In the Hindu scriptures bhang¹ is considered as a favorite offering for Lord Shiva and there are many reasons for this. Bhang is offered to Shiva and is also used by people, especially by devotees of Lord Shiva. Following are few mythological legends explaining the causes of Shiva's connection with cannabis.
One of these legends says that hemp is able to neutralize the negative effects of poisons on the bodies of living beings. It is said that Shiva consumed bhang for the first time after drinking the Halahala poison, released during the churning of the ocean (samudra-mantana). Then, after the release of poison, various wonderful things and beings began to appear from the ocean: the goddess Lakshmi, the elephant Airavata, the Uchchaishravas horse, the Kalpavriksha tree, etc. Among the other gifts of the ocean was the hemp plant. Various deities took for themselves many of these wonderful things, but the single one that Lord Shiva took for Himself was hemp plant. Then Bhang (drink) was prepared from this plant, and Shiva drank it. This healed Him and remoted the negative effects of the Halahala.
According to another legend, when the goddess Ganga settled in the hair of Shiva, her younger sister did not want to be apart from her and because of this took the form of a cannabis plant. Lord Shiva was impressed by this and started wearing a leaf of this plant, along with the Ganges River, on His head wherever He went.
It is also believed that hemp plant was given to the people by Lord Shiva in order to make way for them to realize the peaceful state of self-realization, which is usually achieved by meditation.
There is also a legend, according to which, a little drop of amrita (ambrosia) fell on the Mandara Mountain, and a hemp plant appeared in instant in that place. Lord Shiva maked a bhang drink from its leaves, drank it, and from that day, bhang became His favorite drink. Since then, the devotees offering bhang to Lord Shiva and also consuming it themselves as His prasad (mercy).
There is one more story narrate that once Shiva had an argument with his wife, the goddess Parvati. Angry, He went to the forest and entered into a state of deep meditation. Soon He felt hungry. Seeing a plant growing nearby, He plucked and ate some of its leaves. After that He felt relieved and happy. This plant was hemp, and since then Shiva began to use it regularly.
Bhang plant is one of the five essential plants mentioned in the Vedas, along with soma and barley. The five plants are more clearly mentioned in Book 11, Hymn 8 (or 6), Verse 15:
पञ्च राज्यानि वीरुधां सोमश्रेष्ठानि ब्रूमः। दर्भो भङ्गो यवः सह ते नो मुञ्चन्त्व् अंहसः॥
"To the five kingdoms of the plants which Soma rules as Lord we speak. Darbha, hemp, barley, mighty power: may these deliver us from woe."
The word ‘भङ्ग’ (bhang) here refers to the cannabis plant.
It is symbolic that the bhang takes a human's mind away from the sufferings and misfortune of this world. This is a small period of a time for a human, but not for Shiva, who is constantly drowning in bliss.²
1. In Sanskrit and many other Indian languages, this is the name of the cannabis or hemp plant, but the same name has an intoxicating drink prepared by prolonged boiling of hemp leaves in milk, often with the addition of sugar, honey and various spices. Both the plant itself and the products made from it can be called differently: vijaya, bhanga-vijaya, bhola, charas, etc. [↑]
2. It should be noted that the worldwide practice of recognizing cannabis and its derivatives as a "dangerous drug", which became widespread in the second half of the twentieth century, currently has a steady tendency towards its final cessation. Every year more and more civilized countries abandon this vicious and shameful practice of criminal prosecution for the cultivation, storage and use of this sacred plant. These countries are Canada, Mexico, USA, Israel, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and some other EU countries. No cannabis-related bans have ever existed in North Korea either. [↑]