fbpx India: Police could start cracking down on temples using weed as part of worship and celebrations

India: Police could start cracking down on temples using weed as part of worship and celebrations

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Indian temples that allow using cannabis during specific celebrations to achieve enlightenment may need to rethink their practices if police in the state of Belagavi make good on their pledge to crack down on such uses.

“We’re now starting to crack down wherever it is available,” Raichur SP Prakash Nityam said of cannabis everywhere in the country. “I’m not aware of temples or mutts particularly, but if we receive information we will raid them,” Nityam said, according to the Times of India.

It seems that some temples are using weed during prasada — wherein a deity receives an offering, partakes of it and then returns it to be distributed and eaten by worshippers — at some temples in north Karnataka.

Devotees gather at the Mouneshwara temple at Tinthini during the annual fair in January, notes the Times of India. They are said to receive a small packet of ganja as prasada, which is smoked after praying, a video posted with the article notes.

A member of the temple committee acknowledged to the Times of India that cannabis is used there and anyone can consume it during the fair, some by ingestion after boiling the plant and others by smoking its powder form.

He emphasized, however, that the temple does not sell weed to outsiders for recreational purposes.

One comment on social media noted: “I have seen in temples in Jammu also, I believe it’s quite common.”

Image for representation. Indus sadhu makes a drug mixture. / Photo: Diy13 / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Photo: Diy13 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Although the practice at the Mouneshwara temple and perhaps others has reportedly been an open secret, with police seemingly respecting traditions, the country’s move to get tough with weed could bring that to an end.

The reported use at temples has continued despite what can only be described as India’s intensified focus on identifying, raiding, arresting and charging anyone in breach of its strict marijuana laws.

Recent examples of cracking down have ranged from arresting a man for growing cannabis on his maize farm — cultivating a commercial quantity of marijuana is a breach under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act that can carry a prison term of 10 to 20 years — to the arrest of a driver for supplying illegally imported narcotic drugs, sometimes ending up in the hands of celebrities, and fingered as part of an extensive police probe into importing illicit cannabis, primarily from Canada and the U.S.

India’s rules around the trade, cultivation and consumption of cannabis are strict, with year-long prison sentences possible. Although apparently used sparingly, the government does allow for granting cultivation licences for research or medical use purposes.

All that said, India has a long cannabis history, including being mentioned in sacred Hindu texts compiled as early as 2000 to 1400 B.C., cited as a sacred plant and associated with the god, Shiva.

Beyond Hinduism, cannabis has been used as a sacrament in other religions, including Christianity and Rastafarianism.

FILE: Frontal view of the cella of the shrine at Arad, as rebuilt in the Israel Museum from the original archaeological finds. The inserts show a top−down view of the altars: on the left, the larger altar; on the right, the smaller altar. Note the visible black residue. / / Photo: Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Photo © The Israel Museum, by Laura Lachman / Photo: Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Photo © The Israel Museum, by Laura Lachman

recently released study even detailed that cannabis residue was found in a religious shrine in Israel dating back to 760 BCE. Study authors believe it is “the earliest evidence for the use of cannabis in the Ancient Near East” and that the plant was burned there, likely for its mind-altering abilities.

Today, bhang, a cannabis paste added to foods and drinks remains popular in India. The sale of food and drink containing bhang seems to be tolerated and in some cities, these products are available from street vendors and government-approved shops, according to Healthline.

Beyond its psychoactive effects, it has been reported to help with easing nausea and vomiting, Healthline adds.

Today, bhang, a cannabis paste added to foods and drinks, is popular in India. / Photo: amlanmathur / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Photo: amlanmathur / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Despite weed’s long history in India, social media comments about reporting on its use in some temples were far from welcoming. “Why not run a story on sacramental wine offered by Chruch? That’s fair right?” one poster noted.

Added another, “There is one in Punjab that serves Liquor as prasad, though that is legal. Religious places are in competition for audience.”

One commenter, however, questioned it all. “So? What’s the point? Two wrongs don’t make it right.”

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