Almost 1500 years after the first documented use by Shen-Nung in China, cannabis in ancient India (1200-800 BC) was gaining traction.
Cannabis is recorded as one of the five sacred plants in the Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas. Specifically, the Atharva Veda (Science of Charms), states
“We tell of the five kingdoms of herbs headed by Soma; may it and kuca grass, and bhanga and barley, and the herb sana (cannabis) release us from anxiety.”
According to the mythology, the Gods “churned the ocean of milk” in search of an elixir of eternal life (think Ponce De Leon looking for the fountain of youth). The chruning process yielded holy dirnks, one of which was cannabis — the “source of happiness”.
As an adage to its ancient history, one of the chemical messengers in the endocannabinoid system, Anandamide, is named after the Sanskrit (the language of Hinduism / ancient India) word ananda, which means “bliss”.
Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, a Harvard-educated family medicine practitioner and advocate for therapeutic marijuana legalization in India, said it is one of the five essential plants mentioned in the vedas.
“It is part of our medicinal and spiritual culture,” Dhanabalan said. “In ayurveda, it was used to improve memory, against leprosy, and many other things.”
“Sana” is one of several terms the ancient sub-continent dwellers used for marijuana, along with “ganja” and “bhang.” “Sana” became “canna” in Latin, which became the root for pot’s scientific name. Today, bhang is used to refer to an ancient Indian preparation of decarboxylated cannabis that uses mango and milk.
In addition to medical uses and uses for its hemp fiber to make cloth, cannabis was also important as an offering to the Hindu God Shiva. The ancient texts remain silent on whether the Indian equivalent of Doritos and orange soda went along with the offerings.