Updated: Oct 17, 2020
You see, when we mention the term “culture preservation”, we dwell into the various aspects of affording protection to the indigenious rituals and customs that our forefathers practiced through generations. Interestingly, this not only includes conserving cultures of large nations, but it drips down to the smallest of the tribes that a country comprises of! Ancestors have constantly passed on their oral traditional history from generations to generations in the form of folklores, fables, and stories to protect their identity as a community. Hence, it is evident how crucial it is for the natives to have a strong hold onto their traditions and to convey the old wives’s tales to their offsprings. And in spite of cultures holding such importance, humans have on countless occasions failed to safeguard this identity known as “culture”.
We at Himalayan Hemp are beginning an anecdotal and less-known literary blog piece in the form of a very intriguing conversation with Mr Vikramm Mitra, an Ayurvedic Phytocannabinoid Palliative Care Researcher and the co-founder of Delta Botanicals and Research Private Limited. With over 10 years of experience, he has been consulting and providing advisory services on various aspects of Medical Cannabis and Hemp Fibre development to reputed International and National Clients along with closely working with the different State Governments of India for the same.
In this powwow, he beautifully explained how deep and varied the Indian culture is pertaining to the use of cannabis since the pre-vedic period. Besides, he also happened to mention how there is a rich profusion of folk tales, stories, and fables connected to this sacred plant of cannabis, which is also mentioned in Vedas and Puranas. Not just this, but there are several narratives revolving around the use of cannabis amongst the indigenous folk people of the hills too!
He shared a few anecdotes with us and said: “In Malana (Himachal), the locals do not perform Shiva Puja and refrain from worshipping him! Although this is the place from where the best cream in the world comes from, this sacred plant is not associated with Shiva. Why?”
To explain this, he elaborated: “This was an eye opener for me to understand that there are a great many stories in this culture that are not supposed to be taken at face value, however, once we dig the rabbit hole, there is a lot of history in it as well!” He further elucidated that the main Rishi/deity of the village of Malana is Rishi Jamadagini, who was the father of Bhargav Rama or better known as Parshuram. It happens to be that Shiva was the one who taught Parshuram everything associated with warfare and that he was his favorite of the disciples. He was a gift to Jamadagni from Shiva, but it came with a curse that he had to fulfill. “It was destined that as a curse, Jamadagini would have to ask his son Parshuram to behead his own mother at some point in time. Therefore, disturbed by this facet, he made sure that the people in the village do not worship lord Shiva and this is a tradition followed since ages!”
Another very popular notion about this village is that they are considered to be the descendants of Alexander the Great, while some believe that they belong to the lineage of the Rakshasas as they speak the language of Kanshi, which is a completely different dialect altogether. Vikramm says: “This is soaked in mystery! But, if you look further, you gradually realize that there is a story linked with a morale behind this as well. They have a rich culture and are considered to be one of the oldest democracies in India. Look at their thing of being untouchable! First it felt quite discriminatory that they did not let outsiders touch them, but I eventually realized the reason supporting this. Even if one had built a good relationship with the natives there, they would only let anyone enter their verandah once the person has gargled their mouth with hot water and salt. Moreover, they will make you throw the water in the mud and not in any water source. Why? So that the person is rid of the pathogens it carries in the mouth. Untouchability was not something that they wanted to imbibe, but rather was used as a protective mechanism to safeguard themselves from diseases, infections, and viruses!”
This is so fascinating, especially after this whole Covid pandemic that has shaken people to its core. Certainly, they kept some space and did not physically mingle as much with outsiders for a reason. Well, talk about social distancing, these guys already knew about Corona! So the question arises, that are they primitive? Do they carry a very old and staunch mindset? To answer this, Vikaramm says: “How can we call them primitive when they know so much? People in Malana have always been vocal about not involving the government in their village. They do not want any aid or help, but rather want to live life on their own terms. They want to live life similar to how their ancestors lived and preserve their culture and way of living!” For instance, the Sentinelese people in the Bay of Bengal have been given special rights by the Indian government to let them conserve their culture and live the way they want to as an indigenious tribe!
So Why Preservation?
We all know about the Aboriginal people from Australia and the Native American tribes of America. All these places are colonized lands, and we also know the black history affiliated with Australia and America. Here, Vikramm further adds: “Entire nations and colonies of Red Indians and Aborigines have been wiped out by trying to acclimatize them by coming to their shores and exposing them to various pathogens and viruses. Then came the diseases and, in turn, the deaths of many, making them very weak. Furthermore, they tried to assimilate them into the white culture too. It is much the same as the generations of stolen children in Australia who do not even know about their original birth parents. One whole generation of stolen people taken away from their native lands made to work in white owned plantations or catholic owned churches!
So now it all makes sense! It’s only now that we realize how the Aboriginal people shared a sacred relation with land, and how they thought they were not the owners but mere custodians of the lands. This only goes to explain how people were so close to nature and how they built a special connection with the natural world and the surrounding environment to not only make the best use of it, but to also save and protect what is taught through generations.
”When your culture is being engineered by commercial forces, some amount of stopping and preserving needs to happen. Through culture, various practices and norms are brought in life because of the benefits it has for human well being. Now some commercial forces are coming and removing everything for their advantage. This has to be stopped otherwise they’ll come and take away everything”
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Vikramm postulated: “This is how my interest peaked. Consequently, I started to gather and comprehend more information about the medicinal value of Cannabis through the indigenous people in Malana. This is where I was able to relate the other aspects of Cannabis with the scientific findings from the Western world which was so gripping!”.
Research To Preserve The Cannabis Culture
Indeed, enough research is conducted to conclude that there is immense medical value of the plant including numerous health benefits. Not only is it now scientifically proven, but it is openly spoken about in our ancient culture and traditions, referring to this plant as one of the seven most sacred ones in our religious books. Additionally, when we talk about bhang and other edibles made from it, a staple ingredient is peppercorn apart from caraway seeds in most of the recipes. This is solely because when there is an interaction of pepperine with cannabis, the effect of THC is highly reduced, giving a more melower, stable, and balanced experience of the plant infused with healthy usage. There are many other references that tell us a lot about how cannabis as a plant has been in use for centuries in this land.
Vikram also recalls how he was exposed to Hemp milk by Mataan Tiger Baba in Malana. He was informed how babas while going to long tapasya in the mountains, use hemp milk to provide themselves with the required energy and warmth in the cold weather along with the mental capacity to survive for long periods. It was also compelling for Vikramm to find out how locals also used to carry with them other cannabis infused edibles like Bhang Chutneys, Bhang Chapatis, and Hemp milk while taking their goats to graze the grasses at higher altitudes. This was a safety mechanism for their survival!
In this fashion, preserving culture linked to cannabis is of utmost importance for the well being of a community who has been using this plant since time immemorial. Our ancestors have been scientifically and rationally been able to make use of this sacred plant that not only benefits us but the environment as well. Not much is talked about the concept of preserving our culture, and in turn, this plant! Now is the time to indulge in more healthy debates to realize the significance of this plant called cannabis!