Bhang (Hindi: भाँग) is a preparation from the leaves and flowers (buds) of the female cannabis plant, consumed as a beverage in the Indian subcontinent.
Bhang has been used as an intoxicant for centuries in the Indian sub-continent. Bhang in India and Nepal is distributed during some Hindu festivals like Holi, and consuming bhang at such occasions is a common practice.
Bhang has been used in India since Vedic times, and is an integral part of North Indian culture. Sadhus and Sufis use bhang to boost meditation and to achieve transcendental states. Bhang or cannabis is also used amongst Sufis as an aid to spiritual ecstasy.
In 1596, Dutchman Jan Huyghen van Linschoten spent three pages on "Bangue" in his historic work documenting his journeys in the East, also mentioning the Egyptian Hashish, Turkish Boza, Turkish Bernavi, and Arabic Bursj forms of consumption.
The historian Richard Davenport-Hines lists Thomas Bowrey as the first Westerner to document the use of bhang.
Anywhere on the ghats, one can find large number of men engaged in the process of preparing bhang. Using mortar and pestle, the buds and leaves of cannabis are ground into a paste. To this mixture, milk, ghee and spices are added. The bhang base is now ready to be made into a heavy drink, thandai, an alternative to alcohol; this is often referred to casually, if inaccurately, as a "bhang thandai" and "bhang lassi". Bhang is also mixed with ghee and sugar to make a green halva, and into peppery, chewy little balls called 'golee' (which in this context means candy or pill in Hindi).
Bhang has become an integral part of tradition and custom in the Indian subcontinent.
In some sections of rural India, people attribute various medicinal properties to the cannabis plant. If taken in proper quantity, bhang is believed to cure fever, dysentery, sunstroke, to clear phlegm, aid in digestion, appetite, cure speech imperfections and lisping, and give alertness to the body.