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Old April 20th, 2017, 11:23 AM   #1
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History of Intoxication in India


All cultures have ways of letting loose and having fun.

Today, conservative Indians attach all kinds of moral stigma to using substances such as alchohol.

Was it always this way?

What was Ancient India's favorite drink?
Did they use other substances? I know Ganja is a Sanskrit word.
Do we have any records of Indian "parties" or any such?
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Old April 20th, 2017, 07:19 PM   #2

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Sura - Wine/liquor, Marijuana drinks - Bhang, were common. Vegetrianianism was for some Brahmins and Vaishyas.
If they don't want to enjoy life, it is their problem. Let them drink milk and whey.
Alkaloids (Opium, Charas, Ganja) were for mendicants.
Who can avoid parties, whether rich or poor, though what they did may be different.
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Old April 20th, 2017, 10:14 PM   #3
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If I'm not mistaken in ancient India, psychoactive substance use was associated with religion and spirituality. It's only with the contact with Islam and later on the modern age, that social stigma was attached to substance use.

Bhang (mango juice embedded with Cannabis) would be one example.
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Old April 20th, 2017, 10:16 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aupmanyav View Post
Sura - Wine/liquor, Marijuana drinks - Bhang, were common. Vegetrianianism was for some Brahmins and Vaishyas.
If they don't want to enjoy life, it is their problem. Let them drink milk and whey.
Alkaloids (Opium, Charas, Ganja) were for mendicants.
Who can avoid parties, whether rich or poor, though what they did may be different.
Just out of curiosity, what is the etymology of the word "Sura", is it related to any of the Dravidian words for wine.
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Old April 21st, 2017, 06:22 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Senyokbalgul View Post
Bhang (mango juice embedded with Cannabis) would be one example.
Oh, yes, Bhang can be made in various ways. But it is marijuana flavored with mango juice, milk and with a lot of sugar. The base is ground marijuana and that should be given precedence. Must be delightful, but never ventured into it. Marijuana can be mind-changing, that is the impression I have had. So, alcoholic drinks for me though people around me were regulars with Bhang.
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Just out of curiosity, what is the etymology of the word "Sura", is it related to any of the Dravidian words for wine.
"Surā (Sanskrit and Pāli) is a strong distilled alcoholic beverage. It is referred to as an anaesthetic by Suśruta (a surgeon in India around 4th Century BCE) before the advent of surgical operation. Other ancient medical authorities also mention it; Charaka (a physician) referred to making a woman with a miscarriage senseless to pain by administering alcoholic drinks like surā, sīdhu, ariṣṭa, madhu, madirā or āsava. The method for preparation appears in the Atharvaveda in the Kandas 5 and 8." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sura_(alcoholic_beverage)

So, I do not think it is a Dravidian word. Of course, my South Indian friends can correct me if I am wrong. We had a whole lot of local brews. Rice, Other grains, Mahua, Palm, Grapes, Sugar cane, etc.

Arishta and āsava mean medicines in which fermentation is used during preparation.

Nellikārishtam, Patrāngāsava
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Last edited by Aupmanyav; April 21st, 2017 at 07:08 AM.
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Old April 21st, 2017, 07:27 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryannu View Post
All cultures have ways of letting loose and having fun.

Today, conservative Indians attach all kinds of moral stigma to using substances such as alchohol.

Was it always this way?

What was Ancient India's favorite drink?
Did they use other substances? I know Ganja is a Sanskrit word.
Do we have any records of Indian "parties" or any such?
I believe upper class Indians had always attached social stigma to drinking alcohol, though there wasn't any prohibition in its consumption from a religious view (except Islam). It probably came about as a result of a way for upper castes to distance themselves from lower castes with what they considered better lives of 'purity'. Alcohol consumption was always a lot more prevalent among the lower castes. As a result Indians never developed the sophistry of enjoying drinking and relaxing socially.

All that started to change with the coming of the British rulers, but legacies continue to linger, and occasionally prop up as 'vice control' with legislations.
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Old April 21st, 2017, 10:33 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kandal View Post
I believe upper class Indians had always attached social stigma to drinking alcohol, though there wasn't any prohibition in its consumption from a religious view (except Islam).

As a result Indians never developed the sophistry of enjoying drinking and relaxing socially.
Alcoholic drinks were usual with Kshatriyas (Rulers and warrior clans) and even traders and agriculturists (Vaishyas - Remember Ambapali?). Though some trading castes stopped drinks under the influence of Jainism and Vaishnavism.

Your second line is regretfully true for many Indians, including for my son-in-law. I have always enjoyed my drinks like a gentleman.

Last edited by Aupmanyav; April 21st, 2017 at 11:38 AM.
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Old April 21st, 2017, 11:21 AM   #8
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^^ I know it is very difficult to make generalizations about India. I remember this famous quote by a scholarly Historian of India, Stanley Wolpert: "Nothing is obviously true of India as a whole. Every generalization that follows could be disproved with evidence to the contrary from India itself. Nor is anything Indian ever quite as simple as it seems." Still, I believe generalizations carry a certain amount of truth.

(I meant 'sophistication' not 'sophistry' - my mistake.)

Last edited by kandal; April 21st, 2017 at 11:37 AM.
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Old April 21st, 2017, 11:35 AM   #9

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Intoxicants like Weed are widely consumed in U.P and haryana and bihar. Infact Opium was very common in the houses just 20-30 yrs back and it was used to relieve pain. My grandmothers generation used to be regular consumer of opiates and hash and even smoking. The puranitical view is pretty recent.
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Old April 21st, 2017, 07:13 PM   #10

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Originally Posted by anmol View Post
Infact Opium was very common in the houses just 20-30 yrs back and it was used to relieve pain. My grandmothers generation used to be regular consumer of opiates and hash and even smoking.
Perhaps not that recent, but yes, a 100 years ago. Opium was given to a child who was crying too much.
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