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Religious Significance of Cannabis in Nepal

yogis and sadhus
Sadhu at a closed temple in Kathmandu Dubar Square

Nepal bears a long and significant history of cannabis use.  For centuries marijuana has been cultivated and has grown wild.  It’s been used for its psychoactive as well as its medicinal properties.  However, the most important aspect of Cannabis is the religious significance of Cannabis in Nepal. Since the beginning of Hinduism, about 2300 B.C., spiritual people have been consuming Cannabis as an act of worship.

It was so embodied in the culture and way of life that the government of Nepal sold hash out of brick and mortar stores. Nepali charas (finger hashish) became very popular in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Legal hashish shops were all over Nepal until 1973 when cannabis was declared illegal. After the ban, the law was rarely enforced. When it was enforced, it was for political motives. There are exceptions to the ban too. This is due to the religious significance of Cannabis in Nepal.


Most of the people in Nepal (over 80%) follow the Hindu religion. The pujari (Hindu priests) and the dreadlocked sadhus (holy men) maintain an unofficial exemption from the Cannabis ban. Their spiritual rights to cannabis are generally upheld and respected. Sadhus often use cannabis to aid their meditation, imitating Shiva, the god they worship.

Cannabis is usually consumed at religious festivals like those in honor of Lord Shiva. He is one of the three major Hindu gods. The others being Vishnu and Brahma. Shiva is known to be fond of marijuana and the holy men devoted to his worship are also inadvertently devoted to the consumption of cannabis.


Maha Shivaratri marks the day Shiva rescued the universe from darkness and took the goddess Parvati as his wife. It is celebrated at night (ratri). The celebration is normally intended to be introspective with meditation on one’s self and Shiva. It is also characterized by the consumption of Cannabis.

During Maha Shivaratri (The Great Night of Shiva), groups of dreadlocked Hindu holy men (sadhu’s) sit around bonfires at Hindu temples, and smoke hashish through clay pipes. Sights like this can be observed at the holiest Hindu temple, Pashupatinath, located in Kathmandu.

Hindu holy people and devotees travel from all over India and Nepal for the festival. Ahead of the holiday, they lounge and pray at the temple to commune with Shiva as well as smoke hashish. Both actions are regarded as symbols of religious devotion to Shiva because he used marijuana to relieve pain, for relaxation, and to focus in his meditation.

Sadhus share their marijuana with those devotees and worshipers who care to indulge and will often offer a smoke to anybody willing on normal days. While temple authorities currently claim to be clamping down on cannabis use, it is considered acceptable during the holiday which takes place in February or March, based on the Hindu luni-solar calendar. The celebration lasts for 10 days.

Pashupatinath by the Bagmati River
Pashupatinath by the Bagmati River


Owing to its religious significance, cannabis remains a highly celebrated substance in Nepal. Hinduism and the love for Shiva fuels people’s desire for cannabis consumption. And due to its many applications as a food source and as a textile many Nepalis can never truly view it as unlawful.

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Cannabis In Nepal

Cannabis in Nepal

Cannabis Tour in Nepal
Cannabis garden on a major trekking route

Marijuana and hemp are hugely accessible in Nepal. Cannabis grows naturally in fields, along roads, and is cultivated. I have found myself mesmerized by the natural beauty of the Himalayan Mountains, only to realize later I was standing next to some Cannabis plants. The beautiful thing about Cannabis in Nepal is that it has such a rich cultural heritage.

A Little History On Cannabis In Nepal

Nepal has a long association with marijuana. Since ancient times, people used it on the farm to feed animals, for recreational use, as well as medicinal purposes, and for spiritual worship.

Genetic Diversity and Origins

Cannabis originated in Central Asia, probably in or around Mongolia or southern Siberia in 10,000 BC. From there it was traded, farmed, and became naturalized in southern Asia, middle east and rest of the world. It is believed to have been introduced into Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nepal around 2,000 BC.

During this time many genetic variations developed. Landraces became adapted to Himalayan as well as southern tropical climates. We now have strains named after their geographical region such as Hindu Kush, and Baglung.

Cultural Acceptance

Another very important development was occurring in India at the same time Cannabis was being introduced. It was the creation of Hinduism. To put it in perspective, it is one of the oldest religions in the world. Cannabis is referenced multiple times in the Vedas. One of my favorite religious stories involves cannabis.

The Samudra Manthan tells the story about how the Hindu Gods nearly destroyed all of creation by stirring the ocean with a venomous snake god. If you’re thinking “that sounds carzy!” You’re right, it is, and I don’t completely understand it either.

While they were stirring the ocean, the snake released its venom, which threatened all life on earth. A God named Shiva quickly came and drank the poison but kept it in his throat. The Poison Turned him blue and caused him great pain. To deal with the pain he smokes cannabis.

Cannabis is still used to relieve pain in Nepal and India. It is also used for feeding livestock, making textile products such as baskets, paper, and cloths, and the seeds are ground into a past that is eaten as a garnish with certain foods.

The Price of Cannabis in Nepal

Getting cannabis may have become a little more difficult as compared to old times. However, enthusiasm remains high for the better. As more and more tourists are seeking to get that Nirvana experience, getting the chance to smoke cannabis is increasing. This makes Nepal one of the ideal places for advocating “Cannabis for the Culture” motto.

Interestingly, you can get a chance for a puff or two from the sadhus sitting at the temples.

You can get it for free growing in fields and along roads. But please do not harvest a farmer’s plant without his or her permission. Farmers may charge you $1 or $2 for a handful of uncut flowers.

A bhang lassi will cost $2 to $3 dollars in Pokhara. Bhang is the Indian word for hash. When it is added to the lassi drink, it makes the experience uplifting.

Cannabis Strains in Nepal

Nepal is among the few nations across the globe to provide a home for cannabis landraces. The country has an old history of marijuana consumption for recreational and medicinal use.

Although Cannabis is officially illegal in Nepal, one can find many popular strains of Cannabis in Kathmandu as well as other popular places through many distributors and sellers. Moreover, cannabis is legal on special occasions, such as the Shivaratri Festival.

Cannabis landraces bred into Strains

Many of the Nepali landraces were selected for the sativa uplifting qualities, for their growth habit, or early maturity. These strains were bred with other cultivars to produce muddled crosses. Some of them include

  1. Nepali OG
  2. Nepalese Jam
  3. Nepal Gold
  4. Nepali Queen
  5. Hytiva Nepalese Dragon
  6. Cannason Nepal, and others.

None of which, in my opinion, are as good as the originals.

Hemp Plants and Fiber

Hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world and has been used by Nepalese to make fabric for years. Natural pure hemp yarn from the Himalayan regions of Nepal is used to make cloths, rugs, and other fabrics. After harvest, the stems are soaked in water for about 20 days. After the required period, the tender bark is detached from the plant, smoked directly above a fire, and then boiled in ash water. Finally, fine strips are separated from the bark by hand.

You can find a variety of products, including hemp clothing, hemp Laptop Bags and hemp backpack in a variety of colours and designs. These products are available throughout Kathmandu and Pokhara. If you are interested in the process, our textile tour might be something to investigate.


If you like marijuana and enjoy incredible mountain views along with ancient cultures, then a Himalayan Cannabis Tour is a must for you.