Dum Maro Dum

Myth Theory 14 Comments

Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, April 24, 2011


Cannabis is an illegal narcotic in most parts of the world, even India. Its more deadly form is called Marijuana. From it come some of the most lethal addictive organic drugs that ruled the party circuit until the arrival of even more lethal, even more potent, even more addictive chemical drugs.

But still, it is amazing to to see Indian television soap operas directed at women showing Bhang being prepared from leaves of the Cannabis plant and consumed by the family during Holi. We have Bollywood songs where heroes and heroines run around trees consuming Bhang and singing “Jai Jai Shiv Shankar” and then we have the famous “Dum Maro Dum” with a very young and very beautiful Zeenat Aman surrounded by hippies smoking pot, hoping it will destroy all sorrow. No one is upset or outraged. An acknowledgment that Cannabis is sacred in India – it is sold in the temple markets of Varanasi, Puri and Nathdvara. Every sadhu smokes this potent drug.

Shiva, the hermit, smokes Cannabis. He is described as always being on a high. There are miniature paintings showing Parvati making Bhang for her husband. She berates him for always being in a hemp trance and never doing household chores. Krishna’s elder brother, Balaram, is known for his fondness for Bhang. Bhang drinking is a common part of rituals in Vaishnav temples. It is called a coolant to calm the short-tempered Shiva and Balarama.

Not just cannabis, many stimulants and depressants, including alcohol are part of sacred and social traditions all over the world. Vedic priests kept referring to Soma which enabled the mind to take flight! Homer’s Odyssey refers to lotus-eaters who lie around all day doing nothing. Across Arabia and Africa chewing narcotic leaves known as Khat is a part of tradition. Ancient Egyptians called it divine food. Betel nut is an alkaloid that gives a chemical high when chewed and is famously consumed in every household in South Asia in the form of paan. In tribes, shamans have used chemicals to transport themselves to the world of spirits. Alcohol is served to Kala-Bhairav and other fierce deities. Wine is a sacrament in Christianity.

In modern times, most of these have been deemed as substance abuse agents and are banned in different capacities in different parts of the world. We want to create a world where no one takes any chemical stimulant. We want to force people to be good. And so now, people who smoke cigarettes which contains tobacco, have to stand outside buildings and smoke like criminals. Tobacco is deemed evil because it causes cancer. Even fatty and starchy food are being slowly treated as evil as they also cause disease. The worst sin of the 21st century is to eat a high calorie meal.

This use of law to control human behavior did not exist in ancient times. There was a tendency to trust the human will, human intelligence and the human ability to self-regulate. Modern society seems to have lost faith in human beings. Modern society does not want to allow humans to take responsibility for their own lives. It therefore uses laws to control human behavior, domesticate them into perfection. Invariably it fails. Prohibition simply spawns a booming black market. And I realize this when I hear – much to my disquiet – well-educated and affluent boys and girls describing how they snort lines of cocaine in the toilet cubicles and how it makes them feel ‘cool and dangerous’.

  • Giriraj Bhatia

    Absolutely right.

    Instead of prohibition, we need to educate people about the ill effects and also provide alternative methods like yoga to release stress.

  • Mohan Ramchandani

    Nice article.

    I am sure I am going to get lot of
    flak for this but my opinion
    is that anything under moderation
    is fine. As long as you have a will
    power of not getting addicted to
    these substances.

    • Manish Trivedi

      I’m fully agree with you Mohan.

  • Sushma


    In a country like India atleast the law is required. You can explain things to people who want to listen or can read and want to read. It is shocking to see that habbits such as consuming tobacco is formed before one can understand the consequences. I have myself seen very young boys and girls may be 8-9 year old who consume gudaku (Tobacco) everyday and they got this habbit from there parents. Infact parents gave them when they were just infants if they were not sleeping.There are things where strict laws are required and much stricter punishment for those not abiding with the laws.

    • Sushma, your name suggests that you are an Indian.

      But somehow Indians dont understand Indians anymore.

      If you are a Real Patriotic Indian then only maybe, you know the value of Freedom and i mean True Freedom which does not exist anymore in the World today.

      The First Video of Devduttji itself explained how Indian Civilisation thought was.

      According to that thought, Westerners always think,” To achieve something you always need to study and plan”

      While INDIANS THINK, ” To Achieve something you always need to first Believe in yourself and just do it without any real planning”

      And this attitude of Indian’s is what really makes them Truly Free Human beings who are always Creatively using their brains to do something new everyday.

      An Example, most Indian Drivers dont follow rules while driving on Indian Roads, they take sudden turns, lane changing, sudden brakes, etc.

      This makes us blame them for being erratic and illiterate and useless people. But, because of this, every driver on the Indian Road is always vigil of the car or bike nearby and is always challenged on the road. This keeps them innovative and everyday they learn some new maneuver technique.

      What i just wrote is the positive thinking that keeps us Indians going.

      When rules are applied to the same Indian thinking, then Traffic police get a chance to earn money through bribing which means that Rules actually increase the rate of Breaking rules.

      And if rules are to be applied then why are they not applied to the shoddy contractors who have never made a single Indian road properly, the government which builds flyovers for 8 yrs creating long traffic jams and finally when the flyover is open,it gets potholes within a week.

      When you talk about rules, then all rules should be applied and should work together like the four wheels of a car.Even if one wheel is not proper then there is an accident.

      Thus, we Indians can live a better life without rules and rules are made by humans who have never made anything without flaws in it.

      Only God’s Rules are flawless !!!

      • Kireeti

        This comment is not compelling. The argument that reckless driving contributes to the innovativeness of Indians is just not accceptable. Also who says our traffic control system is only about bribing constables. We are a country with billion plus humans. Even though corruption is in place, our rules and regulations have allowed us to maintain harmony amongst ourselves. Indian mythology comes from an age when our population was very less. As per various estimates World population as late as 600 AD was hardly 200 millions. So administration would not have been as difficult as it is today. Which is why some of those systems or principles do not work for the present day population. Evolution has always been dynamic and it shall remain dynamic. So do the rules and regulations of society. We no longer use horses, donkeys and bulls for travel. These animals can atleast divert themselves from another animal(includes humans as well) in its way, in case of emergency. Vehicles are difficult to control. Hence we do require a traffic control system.

        The same applies for every aspect of our society. The sheer number of people makes it a necessity to have a system in place. Also the comment that Indian attitude is not just about self belief sans planning. Even great battles such as Mahabharata and Ramayana were fought with proper planning.

        Systems and rules are a necessity in the modern world due to the magnitude of destruction caused by modern day weapons.

        Even though Indian scriptures speak of SOMARAS, they never speak of it being administered to kids as a stimulant. Let alone Cannabis. Also what is wrong with rules which help improve the health of subjects?

        Author says modern society doesn’t allow humans to take responsibility of their own lives. Why don’t we see it the other way? Modern society is striving to take the responsibility of its subjects for their well being? Our very own puranas and vedas list the duties of a king to maintain harmony in the society. What way is the present situation different but for the absence of kings?

        • Parry

          I agree with Kireeti. In my comment below, I too, have mentioned that just because ancient society consumed these substances without moderation (a statement that is not backed up by evidence) does not make these substances “good” or even “okay” in any way.

          “The government says tobacco is bad” –> “But ancient Indian yogis and sadhus consumed tobacco! So the Government must be wrong!” What’s the assumption here? That anything done in ancient India was moral and virtuous and that today’s society is considerably less moral that those days’. What are the metrics of morality? What we know about the behaviour of ancient society is through its literature, art and artifacts. Mythology is something that is derived from interpretations of tales and poetry. How, then, have we derived this down-sloping curve of morality? IS it because ancient society is associated with being closer to “God’s Time”? Does “God=Good” translate into “Any society closer to God’s time = Good”? Present day society can be “more right”, can’t it?

  • Kireeti

    Although it is his own perception(and every human is entitled to have his own), the article is not upto the standards of the author. Complete let away.

  • Rajesh Kamath

    What I have always believed is that excess of anything shall be harmful. One has to understand complete cause and effect from various angles of any addiction before or during the course of addiction. This will help understand the limits one needs to follow.

  • Parry

    Hi, Dev

    I find your line of reasoning quite unconvincing. You support the relaxation of restrictions on currently prohibited items by claiming that ancient society did not have such restrictions, and so, neither should present-day society.

    You are probably assuming that ancient society was a near-perfect, mostly harmonious one, where the unbridled use of such substances never caused any large-scale ill-effects. By positing that Shiva smoked cannabis all day and did not help in household chores, you are using Shiva’s revered status to indirectly create an acceptance for slacking in your readers’ minds.

    Now, I understand your belief that self-moderation should supersede enforced-prohibition. However, practicing such seemingly anarchical methods require extensive maturity on the part of all people in the society. Unfortunately, not everyone always adheres to such high morals.

    Many readers, or even you, may say that what an individual does to his or her own body is his or her own right and the government should not intervene in this decision. After all, the human is harming only himself and nobody else, right? Wrong! A person who has given into substance-abuse does damage on many levels to those around him or her. Apart from direct and non-lagging effects of substance abuse such as second-hand smoke from cigarettes and smoked-cannabis, there are indirect effects that may show their results after a considerable period of time. A person’s family may be mentally and financially hurt through his or her irresponsible actions. This may lead to a snowball effect on the immediate community (such as the neighbourhood) and gradually to the society at large (through the spreading of such behaviour by influence).

    Again, basing ancient laws whose accuracy is not even concretely backed up as evidence for blaming the government and making statements such as “Modern society does not want to allow humans to take responsibility for their own lives” makes the government’s intentions seem evil.
    I think we need to do some more fact-finding before we can relate mythological and historical evidence to the argument of controlling the use of controversial substances.



  • Suriya

    “Modern society does not want to allow humans to take responsibility for their own lives” –> Which I feel is very appropriate,becaue in our modern socitety how many among the masses has capability to take responsibility for their own lives. We are bombarded by comercials ,arousing inputs from countless forms of media.
    Hell will break loose if our choices are not controlled by Law…our socitey has made us incapable of us enjoying the freedom to the fullest.

  • Uncle B

    knowledge of perfect nutrition for the human body usually excludes the use of all of these drugs.

  • Author: “Modern society does not want to allow humans to take responsibility for their own lives”

    Surya: “Which I feel is very appropriate,because in our modern society how many among the masses has capability to take responsibility for their own lives. We are bombarded by commercials ,arousing inputs from countless forms of media.”

    That is why more laws are required and government need to take the responsibility.

  • Sameer

    Hi Dev,

    I came to your website looking for a nice article about Shiva to share on fb on the occasion of Mahashivratri, and came across this one.

    I’ve read “myth = mithya” and appreciate the amount of research and thought you put into your work.
    But, reading the paragraph quoted below disappointed me.

    You have obviously NOT EVEN read the wikipedia page on cannabis/marijuana.

    The claims made are grossly inaccurate and I urge you to find out more about such substances before you use words like “deadly” “lethal” “addictive”. None of them even remotely apply to pot.

    “Cannabis is an illegal narcotic in most parts of the world, even India. Its more deadly form is called Marijuana. From it come some of the most lethal addictive organic drugs that ruled the party circuit until the arrival of even more lethal, even more potent, even more addictive chemical drugs.”

    Just FYI, by scientific estimates, one would have to consume about a truck load of cannabis within an hour to overdose on this “deadly” drug.
    While a few bottle of alcohol can kill you just fine through alcohol poisoning.

    Think about it.

    Still a fan.