How Drinking At Home In India Reflects Changing Attitudes
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Alcohol has a storied history in India, but has a stigma attached to it as well. While fermented beverages always existed, archeological discoveries have revealed that distillation was carried out as far back as the Indus Valley Civilization. Ayurvedic texts have considered alcohol to be beneficial if consumed in moderation and detrimental to one's health if consumed in excess. Hindu epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have mentioned alcohol. The Ramayana depicts alcohol as being consumed only by the bad faction, but the Mahabharata has no such black-and-white portrayal. 

Adi Shankaracharya and Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, sought to depict abstinence from alcohol consumption as a moral value. Alcohol was used as an offering to the gods by the priestly classes in early Vedic texts. Sura, a beverage brewed from rice meal, wheat, sugarcane, grapes, and other fruits, was popular with the Kshatriya warriors and was also the favorite drink of Indra, the king of the gods. Intoxicants like Soma and Prahamana have been mentioned in the Rig Veda. Soma was the juice of the Soma plant that was thought to produce a euphoric high when consumed. Fermented beverages usually don't last as long as distilled ones. Another popular beverage that's still distilled today is mahua. It served as a potential laxative when distilled from Madhuca indica or Bassia latifolia, the Mahua flower. Mahua is offered in rituals even today in states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. 

The reign of Chandragupta Maurya was one of the first periods where alcohol was regulated and taxed. Designated areas for drinking were created as well. Public drinking was allowed only for a fixed period of time during certain festivities. Any flouting of the rules was met with heavy fines. True alcohol distillation was used in 14th-century India by the Delhi Sultanate and was brought in from the Middle  

With the advent of the British and the Portuguese, local liquors and alcohols were blended with European imports. The British started taxing "Toddy," a traditional South Indian drink, to regulate its usage. In post-Independence India, an attempt has been made to ban alcohol completely. Supported by Mahatma Gandhi, many states brought in a legislative prohibition on alcohol, but quickly found that revenue loss was significant and bootlegging had increased dramatically. In this period, even when alcohol was available, drinking was relegated mostly to social occasions or certain festivities. For most Indians, drinking at home was taboo and expensive, as procuring a highly taxed and regulated bottle of liquor was quite a task. 

Bihar, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Gujarat are states with alcohol prohibition, wherein any alcohol possession, sale, or consumption is punishable by fines and prison time. While certain domestic violence-related crimes have decreased significantly, substance abuse and spurious liquor production have skyrocketed as regular consumers of alcohol have turned to alternative methods of seeking a high. Liquor smuggling has also increased as liquor is smuggled into prohibition states from neighboring states where prohibition does not exist. Even in states with prohibition, certain local brews and ferments are simply not regulated, or exceptions have been created for them because they've been an integral part of the local culture for a long time. 

With the liberalization of the Indian economy, people began to gain significant purchasing power and access. Liquor slowly started entering Indian homes. Even now, drinking at home is mostly taboo, as it is frowned upon due to the presence of family and all. However, COVID-19 changed all that in one fell swoop. All the people who would frequent bars and pubs on the weekends for their alcohol fix were suddenly left high and dry. Apparently, the threat of these habitual alcohol drinkers committing suicide in large numbers prompted the government to allow the sale of liquor every day for a fixed period of time and a fixed quantity per person. So great was the frenzy that lines of people stretching for more than a kilometer were found outside liquor stores. 

It was during this time that people also started developing a taste for specific alcohol types and brands that were a little difficult to find before. Home bars aren't as common in India yet because they seem to be a reserve for only the rich and elite. Besides, the limit prescribed by every state government on the quantity of liquor that one may possess legally at home differs and is sometimes quite insignificant to warrant a home bar. However, many people secretly store far more liquor than is legally permitted at home in order to keep a stash for a rainy day, such as when purchasing liquor becomes difficult or expensive. Others only consume high-proof liquors like whisky and vodka at home while only drinking mild cocktails and beer at social gatherings to avoid any traffic problems that accompany a drunken state. Many major distilleries and brands like Pernod-Ricard, Brown-Forman, and Radico Khaitan have started making bottle versions of their famous drinks for home tippers.   

Alcohol consumption has come a long way in India since pre-Vedic times. Sura and Soma have now given way to imported single malts, blended scotches, and bourbons. With a little nudge from taxes, prohibition, and the pandemic, drinking at home is here to stay and might have also become the preferred way of drinking for many owing to the expenses and risks incurred while frequenting a bar or a pub.