COMING UP: Inside India’s Holy Men
For our holiday special to be released this weekend, we traveled to India for a unique journey.
A quest, to seek out why cannabis is considered a sacred plant and how it has been used, spiritually and medicinally.
Our story starts in Rishikesh, a spiritual hot spot nestled in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, where ashrams dot the landscape and the sacred river Ganges flows towards the plains. Hindus have long made pilgrimages to this holy place, where saints and sages are said to have meditated for thousands of years.
Rishikesh is filled with so-called Sadhus, holy men who left all their material attachments behind and usually live in forests, caves or temples.
Many of them in the streets of Rishikesh are fake and try to convince foreigners they are the holiest person in the world. Usually, you end up paying some money and not feel Enlightened. But the real Sadhu is a dedicated monk sacrificing his life for a higher state of mind and often use cannabis to get there.
Our journey leads to a remote cave, far away from daily life. Here we meet our Sadhu or Baba.
Cannabis has a long history in India, veiled in legends and religion. The earliest mention of cannabis has been found in The Vedas or sacred Hindu texts. These writings may have been compiled as early as 2000 B.C. According to The Vedas, cannabis was one of five sacred plants. The Vedas call cannabis a source of happiness, joy-giver, liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help us attain delight and lose fear. It releases us from anxiety. The god, Shiva is frequently associated with cannabis, called bhang in India. According to legend, Shiva wandered off into the fields after an angry discourse with his family. Drained from the family conflict and the hot sun, he fell asleep under a leafy plant. When he awoke, his curiosity led him to sample the leaves of the plant. Instantly rejuvenated, Shiva made the plant his favorite food and he became known as the Lord of Bhang.
Because of that Sadhus see their use of the drug as receiving a blessing from him.
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