I’ve always wondered as to why, in spite of being so closely affiliated with cultures across the globe, this plant today is considered to be a drug under schedule one! Most of us in India have the same question: “Hum kare to nasha aur babaji kare to dava! Kaise?”
Well, to answer this, I had a conversation with our friend and cannabis expert Vikramm to whom I posed the same question. To this he replied: “It is very crucial to understand the plant. Also, it is all the more vital to take into consideration the concept of dosage! We are quite fortunate to have been part of a culture that has studied this plant so well from the roots, that there is immense knowledge that one can gather about not just this plant but a variety of others. Right from how to when to why, it has it all! Some are in a written format and some are explained through oral traditional stories.”
Vikramm recalls how he spoke to one of the babas in Orissa who had narrated a beautiful story of this plant, it’s origin, and the significance of the dosage. He also explained the value of this place called Mahendragiri in Orissa and how it is associated with Shiva as well as cannabis!
Baba: “Kahani kuch aisi hai ki is booti me 33 crore devtao ki shakti hai!”
(This story entails how cannabis comprises of the energy of 33 crore Indian deities)
Vikramm: “Ye kaise babaji?” (How?)
Baba: “Bahot sari aisi cheeze hai jo logo ko malum nahi hai. Aao sunata hoon ki Vijaya is prithvi me kaise ayi hai aur kese iske matra se pata chalta hai ki wo dava hai, nasha hai, ya vish hai!”
(There are a lot of things that we do not know. Let me narrate a story of the origin of this plant and the importance of dosage)
Vikramm told me how he had met a baba in Orissa who explained the story of Shiva and Shakti, when Shakti was in the form of Mata Sati; a manasputri (in human form). The story goes like this. After Shiva got married to Sati, Sati observed some peculiar actions of Shiva that she couldn’t figure out. Everyday she used to see how Shiva used to wake up early in the morning to leave the house and meditate but come back in a drunken state at night. She was really upset with this as he used to come home with bloodshot eyes, drowned in ecstasy. One day she called for Naradmuni and asked him about Shiva, where he goes, and what he does everyday. Naradmuni said “Mother Sati, Shiva goes to a certain place, meditates, performs his rituals, and keeps an eye on the whole of the Universe.”
Curious to witness this, Sati followed Shiva the next day to see what he exactly does. To her surprise, she saw Shiva incising a part of the Taal tree with his trishul in Mansarovar from where a juice came out called “Madera”. He consumed this and started meditating. Further, after the sunset, he took a holy dip in Lake Mansarovar and went back to the same tree. He took out his beads of snakes, hung it on the tree, and caught hold of a black snake from the beads that held the power of his Kundalini and started dancing with it. In the process, he would take snake bites and lovingly dance in blissfulness. Sati was stunned seeing this as she observed Shiva repeating the same process throughout the whole day. She came back annoyed and started thinking how Shiva never bothered to sit around her but spent a whole day dancing with the snake.
The next day, Sati decides to go to the same place again before Shiva does. She went near the tree and called for Vanaspati Devi and urged her to convert the juice into fruits so that he could not consume it anymore. Agreeing to this, Vanaspati devi converted the Taal tree into a Date tree (Date Palm). Additionally, she also killed the black snake on the way back. She then returned home thinking she would spend some quality time with Shiva today as he won’t be intoxicated. The same day, Shiva reached Mansoravar, stood near the tree to consume the juice to follow his routine. He took out his trishul and incised the tree but in vain as there was no juice oozing out from the bark. Unmoved by this, he went on to have a dip in the lake and again started dancing with the snake. But he found the snake lying dead. Things went out of control and Shiva started dancing in vexation. Meanwhile, Naradmuni informed Sati how the whole universe was on the verge of destruction as Shiva constantly danced, dripping with anger. He further explained why Shiva did what he did everyday, and that the consumption of the snake’s venom and the juice of the tree was to rid the whole world from the poison created on a daily basis. The leela (dance) of shiva is to root out all the pain and sorrow from the world.
Frightened by this, she confessed that she had killed the snake and converted the Taal tree into a Date tree so that Shiva couldn't consume the juice and be intoxicated. This created a worrisome atmosphere as Shiva was unstoppable, which meant that he would destroy the world with his anger. Sati, crying for help, asked for a solution from Naradmuni, to which he said: “There is only one way to stop this desolation. Vishwakarma has a boon that could bring the snake back to life if each deity could offer their one part of their body and combine them together.” Vanaspati devi added that she could recreate the power of the kundalini as well. Thus, Vishwakarma and Vanaspati devi coupled their energies to give birth to a sacred plant, which later was called “Shiva Booti”. However, Sati was still confused as to how to use this plant. Vanaspati devi then replied: “This is a plant whose first three leaves will represent the form of a trishul. You will have to crush the leaves and make a juice for Shiva to consume.”
Straight away, everyone started crushing the leaves and assisted Sati to make this into a juice. She gave this to Shiva and he immediately stopped dancing and became calm. Besides, Vanaspati devi also added that the plant will blossom with flowers, which should also be given to Shiva as a prasad to get him back to the normal state.
But the question was how? Vanaspati devi then enumerated “Once the flowers come out, make a pipe out of earth and give it to him to smoke. Also, take some amount and throw it near Mahendragiri. From there, Garud will take it and spread across the whole world. Then Shiva will never run out of this divine power!” This way, the first chillam for Shiva was made by Mata Sati!
After some days, things came back to normal. Sati asked for forgiveness from Shiva to which he said: “You did this for the right cause. You wanted me to pay attention to other aspects of life as well. Your intent was pure and everything has a reason, which is why there is a lesson to be taught to humanity. From now onwards, it is only the dosage that will decide if this plant will act as a poison or a medicine!”.
Here, Vikramm further elaborated: “This is the reason why dosage is so important while dealing with this plant. It is a fact that anything in access can cause problems for the body, even if it is water. Well, excess of water can produce stomach issues, and the lack of it can give you a headache. Similarly, this rule applies for anything and everything because nature is built in such a way!” He also added: “It is not a coincidence that this plant can be used in innumerable ways. Right from its bark, to leaves, to flowers and seeds, this plant is a miracle plant. No wonder, it sustains the power and energy of the 33 crore deities!”
I was quite intrigued by this story and the conversation with Vikramm. Well, if you think about it, even an excess of your favorite drink or food item can turn against you and your body. Consequently, there has to be enough light put on the fact that dosage is everything. And, in turn, enough research has to be done in the medical field to comprehend its importance as a medicine and a life saver in all the areas of life. We anyway, as a culture, have learnt how to use this plant for thousands of years, especially in Ayurveda. It is just that these cultural stories and information have to be acknowledged with a different perspective to make the best use of it. Yes, it is indeed a very sacred plant!