The charas is almost always mixed with tobacco. You have to roast the cigarette first though by passing it quickly over a naked flame and there are few worse smells in existance. The charas is never burnt to make it softer as with hashish but instead crumbled by hand and mixed with the tobacco in a tin or dried coconut shell.
Then you need to wet the safi cloth. This makes it a good deal easier on the lungs. You insert the small, conical stone that sildes down the neck to the chillum and pour in the mix. Chillums vary a good deal in size and capacity but one feature of a longer chillum is that the smoke cools down on the way and you tend to smoke more than is good for you..
The next part of the ceremony is crucial if you don’t want the average sadhu or Goa Freak to hit you over the head with the fire tongs – on no account ever put your lips to the chilum. It’s not a pipe. Instead you have to master an arrangement of cupping the hands as though you were playing the harmonica. Your hands form a closed prism around the bottom of the chillum, the safi cloth and your mouth. Then you can draw heavily and the smoke pours merrily into your lungs.
You should hand the chillum to someone else to smoke and then light the chillumwith matches. The person taking the first puff should first shout one of the praises to Shiva such as Alack or Bom Shankar. The first person to smoke has to puff like a train to get the thing started and then pass it to the right, preferably supporting his right arm with his left. The required etiquette can become quite complex and the average Westerner has little or no chance of meeting the ritual standards of a sadhu. Then again your average Italian chillum fascist in the Parvati Valley can be just as pedantic.
The key things to remember are:
– never touch the chillum with your mouth
– never hold the chillum with your left hand.
– always pass the chillum to your right
And well, it goes on. And If you’re curious here is why there are so many prohibitions about the use of the left hand in India.