Mahashivratri 2024: Do You Know What Ties Bhang & Lord Shiva?

It’s widely known that Lord Shiva is associated with bhang, which is why the drink is popularly consumed during Shivratri and any festival where he is worshipped. Bhang, also known as "bhang ki thandai," is a traditional Indian drink made from the leaves and buds of the cannabis plant.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva, one of the principal deities in Hinduism, had a fondness for bhang. Legends depict him consuming bhang to attain a state of bliss and transcendence. It is believed that bhang helps Shiva in meditation, enhances his creativity, and elevates his spiritual experiences. As a result, bhang has become an integral part of religious rituals and festivals associated with Lord Shiva, such as the celebration of Maha Shivaratri.

The Mythology Behind It

Several stories depict bhang as a sacred drink and reiterate Shiva’s affinity for it. It is believed that the story of Bhang is linked to ‘Samudra Manthan’, where the sea was churned to obtain ‘Amrita’, known as the drink of immortality. However, during the process, a poison named Halahala came out, which was dangerous and could destroy the entire universe. According to legends, Lord Shiva drank the poison and it turned his throat blue, which is why he is also known as Neekanth.

Shiva kept the poison in his throat for a long time, which made him quite restless. According to the mythology, gods and goddesses tried to calm him down during this time. Eventually, Shiva returned to Kailasha to lower his body’s temperature as the poison had generated quite a lot of heat within him. It was there that he was given some bhaang, which has cooling effects. 

Some texts say that during the manthan, a drop of nectar fell on Mount Madra. The drop turned into a plant and its leaves were crushed to make Bhang. Lord Shiva brought the plant down to the Himalayas for the descendants of Manu (or humans).

Shiva, The Maha Yogi

It is believed by many that bhang (described the Vedas as a nectar) helps Shiva with his inner meditation. It keeps Shiva away from His own Rudra avatar and keeps Him in the highest state of self-realization.

Today, bhang is still consumed during festivals like Holi and Maha Shivaratri, often as a traditional beverage called "bhang thandai" or as sweets like "bhang laddoos" or "bhang barfis." It’s important to note that the consumption of bhang is a symbolic and spiritual gesture as it can help in one’s spiritual awakening and unlock the inherent virtues of purity and bliss. For worshippers, Shivratri is more than a night of ritualistic observance; it is profoundly spiritual and the fasting which some people partake in is meant to help them be closer to their divine selves.