Bhang Defined: Marijuana Potion

Cannabis Drink

Cannabis Plant
Cannabis Plant. Photo © [David Mcnew / Getty Images]

Definition of Bhang

Bhang is a term widely used throughout India referring to any number of intoxicating concoctions made from cannabis. Bhang may include beverages such as bhang lassi, or thandai made from fresh, or boiled, marijuana leaves or buds, sometimes mixed with opium poppies, and an edible paste sometimes sweetened and formed into balls, or golees.

In Sikhism, bhang generally refers to a drinkable potion made from marijuana.

In Sikhism scripture, or Gurbani, bhang may refer to marijuana or hemp in any form. In the Punjabi language spoken by the majority of Sikhs from India, the word bhang may also means wasted, injury, destruction, breaking, intermission, interruption or pause.

Code of Conduct FAQ: Is Medical Marijuana OK for Sikhs?

Sikhism renounces consumption of intoxicants. The teachings of the Sikh Gurus prohibit use of Cannabis in any form except as permitted for medicinal reasons. For instance, the Nihang warrior sect has a historic tradition of preparing bhang for pain management before battle. Ingredients are place in a large deep iron bowl. A long wooden pestle is used to crush fresh Marijuana buds which are pounded together with almonds and cardamon pods to form a paste, and then mixed with milk. The bhang concoction is strained through turban cloth. Other general medicinal uses of bhang in India include treatment of various aliments including fevers, digestive disturbances, speech impediments, and strengthening the constitution of the body.

Bhang is routinely consumed as an intoxicant during traditional Hindu festivals such as Holi, by India's Hindu population. Tenth Guru Gobind Singh created the Hola Mohalla martial arts festival to coincide with the Hindu Holi festival of colors as an alternative to bhang intoxicated revelry. Hola Mohalla is traditionally attended by Nihang warriors who feature displays of weaponry horseman ship and skill in the Gatka sword dance.

In other parts of the world medical marijuana treatments vary by custom, culture, and law. In the United States of America, federal law prohibits use of Cannabis. However state laws increasingly favor permitting medicinal use, and several states have decriminalized medical marijuana. Some states have even voted to permit recreational use. Though Sikhism does not take a stand to criminalize recreational use of Marijuna, using Cannabis simply to "get high" is an outlook which is not inline with Gurmat principles and practices.

Phonetic Pronunciation and Spelling

Bhang is a Punjabi word which is also featured in Gurmukhi scripture. The Romanized phonetic spelling is transliterated from Gurmukhi script represented by English equivalent characters.

Pronunciation: The the Gurmukhi is aspirated to sound like the p in pong. The Gurmukhi equivalent represented by a in Bhang is a short vowel sound like the u in bung, however the vowel may also be pronounced with long vowel sound of aa like the o in bong. 

Alternate Spellings: Both Bhang and Bhaangh are acceptable phonetic English equivalent spellings.

Common Misspellings: Bong, and Bang are both incorrect as the English character b does not accurately represent an equivalent of the aspirated Gurmukhi bh.

Also Known As: Sukh Nidhan meaning "treasure of peace" is a Punjabi phrase also used for marijuana in reference to its euphoric effects.

What Does Gurbani Say About Marijuana Use (Bhang)?

The authors of Guru Granth Sahib write concerning the futility of the intoxicating effects of Bhang in these examples of Gurbani scripture. Interpretive translations are my own:

  • "Man tan antar charan dhiaiaa ||
    Mind, heart, soul, and body, inwardly contemplating the Lord's feet
    Har sukh nidhaan naanak daas paa-i-aa ||4||2||56||
    The Lord is the treasure of peace, obtained by Slave Nanak." ||4||2||56|| SGGS||684
  • "Bhao teraa bhaang khalarree maeraa cheet ||
    Fear of Thee, O Lord God, is my marijuana, and my consciousness the leather pouch which holds it." SGGS||721
  • "Kabeer bhaang maachhulee suraa paan jo jo praanee khaaneh ||
    Kabeer, marijuana, fish, and beetle nut wine, whosoever of these consume ...
    Teerath barrat naem keeae tae sabhai rassatl jaaneh
    Though pilgrimages, fasting, and daily rituals are performed, they all go to the nethermost regions of hellish doom." SGGS||1377