Marijuana: Harvesting and Hashmaking in India


The terms charas, ganja and bhang are roughly equivalent to hashish, flowering tops and leaves, respectively. As will be seen, the preparation methods vary considerably.

The manufacture of round ganja is not completed till the fourth day after the plants are cut. The plants are gathered somewhat later in the day and laid out under the open sky for the night. The sorting is done the next morning, a great deal more of the woody portion being rejected than in the case of flat ganja. The twigs are laid out in the sun till noon, when the men return to the “chator” and rolling is begun. A horizontal bar is lashed on to uprights about four feet from the ground, and mats are placed on the ground on each side of it. Bundles of twigs, either tied together by the stem ends or not, according to the skill of the treader, are set out on the mats. The men range themselves on each side of the bar, and, holding on to it for support, proceed to roll the bundles with their feet. One foot is used to hold the bundle and the other to roll it, working down from the stems to the flower heads. This process goes on for about ten minutes, and during it the bundles are taken up and shaken from time to time to get rid of leaf. The bundles are then broken up and the twigs exposed to the sun. A second but shorter course of rolling by foot follows, and then the twigs are hand pressed, four or five together. After this the twigs are opened up and exposed to the sun again. Towards evening the twigs are made into bundles of about one hundred, and placed on mats and covered up for the night.

The next morning the bundles are untied and the twigs again exposed to the sun. If they are sufficiently dry by midday, they only require a little handling and rolling to complete the manufacture. If they are not dry enough, the first course of rolling has to be repeated, after which the useless leaves fall off with a very little manipulation. The twigs are next sorted according to length and tied into bundles of three descriptions — short, medium and long. In this process all useless twigs and sticks are eliminated. The bundles are placed in rows under a mat which is kept down by a bamboo, and left for the night. The manufacture is completed the next day by exposing the bundles to the sun, heads upwards till the afternoon, and then searching them with hands and bits of stick for any leaves that may have remained in them. These are shaken out, and with them pieces of the compressed flower heads, which have been accidentally broken off, fall on to the mats.

It has been seen that a great quantity of stick, leaf and seed, and not a little flower head, have been separated from the bundles of prepared ganja. The stick may be used as fuel. The leaf is winnowed from the seed and thrown away, though it has been proved by analysis to contain the narcotic principle in larger quantity than ordinary bhang. The seeds are kept for the next year’s culture, and the superfluity may find its way into the market. The seeds are not narcotic and they are sometimes eaten, besides being used for the expression of oil and other purposes. The bits of flower head are, in the case of flat ganja, picked up and pressed into the mass of the flower heads again or burnt … In the case of round ganja, they form the “chur” or “fragments” on which the excise tariff imposes the highest duty, because in that state the drug is absolutely free of leaf and stick.

Bhang as recognized by the excise department is the dried leaf of the wild plant… The preparation consists simply in drying the leaves. The plants are cut in April … but goes on up to June and July. They are laid out in the sun and one day may be sufficient to dry them so as to allow the leaves to be shaken off or beaten off… The early flowering stage would seem to be that in which the plant yields the best bhang.

The method of preparing Khandwa ganja … The harvest begins in the first or second week of November. The flower heads, which the cultivators call mal, or produce, are broken off with about twelve inches of twig, carried in baskets to the threshing floor, and spread out on it in a layer nine to twelve inches thick … The crop is exposed to the dew for the night. The next day the twigs are formed into heaps, and each heap is trodden in turn and when not being trodden is turned over and exposed to the sun to dry. This goes on for four or five days and results in the twigs being pressed flat and deprived of a great portion of their leaves and thoroughly dried. The produce is then removed to the cultivator’s house, where it is built into a stack five or six feet high, and has heavy weights placed upon it.

In the Javadi hills, the plants are cut and carried bodily to the village threshing floor. There they are sorted, the flower spikes and upper leaves being retained and the sticks thrown away. The selected heads are spread out for three to five hours in the heat of the day to dry and are then loosely rolled in the hand to work out such seed as may have been formed and to break up the leaf that remains. This working also causes the spikes to stick to one another to some extent. The broken leaf is then winnowed out, collected and powdered. The flower heads are then placed in a thin layer in a basket which has been dusted within with leaf powder and are trodden by one or two men according to the size of the basket. After the operator has passed over the layer four or five times, it is dusted with leaf powder, and a fresh layer of spikes is put into the basket on top of the other, and the treading is repeated. This process goes on till the basket is full. The contents are then turned out onto flat hard ground and a stone is placed on the pile with other stones to add to the weight. The material is left thus for the night. Next morning, each layer is taken off separately, broken up and spread in the sun. Each piece is trodden and turned over from time to time. In the evening the pieces are again re-piled and weighted for the night, and the next day the process of exposure is repeated until the material is thoroughly dry. Great importance is attached to the thoroughness of the treading, the sufficiency of the pressing, and the completeness of the drying; the quality of the drug being said to depend on the manner in which those processes are carried out. If the latter are not dried sufficiently, they appear green and are of inferior quality, good ganja being brown.

… the dried leaves which have fallen out in the process are used as bhang or patti. After carefully removing the stalks, the dried leaves are boiled in water for some time; and the boiled leaves are carefully squeezed with the hands to purge them of all filth and dirt and then dried in the sun. The dried leaves are next boiled either in milk or cocoa-nut water. The quantity of milk or cocoanut water must be proportionate to the quantity of leaves boiled, so that the milk or cocoanut water might be entirely absorbed by the leaves. They are again kept in the hot sun for about three or four days. After they are well dried, they are preserved in earthen vessels for use.

Charas — This is locally a by-product which is not brought into account, but appears to be the harvester’s perquisite, who probably part with it to friends who smoke, if they don’t want it themselves. It is the resinous substance that sticks to the hands or collects on the sickle when cutting or plucking the tops. The hands are now and then rubbed t6-gether and the charas is collected in the shape of a pill, which is naturally half dirt and sweat and half charas. A piece about the size of a marble may perhaps be the reward of a day’s work.

… from the Upper Sind Frontier … charas is collected by people walking to and fro through the bhang plants with greased leather coats on and also by going clothed only in a loincloth with their bodies smeared with oil. The latter process is followed … in the Native States of India. One of the witnesses also mentions a process resembling that noticed in the Punjab, by which the dust made by beating the plant is collected on cloth. He states that this process is peculiar to Afghanistan: and the charas from there is well known for its pale green colour, and is highly appreciated.

It will be seen from the above detailed description that bhang, whether produced by the cultivated or wild plant, is prepared by simple drying. The processes by which ganja is prepared consist of pressing, drying, and removal of the leaf. The manufacture is most perfect in Bengal. In other provinces it is not characterized by the same degree of care and one or another of the three essential features of the manufacture is more or less neglected. Ganja collected from the wild plant and from the bhang crops of Sind, and probably also that yielded by stray cultivation, is simply dried. There are only two methods of preparing charas which appear to be used when the drug is produced on any considerable scale, viz. that by rubbing the flower heads with the hands as in Kumaon and Nepal, and that described as being practiced in Yark and, which may be called the garda method, and consists of heating the plant over cloth, and manipulating the dust that is thus deposited. The collection of the resin adhering to hands and implements in the course of harvesting ganja is worth remembering, for it is proved in Gwalior and Bombay. The practice of the Malwa Bhils is perhaps established. Other methods are unimportant, and the common report that charas is collected by men dressed in leather moving about in the hemp crops has not been definitely located. It is doubtful if this device is employed anywhere in India.

In the “Punjab Products” the manufacture of this sort of charas called garda is described. The finest quality is when the dust is of a reddish colour. This is called surkha. When it is green it is called bhangra. The most inferior is that which adheres to the cloth after shaking, and has to be scraped off or shaken off with more violence. This is called khaki. In each case the dust has to be kneaded with a small quantity of water into a cake, and then forms charas. It is stated that this drug is much in use. The specimens which formed the basis of the article were none of them from the plain districts of the Punjab, except possibly one from Dera Ghazi Khan. They came from Lahoul, Spiti, Bokhara, Yarkand, Dera Ghazi Khan, and Kashmir.

Samples of Baluchistan charas made in the Sara-wan division of the Kalat State have been sent to the Indian museum by Mr. Hughes-Buller. The following is the mode of preparation. The female “bhang” plants are reaped when they are waist high and charged with seed. The leaves and seeds are separated and half dried. They are then spread on a carpet made of goat’s hair, another carpet is spread over them and slightly rubbed. The dust containing the narcotic principle falls off, and the leaves, etc. are removed to another carpet and again rubbed. The first dust is the best quality, and is known as nup; the dust from the second shaking is called tahgalim, and is of inferior quality. A third shaking gives gania of still lower quality. Each kind of dust is made into’small balls called gabza and kept in cloth bags. The first quality is recognized by the ease with which it melts. Nup is sometimes spelled rup and gania often given as gauja.

A modern visitor to Kashmir noticed two kinds of hashish currently being made: the relatively weak gurda made from flowering tops, and uter made from the resin and commonly adulterated with clarified butter (ghee). Farmers may allow you to rub resin from their plants for 25 cents an ounce. Some persons believe that the sun brings out the resin, but it is more likely that it merely makes it sticky and easier to collect. Place both hands together flat and rub up the top of the plant gently so as not to kill it, spending a few minutes on each plant. After a while, rubbing the hands together will rub off small pieces of hashish. These will be difficult to smoke at first but will become harder as they dry. Modern gurda preparation involves shaking, crushing or beating the dried tops over a fine cloth through which the hairs pass. The collected resin is placed in a corn husk, put in the fire for a few seconds and then twisted into a sticky bar about eight inches long and one inch wide.

Still another description of hashish in India is given by Bouquet. He maintains that bhang can be made of any combination of leaves and male and/or female flowers, often ground to a coarse powder, which may keep three to four years if protected from sun and moisture. The mixture is incorporated in many preparations such as buengh or poust (with water) and lutki (with alcohol). Lutki with opium or Datura added is called mudra. Bouquet describes three kinds of ganja preparation.

Flat Ganja — the cut stalks arc tied together in bundles, the large leaves are eliminated, and only the inflorescences, which are stuck together by the exuded resin, are kept. The bundles of inflorescences are placed on the ground and tramped underfoot to flatten them. The bundles are then untied, and the product sorted and packed under the name of large flat or ewig-flat, according to the length and breadth of the stems.

Round Ganja — instead of being trampled underfoot, the tops are rolled in the hands until they have become rounded and tapered in shape. This kind of ganja is always packed in bundles (generally of twenty-four pieces).

Chur-ganja or Rora — the tops, detached intentionally from the plants, or accidentally from the flat or round ganja, constitute what is known as rora. This is generally delivered to the consumer in the form of a coarse powder.