MATTHEW CLARK

Matthew Clark
Research associate

Cannabis Use in India: Ancient and Modern

In this talk we will survey what is known about the use of cannabis in India from the earliest records until modern times. In my book, The Tawny One: Soma, Haoma and Ayahuasca (London/New York: Muswell Hill Press, 2017), one of the chapters was devoted to this topic. Although there are a few occasional references in the Vedas (the oldest religious texts of South Asia) to what may be cannabis, the plant does not appear in medical texts until around 1,000 years ago. The use of cannabis for recreational purposes was mainly introduced into India by radical Sufis (known variously as Qalandar, Heydari or Malang) in the 13th century. The use of cannabis was made illegal in India in 1986, since when recreational use has declined. However, in some areas cannabis is still legal, and bhang (a form of the plant prepared for oral consumption) is still freely available in some places. In this talk we will also look briefly at different kinds of cannabis preparations in South Asia.

Since 2004, Dr. Matthew Clark has been a Research Associate at SOAS, University of London. He is one of the administrators of the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies and is one of the editors of the Journal of Yoga Studies. His publications include The Daśanāmī-Saṃnyāsīs: The Integration of Ascetic Lineages into an Order (2006), which is a study of a sect of sādhus; The Tawny One: Soma, Haoma and Ayahuasca (2017), which is an exploration of the use of psychedelic plant concoctions in ancient Asia and Greece; and a short book on yoga, The Origins and Practices of Yoga: A Weeny Introduction (revised edition) (2018).