Uday Chand Dutt And George King
The Cannabis sativa has been used from a very remote period both in medicine and as an intoxicating agent. A mythological origin has been invented for it. It is said to have been produced in the shape of nectar while the gods were churning the ocean with the mountain called Mandara. It is the favorite drink of Indra the king of gods, and is called 'vijaya', because it gives success to its votaries. The gods through compassion on the human race sent it to this earth so that mankind by using it habitually may attain delight, lose all fear, and have their sexual desires excited. On the last day of the Durga pooja, after the idols are thrown into water, it is customary for the Hindus to see their friends and relatives and embrace them. After this ceremony is over it is incumbent on the owner of the house to offer to his visitors a cup of 'bhang' and sweet-meats for tiffin.
An intoxicating agent with such recommendations cannot but be popular and so we find it in general use amongst all classes especially in the North-West provinces and Behar... Sir William O'Shaughnessy has so well described the preparations of Indian hemp that I cannot do better than quote his account of them.
'Sidhee, Subjee, and Bhang (synonymous) are used with water as a drink which is thus prepared: About three tola's weight (540 troy grains) are well washed with cold water, then rubbed to powder, mixed with black pepper, cucumber and melon seeds, sugar, half-a-pint of milk and an equal quantity of water. This is considered sufficient to intoxicate an habituated person. Half the quantity is enough for a novice ... intoxication will ensue in half an hour. Almost invariably the inebriation is of the most cheerful kind, causing the person to sing and dance, to eat food with great relish, and to seek aphrodisiac enjoyments. In persons of a quarrelsome nature it occasions, as might be expected, an exasperation of their natural tendency. The intoxication lasts about three hours, when sleep supervenes. No nausea or sickness of the stomach succeeds, nor are the bowels at all affected; next day there is slight giddiness and vascularity of the eyes, but no other symptom worth recording.
'The Majoon or hemp confection, is a compound of sugar, butter, flour, milk, and siddhi or bhang. The process has been repeatedly performed before us by Ameer, the proprietor of a celebrated place of resort for hemp devotees in Calcutta and who is considered the best artist in his profession. Four ounces of siddhi and an equal quantity of ghee are placed in an earthen vessel, a pint of water added, and the whole warmed over a charcoal fire. The mixture is constantly stirred until the water all boils away, which is known by the crackling noise of the melted butter on the sides of the vessel. The mixture is then removed from the fire, squeezed through cloth while hot, by which an oleaginous solution of the active principles and coloring matter of the hemp is obtained; and the leaves, fibers, etc., remaining on the cloth are thrown away. The green oily solution soon concretes into a buttery mass and is then well washed by the hand in soft water, so long as the water becomes colored. The coloring matter and an extractive substance are thus removed and a very pale green mass, of the consistence of simple ointment, remains. The washings are thrown away. Ameer says that these are intoxicating, and produce constriction of the throat, great pain and very disagreeable and dangerous symptoms.
'The operator then takes two pounds of sugar, and adding a little water, places it in a pipkin over the fire. When the sugar dissolves and froths, two ounces of milk are added; a thick scum rises and is removed; more milk and a little water are added from time to time, and the boiling continued about an hour, the solution being carefully stirred until it becomes an adhesive clear syrup, ready to solidify on a cold surface; four ounces of tyre (new milk dried before the sun) in fine powder are now stirred in, and lastly the prepared butter of hemp is introduced, brisk stirring being continued for a few minutes. A few drops of attar of roses are then quickly sprinkled in, and the mixture poured from the pipkin on a flat cold dish or slab. The mass concretes immediately into a thick cake, which is divided into small lozenge-shaped pieces ... The taste is sweet and the odor very agreeable. Ameer states that sometimes by special order of customers he introduces stramonium seeds, but never nux vomica; that all classes of persons including the lower Portuguese and especially their females consume the drug; that it is most fascinating in its effects, producing extaric [sic] happiness, a persuasion of high rank, a sensation of flying, voracious appetite and intense aphrodisiac desire.'
The leaves of Cannabis sativa are purified by being boiled in milk before use. They are regarded as heating, digestive, astringent, and narcotic. The intoxication produced by 'bhang' is said to be of a pleasant description and to promote talkativeness.
In sleeplessness, the powder of the dried leaves is given in suitable doses for inducing sleep and removing pain.
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