Varanasi Bhang Lassi, The Ancient Euphoric Drink
Image Credit: Varanasi Bhang Lassi, bimpeats@Instagram

Varanasi and bhang lassi share a symbiotic relationship and a history that spans centuries. It is a traditional Indian beverage that blends milk, curd, and bhang (cannabis leaves). Also known as 'bhang ka lassi' or 'bhang ki lassi', this popular drink in the holy city of Varanasi has been an integral part of this place's identity. Kashi, the old name for Varanasi or Benaras, was linked to a monarchy of the same moniker 2,500 years ago. Varanasi bhang lassi is famed for its calming and relaxing effects. It might surprise many that it has long been used as a traditional remedy for various ailments. 

Most people know that lassi is an Indian beverage made with thick creamy curd and sugar. Bhang, in simple connotation, means an edible variant of Indian marijuana or cannabis green (fresh) leaves pounded to a paste. 

History of bhang lassi

Cannabis consumption dates back to at least 1000 BCE in India. If consumed in the right doses, the cannabis plant is said to have several therapeutic benefits in Ayurveda. On the other hand, Ayurveda does not recommend marijuana in smoking recipes.

Bhang lassi has been a part of Indian culture for centuries and is believed to have originated in Uttar Pradesh. It was first mentioned in ancient Indian texts dating back to 2000 B.C. During this time, it was used as a religious offering and was also believed to bring good luck.

Preparing bhang golis, Image Source: Gettyimages

In the early 19th century, bhang lassi became a popular drink amongst the British who resided in India. They referred to it as 'bhang ghol' and enjoyed its calming effects. The British then introduced the beverage to the Western world, quickly becoming a favoured drink in Europe and the United States. 

Today, bhang lassi is still consumed in India, particularly in the holy city of Varanasi. It is a popular beverage amongst the locals and is most devoured during festivals, weddings, and other religious ceremonies, such as Mahashivratri. 

Is bhang legal in India?

Many still have this question and have obscure information. The 1985 Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act bans cannabis resin and flowers. Seeds, stems, and leaves can be used. Since bhang is made with leaves, it is legal in India. 

Bhang balls using the leaves, Image Source:

The speciality of Varanasi bhang lassi 

Mild euphoria and modest arousal are the effects of bhang, which is a psychoactive drink. Bhang lassi is made with a combination of yoghurt churned with sugar and 2-3 teaspoons of cannabis leave paste. It can be tweaked according to the drinker's capacity. The leaves are soaked overnight and then blended with the other ingredients. This gives the beverage a unique, earthy taste and a distinct aroma, plus the clay pot in which it is ideally served also infuses a natural fragrance. 

In addition to its distinct taste, bhang lassi also has several health benefits. Varanasi bhang lassi is known for its calming and relaxing effects and is often used to treat various ailments, such as insomnia and anxiety. It also improves one's appetite, digestion, and overall mood. 

Where to find bhang lassi in Varanasi? 

In Benaras, I was told to check out these spots. One of these was Blue Lassi, located just a short distance from the holy site of Kasi Vishwanath. This spot in Kachaudi Gali, near Rajbandhu, in Govindpura, is frequented by foreigners. They serve a variety of lassis, but the bhang lassi from Varanasi is the real fan magnet. Blue Lassi has the highest price tag for this concoction. Check out Badal Thandai on Gowdolia Chowk for more reasonably priced options. There is also bhang ki thandai, a milk-based marijuana-infused drink, in addition to the well-loved Varanasi bhang lassi. One may also try the Green Lassi shop. 

Varanasi special bhang lassi at Blue Lassi Shop, Image Source: Blue Lassi Shop@Facebook

Why have Varanasi's bhang lassi?

Bhang lassi, especially the one available in Varanasi, has exquisite taste and flavour. It isn't a new culinary innovation. In fact, according to Hindu Mythology, during Samudra Manthan, an extremely deadly poison emerged which was potent enough to annihilate the entire creation. To thwart it, Lord Shiva drank it, and his throat turned blue. Hence, he is called Neelakantha. To soothe and calm him down, the gods made Mahadev drink bhaang. Thus, bhang lassi is a delectable beverage that has been devoured by people in India for centuries. Those who have sampled Varanasi's bhang lassi have often raved about its calming and pacifying effects. 

Adding bhang on freshly made lassi before stirring 

Tips to follow during sampling Varanasi bhang lassi:

  • Bhang lassi may be quite potent, so it's best to start with a milder version if you've never had it before. 
  • Don't drink it like water if you're not experiencing the renowned high.
  •  Bhang's effects typically don't become noticeable for almost an hour. It may take longer and have less impact if you eat a substantial meal before drinking your bhang lassi.

Bhang lassi, Image source: Freepik

  •  Have a bottle of water on you at all times and drink frequently. 
  • You should not add a shot of alcohol post your bhang lassi. 
  • Keep trustworthy people close by. It's best to taste it and then head back to your lodging if you're travelling solo and having this lassi for the first time. 
  • The best way to appreciate Varanasi's bhang lassi is to drink it attentively and with caution. You can tour the city and ghats if you are accompanied by a reliable company.

If you are in Varanasi right now and reading this story or planning a trip soon to the ancient city of Kashi, don't forget to try Varanasi Bhang Lassi.