to the god Ganesh, which are then eaten by the worshippers and their friends and relatives.  This festival, called the Ganesh Chaturthi, occurs in the month of Bhadro (August-September).


Connection of ganja with the worship of Siva

            435. It is chiefly in connection with the worship of Siva, the Mahadeo or great god of the Hindu trinity, that the hemp plant, and more especially perhaps ganja, is associated.  The hemp plant is popularly believed to have been a great favourite of Siva, and there is a  great deal of evidence before the Commission to show that the drug in some form or other is now extensively used in the exercise of the religious practices connected with this form of worship.  Reference to the almost universal use of hemp drugs by fakirs, jogis, sanyasis, and ascetics of all classes, and more particularly of those devoted to the worship of Siva, will be found in the paragraphs of this report dealing with the classes of the people who consume the drugs.  These religious ascetics, who are regarded with great veneration by the people at large, believe that the hemp plant is a special attribute of the god Siva, and this belief is largely shared by the people.  Hence the origin of many fond epithets ascribing to ganja the significance of a divine property, and the common practice of invoking the deity in terms of adoration before placing the chillum or pipe of ganja to the lips.  There is evidence to show that on almost all occasions of the worship of this god, the hemp drugs in some form or other are used by certain classes of the people.  It is established by the evidence of Mahamahopadhya Mahesa Chandra Nyayaratna and of other witnesses that siddhi is offered to the image of Siva at Benares, Baidynath, Tarakeswar, and elsewhere. At the Shivratri festival, and on almost all occasions on which this worship is practised, there is abundant evidence before the Commission which shows not only that ganja is offered to the god and consumed by these classes of the worshippers, but that these customs are so intimately con­nected with their worship that they may be considered to form in some sense an integral part of it.



            436. The special form of worship by the followers of Siva, called the Trinath or Tinnath Mela, in which the use of ganja is considered to be essential, is mentioned by many witnesses, and deserves more than a passing notice.  A full account of this religious practice given by Babu Abhilas Chandra Mukharji will be found in Vol. III Appendices of this Report.  The origin of the rite, which it is said sprang up first in Eastern Bengal, appears to be of recent date, about the year 1867.  It appears to be observed at all times and at all seasons by Hindus and Muhammadans alike, the latter calling it Tinlakh Pir.  When an object of special desire is fulfilled, or when a person recovers from illness, or a son is born, or a marriage or other ceremony is performed, the god Trinath, representing in one the Hindu trinity, is worshipped.  Originally one pice worth of ganja, one pice worth of oil, and one pice worth of betel-nut was offered to the god. But now ganja – it may be in large quantities – is proffered, and during the incantations and the performance of the ritual it is incumbent on all present to smoke.  This form of worship is shown to have spread extensively throughout Eastern Bengal and the Surma Valley of Assam, and, according to one witness, it has penetrated even to Orissa.  On the other hand, there are a few witnesses who say that the practice is gradually dying out.



            437. The use of hemp drugs is as a rule in no way connected with orthodox Muhammadan observances, whether social or religious.  The Muhammadan religion condemns such practices.



            438. In Assam, where the use of hemp drugs is but little practised by the Assamese proper, there appear to be no indigenous customs connected with the drugs.  But the customs prevailing in Bengal are also found in Assam.  There is evidence as to the use of bhang or siddhi at the Durga Puja, and of ganja by the worshippers of Siva.  In Sylhet the Trinath form of worship appears to prevail to a con­siderable extent.  With reference to this practice, one witness (Prasanno Kumar Das) observes that “in the Surma Valley ganja is offered in the name of Pir (Muhammadan saint) for the benefit of the cattle.”


North-Western Provinces

            439. In the North-Western Provinces, where the celebration of the Durga Puja is not so generally observed as in Bengal, a considerable number of witnesses (some fifty in all) state that there are no customs, religious or social, with which these drugs are con­nected.  But, on the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence to establish the almost universal use by the people of bhang at the Holi festival, and some evid­ence as to the common use of ganja by certain classes of the followers of Siva at their festivals and seasons of worship.  Of the witnesses who speak to the use of ganja in connection with religious observances, 22 state that it is essential and 92 that it is not essential.  As to whether the use of bhang should be regarded as a purely social custom or as essential to religious observance, the opinion of witnesses who speak on the point is about equally divided.  It is sufficient to say that the custom is now a general one, and that where the Holi festival is observed, there the practice of consuming bhang during its observance is common.  On other occasions, such as the Diwali festival, marriages, and family festivities, there is evidence to show that among certain classes the consumption of bhang is common.  Allusion is also frequently made to the habit of using bhang, to which, for example, the Chaubes of Mathra and Brindaban are notoriously addicted, but how far the habit is connected with the religious observances at the temples the evidence does not justify the formation of an opinion.  A custom is mention­ed by a Kumaon witness, Dharma Nand Joshi, who states that a class of people called Kouls, who worship spirits, meat, fish, etc., have the bhang plant as one of the objects of their worship.



            440. In the Punjab there is evidence as to the general use of hemp by some of the followers of Siva, and especially of bhang, at the Holi, Dasehra, Diwali, and other festivals, and on the occasion of marriages and other family festivities.  Among the Sikhs the use of bhang as a beverage appears to be common, and to be associated with their religious practices.  The witnesses who refer to this use by the Sikhs appear to regard it as an essential part of their religious rites having the authority of the Granth or Sikh scripture.            Witness Sodhi Iswar Singh, Extra Assistant Commissioner, says: 


            “As far as I know, bhang is pounded by the Sikhs on the Dasehra day, and it is ordinarily binding upon every Sikh to drink it as a sacred draught by mixing water with it.


              Legend: Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, the founder of the Sikh religion, was on the gaddi of Baba Nanak in the time of Emperor Aurangzeb.  When the guru was at Anandpur, tahsil Una, Hoshiarpur district, engaged in battle with the Hill Rajas of the Simla, Kangra, and the Hoshiarpur districts, the Rajas sent an elephant, who was trained in attacking and slaying the forces of the enemy with a sword in his trunk and in breaking open the gates of forts, to attack and capture the Lohgarh fort near Anandpur.  The guru gave one of his followers, Bachittar Singh, some bhang and a little of opium to eat, and directed him to face the said elephant.  This brave man obeyed the word of command of his leader and attacked the elephant, who was intoxicated and had achieved victories in several battles before, with the result that the animal was overpowered and the Hill Rajas defeated.  The use of bhang, therefore, on the Dasehra day is necessary as a sacred draught.  It is customary among the Sikhs generally to drink bhang, so that Guru Gobind Singh has himself said the following poems in praise of bhang: ‘Give me, O Saki (butler), a cup of green colour (bhang), as it is required by me at the time of battle (vide 'Suraj Parkash,' the Sikh religious book).’


             "Bhang is also used on the Chandas day, which is a festival of the god Sheoji Mahadeva. The Sikhs consider it binding to use it on the Dasehra day.  The quantity then taken is too small to prove injurious."  


            As Sikhs are absolutely prohibited by their religion from smoking, the use of ganja and charas in this form is not practised by them.


            A unique custom of dispensing bhang at a religious charitable institution is that mentioned by witness Baba Kirpa Singh.  The institution, as a relic of old Sikh times, is annually permitted to collect without interference a boat load of bhang, which is afterwards distributed throughout the year to the sadhus and beggars who are supported by the dharamsala.


Central Provinces

            441. The evidence as to social or religious customs in the Central Provinces is somewhat discrepant, but on the whole points to the existence of customs akin to those existing in the North-Western Provinces.  The use of bhang at the Holi and Diwali festivals and at marriages and such occasions, and of ganja or bhang in connection with the worship of Siva, is frequently mentioned by the witnesses.  A few local customs are also mentioned by some witnesses. Regarding a custom of the Chamar caste, the Rev. Mr. Jacob says:  “At Chanda, the Chamars use ganja dust in the preparation of a beverage called gulabpani, which is drunk at a ceremony called dadhi (the first shaving of the beard), when no liquor is permitted.”   Among the Gonds, Cowasjee Nusserwanjee Hattidaru describes the following custom as existing:  “In the funeral ceremony amongst the Gonds of these provinces, kalli or flat ganja is placed over the chest of the dead body of the Gond, and when the funeral party returns home, a little of the ganja is burnt in the house of the dead person, the smoke of which is supposed to reach the spirit of the dead.”  Another Satpura witness, Hosen Khan, mentions a custom of offering  “a little ganja at the Chitarai Debis, or collections of stones with rags tied to some tree above.  They offer either a cock or a cocoanut or some ganja.  It is a custom among travellers.  These Chitarai Debis are in the open, and the travellers have a smoke at the same time.”  One witness states that he has heard of the hemp plant being worshipped in the Berars, but this is not corroborated by any of the witnesses from these districts.  Another has heard that the Gonds in their hill homes are worshippers of the plant.



            442. In the Madras Presidency, where the use of hemp drugs is less common than in most other provinces, many witnesses assert that there are no customs, social or religious, with which they are connected, and the evidence as a whole fails to establish the pre­valence of any customs so general as those connected with the Durga Puja and the worship of Siva in Bengal or the Holi festival in the North-Western Prov­inces.  But there is evidence as to the existence of customs of a less general or widespread nature.  In Ganjam, the witnesses speak to the common use bhang on the Mesha Sankranti day in honour of Siva and Anjanayya, and also in the worship of Durga.  Several also allude to a custom of offering a con­fection or draught containing bhang to the image at the temples of Hanuman.  At the festival of Kama, the Indian Cupid, bhang is freely made and drunk according to several witnesses.  The Rajputs or Bondilis are particularly referred to in connection with this custom.  On occasions of holidays or gala-days, and at the Mohurram, a number of witnesses say it is usual for Muhammadans as well as Hindus to take bhang.  It is also said that various intoxicants, including ganja, are sometimes offered to the gods in worship, and then swallowed by those offering them.  Witness M. Sundaram Iyer, Deputy Tahsildar (60), says: “Some of the lower orders make use of ganja as an offering, like cocoanut, plantains, liquor, and such other articles, for certain deities, such as Mathuraveeran, Muniappan, etc., according to the vow taken by each person. This cannot be considered as essential, but is only a practice observed in very rare cases.  Such practice is not followed by many people, and it is not injurious.”  Others allude to the offering of ganja to Karuppannam, Kali, Mathuraveeran, Muniappan, Karuannaswami, and Aiyaswami, more particularly in the south of the Presidency.  Mr. Azizuddin, Sahib Bahadur, Deputy Collector, says: “Neither the Musalman nor the Hindu religion requires the use of these drugs on religious occasions.  On the other hand, it is prohibited.  Nevertheless, in the maths of bairagis, such as at Tripati, and of Muhammadan saints, such as at Nagore, Conjeveram, Arcot, and other places, the manager of the shrine distributes ganja to all the fakirs who assemble during the festival.  In none of these places, religiously speaking, ganja should be distributed, but, according to custom among the fakirs, its distribution is essential.”   The Rev. Mr. Campbell says that ganja is used in connection with the funeral ceremonies observed by certain classes, but that the use is not essential.  Mr. Merriman alludes to a custom of offering and consuming bhang at the funeral of bhang consumers.



            443. An interesting note, entitled “The Religion of Hemp,” by Mr. J. M. Campbell, C.I.E., will be found in Vol. III Appendices.  In the Bombay Presidency the use of hemp in connection with the worship of Siva, Mahadev or Shankar appears to be very common. It is referred to by many witnesses.  The following description of this custom as prevailing in part of Gujarat, Kaira, and probably Ahmedabad has been furnished to the Excise Commissioner by Mr. B. E. Modi, Deputy Collector: 


            “On the Shivratri day (the last day but one of the month of Magh), sacred to the god Mahadev or Shankar, bhang water is freely poured over the lingam.  Mahadev is an ascetic, and is fond of bhang, and on this day it is considered a religious duty to offer him his favourite drink.  From this day to the 11th day of Ashad, on which day gods go to sleep, water is kept constantly dripping upon the lingam of Mahadev from an earthen pot kept above it.”


            Somewhat similar accounts varying in detail are given by many witnesses coming from different parts of the province, of whom some also refer to the habit which ganja smokers have of invoking the deity before placing the pipe to their lips.  Others also refer to hemp as required in the worship of Baldeo and to its use at the Shimga or Holi festival.  The Marwaris and some other classes appear to use bhang at marriages and other festivities.  Mr. Charles, Collector of Belgaum, says that among Musalmans and Marathas the ganja plant is offered to dead relatives who used it in their lifetime at the time of the anniversary ceremonies of their death.  There appears to be no special custom of worshipping the hemp plant itself.  R. K. Kothavale, of Satara district, says the hemp plant is worshipped by one sect only, namely, by people from Northern India and Nepal, while Mr. Lamb, Collector of Alibag, remarks that some of the Kunbis who make offerings to the local divinities of their fields at the harvest season include a small quantity of ganja in the offerings.



            444.  In Sind the customs, both religious and social, appear to be much the  same as in Bombay.  In Karachi and some other places bhang is generally offered to all comers on occasions of marriages, panchayats, and other gatherings; and the custom of freely distributing bhang as a charity to all who care to partake is common both at temples and at other places of resort.



            445. In Berar there is evidence as to the use both of ganja and bhang at the Shivratri and Holi festivals and at social gatherings.  The hemp plant itself is not worshipped, but, according to one witness, when a consumer dies, the plant is kept near his corpse during the funeral ceremony.



            446. At the Holi and the Shivratri and at family festivities the drugs, especially bhang, are used.



            447. Major Gaisford, Deputy Commissioner, states that among the Hindu sect called Bam Bargis the consumption of bhang is regarded as essential.


Native States

            448. From Native States there is but little information regarding customs, either social or religious, with which these drugs are connected.  No purely local or indigenous customs have been brought to the notice of the Commission, but there is sufficient information to show that practices similar to those existing in British provinces at the Holi and Shrivratri festivals and on occasions of family rejoicings are observed by certain classes of the people in many Native States.


Worship of the hemp plant

            449. The custom of worshipping the hemp plant, although not so prevalent as that of offering hemp to Siva and other deities of the Hindus, would nevertheless appear from the statements of the witnesses to exist to some extent in some provinces of India.  The reason why this fact is not generally known may perhaps be gathered from such statements as that of Pandit Dharma Nand Joshi, who says that such worship is performed in secret.  There may be another cause of the denial on the part of the large majority of Hindu witnesses of any knowledge of the existence of a custom of worshipping the hemp plant in that the educated Hindu will not admit that he worships the material object of his adoration, but the deity as represented by it.  The custom of worshipping the hemp plant, though not confined to the Himalayan districts or the northern portions of India alone, where the use of the products of the hemp plant is more general among the people, is less known as we go south.  Still even far south, in some of the hilly districts of the Madras Presidency and among the rural population, the hemp plant is looked upon with some sort of veneration. Mr. J. H. Merriman (witness No. 28, Madras) says: “I know of no custom of worshipping the hemp plant, but believe it is held in a certain sort of veneration by some classes.”  Mr. J. Sturrock, the Collector of Coimbatore (witness No. 2, Madras), says: “In some few localities there is a tradition of sanctity attached to the plant, but no regular worship.” The Chairman of the Conjeveram Municipal Board, Mr. E. Subramana Iyer (witness No. 143, Madras), says:  “There is no plant to be worshipped here, but it is generally used as sacrifices to some of the minor Hindu deities.”  There is a passage quoted from Rudrayamal Danakand and Karmakand in the report on the use of hemp drugs in the Baroda State, which also shows that the worship of the bhang plant is enjoined in the Shastras.  It is thus stated:  “The god Shiva says to Parvati:  ‘Oh, goddess Parvati, hear the benefits derived from bhang. The worship of bhang raises one to my position,’ etc.”   In Bhabishya Puran it is stated that “on the 13th moon of Chaitra (March and April) one who wishes to see the number of his sons and grandsons increased must worship Kama (Cupid) in the hemp plant, etc.”


General conclusions

            450. In summing up their conclusions on this chapter, the Commission would first remark that charas, which is a comparatively new article of consumption, has not been shown to be in any way connected with religious observance.  As regards Northern India, the Commission are of opinion that the use of bhang is more or less common everywhere in connection with the social and religious customs of the people.  As regards ganja, they find that there are certain classes in all parts, except the Punjab, who use the drug in connection with their social and religious observances.  The Commission are also of opinion in regard to bhang that its use is considered essential in some religious observances by a large section of the community, and in regard to ganja that those who consider it essential are comparatively very few.  The Commission have little doubt that interference with the use of hemp in connection with the customs and observances above referred to would be regarded by the consumers as an interference with long established usage and as an encroachment upon their religious liberty.  And this feeling would, especially in the case of bhang, undoubtedly be shared to some extent by the people at large.  Regarding Southern India, the same remarks apply with this reservation, that the difference between ganja and bhang as materials for smoking and drink­ing respectively is much less marked there, and the distinction between the two forms of the drug is much less clearly recognised, although by the termbhang” is generally meant the drug as used for drinking, and by  “ganja” the drug as used for smoking.


Appendix A




Mr. G. A. Grierson, C.I.E., Magistrate and Collector, Howrah

            I have the honour to state that I have searched through all the Sanskrit and Hindi books accessible to me, and to forward the accompanying note on the references to the hemp plant occurring in the literatures of those languages.

            I have met the hemp plant in Sanskrit and Hindi literature under various names.  The principal are:

            (1)            Bhanga.

            (2)            Indraçana.

            (3)            Vijaya or Jaya

            The earliest mention of the word ganja which I have noted is dated about the year 1300 A.D.

            Whenever the word vijaya is used, it is doubtful whether the hemp plant is meant, or the yellow myrobolan, as the word means both.

            The name bhanga occurs in the Atharvaveda (say, B.C. 1400).  The hemp plant is there mentioned simply as a sacred grass.  Panini (say, B.C. 300) mentions the pollen of the hemp flower (bhanga).  In the commencement of the sixth century we find the first mention of vijaya which I have noted.  It is a sacred grass, and probably means here the hemp plant.

            The first mention of bhanga as a medicine which I have noted is in the work of Sucruta (before the eighth century  A.D.), where it is called an antiphlegmatic.  During the next four centuries bhanga (feminine) frequently occurs in native Sanskrit dictionaries in the sense of hemp-plant.

            In the tenth century the intoxicating nature of bhang seems to have been known:  and the name Indraçana, Indra's food, first appears, so far as I know, in literature.  Its intoxicating power was certainly known in the beginning of the fourteenth century.  In a play written in the beginning of the sixteenth century, it is mentioned as being consumed by jogis (Çaiva mendicants).  It is there named “Indra's food.”

            In later medical works it is frequently mentioned under various names.

            I append a more detailed account of the passages in which I have noted the uses of the Indian hemp.

            I may add that I have not traced in literature any difference between the uses of the word ganja and the word bhanga, though modern kavirajas tell me that they are distinct plants.

Cir. B.C. 1400

            In the Atharvaveda (cir. 1400 B.C.) the bhang plant is mentioned (11, 6, 15) once:  “We tell of the five kingdoms of herbs headed by Soma; may it and kuça grass, and bhanga and barley, and the herb saha release us from anxiety.”  Here reference is evidently made to the offering of these herbs in oblations.

Cir. B.C. 300

            The grammarian Panini (5, 2, 29) mentions bhangakata, the pollen of the hemp flower, as one of his examples.  The fact that the pollen of this special flower was quoted is worth noting.

A.D. 504

            Varahamihira in his Brihatsamhita (XLVIII, 39), mentions vijaya as used with other grasses in the rotes of the Pusya, bathing festival.

            Vijaya in this passage certainly means some plant or other.  The word may mean either the Indian hemp-plant or be a synonym of haritaki (the yellow myrobolan).  Dr. Hoernle informs me that in the oldest medical works the word is explained by commentators in the latter sense.  It is doubtful what meaning we are to adopt here.  The word may mean the hemp-plant bhanga.  In the passage from the Atharvaveda, already quoted, amongst the five plants special honoured as oblations, bhanga is closely connected with the herb saha.  So also in the Brihatsamhita, vijaya is mentioned as one of a long list of plants to be used in the offering, and the very next plant mentioned is saha, which is apparently the same as saha.  This would encourage the theory that the vijaya of the Brihatsamhita was more probably the same as the bhanga of the Atharvaveda.

Before the eighth century

            In Suçruta (Ut. XI, 3) Bhanga is recommended together with a number of other drugs as an antiphlegmatic.

            Vijaya is mentioned in the same work as a remedy for catarrh accompanied by diarrhea (Ut. XXIV, 20, and Ut. 39, page 415, 20), as an ingredient in a prescription for fever arising from an excess of bile and phlegm.  In these two passages, however, vijaya is probably an equivalent of haritaki, the yellow myrobolan, and does not mean hemp.

            In the various kosas, or dictionaries, bhanga is frequently mentioned as meaning the hemp-plant.  Thus,

                                                                        (1) Amarakosa, 2, 9, 20.

            Cir. A. D. 500                                        (2) Trikandacesa, 3, 364.

            Tenth or eleventh century                                 (3) Hemacandra's Anekarthakosa, 2, 37.

                                          Twelfth century                                      (4) Hemakandra's Abhidhanacinlamani,  1179.

                Twelfth century

            The Sarasundari (date not known to me), a commentary on the Amarakosa mentioned above, by Mathureça, and quoted in the Çabdakalpadruma, mentions that the seed of the bhanga plant is the size of that of millet (kalaya).

Cir. 1050 A.D

            Cakrapanidatta is said to have flourished under Nayapala, a prince who reigned

in the eleventh century A.D.  In his Çabdacandrika, a medical vocabulary, he gives the following Sanskrit names for bhang:

            (1) Vijaya (victorious), (2) Trailokyavijaya (victorious in the three worlds), 
(3) bhanga, (4) Indraçana (Indra's food), (5) Jaya (victorious).

            These names seem to show that its use as an intoxicant was then known.

A.D. 1300

            The Rajanighantu of Narahari Pandita adds the following names to those given by

Cakrapanidatta in the Çabdacandrika above mentioned:

            (6)  Virapattra (hero-leaved or the leaf of heroes),

            (7)  Ganja,

            (8)  Capala (the light-hearted),

            (9)   Ajaya (the unconquered),

            (10) Ananda (the joyful),

            (11) Harsini (the rejoicer),

and adds that the plant possesses the following qualities:

            (1) Katulva (acridity); (2) kasayatva (astringency); (3) Usnatva (heat); (4) tiktatva (pungency); (5) vatakaphapahatva (removing wind and phlegm); (6) samgrahitva (astringency); (7) vakpradatva (speech-giving); (8) balyatva (strength-giving);  (9) medhakaritva (inspiring of mental power); (10) çresthadipanatva (the property of a most excellent excitant).

Say A.D. 1500

            The Çarngadhrasamhita, a medical work by Çarngadhara, the date of which is unknown, but which must have been compiled during the Muhammadan period of Indian History, specially mentions (1, 4, 19)[1] bhanga as an excitant (vyavayin).  In the same passage it mentions opium.

A.D. 1550

            The Dhurtasamagama, or “Rogues' Congress,” is the name of an amusing if coarsely written farce of about the year 1500  A.D., the author of which was one Jyotiriça.  In the second act two Çaiva mendicants come before an unjust judge, and demand a decision on a quarrel which they have about a nymph of the bazar.  The judge demands payment of a deposit before he will give any opinion.  One of the litigants says:

            “Here is my ganja bag; let it be accepted as a deposit.”

            The Judge (taking it pompously, and then smelling it greedily):  “Let me try what it is like (takes a pinch).  Ah!  I have just now got by the merest chance some ganja which is soporific and corrects derangements of the humours, which produces a healthy appetite, sharpens the wits, and acts as an aphrodisiac.”

             The word used for ganja in the above is Indraçana (Indra's food).

Cir. A.D. 1600

            The Bhavaprakaça, another medical work written by Bhavadevamiçra (cir. A.D. 1600)[2], has as follows:

            Bhanga ganja matulani            madini vijaya jaya |

            Bhanga kaphahari tikta     grahini pacani laghuh |

            Tiksosna pittala moha-  -mada vag vahni vardhini ||

            “Bhanga is also called ganja, matulani, madini (the intoxicating), vijaya (the victorious), and jaya (the victorious).  It is antiphlegmatic, pungent, astringent, digestive, easy of digestion, acid, bile-affecting; and increases infatuation, intoxication, the power of the voice, and the digestive faculty.

17th Century

            “The Rajavallabha, a materia medica, by Narayanadasa kaviraja, the date of which I do not know, but which is quoted in the Çabdakalpadruma, and is believed to be ancient, has the following:

            Çakra-çanam tu tiksno-’snam                        moha-krit kustha-nacanam |

            Bala-medha-’gni-krit-çlesma                        -dosa-hari rasayanam ||

            Jata mandara-manthanaj jala-nidhau piyusa-rupa pura |

            Trailokye vijaya-prade’ti vijaya çri-devaraja-priya ||

            Lokanam hita-kamyaya ksiti-tale prapta naraih kamada |

            Sarva-"tanka-vinaça-harsa-janani yaih sevita sarvada. ||

            “Indra's food (i.e., ganja) is acid, produces infatuation, and destroys leprosy.  It creates vital energy, the mental powers, and internal heat, corrects irregularities of the phlegmatic humour, and is an elixir vitae.  It was originally produced, like nectar, from the ocean by the churning with Mount Mandara,[3] and inasmuch as it gives victory in the three worlds, it, the delight of the king of the gods, is called vijaya, the victorious.  This desire-fulfilling drug was obtained by men on the earth, through desire for the welfare of all people.  To those who regularly use it it begets joy and destroys every anxiety.”

? Date

            The Rasapradhipa, a work, the date of which is unknown to me, and which is quoted in the Çabdakalpadruma mentions jaya as a remedy for indigestion:

            Ksaratrayam sutagandhou               pancakolam idam cubham |

            Sarvais tulya jaya bhrista             tad-ardha cigruja jata ||

            Natron, saltpetre and borax, mercury and sulphur, and the prosperous five spices (long pepper, its root, piper chaba, another pepper, and dry ginger).  To these add an equal amount of parched jaya and half of that amount of horse-radish (moringa) and jata.[4]

            It is not certain whether jaya here means bhang or Haritaki (yellow myrobolan).  The word has both significations.  The latter, perhaps, suits the formula best.

? Date

            In the Rasaratna-samuccaya, a work written in the south of India, jaya is classified as a semi-poison:

            Langoli visamustiç ca                                    karaviro jaya tatha |

            Tilakah kanako rkaç ca                    vargo hy upavisatmakah. ||

            Langali[5] (Vanguiera spinosa), the root of the Nerium odorum, jaya (Symplocos racemosa) kanaka[6] and ak (a kind of Euphorbia), are semi-poisonous.

1400 A.D.

            Bhang is frequently mentioned by vernacular poets.  The oldest instance with which I am acquainted is the well-known hymn by Vidyapati Thakur (1400 A.D.), in which he calls Çiva “Digambara bhanga,” in reference to his habit of consuming that drug.  According to an old Hindu poem, on which I cannot now lay my hands, Çiva himself brought down the bhang plant from the Himalayas and gave it to mankind.  Jogis are well-known consumers of bhang and ganja, and they are worshippers of Çiva.

            In folk-songs, ganja or bhang (with or without opium) is the invariable drink of heroes before performing any great feat.  At the village of Bauri in Gaya there is a huge hollow stone, which is said to be the bowl in which the famous hero Lorik mixed his ganja.  Lorik was a very valiant general, and is the hero of numerous folk-songs.  The epic poem of Alha and Rudal, of uncertain date, but undoubtedly based on very old materials (the heroes lived in the twelfth century A.D.), contains numerous references to ganja as a drink of warriors.  For instance, the commencement of the canto dealing with Alha's marriage describes the pestle and mortar with which the ganja was prepared, the amount of the intoxicating drink prepared from it (it is called sabzi) and the amount of opium (an absurdly exaggerated quantity) given to each warrior in his court.

            That the consumption of bhang is not considered disreputable among Rajputs may be gathered from the fact that Ajabes, who was court poet to the well-known Maharaja Bishwanath Singh of Riwa, wrote a poem praising bhang and comparing siddhi to the "success" which attends the worshipper of "Hari."  Here there is an elaborate series of puns.  The word siddhi means literally “success,” and hari means not only the god Hari, but also bhang.


Appendix B





Babu Abhilas Chandra Mukerji, Second Inspector of  Excise, Bengal

            Date of origin.  In 1867 Babu Ananda Chandra Kali or Kailai, of Dhamrai, a village in thana Sabhar of the Dacca district, first started the worship at the house of his father-in-law at Fattehpur in the Atia pargana of the Mymensingh district (sub-division Tangail).

            Antecedents of the originator.  Dhamrai is an important village in the Dacca district noted for its car festival, which is annually held in honor of a local idol named Madhab Thakur, and which is witnessed by a large gathering of people.

            Ananda Chandra received education at the Dacca Normal School.  After leaving school he served for some time as a pundit (schoolmaster), and then entered the Police Department, but was there only a short time.  He is a Barendra Brahman and belongs to a respectable family.  He learnt to smoke ganja when he was only a boy.  His present age is 60 years.  He has the reputation of being a versifier.  He smokes two pice worth of ganja every day.

            He married at Fattehpur in the Mymensingh district.  There he introduced Trinath worship 27 years ago.  A panchali (poem) reciting the praises and exploits of Trinath was first published at Dacca in 1871 and the first edition (1,000 copies) was sold in a few months.

            The circumstances under which the worship was first started.  Ananda Chandra Kali was at the time living in the house of his father-in-law.  He was thinking of introducing the worship of a common god, who might be worshipped by all classes, rich and poor, Brahman and Chandal, and by all creeds, Saktas, Baishnavas, and Shaivas, and the idea occurred to him of having the present worship at which ordinary and inexpensive things, such as ganja, oil, and betel-leaf, were alone to be used.

            Trinath (from Sanskrit Tri, three, and Nath, lord) is represented to be Brahma, Bishnu and Shiva, the Hindu Trinity in one.

            Being a ganja-smoker himself, Ananda Kali may have also thought that by introducing the worship he would be able to save the ganja-smokers from disrepute, as then ganja could be consumed in the name of a god and under colour of doing a religious or pious act.

            Religious aspect of the worship.  The following translation of the Introduction to the Trinath Mela Panchali gives some idea of the subject 

            “The universe consists of the earth, the heaven, and the nether world, and Trinath is the lord of these three worlds.


        “There was an incarnation of God in the form of Gour (Chaitanya), who delivered the sinners by preaching the name of Hari, but the Lord was not satisfied with this, and became concerned for the created, and soon he became incarnate again.  Brahma, Bishnu and Shiva, gods in three forms, manifested themselves in one form.  The one God, the Lord of the universe, seeing the miseries of mankind, came to their deliverance.  Ananda (Ananda Chandra Kali, the originator) declares that the true and sincere worshippers of Trinath are sure to obtain salvation.  Brahma, Bishnu, and Shiva met together and expressed their desire to come to this world in one form to receive worship 

            “He is a truly pious man who worships Trinath, and blessings are showered on the worshipper.

             “The worship should be made in a form in which the rich and the poor may equally join and may perform it easily.

             “Only three things, each worth one pice, are required for this puja (form of worship).  The things which please all must be selected.  The offering should consist of siddhi (ganja), pan (betel-leaf), and oil, each worth one pice.

        “The votaries should assemble at night and worship with flowers.  The ganja should be washed in the manner in which people wash ganja for smoking.  The worshipper must fill three chillums with equal quantities of ganja, observing due awe and reverence.  When all the worshipers are assembled the lamp should be lit with three wicks, and the praises of Trinath should be sung.  As long as the wicks burn, the god should be worshipped and his praises chanted.  The god should be reverentially bowed to at the close of the puja.  When the reading of the Panchali is finished, those that will not show respect to the Prasad (the offering which has been accepted by the god), i.e. chillum of ganja, shall be consigned to eternal hell, and the sincere worshippers shall go to.

            How the worship spread.  Ananda Kali commenced the puja with the aid of some ganja-smokers in the village of Fattehpur.  A large number of people consume ganja in the Dacca and Mymensingh districts, and the worship soon became popular.  In fact it spread like wildfire from one village to another among the ganja-smokers.  Those that were not in the habit of consuming ganja also followed their example.

            The following circumstances assisted the spread of the worship.

            I.  The puja is open to all classes from Brahmans to Chandals and to the rich and the poor.  Caste does not stand in its way, and it may be performed almost every day and in all seasons.

            II.  The puja is a Majasik Puja (made in pursuance of a vow on the fulfilment of the object desired).  People have been led to believe that Trinath possesses the power of healing the sick and fulfilling desires, and that those who neglect his worship meet with disgrace, while those who observe it attain success in life.  There are several stories in the Panchali narrated in illustration of this statement.  It is also popularly believed that in the house where Trinath is worshipped cold, fever, and headache do not appear.

            III.  This is a cheap form of worship.  The puja can be performed by even the poorest; only three pice being required.

            IV.  Ganja can be consumed by all in the name of a god, and the practice cannot be looked down upon, because it is done under certain forms and religious ceremonies.  It is also popularly believed that those who mock the worshippers of Trinath shall be ruined and shall be the victims of misfortune.

            The worship prevails not only among the poor, but also among the well-to-do.  The latter often entertain their friends after the puja.

            Women do not take any active part in the worship, but they often listen to the reading of the Panchali.

            The worship is more or less general in the following districts: (1) Dacca, (2) Mymensingh, (3) Faridpur, (4) Backergunge, (5) Noakhali, (6) Tippera, (7) Chittagong, (8) Bogra, (9) Sylhet, and (10) Pabna (Serajganj side.

            The worship is on the decline.  It is almost dying out among the educated bhodrolokes, but among the masses it still exists.

            I have ascertained the above facts from Dr. Chandra Sekher Kali (brother of the originator, Ananda Chandra Kali) and many other respectable persons, and also from personal  inquiries in the Dacca, Chittagong and Rajshahi divisions.


Appendix C



Mr. J. M. Campbell, C.I.E., Collector of Land Revenue

and Customs and Opium, Bombay


            To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy.  A guardian lives in the bhang leaf.  As the wife of Vishnu, the preserver, lives in the hysteria-curing tulsi, or Holy Basil, and as Shiva dwells in the dysentery-scaring bel, Ægle marmelos, so the properties of the bhang plant, its power to suppress the appetites, its virtue as a febrifuge, and its thought-bracing qualities show that the bhang leaf is the home of the great Yogi or brooding ascetic Mahadev.

            So holy a plant should have special rearing.  Shiva explains to his wife, Parvati, how, in sowing hemp seed, you should keep repeating the spell  “Bhangi, Bhangi,” apparently that the sound of that guardian name may scare the evil tare-sowing influences.  Again, when the seedlings are planted the same holy name must be repeated, and also at the watering which, for the space of a year, the young plants must daily receive.  When the flowers appear the flowers and leaves should be stripped from the plant and kept for a day in warm water.  Next day, with one hundred repetitions of the holy name Bhangi, the leaves and flowers should be washed in a river and dried in an open shed.  When they are dry some of the leaves should be burnt with due repeating of the holy name as a jap or muttered charm.  Then, bearing in mind Vagdevata, or the goddess of speech, and offering a prayer, the dried leaves should be laid in a pure and sanctified place.  Bhang so prepared, especially if prayers are said over it, will gratify the wishes and desires of its owner.  Taken in the early morning such bhang cleanses the user from sin, frees him from the punishment of crores of sins, and entitles him to reap the fruits of a thousand horse-sacrifices.  Such sanctified bhang taken at daybreak or noon destroys disease.  Before the religious user of bhang stand the Ashtadevata or Eight Guardians with clasped hands ready to obey him and perform his orders.  The wish of him who with pure mind pours bhang with due reverence over the Ling of Mahadev will be fulfilled.

            Such holiness and such evil-scaring powers must give bhang a high place among lucky objects.  That a day may be fortunate the careful man should on waking look into liquid bhang.  So any nightmares or evil spirits that may have entered into him during the ghost-haunted hours of night will flee from him at the sight of the bhang and free him from their blinding influences during the day.  So too when a journey has to be begun or a fresh duty or business undertaken it is well to look at bhang.  To meet someone carrying bhang is a sure omen of success.  To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky; it brings the goodness of wealth into the dreamer's power.  To see his parents worship the bhang-plant and pour bhang over Shiva's Ling will cure the dreamer of fever.  A longing for bhang foretells happiness:  to see bhang drunk increases riches.  No good thing can come to the man who treads under foot the holy bhang leaf.

            So evil-scaring and therefore luck-bringing a plant must play an important part in the rites required to clear away evil influences.  During the great spirit time of marriage in Bombay among almost all the higher classes of Gujarat Hindus, of the Jain as well as of the Brahmanic sects, the supplies sent by the family of the bride to the bridegroom's party during their seven days' sojourn includes a supply of bhang.  The name of the father who neglects to send bhang is held in contempt.  Again, after the wedding, when the bridegroom and his friends are entertained at the house of the bride, richly-spiced bhang is drunk by the guests.  The Gujarat Musalman bride before and after marriage drinks a preparation of bhang.  Among the Pardeshi or North Indian Hindus of Bombay bhang is given not only at weddings, but the Pardeshi who fails to give his visitor bhang is despised by his caste as mean and miserly.  Another great spirit time during which bhang plays an important part is the time of war.  Before the outbreak of a war and during its progress the Ling of Mahadev should be bathed with bhang.  Its power of driving panic influences from near the god has gained for bhang the name of Vijaya, the unbeaten.  So a drink of bhang drives from the fighting Hindu the haunting spirits of fear and weariness.  So the beleagured Rajput, when nothing is left but to die, after loosing his hair that the bhang spirit may have free entrance, drinks the sacramental bhang and rushing on the enemy completes his juhár or self-sacrifice.  It is this quality of panic-scaring that makes bhang, the Vijaya or Victorious, specially dear to Mahadev in his character of Tripur, the slayer of the demon Tripurasur.  As Shiva is fond of bel leaves, as Vishnu is fond of tulsi leaves, so is Tripuresvar fond of bhang leaves.  He who wishes to obtain his desires must constantly offer bhang to Tripuresvar.

            Bhang the cooler is a febrifuge.  Bhang acts on the fever not directly or physically as an ordinary medicine, but indirectly or spiritually by soothing the angry influences to whom the heats of fever are due.  According to one account in the Ayurveda, fever is possession by the hot angry breath of the great gods Brahma, Vishnu, and shiva.  According to another passage in the Ayurveda, Shankar or Shiva, enraged by a slight from his father-in-law Daksha, breathed from his nostrils the eight fevers that wither mankind.  If the fever-stricken performs the Vijaya abhishek, or bhang-pouring on the Ling of Shankar, the god is pleased, his breath cools, and the portion of his breath in the body of the fever-stricken ceases to inflame.  The Kashikhanda Purana tells how at Benares, a Brahman, sore-smitten with fever, dreamed that be had poured bhang over the self-sprung Ling and was well.  On waking he went to the Ling, worshipped, poured bhang and recovered.  The fame of this cure brings to Benares sufferers from fever which no ordinary medicine can cure.  The sufferers are laid in the temple and pour bhang over the Ling whose virtue has gained it the name Jvareshwar, the Fever-Lord.  In Bombay many people sick of fever vow on recovery to pour bhang over a Ling.  Besides as a cure for fever bhang has many medicinal virtues.  It cools the heated blood, soothes the over-wakeful to sleep, gives beauty, and secures length of days.  It cures dysentery and sunstroke, clears phlegm, quickens digestion, sharpens appetite, makes the tongue of the lisper plain, freshens the intellect, and gives alertness to the body and gaiety to the mind.  Such are the useful and needful ends for which in his goodness the Almighty made bhang.  In this praise of the hemp the Makhzan or great Greek-Arab work on drugs joins.  Ganja in excess causes abscess, even madness.  In moderation bhang is the best of gifts.  Bhang is a cordial, a bile absorber, an appetiser, a prolonger of life.  Bhang quickens fancy, deepens thought, and braces judgment.

            As on other guardian-possessed objects, the cow, the Vedas, or the leaf of the bel tree, oaths are taken on the bhang leaf.  Even to a truthful witness an oath on the bhang leaf is dreaded.  To one who foreswears himself the bhang oath is death.

            So holy a plant must play a leading part in temple rites.  Shiva on fire with the poison churned from the ocean was cooled by bhang.  At another time enraged with family worries the god withdrew to the fields.  The cool shade of a plant soothed him.  He crushed and ate of the leaves, and the bhang refreshed him.  For these two benefits bhang is Shankarpriya, the beloved of Mahadev.  So the right user of bhang or of ganja, before beginning to drink or to smoke, offers the drug to Mahadev saying, Lena Shankar, lena Babulnath:  Be pleased to take it Shankar, take it Babulnath.  According to the Shiva Purana, from the dark fourteenth of Magh (January-February) to the light fourteenth of Asbadh (July-July), that is, during the three months of the hot weather, bhang should be daily poured over the Ling of Shiva.  If not every day, bhang should be poured at least during the first and last days of this period.  According to the Meru Tantra on any Monday, especially on Shravan (July-August) Mondays, on all twelfths or pradoshs, and on all dark fourteenths of shivratris, still more on the Mahashivratri or Shiva's Great Night on the dark fourteenth of Magh (January-February), and at all eclipses of the sun or moon, persons wistful either for this world or for the world to come should offer bhang to Shiva and pour it over the Ling.  Not every devotee of Shiva makes offerings of bhang.  Such rites in Bombay are seldom performed except in the Bhuleswar and Babulnath temples and there only on special occasions.  The bhang offered to Mahadev is without pepper or other spice.  It is mixed with water, water and milk, or milk and sugar.  It is poured over the Ling.  According to some authorities the offerer should not touch the offered bhang.  Temple ministrants Atits, Tapodhans, Bhojaks, Bhopis, Bharadis, Guravas alone should drink it.  If there are no ministrants the remains of the offering should be poured into a well or given to cows to drink.  Other authorities encourage the offerer to sip the bhang, since by sipping the bhang reaches and soothes the Shiva-Shakti or Shiva-spirit in the sipper.  On certain special occasions during failures of rain, during eclipses, and also in times of war libations of bhang are poured over the Ling.

            Vaishnavas as well as Shaivas make offerings of bhang.  The form of Vishnu or the Guardian to whom bhang is a welcome offering is Baladev, Balaram, or Dauji, the elder brother of Krishna.  Baladev was fond of spirits, not of bhang.  But Banias, Bhatias, and other high class Hindus, not being able to offer spirits, instead of spirits present bhang.  In Bombay the offering of bhang to Baladev, unlike the special offerings to Shiva, is a common and everyday rite.  Without an offering of bhang no worship of Baladev is complete.  Unlike the plain or milk and sugared bhang spilt over the Ling, Baladev's bhang is a richly-spiced liquid which all present, including the offerer, join in drinking.  Such social and religious drinking of bhang is common in Bombay in the temple of Dauji in Kalyan Kirparam lane near Bhuleshwar.  As in the higher class worship of Baladev the liquor offering has been refined into an offering of bhang so it is in the worship of Devi, Shiva's early and terrible consort.  On any Tuesday or Friday, the two weekdays sacred to Devi, still more during the Navratra or Nine Nights in Ashwin or September-October, those whose caste rules forbid liquor make a pleasing spiced bhang.  And as in the worship of Baladev all present, worshipper and ministrant alike, join in drinking.  Shitaladevi, the Cooler, the dread goddess of small-pox, whose nature, like the nature of bhang, is cooling, takes pleasure in offerings of bhang.  During epidemics of small-pox the burning and fever of the disease are soothed by pouring bhang over the image of Shitaladevi.  So for the feverishness caused by the heats especially to the old no cure equals the drinking of bhang.  Unlike spirits the tempter to flesh bhang the craver for milk is pleasing to the Hindu religion.  Even according to the straitest school of the objectors to stimulants, while to a high caste Hindu the penalty for liquor-drinking is death, no penalty attaches to the use of bhang, and a single day's fast is enough to cleanse from the coarser spirit of ganja.  Even among those who hold stimulants to be devil-possessed penalty and disfavour attach to the use of hemp drugs only when they are taken with no religious object and without observing the due religious rites.

            At the other extreme of Hindu thought from the foes to stimulants, to the worshippers of the influences that, raising man out of himself and above mean individual worries, make him one with the divine force of nature, it is inevitable that temperaments should be found to whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge.  In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into light the murkiness of matter or illusion and self is lost in the central soul-fire.  The Hindu poet of Shiva, the Great Spirit that living in bhang passes into the drinker, sings of bhang as the clearer of ignorance, the giver of knowledge.  No gem or jewel can touch in value bhang taken truly and reverently.  He who drinks bhang drinks Shiva.  The soul in whom the spirit of bhang finds a home glides into the ocean of Being freed from the weary round of matter-blinded self.  To the meaner man, still under the glamour of matter or maya, bhang taken religiously is kindly thwarting the wiles of his foes and giving the drinker wealth and promptness of mind.

            In this devotion to bhang, with reverence, not with the worship, which is due to Allah alone, the North Indian Mussalman joins hymning the praises of bhang.  To the follower of the later religion of Islam the holy spirit in bhang is not the spirit of the Almighty.  It is the spirit of the great prophet Khizr or Elijah.  That bhang should be sacred to Khizr is natural.  Khizr is the patron saint of water.  Still more Khizr means green, the revered colour of the cooling water of bhang.  So the Urdu poet sings: “When I quaff fresh bhang I liken its colour to the fresh light down of thy youthful beard.”  The prophet Khizr or the Green prophet cries: “May the drink be pleasing to thee.”  Nasir, the great North Indian Urdu poet of the beginning of the present century, is loud in the praises of his beloved Sabzi, the Green one:  “Compared with bhang spirits are naught.  Leave all things thou fool, drink bhang.”  From its quickening the imagination Musalman poets honour bhang with the title Warak al Khiyall, Fancy's Leaf.  And the Makhzan or great Arab-Greek drug book records many other fond names for the drug.  Bhang is the Joy-giver, the Sky-flier, the Heavenly-guide, the Poor Man's Heaven, the Soother of Grief.

            Much of the holiness of bhang is due to its virtue of clearing the head and stimulating the brain to thought. Among ascetics the sect known as Atits are specially devoted to hemp.  No social or religious gathering of Atits is complete without the use of the hemp plant smoked in ganja or drunk in bhang.  To its devotee bhang is no ordinary plant that became holy from its guardian and healing qualities.  According to one account, when nectar was produced from the churning of the ocean, something was wanted to purify the nectar.  The deity supplied the want of a nectar-cleanser by creating bhang.  This bhang Mahadev made from his own body, and so it is called angaj or body-born.  According to another account some nectar dropped to the ground and from the ground the bhang plant sprang.  It was because they used this child of nectar or of Mahadev in agreement with religious forms that the seers or Rishis became Siddha or one with the deity.  He who, despite the example of the Rishis, uses no bhang shall lose his happiness in this life and in the life to come.  In the end he shall be cast into hell.  The mere sight of bhang cleanses from as much sin as a thousand horse-sacrifices or a thousand pilgrimages.  He who scandalises the user of bhang shall suffer the torments of hell so long as the sun endures.  He who drinks bhang foolishly or for pleasure without religious rites is as guilty as the sinner of lakhs of sins.  He who drinks wisely and according to rule, be he ever so low, even though his body is smeared with human ordure and urine, is Shiva.  No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang.  The students of the scriptures at Benares are given bhang before they sit to study.  At Benares, Ujjain, the other holy places yogis, bairagis and sanyasis take deep draughts of bhang that they may centre their thoughts on the Eternal.  To bring back to reason an unhinged mind the best and cleanest bhang leaves should be boiled in milk and turned to clarified butter.  Salamisri, saffron, and sugar should be added and the whole eaten.  Besides over the demon of Madness bhang is Vijaya or victorious over the demons of hunger and thirst.  By the help of bhang ascetics pass days without food or drink.  The supporting power of bhang has brought many a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine.  To forbid or even seriously to restrict the use of so holy and gracious a herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to the large bands of worshipped ascetics deep-seated anger.  It would rob the people of a solace in discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences, and whose mighty power makes the devotee of the Victorious, overcoming the demons of hunger and thirst, of panic fear, of the glamour of Maya or matter, and of madness, able to rest to brood on the Eternal, till the Eternal, possessing him body and soul, frees him from the haunting of self and receives him into the ocean of Being.  These beliefs the Musalman devotee shares to the full.  Like his Hindu brother the Musalman fakir reveres bhang as the lengthener of life, the freer from the bonds of self.  Bhang brings union with the Divine Spirit.  “We drank bhang and the mystery I am He grew plain.  So grand a result, so tiny a sin.”


[1] I quote the MS. in the Library of the A.S. B.

[2] According to Dutt “not before 1535 A.D.”

[3] Nectar was produced in this fashion.

[4] The name of several plants; I do not know which is meant here.

[5] The name of several plants, Jussiaeca Repens, Hemionitis cordifolia, Rubia munjista, Hedyssrum Lagopodioide.

[6] Said by a kaviraja to mean dhatura.