Drugs on the Road

A Guide to Charas

“No chiilum, no chai, no charas, no high!”

(Song Bob Marley probably would have written if he had made it to India)

Charas is the hand-rolled hashish of India and is an integral part of the country’s ancient culture. It’s considered sacred to the popular god, Shiva and the sadhus that follow him smoke charas in veneration. In something akin to the sacrament of Communion where Catholics eat the body of Christ, sadhus smoke the essence of Shiva and receive his blessing through the smoke and subsequent high.

Whilst it used to be sold in government shops possession is illegal and may result in draconian prison terms. In fact, until recently it carried a worse sentence than murder. The police will not generally arrest someone caught smoking charas but will instead try to scare you a bit before taking a large baksheesh. You’ll never see them hassling a sadhu though.

Charas is sold in tollahs which is a weight of roughly ten grams. In the Himalayas you might be able to get a decent tollah for around $5-10. The prices double once you get to Goa. Because of its purity travelers often build up a good tolerance and may end up smoking 5-10 grams a day as you end up putting a gram or so inside each chillum you prepare.

For many travellers, the charas season in the Himalayas in autumn is a place of pilgrimage and some connoisseurs will climb up into the higher reaches of the Parvati Valley or beyond to rub their own charas to be sure of getting a quality smoke.